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March 17, 2016

Open thread 211
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:25 PM * 939 comments

I do this every workday, coming from the blue ferries on the right, exiting the plein on the red path at the bottom. It’s not inconceivable that I’m in the shot somewhere.

Timelapse van de shared space bij Centraal Station from Gemeente Amsterdam on Vimeo.

It is exactly as chaotic as it looks, but it’s the chaos of people making thousands of tiny, dynamic, one-off accommodations for each other. Call it artisanal small-batch traffic management, the distributed-processing alternative to a people-flow problem that no one has been able to find a systemic solution to: mixed wheeled and foot traffic coming from multiple directions, going multiple places, some in bursts and some in steady flows. It’s weird and improbable that it works.

But if you think about cycling in general, it’s a weird and improbable way to get around. How did anyone ever think that hurtling along on two narrow bands of rubber would work? It’s inherently ludicrous.

Mind you, walking’s pretty odd too.

Comments on Open thread 211:
#2 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2016, 06:39 PM:

I'll bet there are a lot of little, unconscious (or conscious) micro-negotiations that go on all through that passage. And there will almost certainly be a consensus "style" that, if you don't get it, will get you into trouble (says someone who has to live through Boulder's annually-renegotiated driving style, every fall when the students come back.)

Also: walking is just fancy falling.

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2016, 06:43 PM:

Oh, it's all negotiation, through eye contact and body language, human and metal. Everyone calculating probable paths, seeing who will yield or turn aside.

But note how willing the cyclists are to step down if the flow doesn't allow them to keep rolling. There's a lot of Dutch culture in this, much of it shaped by the particular types of bikes we ride.

#4 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2016, 08:06 PM:

Bicycling is just fancy falling over.

#5 ::: Jimbeaux D ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2016, 09:43 PM:

15 minutes of white people's privilege rock... Couldn't make it past the 4 and a half minute mark.

#6 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2016, 09:43 PM:

The rubber was an afterthought.

#7 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2016, 11:25 PM:

Online dating is like regex: You have a problem, so you think you'll try it. Now you have two problems.

So far all the men I've talked to seem very dull. Also, advertising myself as a woman seems like a lie. And if I'm going to fill an online dating profile with lies, I should tell more interesting ones than that, right? Do you have what it takes to date a sasquatch? Join me for coffee and find out!

#8 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 12:24 AM:

One of the things that used to (and probably still does) make SF bay traffic so ... unique ... is that almost everybody is from somewhere else, and not the same somewhere else -- and many of them are still functioning according to their previous traffic norms.

#9 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 12:56 AM:

Some time ago, I read a thing about how birds flock and fish school, trying to figure out the potential hivemind, instincts, the works. What it concluded was that there isn't magic, just a lot of birds reacting to their immediate neighbors in small ways.

Sarah, I think it is easy to forget that online dating is not interviewing for a job. Rather, not a job for you. You are advertising for the position of Worthwhile Dating-Type. Advertise to attract the people you want and repel the people you don't. My profile, written 2010, includes recent embroidery projects, Miss Manners, and a list of websites I considered required reading at the time.

It also helps to find people you can tell stories to about the dating, people you can show profiles to as messages come in, people you can compare messages to because sometimes, you get a nineteen-year-old searching for cunnilingus experience and he's messaged not only your friend who is older and fat (and who wrote him back saying that she didn't think he meant to imply that she'd be pathetically grateful to be his practice dummy, but he should reconsider his pitch regardless) but the friend who is just older, both of them. Then you have margaritas and talk about Babylingus because really, at least you are not that guy.

It's late at night and I am full of run-on sentences.

#10 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Not Amused ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 03:14 AM:

Jimbeaux D @5:

Oh, do tell me how the ordinary citizens of a major city taking the cheapest* forms of transportation to get from one of the poorest districts† to the city center is privilege. Do. Please. I'll give you "white", numerically, but that might be because we're in Northern Europe and that's the way the statistics stat.

Then after you're done with that explanation, go ahead and tell me how your comment was designed to improve the conversation. Was it to make us smarter, and if so, how? Did you hope it would make us wiser, and in that case, in what fashion? Or was it to make us more joyful, in which circumstance I await the punchline with eager anticipation.

Because right now you just look like a jerk. Not a good look on anyone, really. I'm sure you can do better; I'd be happy if you would try.

* the ferries are free, as is walking; bikes here are pervasive enough that bangers are pretty inexpensive
† Amsterdam-Noord has some of the most deprived districts in the Netherlands

#11 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 03:18 AM:

Diatryma @9:

I have often contended that the proper collective noun for Dutch cyclists is "murmuration".

#12 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 07:01 AM:

Idumea, 10: I believe Jimbeaux/5 was complaining about the History of Rock thing in the sidebar. His previous comments are mostly about music. Besides, the Amsterdam video is only 3 minutes long, so he couldn't possibly have given up at the 4:30 mark.

I haven't ridden a bike myself since I was, high school? I'm not sure my knees will take it. But I like walking better anyway, because it gives me time to notice architectural details, birds, flowers, restaurant menus, etc.

#13 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 07:06 AM:

And, having hit Post, I remembered what I was going to say.

I'm going to be at Vericon this weekend, and would be very happy to participate in a sunbeam, this being defined as a very small Gathering of Light. My current plan is to find food in Harvard Square as close to 5 as possible. I'll definitely be at the first panel tonight at 7. You can recognize me by my knitting: a stripy sock that's mostly blue with some yellow stripes.

#14 ::: Jimbeaux D ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 07:25 AM:

#10 this is an open thread. I was referring to a link on the front page, 15 minutes of rock history. Yes, I was too abrupt and find it hard to type much on a phone.

#15 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 08:00 AM:

Jimbeaux @14:

OK, that makes sense. I apologize.

There's a pattern of people doing driveby comments in biking conversations, frequently without consuming the media linked to, that makes me extra twitchy. But I see that this was not that. I'm sorry for jumping down your throat.

#16 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 08:37 AM:

I got about a minute in. Not because it was "white people's privilege." Elvis was asked, in the Army, something like "What are you going to do when you get back to the real world?" He said, approximately, "In the real world, I'd be driving a truck." Can't find the exact quote.

What stopped me was computerized Elvis-on-the-beat. One of the things I miss about The Old Days (and there aren't many) is that top 20 songs used to speed up, slow down, change tempos. Change keys even. These days it seems like it's all Max Martin click-track robot crap.

And "Jailhouse Rock" is one of the best examples of rock and roll that's in a hurry to get somewhere that I know. The vocals are ALWAYS a little ahead of the rhythm section, and the rhythm section is ALWAYS speeding up just a little.

Putting that on a computerized metronome at whatever speed is convenient is like eating plastic food.

#17 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 09:09 AM:

abi @15: "drive-by comments" on a biking thread. I see what you did there....

#18 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 09:19 AM:

On the topic of cyclists and pedestrians navigating Centraal Station: it makes me think of all sorts of cool perception / navigation questions. This is a close cousin to what I do professionally - I'm mostly focused on drivers these days, but pedestrians and cyclists, even off the road, are not too far afield.

(Vision Science Warning: Professional Nerdery Below)

I'm coming at this from a particular peripheral vision mindset - at some level, we all know that peripheral vision is useful, but there's a general tendency to think that unless we're looking at something directly, that we don't really see it. This is, bluntly, wrong - imagine trying to navigate Centraal station with tunnel vision. It'd be a disaster.

If I had to guess, I'd bet that a substantial portion of a given person's ability to navigate the station comes down to global information about where everyone else is going (calculating heading for a group of people) and local information (e.g., where do you think this person is going to go / where do they look like they'll go to avoid a collision) for people in one's immediate vicinity. The global part is a known ability (labmates of mine in grad school did several papers on it); I'd bet there's research on the local component, but I don't know it offhand.

I wonder if one could make a good VR experiment to understand how people do a task like this - navigating a crowded environment is hard, and we don't have a great understanding of how we do it. We've got an intuitive understanding, but that's not the same as really being able to drill down and say what's going on (and to design spaces to facilitate safe interactions between large numbers of people using multiple modes of transit).

Thinking about this more, I'd bet (Abi, if you've got insight here, I'd love to hear it) that trying to navigate the station while consulting one's phone is a Really Bad Idea, and that if someone does it, it makes the navigation problem harder for everyone else in their vicinity. That, in fact, is a question I've got quite a bit of interest in - if someone is walking while starting at their phone, how good are they at navigating the world? My bet is they're better than you'd think, but I'd also bet it depends on (1) what else is going on around them [so a relatively empty sidewalk is less problematic than the middle of Centraal station] and (2) what they're doing on their phone [reading a news article, writing an email, or watching cat videos]. This is, in fact, something I'm hoping to study later this year.

#19 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 09:37 AM:

I like that the people on motorized bike/scooter things look like they are operating on the same priority level as the foot-powered bikes and the pedestrians. That's a bit of egalitarian traffic rule I just don't see in the US.

AKICIML: I'm visiting Sweden in May! Specifically, I'll be in Uppsala for the second week of May. What should I Definitely Not Miss?

This is also the first time I'll be traveling somewhere I have to a) exchange currency and b) use my passport. Travel tips? How does handling money abroad work? (My bank does charge only a 1% international transaction fee, and I can order currency from them or change it various places once I'm there...) Is there anything I need to be concerned about for packing or for getting around the city once I'm there? How do I know I'm asking the right questions? /me is a Little Anxious :)

#20 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 10:28 AM:

Benjamin Wolfe @ 18 ...
Thinking about this more, I'd bet (Abi, if you've got insight here, I'd love to hear it) that trying to navigate the station while consulting one's phone is a Really Bad Idea, and that if someone does it, it makes the navigation problem harder for everyone else in their vicinity. That, in fact, is a question I've got quite a bit of interest in - if someone is walking while starting at their phone, how good are they at navigating the world? My bet is they're better than you'd think, but I'd also bet it depends on (1) what else is going on around them [so a relatively empty sidewalk is less problematic than the middle of Centraal station] and (2) what they're doing on their phone [reading a news article, writing an email, or watching cat videos]. This is, in fact, something I'm hoping to study later this year.

So -- I don't know about video (trying to walk and watch something moving would be a pretty good recipie for feeling queasy), but as far as reading goes, you still use peripheral vision when walking while reading a book or tablet.

It sounds to me like you're functionally trying to test "how much processing needs to take place before task-specific tunnel vision occurs", and that was famously tested in the invisible gorilla.

#21 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 10:33 AM:


My wife is mostly blind in one eye, but she makes a *lot* of use of her peripheral vision in her "blind" eye while driving. (Enough that if I'm fidgeting in the passenger's seat while she's driving in heavy traffic, it will bug her.) Is that a common thing?


#22 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 10:37 AM:


I keep feeling like if I were a little smarter, I'd be able to draw a nice line between this post and your last post on speech[1]. A good conversation involves people trying to recognize when the other participants are getting upset or bored or angry, and adapt. And that's inherently much harder to do online, at least with current technology, than in a realspace conversation.

[1] I feel like we sort-of fell into the well-worn attractor of that kind of conversation, where we debated whether the police should arrest anyone for their speech. And I know I was part of taking the conversation there. But it felt to me like that discussion pulled most of the oxygen away from the discussion about voluntary communities and community standards and moderation that might have otherwise grown there.

#23 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 10:43 AM:

At work, we have used a variety of videos and news reports to convince our students to put their phones away while navigating the community. It's a slightly different case-- disabled adults who have less attention to spare for videos or texts and a surrounding crowd that is often willing to compensate for them, which can be counterproductive-- but our videos include reports of people falling down open manhole covers, walking into trees and lightpoles, and in one case, walking into a bear.

There's also Elsa, who is supposed to use her white cane in the community but forgets. It's not to navigate, not at all; it's to let people know that she's not getting out of their way because she doesn't care about looking where she's going. We keep telling her, you have to use the cane or pay attention, but it has made no impact.

#24 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 10:54 AM:

I am just weird enough that Abi's video made me think of Andrew Lang . . .

#25 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 10:54 AM:

Jimbeaux D:
What bothers me about the History of Rock in 15 minutes is that because it's not an actual history of rock (the actual history having a lot more non white folks in it), it's a remarkably bland history. I mean, they left out the Jackson Five and Prince for pity's sake! (Not to mention Sister Loretta Tharpe -- which would have included a female PoC -- and others).

Did we really need THREE Led Zepplin songs?

#26 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 11:00 AM:

xeger @ 20 : It's certainly related to inattentional blindness (that's Simons and Chabris, 1999 for the classic paper), but it's not quite the same thing. That's a task-specific attention effect, and I'm interested in a broad-strokes version - pretty much, what information can you get from peripheral vision that lets you perform this task (of navigating a crowded and moving environment), and, more critically, how important is central vision to your ability to do so? There's a gigantic literature in driving and driver behavior around this, but deciding that everything is attentional has the problem that it doesn't describe what's actually going on. The concept of visual attention is useful, but it's so underdefined that it's hard to figure out what any one researcher, to say nothing of the field as a whole, means by it. I'd bet that a pedestrian who is walking and using their phone would be unlikely to notice a person in a gorilla suit, but I'm more interested in the relative contributions of central and peripheral information to their ability to navigate, than their inability to notice task-irrelevent information.

My bet is that testing this in the field, with a video-based task on the phone will be hairy. I don't think it's "staple a barf bag to the consent form" - that's driving simulator studies, at least some of them, but the motion sickness potential is something I should consider.

albatross @ 21: It's certainly not uncommon. There's an entire area of research looking at drivers with limited visual fields and how they compensate for what they can't detect. There's been some work that I've seen on retraining drivers with limited vision to work around what they can't see - it sounds like your wife may have self-trained to some degree. As to why fidgeting in the passenger seat is going to bug her - peripheral vision is great for motion sensitivity, and if you've got unrelated input there (like your fidgeting), it limits her ability to detect other moving objects in her right visual field. The periphery is really good at detecting motion; localizing it, particularly in real-world environments with lots of other stuff going on, can be tricky.

#27 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 11:01 AM:

Diatryma @ #9 I hope I understood you -- I get that I'm the one doing the interviewing, and these guys have to impress me. I'm not exactly overwhelmed by choice, though. So far they've all come across as the kind of folks who wouldn't pay attention to anything I put in a profile. And I worry that any man with two brain cells to rub together will realize that he can do better and move on.

Obviously I'm not going to talk to a guy who can't figure out how to put a space after a comma. Even I have standards.

#28 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 11:33 AM:

My goodness, Sarah, I am sorry the guys you are meeting are such poor fits. And not reading the profile-- that is just ridiculous.

#29 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 11:37 AM:

For what it's worth, a fair number of pedestrians (and even, forsooth, on person on a bicycle!) are looking at handhelds, and they generally don't seem too badly entranced.

#30 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 11:39 AM:

I've navigated through L.A. Union Station enough to say that yes, you do use peripheral vision a lot in high-traffic situations, and the ones who can't take their eyes off the glass screen are problems. (Fortunately most people going through at rush hour are paying more attention to reality than to phones, or it would be a mess. Also, people with bikes are walking them.) The layout is different from Centraal Station - it's a long tunnel with intersections where the train platforms are, and wide areas at the two ends where other traffic comes and goes.

#31 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 11:50 AM:

Random thought: I have to wonder if person-walking-while-reading-book/screen would navigate around Gorilla Suit without actually registering Gorilla but still registering Object To Be Avoided?

I say this as a person who used to regularly walk down the street while reading a book.

#32 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 12:19 PM:

Sarah@27 etc: Two pieces of third-person information. Take them for what they're worth.

One, from Dan Ariely (Either Predictably Irrational or The Upside of Irrationality) is that people tend to be more attracted to people that do the same sorts of things than (e.g.) people that were good looking. He suggested some sort of VR experience where you wander around looking at things (art, books, sports, whatever) and get matched with the people "around" you. That info may or may not have been used by dating apps with any success.

The other was by some ... I don't know how to say it except "Girl Journalist" ... who'd tried out a bunch of dating apps and liked Bumble a lot. Women make contact, that's the schtick. As someone who appreciates queuing and sorting problems that seems like a much better way to work things for a variety of reasons.

Good luck and good hunting!

#33 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 12:32 PM:

Cassy B. #31: I have to wonder if person-walking-while-reading-book/screen would navigate around Gorilla Suit without actually registering Gorilla but still registering Object To Be Avoided?

Probably; I certainly would if I missed an environment check. That is, when I'm doing that, I do regularly scan my environs for potential hazards and obstacles. I notice dogs, so I think I'd notice a gorilla, but a lot could slip through between checks.

Also, I'd like to draw a line between cyllan #25 and "inattentional blindness". ;-)

#34 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 12:42 PM:

estelendur @ #19 -

I can't speak specifically to Uppsala, but my wife and I did travel to Stockholm in 1999. I had some relatives there and I was born there (my dad was in the Army when he met my mom), so I had the advantage of knowing people there.

I'd definitely get some Swedish currency in advance, and your bank is giving you a good rate. A couple of hundred dollars worth for incidentals - after that you can use your ATM card there, and you'll get a good rate there as well.

Sweden is expensive, particularly Stockholm. But a good many people people speak English (it's required in their schools). Also, if you see a store, RIA means sale. Usually capitalized as in RIA! RIA! RIA!

And check out a Frommer's travel guide - they'll have the latest info on things you need to know.

If you are in Stockholm any length of time, Gamia Stan (Old Town) is worth a visit.

I think May nights can be a bit chilly (I was there in late July) so a couple of wraps or sweaters are useful.

Have fun - it's a beautiful country.

#35 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 12:51 PM:

Sandy B. @ #32
Bumble looks interesting. I'll give it a try. Although being spammed with messages is the opposite of my experience, and I still feel like a fraud, calling myself a 'girl'. I doubt I have anything in common with those women on the Bumble splash page! ^_^ But I'll try anything once. Someday I may even figure out how to log back in to Coffee vs Bagel, or whatever that other thinky dating app was called.

#36 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 01:22 PM:

Cassy @ 31: I have to wonder if person-walking-while-reading-book/screen would navigate around Gorilla Suit without actually registering Gorilla but still registering Object To Be Avoided?

I think the answer to this is "yes." Some time back I was walking and talking with someone on campus, the two of us going across a fairly large plaza, and I was looking at her as I spoke, but she was looking at the ground just ahead of her. Finally she stopped and said "how did you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Miss all those," she said, pointing behind us at a six- by twenty-foot stretch littered with dozens of places where someone had let their dog go poo without cleaning up after it. I'd been peripherally, repeatedly, aware of "object to be avoided" without identifying it any further.

#37 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 01:41 PM:

David Harmon @ 33 : It's quite likely that you'd do exactly that - although I don't think anyone has tested exactly that variant. I want to do a driving simulator version with a gorilla-pedestrian; will drivers treat the gorilla like any other pedestrian?

johnofjack @ 36 : That's a great description of the difference in vision between identification and detection. You'd detected the dog output, and that was enough to guide your behavior. For my money, the difference here is critical for tasks like this - you don't need to identify much of what's in your periphery, you just need to know it's there.

On the general topic of walking with one's nose in a smartphone / ereader / book - I'm of the opinion that we're remarkably good at distracted navigation tasks like this, which goes counter to the intuition that distraction is bad. I'd like to know how we manage to do it - what are the cues? How big an object is a problem (is this a really bad idea to do with your tablet vs your smartphone)? Is a smartphone dramatically worse than, say a book or ereader? How long to people actually spend looking down at their smartphone vs looking up at their environment?

#38 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 01:50 PM:

Steve C. @34, thanks! I think ordering foreign currency from my bank comes with a fee of either $10 or $20, depending whether i order it online or in person. Not sure how this compares to money changer rates once I'm there.

Benjamin Wolfe @37: My anecdotal feeling is that I have more situational awareness with a book than with a smartphone, for the simple reason that I can hold a book farther from my face and still see all necessary details easily! Which suggests that I might benefit somewhat from bumping up the default text size on my smartphone, but then again it is only a 4" screen or so. I think I also navigate just fine (i.e. as well as when reading a book) when reading on a 7" tablet screen, which is after all slightly bigger than a MMPB, even when the text is smaller because I am reading a scanned PDF of a journal article. This, too, I hold farther from my face than the phone.

#39 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 01:57 PM:

My anecdotal experience is also that I have greater peripheral awareness when reading a book while walking than reading a smartphone while walking... Unless I'm reading a book on the phone, in which case it's a similar degree of awareness. Reading a book is a fairly straightforward process with almost no decision-making involved, as opposed to checking email or reading Twitter, which has more of a social element and more "Do I respond to this? Is this information I need to do something about?" pings. (And, given Twitter, more things to have disconnected separate emotional reactions to.) Though I imagine closeness to face is also at play there.

#40 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 02:36 PM:

estelendur @38: You might want to check the airport you're flying out of (I'm assuming that you're flying) to see if they have a bank or money changer. You would probably get a better deal there than from a local bank which probably doesn't normally deal with foreign currency.

I will say it's nice having a bit of spending money in your pocket when you walk off the plane. When I traveled from the US to the UK back in 2002, I arrived in London at 10 or 11 pm, and all the money changer windows at the airport were closed. Having some local currency with me already meant I didn't have to worry about it for a day or two.

Also, check to see if it's a national holiday on the day of your arrival or the day after. That could make it more difficult to do banking immediately on arrival, if you need to do something other than an ATM withdrawal.

#41 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 02:41 PM:

estelendur@38: I haven't done that sort of travel in a while, but it used to work very well to buy traveler's checks denominated in the currency of the country I was visiting (GBP, for several trips). Don't know if people still use them much with the ubiquity of debit cards, but I'd think about that rather than carrying large amounts of cash (in either currency).

#42 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 03:35 PM:


My experience traveling around a fair bit in Europe was that I could use my ATM/debit card to pull local currency out of the local ATMs. I think that gets you the best rates. But like Jon, I almost always go ahead and find a currency booth at the airport before I leave and get $100 or so in local-to-my-destination currency, so I don't have to find an ATM that will talk to my card before I can get a cup of tea or a sandwich at the airport.

#43 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 03:38 PM:

My guess is that is gorilla (or someone in a gorilla suit) wouldn't cause navigation problems per se. When walking through a crowd I tend not to notice specific details but just treat everyone as a shape -- a gorilla would simply be a slightly wider than usual shape. You might have trouble if too many people did notice the gorilla as a gorilla, as that could cause them to stop and block the flow of traffic. This is where I have trouble with the term "objectification" -- I know it means to treat someone *solely* as an object, but there are situations (like moving through a high-traffic area) where it is more useful to view people primarily as physical objects and not speculate about their inner life. Though I suppose what we've been talking about is how much one does read their body language in order to guess which way they'll move next and how fast.

#44 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 03:49 PM:

estelendur @ 19:

I can't tell you what not to miss, as I haven't been to Sweden myself. Have fun!

So long as you've checked to make sure your bank doesn't charge you egregious fees (which you have), I'd just use an ATM card to get cash out of ATMs. That'll get you the best exchange rate. Check to see if your credit card also doesn't charge you more than the 1% commission (most have extra fees, some don't) and then you can use that to pay for meals and other purchases.

If this is your first time facing immigration, it can be a little nerve-wracking, but there's usually not much to worry about. Make sure you have the name and address of where you're going to be staying to hand, as landing cards usually ask that sort of thing, and leaving it in your luggage makes it hard to copy it down.

#45 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 03:59 PM:

Open threadiness:

This story looks to me to be about one of the ways people have been extracting pennies from people at the bottom--charging incredibly high rates for prisoners' phone calls. That is, it looks like there's been a battle going on because these private phone contractors have been charging really high rates to prisoners, and the FTC wants to limit it.

Now, I don't know much about this. Does anyone know more? Is there some way this is actually justified that I'm not seeing? Because it looks like a way for some company to get a sweetheart deal that lets them sell (extremely cheap) long-distance phone service at really high prices to a captive audience.

#46 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 04:18 PM:

Re prisoners and phone calls: I've never heard anything to suggest it is anything but greed.

#47 ::: Ryan H ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 04:49 PM:

Online dating is like any other sort of meet-and-greet experience except that you know that the other person is (at least in theory) interested. In any other social situation you are probably not interested in actually dating most of the people, and of the ones you are interested in may or may not be available. Online dating is the same in that most of the available options are probably not interesting to you, but at least the ones who are you know are theoretically also looking.

Sarah, I'd also do some googling on your dating site of choice and find out what the general impressions are. They tend to be somewhat self-selecting in their audience. For example, Plenty of Fish has a reputation for attracting the Christian crowd. OKCupid tends to skew a bit younger and there's more digging involved but also has a bigger range of people.

And good luck!

#48 ::: Ryan H ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 04:55 PM:

@ albatross
re: prisoner phone calls

From what I understand, it got started back when phones were still becoming common and were technically fiddly. The prisons had very specific needs (phones that could be easily monitored and recorded and billed) that didn't really exist at the time. So a few companies set up to provide the specialized technical service.

Then, recognizing a captive market when they saw it, lobbied over the decades to get regulations in place that effectively meant they were the only ones who could provide the service and allowed them to jack up the rates. The for-profit prisons prisons and state governments typically get a cut of the fees.

#49 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 05:56 PM:

estelendur @19: Stockholm again rather than Uppsala, but Skansen is well worth a visit if you like history: lots of houses from different eras/communities from all over Sweden, also a really good native species zoo.

Uppsala itself... Botanic Gardens?

I nearly always order my money online then pick it up at the airport before I leave.

#50 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 07:56 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe #37: My intuition is that hand usage will also matter, so tablet woud be worse because it's more two-handed.

Sarah E #43: This is where I have trouble with the term "objectification" -- I know it means to treat someone *solely* as an object

Pedantry: If you mean "object" as "thing", then AIUI this is not what "objectification" originally means in feminist discourse. Rather, it refers to "object" as opposed to "subject", as in a sentence: Something to be won/defeated/acted on, rather than a person with agency (a "story") of their own. Which is also something that's inevitable in certain contexts, but not quite that context. Indeed, successful traffic negotiation depends on recognizing that other parties do have their own intended paths, and dealing with them on that basis.

#51 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 08:04 PM:

For once, I think it likely that people here will agree with David Brooks's assessment of Trump.

#52 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 08:57 PM:

C. Wingate, there is too much that Brooks did not say. His party, the GOP, has encouraged the tacit racism and class resentment and nationalism that Trump is now harvesting to their despair. They thought that because they could make their monsters agitated by repeating code words, that they had some degree of control over them. They are learning that they never had that control, only the ability to rile up the beast.

Trump, too, if he ever tries to get his mob to do something that is not small-minded, race-based, fear-centered bullying will find the same thing, that he has no power to create, only to tear things down.

Ayn Rand, of all people, keeps coming to mind. In The Fountainhead, she has a disillusioned newspaper publisher who can rouse the rabble, and believes he has power over them. When he finally shakes off his apathy and tries to use his megaphone to do good (well, to help the hero, anyway), he finds out that he has no real power.

Which brings me back to Brooks. He sure could help get those people angry. Too bad he can't do anything to calm them. Once he says anything at all in that direction, they just declare him to be one more enemy.

No time for schadenfreude, though, with these yoyos on the loose. Even winning the election and regaining the Senate won't put this genie back in the bottle. If they lose, they'll be madder than ever, and entitled.

#53 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 09:17 PM:

Another from the Times: As women take over a male-dominated field, the pay drops.

This has been noted before, but here's a new study confirming it.

#54 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2016, 10:44 PM:

Gallstones are not fun! In case you were wondering. From the descriptions, many people have them worse. I don't know if that's comforting or otherwise.

#55 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 12:01 AM:

Sarah @7: Do you have what it takes to date a sasquatch?

Are you (he and/or she) a kind, interesting, cuddly sasquatch?

TexAnne @12: But I like walking better anyway, because it gives me time to notice architectural details, birds, flowers, restaurant menus, etc.

I really truly love me some good biking, because when it's good, it's not unlike what I image flying might feel like. The one time I tried mountain biking, though, I couldn't see the point of it. All I ever saw was the ground in front of me, because to take my eyes off it, even for a second, was to court close encounters of the concussional kind. This is recreational, how?

Sandy B. @16: Putting that on a computerized metronome at whatever speed is convenient is like eating plastic food.

The analog of this problem is what's hard about making worthwhile digital graphics.

Benjamin Wolfe @18: peripheral vision

This is the major thing that keeps me safe in traffic. I don't feel as safe in traffic as I once did because, aside from just getting old and out of practice, using the phone at work (yeah, headsets, we know) effs up my neck so I can't look over my left shoulder. Gravity-face* doesn't help.

But back in the day, I had nearly supernatural peripheral vision. Once I was standing in line in the cafeteria at work, and I'd set my wallet down on the counter. I was chatting with the friend in front of me when the friend behind me, oh-so-casually, took my wallet and held it behind his back.

I turned around and said, "May I have my wallet back, please?"

"What wallet?"

"The one you just picked up?"

"I didn't pick anything up."

I just looked at him blandly and waited. Finally he relented and handed it back. "I can't believe you saw that."

When I took driving lessons back when I was 20, my driving instructor kept scolding me about looking both ways before passing through an intersection. It wasn't until years later that I figured out that she didn't realize I was using my "sparring gaze" wherein you watch nothing in particular in front of you, in such a way that you can see everything around you. I'd learned by then that peripheral vision is much more sensitive to movement than focal vision, and as a consequence I'm much more likely to notice an oncoming car if I'm not looking directly in that direction. Also, if you're looking over there, you can't see as well over here.

I wonder if one could make a good VR experiment to understand how people do a task like this

Just be sure to get the whole field of vision, and that includes the angles that are occluded/revealed when your cornea moves around in your head.

One of the things that makes me nuts about the peripheral field test is that, given that I'm looking through a glasses lens, it doesn't actually test the periphery that I actually depend on most.

Another population you could test with this rig is martial artists of the sort who do sparring. You can tell the ones who use the not-looking trick; they appear to be staring at the ground about ten feet in front of them, because that's the head angle that gives the best peripheral range.

Driving was bothersome because one sits with one's head up, which is a sub-optimal angle for, um, peripherating(?).

if someone is walking while starting at their phone, how good are they at navigating the world?

I had occassion to test this at Denvention in '08. I can read a book while walking, because the page is a static enough thing that I can set periphery to detect motion without too much attention. The phone, however, consumes enough active, motor attention that everything else goes away. People who do this on their bikes...!? (If you're going to compete for your Darwin award, please don't include me as an unconsenting team-mate!)

Another good question to explore is why are those effing little screens so damn compelling? Why is it so hard to just put the damn thing away until you get to [wherever]?

* I had my semi-annual visual-field test today, and since she thought she'd detected nerve damage in the upper left of my left eye's field, she had the tech tape up the orbital portion of my left eyelid. I had to give her grief about telling me that I need a bra for my face. :-) (Fortunately, once she got it, she thought the joke was funny.)

Sandy B.: I'd say be grateful for what you don't have to endure, pull no punches with self-care, and enthusiastically accept whatever sympathy is offered. Shorter me: yes. :-)

#56 ::: HenryR ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 01:06 AM:

estelendur @19: Use Google Maps and Street View to investigate and explore before you go. Walk around the block where you're staying and scout restaurants and shops or walk to the nearest bus stop and back to familiarize yourself with the route to transit.

If you plan to use the bus, check out the web site for info about routes and fares.

Notify your credit card companies and bank about your travel plans. You can usually do this online. It's no fun having your card blocked by theer fraud detection systems due to transactions from a foreign country. I don't know about Sweden, but many countries in Europe use chip+pin for credit card use in a machine. American cards now have chips, so you may need your pin to use it in machines. Make sure you know it.

Once a day, sit down at an ourdoor cafe, have a hot cup or cool glass of something, and drink in the rhythm of the city around you.

Have fun!

#57 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 01:35 AM:

Tom Whitmore @41, the advice I got around 2001 was that traveller's checks were almost totally dead and too much trouble to deal with, and I doubt they've made any comeback. ATMs and world-wide credit card networks killed them.

On prison phone systems, there used to be some minor issues besides greed (e.g. phone calls used to cost enough that it mattered, like 25 cents/minute, phone fraud was a thing, and prisoners had too little cash to use pay phones, which are boxes of cash sitting around in a prison that you have to go around and collect from if they haven't been robbed), but it was basically all greed, an opportunity for illegal wiretapping to violate lawyer-client privilege as well as eavesdrop on prisoner-outside-accomplice conversations, and the ability to get money from prisoners' families, who were usually too poor to influence public policy, and also greed. But mostly it's greed.

#58 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 02:29 AM:

Jacque @ #55 I guess that depends on how you define those things? One yeti's cuddly is another yeti's clingy, &c. Assuming you're asking, and not making fun of me. If the latter, please just ignore this message...

#59 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 05:56 AM:

I would never make fun of you. Speaking for myself, the first two are optimal qualifications for friends. The third is optional. Neither stature, nor density of fur, nor taxonomic classification enters into it.

Just sayin', is what I'm saying.

#60 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 07:40 AM:

Benjamin Wolfe @18:
(and everyone): remember that pedestrians are not the only people in this picture who habitually use their phones while moving. Although the proportion of cyclists who are splitting their attention between screen and road is low, it's not negligible.

As a cyclist, I factor the attentiveness and competence of the people around me into my calculations about who is likely to go where and how fast. In the same way that when I'm near a dog or a small child I watch that and not the adult in nominal control, if I see a tourist or someone focusing on their device, I have a different "map" of their likely behavior. That influences my speed, my path, and (sometimes) my noise level.

(Shout-out to Diatryma @23; a cane is a strong signal to me about the person's level of vulnerability, whether it's held like a sensory device or a support.)

I like that the people on motorized bike/scooter things look like they are operating on the same priority level as the foot-powered bikes and the pedestrians. That's a bit of egalitarian traffic rule I just don't see in the US.

There are signs to remind brommers, to use the Dutch word for scooters, that they are in that space ter gast, as guests. In theory, they should moderate their speed and not overtake on the bike path from the bottom of the screen. In practice, they're what may destroy the entire consensus-based traffic flow: they go too fast and stop too unwillingly. Or they may be banned from the space, or forced to walk their vehicles (both hard to enforce). We don't know yet. This is a work in progress, and it may yet fail.

albatross @22:

A smart comment, though you're reading my subconscious, rather than my conscious, mind. I'm attracted to and interested by particular classes of human behavior; both community dynamics and traffic patterns are in that "class".

In many ways, Dutch traffic dynamics are easier to discuss than online speech patterns, for one key reason: almost everyone here is or has been a cyclist.

One of my great frustrations with the discussions about free speech is that the nature of the rest of our society means that there's nothing you can say to a cis straight white man who has always been economically secure and is in the mainstream of his culture's religious* context that is as damaging as the poor-shaming, transphobic, sexist, genderist, racist things slurs that people who fall into other categories can be called. If you haven't spent a significant portion of your life being stepped on for being any value of X, then there is no anti-X button (with all the threats and damage that it invokes) wired into your psyche. It just isn't there. A thoughtful person who listens carefully and believes what he is being told can come to an intellectual understanding of that damage, but even then it's not easy.

And part of his gut will still and always say it wouldn't hurt me so it probably doesn't really hurt you as much as you say; another part will say you're only vulnerable because you're weak.

But almost everyone here has been on the downside of the traffic power dynamic: a pedestrian among cyclists, a cyclist among brommers and cars. The button is wired in. The understanding, the empathy, the value for that other person is visceral, effortless, baked in. And the traffic patterns reflect that.

Unfortunately, the culture between cyclists and drivers in the US is so toxic (partly because so few drivers also identify as cyclists) that it's not an analogy I can pursue very well online. I was wrong about Jimbeaux, and I'm still sorry about that, but the simmering internecine resentment of the American roads has poisoned more than one biking-related thread on Making Light.

* Christian in the US, atheist here

#61 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 07:44 AM:

Sandy B @54 Ouch, yes, not fun. Good thoughts being sent your way.

#62 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 08:29 AM:

abit #60: One of my great frustrations with the discussions about free speech is that there's nothing you can say to a cis straight white [etc] man [...] that is as damaging as the [...] slurs that people who fall into other categories can be called.

ISTM that the "most damaging" slurs applicable to a dominant-group person as such, generally amount to "you're not really one of the in-group", and therefore face a natural defense of "nuh nuh, I am too!". Optionally reinforced with "who are you to say, you [out-grouper]?".

#63 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 10:56 AM:

I am reasonably certain that I would not see a person walking down the street with a weapon (calmly, not aggressively... probably) unless there was a dog nearby. My boyfriend has commented on this; he has met many more dogs walking around town with me than on his own. Because dogs! Most pedestrians, on a normal day, are unusually mobile parking meters or something. I'm not as good at detecting Guys On Porch as I sometimes need to be, but it's not like detecting them does anything to stop them yelling things.

Abi, a significant number of parents and students my program have as a goal 'do not look disabled'. In some cases, this is completely appropriate, and it is in fact our goal too-- we don't want our students to be pointed out by their staff with clipboards or special help-me gear or anything. On the other hand, Elsa once made a guy with leg braces and a walker get out of her way because she didn't care, and she's visibly disabled without the cane. Likewise the student whose mother wants her to go down stairs one foot at a time rather than two, as her height pretty much requires.

In very local news, I only screwed up three times as jam timer at roller derby last night, and none of those times affected gameplay so much they needed to be corrected.

#64 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 10:57 AM:

Jacque @ 55 : There's a huge literature on the degree to which peripheral acquisition of visual information (and visual perception in general) can be trained. What you're describing lines up quite nicely with what we do know about peripheral vision and how peripheral information is represented in the brain - excellent motion sensitivity, but much better acuity than one might guess.

I'd be curious about the peripheral vision tests that you've done - there are a few different ones that immediately come to mind, and they're something I know a fair bit about (although, if I continue in this thread, there's a good chance of a wall of text on the history of peripheral vision testing...). There's one, in particular, used in driving contexts that I've been critiquing as part of my postdoc work lately...

Abi @ 60 : Your point about attentiveness and competence is a really excellent one; because of what I do for a living, I've been focusing on the comparatively simple problem of "how do you get the information to do that, and does it matter if you're doing something else in some other portion of your visual field at the time" rather than how you decide who in your sphere of motion is more or less predictable. As far as I know, no one has looked at anything like this in an experimental context (and if I had to guess why, it'd be because doing it well makes the basic vision version look easy, and there's no such thing as an easy study of pedestrian behavior). I don't even think there's much (if any - I'd have to look) work looking at a realistic version of the, for lack of a better phrase, "road environment" that includes cyclists! All the work I've seen - and the last six months have been pretty much a crash course in it - has been pedestrians vs drivers. I'll have to ask around work on Monday and find out if there is any work that actually reflects the more complex reality. There might be some, I just don't know about it.

#65 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 11:07 AM:

Me #60: Sorry, Abi for typoing your name.

Diatryma #63: Yup, another here who sees dogs before people. Also, I can "read" them better.

#66 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 02:56 PM:

Diatryma @63: "Unusually mobile parking meters or something" - I don't know if I will get the chance to steal it, but I want to.

#67 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 05:31 PM:

Clever Calligrams That Visualize The Meanings Of Various Words. Some of these are genius.

Experience what it might be like to have dyslexia.

More on the top-post topic, our council has been making efforts to improve conditions for cyclists. It's an ongoing thing, and there have been cyclist vs car driver tensions for ages (we do not live in a cycle-friendly city), but there are more cycle paths & lanes than ever. I get the sense that drivers are (gradually) getting more considerate about sharing the roads with cyclists. Recently, a stretch of disused motorway was reopened as a pink cycle/pedestrian way. It's been a massive success.

#68 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 05:51 PM:

Related to Sandy B. @ 66 and Diatryma @ 63... so, one of the tools I work with lets me take images and process them so that I can see a visualization of how we think the brain represents the image across the visual field (what we're interested in is how the representation of the periphery differs from that of central vision, and how these differences in representation can explain why certain tasks are harder in the periphery). Now I'm wondering how distinguishable a parking meter and a pedestrian are when they're both a fair way from the center of vision. Far enough out, I'd bet the model would think they'd look similar. Might have to test that.

#69 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 06:37 PM:

wrt links from OT210: The obsevation that "Make America Great" connects more to people whose lives are going downhill is fascinating; I see it eerily paralleling Putin's popularity in Russia, especially now that Putin(?or his foreign minister, or captive newspaper?) is endorsing Trump (just as Trump endorsed Putin earlier).

abi @ 0: fascinating. Nothing like that in Boston, but bicycle commuting is not much less an edge thing than it was when I did it 36-25 years ago. For you, the ferry continues the ~Flat Lands (which Boston is not, probably contributing to lack of bicyclists and insane hurry from the few that do bicycle); is getting on a commuter train also easy? AFAIK few platforms around here are level to the cars, and there are only a few trains each day that allow bicycles at all; I suspect that there would be demand here if it were easier, as there are two stations on the edges of downtown.

xeger @ 8: I suspect that's true of a lot of interesting cities -- much of the coast but maybe also college or other loci inland (Madison, Minneapolis / St. Paul, Austin, cf above re Boulder). Boston used to be known for the number of people who came for college (most of them probably having learned to drive elsewhere) and settled.

estelendur @ 19: I'm with those suggesting getting cash at an ATM in the Stockholm airport; Sweden is small enough that its currency probably commands high fees elsewhere. I second the endorsement of Skansen, adding the nearby sights: a general museum (blanking on the name, good skim of Swedish culture) and Wasa museum (containing the restored warship that sank a mile from its launch, with extensive discussion); also the Millesgarden (reachable by light rail) if you have any interest in sculpture. (And if you don't have the time for that, at least look at the Orpheus opposite the central rail station; it's (related to?) the focus of Kornbluth's "With These Hands".)
    contra Henry R: having a PIN for your card doesn't necessarily make it a chip+PIN; the PIN may just allow phone and online access to the account. Ask your provider if the card is chip+PIN, and look for a free one that is if yours isn't. (I'd recommend the one I just got for an upcoming trip but I got it as an alumnus, which limits who can get it.)

Kip W @ 52: watching Brook eat crow is fun -- even if he's forgotten history. ("the most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetimes"? He's old enough to remember Tricky Dicky....) But you're right about what he's ignoring; the claim that there are "certain standards" rings hollow after McConnell's response to the 2008 election.

#70 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 07:29 PM:

#68, Benjamin Wolfe: On a cycling route I used to take regularly, there was a parking meter of the tall, blocky, computer screen that takes credit cards and serves an entire parking lot style off to one side around a corner, only visible in peripheral vision when you rounded the corner, hidden from the main road some 10m away.

Every time I took that corner, I thought there was a person standing there, and because it was in an alley, I had to look to see what that person was doing lurking there. Every single time.

#71 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 07:45 PM:

Peripheral vision: when I went to have my taxes done at H&R Block, they had one of those life-sized standing cardboard images, of their accountant-mascot. I was reminded how much I hate those things, and thankful that they seem much less common these days.

#72 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 07:50 PM:

I've a similar problem with realistic (as in, they have heads with some facial features) mannikins - I'm utterly convinced there's someone there. Even if it's a high-gloss mannikin displaying what passes for the recent fashions.

#73 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 08:08 PM:

OTOH, it might be possible to do Sweden without any cash at all.

#74 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2016, 08:16 PM:

+1 regarding those cardboard cutouts being awful. Near where I live, there's this... art house? Or something. Anyway they have sculptures in their yard, one of which is a painted plywood standee of a dude wearing one of those striped sailor shirts and glaring out at passers-by through the bushes. That thing scares the crap out of me. I'm torn as to whether he's supposed to scare robbers, provide a size reference for the security camera in their tree, or if he's a leftover prop from a musical. He looks like the kind of guy who might be in a musical.

Also I'm scared of bicycles on sidewalks because I never expect them to be there and they go really fast and I don't want to get run over. The end.

#75 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 12:10 AM:

CHip @ 69 ...
xeger @ 8: I suspect that's true of a lot of interesting cities -- much of the coast but maybe also college or other loci inland (Madison, Minneapolis / St. Paul, Austin, cf above re Boulder). Boston used to be known for the number of people who came for college (most of them probably having learned to drive elsewhere) and settled.

Hm. I've never really noticed it with Boston, possibly because getting anywhere is complex enough that it's much harder to (clearly) demonstrate non-local behaviour (or possibly any non-local behaviour that isn't "OMG*ARG*LOST*")

#76 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 12:55 AM:

Today's "first day of spring" Google doodle is very cute. "What? Who did that!? Wasn't me! Uh...."

Benjamin Wolfe @64: excellent motion sensitivity, but much better acuity than one might guess.

What one might guess /= what one might want. But, yeah. :-)

I'd be curious about the peripheral vision tests that you've done

The one my optometrist uses (a hateful, nasty thing, especially if one's neck is out of whack) amounts to a chin rest, with a monocle, through which I stare at a yellow target LED inside a big gray box. The mechanism then flashes little tiny white lights at me, in response to which I press a lever in a hand-held device which emits a beep.

It would be much less frustrating if the little white lights didn't precisely mimic the little flashes of neural noise I get in my eyes.

Also, the test generally seems to go on for-freakin'-ever. (Though the round yesterday didn't seem quite as onerous as it usually does—maybe because the whole day was onerous, what with the weather and all. I got up late (like usual), made it to the dentist five minutes late (they forgave me, because weather). But I'd wondered what I'd do with the hour between dentist and optometrist. Turns out: getting across town. :-\ )

The other test I've encountered was many years ago, at a specialist she sent me to down in Denver to confirm her diagnosis, and his was much slicker. A little desktop thing you look into with lines and bars that flash by. Don't recall what the actual perception-recording mechanism was, but it tested an even smaller portion of the periphery than hers does. All within the range that I would class as "focal" vision, but who am I to criticize?

Anyway, apparently these incantations provided the data she was after, so whatevs.

As I mentioned, I find it ironic that the monocle box actually leaves out a good portion of the field that I find most critical in traffic, though, as also mentioned, that is less available to me as I get older and my face droops.

no one has looked at anything like this in an experimental context (and if I had to guess why

I'm sure it doesn't help in the least that testing what abi is talking about would involve testing vision and attention and cognition—none of which fields is easy in its own right. Never mind doing it out in the wild. (And just how does hearing factor into all of this?)

It occurs to me that something like Google Glass might give you a running start in recording all of the data you would need to do these studies, but the data volume involved...! I suspect Google itself would be hard-pressed to provide enough crunch to do the analysis, nevermind any modeling you'd want to try.

Hee hee. Why am I suddenly thinking about those guys back around the turn of the last century who'd decided that, Yup, we've pretty much got everything figured out, all that's left is the details. Uh-huh.

#77 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 01:37 AM:

Sarah @74: Also I'm scared of bicycles on sidewalks because I never expect them to be there and they go really fast and I don't want to get run over. The end.

This is why, when I have occassion to pass a pedestrian on the sidewalk, I approach at most at about 102% of walking speed (since I am conscious of being the guest in that space), and I click my deraileur lever so they can track my approach. If necessary, I call out, "Passing on your left," and try to do so from far enough back that they have time to startle, recover, and register my presence before I'm close to them. I do my best to not pass until I'm confident they know where I am.

I am, sadly, not among the majority in this practice.

(I did once actually get clipped—I mean, like, drawing blood—by a cyclist who cut it too close when I was getting off the bus. He was going fast enough that by the time I recovered and looked for him, he was long gone. I don't know if he even registered that he'd connected with me. I Was Not Pleased.)

#78 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 01:58 AM:

Jacque #76: Hee hee. Why am I suddenly thinking about those guys back around the turn of the last century who'd decided that, Yup, we've pretty much got everything figured out, all that's left is the details.

You mean, right before Rutherford, Einstein, etc? ;-) And that was just physics! Now... the thing that strikes me is that everywhere we look, the more closely we look the more detail we find. ISTR that even within physics, there's been serious consideration of the idea that natural law may actually have fractal character.

#79 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 02:00 AM:

Jacque #76: Hee hee. Why am I suddenly thinking about those guys back around the turn of the last century who'd decided that, Yup, we've pretty much got everything figured out, all that's left is the details.

You mean, right before Rutherford, Einstein, etc? ;-) And that was just physics! Now... the thing that strikes me is that everywhere we look, the more closely we look the more detail we find. ISTR that even within physics, there's been serious consideration of the idea that natural law itself may have fractal character.

#80 ::: David Harmon's been duplicated ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 02:06 AM:

Whoops, dupedupe postpost. Dunno how that happened.

#81 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 04:27 AM:

>> ...the more closely we look the more detail we find.

I read a story 40 some years ago, probably in Analog magazine, of two PhD candidates in physics. It was set in a not very distant future where a physics PhD was taking 15 or 20 years to complete because of the enormous mass of material that had to be learned. The punchline, IIRC, was one of the students was beginning to suspect that there were no such things as fundamental particles, that the harder you hit them, the smaller pieces they broke into.

#82 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 06:45 AM:

I've seen particle physics described as being like trying to study an egg with a pneumatic hammer.

#83 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 09:16 AM:

Bruce H. #81: I recall the story -- while I can't place the name, I'm fairly sure it was by Asimov. IIRC you understate the situation; they'd already gotten up to solar-system scale accellerators and at least two or three more layers of particles. The protagonist was in not-unreasonable fear that by the time he finished learning all about all those particles¹, he might be as old and senile as the last surviving full doctorate of physics. His proposal that it was "particles all the way down" was in hopes of avoiding that, and... it sort of worked. ;-)

¹ I'm not sure if that was naive extrapolation from 40s/50s science, a non-physicist's idea of how physics worked, or (most likely) Asimov playing for laughs. Certainly, other details I recall seem dated in perspective, notably the scholars' relationship to The Big Computer.

#84 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 09:28 AM:

"It's 8.30am: 3.30 in the morning in Washington. Over the past four days, neither the President nor his senior staff will have had more than a few hours' rest. This is when they may be asleep. This is when Western response will be slowest."

Barry Hines has died. His 1984 BBC drama Threads, about the effects of nuclear war on Sheffield, is a horrifying masterpiece. Full film on Vimeo (caution: even if you're OK with nuclear war, you might not be OK with the huge spider at the start). I missed it at the time, which was probably a good thing, as I worried about nuclear war a lot as a kid and it probably would have broken me a bit. Splendidly matter-of-fact narration from Paul "The future's bright, the future's Orange" Vaughan. It's not SF, but it's probably the best near-future drama the BBC ever did.

Growing up in the nuclear age was rather awful. The world has improved a bit in that respect, at least.

#85 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 10:36 AM:

Bruce H @81: I think the title was something like "Quarks, Quirks, and Quiddities". I'll see if I can find it in my old Analogs.

#86 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 12:44 PM:

Jacque @ 76 : What you described here: “The one my optometrist uses (a hateful, nasty thing, especially if one's neck is out of whack) amounts to a chin rest, with a monocle, through which I stare at a yellow target LED inside a big gray box. The mechanism then flashes little tiny white lights at me, in response to which I press a lever in a hand-held device which emits a beep.” sounds, to me, like an automated clinical perimeter. The goal is to map out the entire extent of your visual field for each eye, with a simple focus on detection. Versions of this have been around since the second half of the 19th century; the automated versions (where the machine sets the order of testing, rather than responses being manually logged by the clinician) came into being in the 1980s. Not surprised that it takes a long time - it’s generally a thorough procedure, and it’s really designed to give a nice, accurate map of the edge of your visual field, which is harder to measure accurately than the illustrations of such usually indicate.

I’m not quite sure what the other assessment you’re describing is - stimuli like that get used to test all sorts of aspects of vision - it might (maybe) have been a central field acuity test of some ilk, but without knowing more, I’m guessing at best.

Google Glass has, actually, been used in a variety of research settings - but I’m not hearing a whole lot of excitement about augmented reality versus virtual reality in my corner of the research world. I’ve a labmate who’s done work with Google Glass and driving, but it’s not quite the right tool for the questions we’d like to ask.

The data processing problem for naturalistic studies is a huge one. Collecting terabytes of video doesn’t mean anything if you can’t extract data from it.

More broadly, there’s a joke in vision research that a couple of MIT grad students, at the very beginning of AI research in the 1960s, were told “computationally solve vision” as a summer project. As we’ve found out in the decades since, vision is vastly more complicated than we thought.

#87 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 03:24 PM:

I love the peripheral vision test Ohio State's ophthalmology lab uses. It's a wall painted dark blue with tiny light all over it in all directions. They tell you to focus on the red light at the center, give you a clicker, turn the overhead light off, and set the little lights going. Every time you see one flash you hit the clicker.

After I finished the test the student doctor said, "NOW I know why you choose such large lens glasses!"

#88 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 03:57 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe @86: it’s generally a thorough procedure, and it’s really designed to give a nice, accurate map of the edge of your visual field, which is harder to measure accurately than the illustrations of such usually indicate.

Which is why, she has been at pains to explain to me, every time I whinge about it (which I do rather frequently) she uses it instead of the fancy, more comfortable version used by the specialist she sent me to. I do gather that it does have some on-board computation capability, and will adjust its behavior in response to the user's actions—adding extra pings in a region where the user has missed pings. It is apparently fairly forgiving of false positives (Ghu be praised—sometimes I just click because I haven't noticed a ping in a while and can't be sure I haven't missed one. Like I said, my eyes provide plenty of like stimulus. :-\ )

“computationally solve vision” as a summer project.


Did the project directors at least have the kindness to specify one particular aspect of "vision" to solve?

I'll wager this was before they'd worked out how much of vision happens in the brain? And which part(s) of the brain, at that?

It seems obvious to me that perceptual research isn't really going to take off until they can figure out how to directly upload a person's subjective sensorium.* (Over the summer. :-> )

Lori Coulson: That sounds much more fun (if only slightly less tedious) than my opt's version. (I luv me a good starfield.) The chief disadvantage being that it's not a "desktop" version, I'll wager. Do they give you a chin rest or something to keep you from moving your head around too much?

I wonder if CU has a vision lab, and if it has one of those? (If they do and they do, it's probably down in Denver. :-\ )

"NOW I know why you choose such large lens glasses!"

This is a huge piece of my resistence to wearing glasses. This finally seems to be changing, but over the last ten years, the fashion has been those little tiny lenses that seem more appropriate for reading glasses. They may be fashionable as all hell, but given how much I depend on my periphery, I expect I would feel functionally blind in them.

* Spider Robinson has speculated that the "life flashes before your eyes" thing that people in deathly circumstances experience is actually an emergency experiential upload to the Akashic Records.**

** One wonders how/if the Record deals with duplicate records if the person doesn't actually die at that point, but goes on to live another N years? And if the Record has curators or librarians, and what form they would take? (How would one go about borrowing a volume...?)

#89 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 03:58 PM:

...And if the Akashic Records were accessible directly, would they obviate all of the other record-keeping mechanisms we depend on today...?

#90 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 04:28 PM:

A question to me is: are the Akashic records from one person's viewpoint at a time, or are they more from an omniscient viewpoint? If they're always from one person's viewpoint, then the Rashomon effect obviates their usefulness to some extent, even if accessible. Even if they're from an omniscient viewpoint, there are difficulties.

#91 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 04:42 PM:

If the were from an individual viewpoint, there would be a little recursion issue when you got to the point where that individual was accessing the Akashic records....

In fact, I think they're meant to be from a God's-eye viewpoint, with an understanding that insofar as mortals can access them at all, they can only get glimpses, and retain only part of what they do see.

#92 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 05:25 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 87 : That is a really cool way to assess your full binocular field. At a guess - although I'm not remotely an expert - I'd bet they had that custom-made for them. Might have to ask a friend of mine who is a current optometry student at Ohio State about it.

Wouldn't be that hard to build a setup like that; I worked in a lab back in undergrad where I did something pretty similar, although not remotely as comprehensive.

#93 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 06:44 PM:

Tom Whitmore @90: A question to me is: are the Akashic records from one person's viewpoint at a time, or are they more from an omniscient viewpoint?

I would go with: yes.

#94 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 06:58 PM:

Is there more than one version of the Akashic records? My faint memory is of Dion Fortune mentioning them, and she said they were a source of information but wasn't clear about whether they're a God's eye view or you could just get the viewpoints of individual souls.

#95 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 07:54 PM:

I got into a discussion on our newspaper's website about wages at McDonald's. One person asked rather peremptorily, "Just what is a living wage, anyway?" I replied that a living wage should be enough to provide food, shelter, clothing and transportation. He came back saying he wanted numbers. So I found numbers.

Living wage calculator

#96 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 07:59 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #94: Wikipedia traces the Akashic records to Theosophy, which is rather more recent than I'd thought (despite claimed references to Buddhist mysticism). But the idea has certainly been kicked around a fair bit over the last century or so, and I'd expect some divergence.

#97 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 08:59 PM:

In case there are any Hugo voters hanging around this thread: I've been collecting eligible Pro and Fan Artists at 2015 Hugo Eligible Artists; you may find it useful, though by no means complete.

If there are artists you think should be on there that aren't, give me their names and titles of at least two (2) 2015 works, and I'll add them. Finding dates for artworks turns out to be the most time-consuming part of the project.

#98 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 10:48 PM:

Thank you, Doctor Science

#99 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2016, 10:56 PM:

You're welcome, Sarah! It's great to hear that my work has been useful.

Eligible artwork has also been collected by Rocket Stack Rank: Pro Artist and Fan Artist.

#100 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 10:41 AM:

Teresa... Happy Birthday!

#101 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 11:02 AM:

Felicitous natal anniversary to TNH!

#102 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 11:13 AM:

Teresa, I raise a flowing bowl of tasty fruit beverage to your continued endeavors!

#103 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 11:55 AM:


#104 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 12:18 PM:

Happy birthday, Teresa!

HLN: Local woman, who will be graduating in a couple of months, has her first solid lead on a job already. Snoopy dance has duly been performed.

#105 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 12:26 PM:

hippo birdy two ewes, Teresa!

#106 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 12:32 PM:

Happy Birthday!

#107 ::: Stephen Rochelle ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 12:45 PM:

estelendur @19's money-specific question:
For what it's worth, when my family traveled to Scotland last year, we ensured that we had chipped cards, Visa + MasterCard, credit + debit, and that worked out fine for everything. I think we started with £20 in cash left over from my time studying overseas, but otherwise we just ran with "pay by card" and/or "withdraw from ATM" (as with Albatross and others, I think "ATM" is comparable to / better than other options on cost, and superior on convenience).

None of our cards were PINned (except the debit when run as debit); merchants looked at us in surprise when the card reader prompted for a signature instead of a PIN but then passed over the receipt for signature. This contrasts with secondhand stories I've heard from the EU the last couple of years of US swipe-only cards not being accepted. Chip-and-PIN is preferable to chip-and-sig, but I wouldn't sweat it if that's the point in the process where you're not sure you want to keep investing effort.

Not money-specific, but: consider seeing if you can turn on a short-term international cell phone plan. We rigged up something that was voice-within-country (for calling numbers in Scotland, but not to call back home), texts everywhere, and 100 MB or so of data (good for running the phone as a nav/GPS), all with nominal "pay $x more for the next block of voice/text/data" if/when a category ran over. $30 for 100 MB of data sounds like extortion in isolation, but $30 (or even $60 with an overage) is a lot less than renting a nav device would have been. I think our base fee for the whole thing was on the order of $60.

Side note to the Scots and Scots-adjacent in this thread: thanks for paying your taxes! My son wound up hospitalized on the trip, and NHS treated us wonderfully and looked at me like I was a crazy person when I asked if/what we needed to pay, not being UK/EU citizens and all.

#108 ::: Sten Thaning ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 01:36 PM:

estelendur @19: The cathedral, the Carolina Rediviva university library, the Gustavianum museum and the botanical gardens are worth visiting. More than that depends on how much time you have. The train to Stockholm leaves once per hour and the travel time is about 45 minutes.

Write to the local fandom group and ask if anyone would be interested in a cup of coffee: upsala at fandom dot se.
Or if you prefer Facebook communication.

Everyone speaks English. Almost everyone accept credit cards. You can withdraw local currency from any ATM.

The local buses do not accept cash for some weird reason. You are expected to pay by text message. If you don't have a Swedish telephone number I think the easiest way is to download an app to your smartphone, if you have one, and pay with a credit card using that.

#109 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 04:07 PM:

HLN: Local woman is amused by truck advertising New Amsterdam vodka.
(Gin would seem to be more probable, given the historical associations.)

#110 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 05:29 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe @92: I think it's a custom piece, I've never seen one anywhere else.

Jacque @88: I can't wear small lenses, they give me motion sickness.* It's one of the reasons I'm usually shopping in the men's frames section. I destroy women's designer frames in six months or less...sigh.

*They also cause me to fall UP stairs.

#111 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 05:43 PM:

Happy Birthday, TNH!

#112 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 06:13 PM:

So of course the new Open Thread goes up while I'm on the road for the weekend. :-)

That video reminds me of one I saw several years ago -- a time-lapse sequence of a very busy street intersection somewhere in India with no traffic controls. But because their driving style is way less competitive than ours, it just... flows, much like the foot and bike traffic in this one.

Sarah, #7: My post-divorce period was a bit before the rise of actual online-dating sites, but I did play around a bit with online newspaper personals. My conclusion was that the only people who were likely to find a matchup that way were those who had absolutely no interests outside the popular-culture mainstream. Fannish me was just too weird for any guy I met via that route.

xeger, #8: My partner and I visited Seattle a few years ago. Seattle has a law that pedestrians have the absolute right-of-way, even outside the crosswalks, even if they step right out in front of approaching traffic. Which is great for people who like to walk, and it's a very walkable city -- but my first reaction was (and still is) to wonder how many Seattleites move somewhere else and end up as car/pedestrian casualties because they've lost (or never developed) the habit of checking for oncoming vehicles before they step off the curb?

Benjamin, #18: There is at least one verified incident wherein someone who was merely talking on a cellphone while walking down the sidewalk walked casually around the lowered pedestrian barrier and out onto the light-rail tracks directly in front of an approaching train, with predictable results. I would imagine that looking at one's phone would be even worse.

Diatryma, #28: AIUI, the phenomenon of guys not reading the woman's profile before messaging her is not at all uncommon. These guys put in a search for the age range they want, then go down the list of results messaging any woman whose picture makes them think, "I'd fuck that."

albatross, #45: From the linked article: FCC commissioners say the price caps are necessary because the price of calls sometimes hits $14 per minute.

Holy FUCK. That's 900-number-scam rates. I would say that Sandy and Ryan are right -- the answer is greed, nothing more. And that neatly demonstrates why the rate cap is desperately needed.

Kip, #52: Thank you. That was everything I had wanted to say, and much more politely phrased than I would have been able to do.

Jacque, #55: Invest in a good rear-view mirror for your bike. I wanted one as a teenager, because I noticed that turning my head even far enough to use my peripheral vision to look behind me caused me to swerve in the direction I was looking. With the rear-view mirror on the left handlebar, that problem was solved.

David H., #62: A good point. I would add the caveat that other members of the in-group can say this in a way that causes damage; this ties in with the well-known fragility of "traditional masculinity", in which it's terrifyingly easy to lose one's "real man" status and suddenly be called a f*****, a girlie-man, etc. My partner took some lasting emotional damage from this kind of bullying in high school.

Soon Lee, #67: Calligrams -- the one for "condom" made me laugh so loudly I scared the cat!

Dyslexia -- I'm not sure that's a fair test for me personally. Between my love of scrambled-word puzzles and my ability to infer meaning from context when a word is unfamiliar, it was a little weird but not terribly disturbing, and certainly not baffling to read. But I have those two abilities in the first place partially because I don't have dyslexia, so my brain had little difficulty in compensating for the effect.

David H., #71: The game-shop booth right across from ours at the con this past weekend had a cardboard standup of Luke Skywalker with an advertising sign around its neck. I'm particularly sensitive to "person in my peripheral vision" when I'm behind the table because that's a potential customer, and my attention kept getting snagged by the damn thing. Fortunately, on Saturday they moved it to face the side-aisle instead of the one between them and us, and that helped a lot.

Steve C., #95: Cool! When my partner has a few spare minutes, I'll see if he can provide me with some figures to check where we fall. (I suspect that we're going to be at or slightly below Living Wage for 2 adults with no children).

Happy Birthday, Teresa! It was good seeing you and Patrick over the weekend.

#113 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 06:19 PM:

Oh yes, the Vasa Museum is great if you get to Stockholm.

Happy Birthday TNH.

#114 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 06:50 PM:

Happy Birthday TNH!

#115 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 06:58 PM:

Long answer:
I think "Akashic records" is of Theosophist origins, as mentioned, and is probably a garbling of the actual concept of the "storehouse mind" (alaya-vijnana) in Buddhist philosophy.

That in turn was kind of a philosophical fix-up for a Buddhist problem relating to the idea of karma, namely that if you accept that one experiences karma as a result of ones actions, thoughts, and words, and accept that it can continue from one lifetime to another via reincarnation, *and* you accept one of the central Buddhist tenets that there isn't any soul or persistent identity as such - then where the heck does that karma exist after your body dies, so that could apply to you in your next life?

The answer, according to the Yogachara school, which influenced later Mahayana Buddhism and some Theravadan Buddhist schools, was that it all went into the "storehouse consciousness" which records everything you and everybody thinks and experiences. I think the original idea though was not that it's like a cosmic video recorder, but more like a cosmic junkyard or compost heap - it contains the seeds of ones future existence based on the cumulative affect of ones current desires, cravings, aversions, etc.

I believe some Buddhist sects took this very literally and thought all this out in great detail, while others took more the tack of "Great, that's one awkward question resolved, now we don't have to bother about that any more" or in the case of Zen, "Why are you wasting your precious time thinking about that?"

#116 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 06:59 PM:

Happy birthday, Teresa!

#117 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 07:09 PM:

Happy birthday, Teresa!

Various people suggesting things about currency and where to get it: The airport I'm leaving from almost certainly has money changers, so that might be a good option. A friend suggested doing it through a travel agency or something like that? For cash before leaving...

HenryR @56: Ooh, googlemaps does sound like a good plan.

HenryR@56, CHip @69, Stephen Rochelle @107: My card does not have a chip at all. My credit union will not be offering chipped cards of any kind until November. :/ Hence my uncertainty about whether I need to get a chipped card for a week's vacation. (My friend who is there and has a card from my CU as well said he has had very little trouble getting people to accept it, except for the buses and a couple other things.)

Stephen Rochelle @107: Yes, I am planning to be like "week of phone, plz." Hurrah for SIM cards.

Sten Thaning @108: My friend who is studying over there mentioned the buses not accepting cash. That is very odd. Thanks for the pointer to the fandom group! I also have a pointer to someone in the local folk music/dance scene, from a gent in my Morris dance group. I am a little shy about contacting people I have never met, because mid-20s female human, but endorsement on here does count for something. :)

Everyone who's offered names of places to go and see: thank you! I will compile them into a list! Sooo many things!

David Harmon @50: tablet would be worse because it's more two-handed
Well, so is a book. :) If your hands are my size, at least. But, point.

@large-lens glasses: I wish there were large-lens glasses that I thought looked good on my face. I suspect my use of peripheral vision has probably suffered a lot, first from small glasses and then from prism distortion on the edges of those glasses. Vanity and strabismus...

#118 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 08:40 PM:

Judy Harrow fed me some Akashic Varnishkes one time.

Teresa! Happy Birthday!

#119 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 08:43 PM:

Happy birthday TNH!

In other news:
Rachael Acks' "Reasons why I will not be replying to your argument", which I am bookmarking for future reference.

#120 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 09:22 PM:

Happy birthday, Teresa!

#121 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 09:31 PM:

Happy Birthday Teresa, and welcome home to you and PAtrick.

* * *
For those that have Netflix, "Pee-wee's Big Holiday" is a must-see. Reubens is better at playing Pee-wee than ever, if that makes sense.

#122 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2016, 09:47 PM:

Lee @ 112, re: online dating

Definitely no longer the case. I found that the more I let my colors show, the better I did. One of the definite advantages of online dating now that it's a majority-ish thing is that you can go ahead and just say "only X, Y, and Z need apply" and skip some steps.

Of course, there's a certain percentage of clueless "pretty picture/saw something I liked, here's a message" pseudo-bots, but you're gonna have to weed those out anyway and I suspect that if anything, putting "must have an opinion on the Oxford comma, must be able to identify Civil War generals by facial hair" on your profile will help, rather than hinder, that process.

As a guy, I got far fewer random clueless messages, so my primary feedback was in the form of fewer, but higher-quality responses and a decided uptick in non-spam women messaging me. But I found that "how's OKCupid treating you?" was an excellent first-date question (plus I love gossip), so I do have a bit of a database on both sides of that experience.

#123 ::: HenryR ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 12:06 AM:

estelendur @117: Since your card does not have a chip you will not have any problems using it with a live person. (I just returned from vacation in Europe where my lack of PIN for a chipped card rendered it useless with machines.)

#124 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 05:04 AM:

Crap. Multiple explosions at the Brussels airport and metro.

#125 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 07:33 AM:

HLN - Did I really have to spray myself in the face with a "Cat-Off" like product?


But, dangnabbit, I managed to do just that.

Lots of water, and monitoring. In between refreshing screens to hear friends in Brussels check in safely.

Crazy(but, yeah, just bought a fake spinning wheel, which I didn't want to turn into a giant cat-toy)Soph

#126 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 09:32 AM:

Lee #112: Seattle has a law that pedestrians have the absolute right-of-way, even outside the crosswalks, even if they step right out in front of approaching traffic.

IIRC so does California, but when I was visiting and stepped out between crosswalks, I had a cop waiting for me before I'd gotten across the street, to scold me for jaywalking. (He did let me off without a ticket.) That seems like a reasonable combination.

#127 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 09:50 AM:

I'm glad to note that Pendrift of this parish is reporting safe in Brussels this morning. As, btw, are all my friends resident there.

There seems to be an eruption, pardon me, of explosions near Fluorospherians on the east side of the Herring Pond. Praisegod Barebones and family had some in their town recently.

#128 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 10:08 AM:

Lee @112, David Harmon @126:

My mom reported that when she and my father went on a trip to California (from upstate NY) their experience was to step out into the street mid-block, and then stand there dumbfounded right off the curb when all the cars came to a screeching halt.

#129 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 11:20 AM:

I have no idea why the Brussels thing has me more than usually freaked out; maybe it's because that's the first thing I heard when I woke up this morning. |-[

Good wishes to all.

#130 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 12:47 PM:

Jacque, I'm not sure how freaked out I am, but it does get to me that it was probably revenge for arresting one of their guys.

#131 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 12:49 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe @ #18:

I used to be able to navigate pretty successfully while reading a book. may still be able to do it, but I think Stockholm suburbs is a better place to experiment than central London.

estelendur @ #19:

There's plenty of nice parks in Uppsala. Unfortunately (?), I've spent most of my time there doing one of "do a tech talk in a big hall I may be able to find a again (but I wouldn't bet on it)" or "navigate to/from friends, for an evening of communal cooking" (which was nice, 15-20 years ago and while I most probably would be able to retrace the route, on foot, I'd be unable to do it on a map and they don't live there anymore).

A vague memory indicates that Gustavianum (formerly the main university building, now a museum) may be worth a visit.

#132 ::: markdirk ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 01:41 PM:

I'ma just leave this here...

#133 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 03:33 PM:


It doesn't really make sense as revenge for the arrest. Among other things, there's no way blowing up bombs in public places is going to make the local police *less* inclined to arrest you.

It seems more likely to me that the capture of their guys made them worry that the police might capture a lot more of their guys in the near future. (For example, their guys might have had papers or electronic media with information that would be useful, or their capture might indicate that the Belgian police have partially penetrated their network.) That would have put the terrorists in a "use it or lose it" situation.

That assumes that they were planning these attacks for awhile, but were also waiting for something (an auspicious date, an especially valuable target, orders from their caliph, more bombs or guns) before carrying them out.

#134 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 04:24 PM:

albatross @133

Bombing innocent people in retaliation for an arrest can make sense, depending on your initial set of assumptions. E.g. if you're a narcissist with poor planning skills.

#135 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 04:54 PM:

What Sarah said.

If your approach to resolving your personal problems and religious beliefs involves blowing up random people in the first place, you might not be operating on the basis of meticulously rational planning. You might not even consider it among your goals; not everybody does.

#136 ::: Buddha Buck calls gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 05:50 PM:

The last 1000 comments shows one by Clifton after Sarah's, and it shows up in his "view by all", but not on this page.

#137 ::: Buddha Buck rescinds call for gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 05:51 PM:

I suspect my comment kicked it out of purgatory. Please feel to delete my two comments if desired.

#138 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 05:57 PM:

albatross, it seems plausible to me that ISIS would want to increase reluctance to arrest their people, even if the reaction to the bombings is likely to be the opposite.

The argument I'd find most plausible would be that it's too hard to pull together an attack that quickly.

#139 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 07:20 PM:

The YouTube link in 132 is relevant to people who enjoy the parallel text posts during Yuletide.

#140 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2016, 08:23 PM:

I'd say the motivation for the Brussels attacks probably isn't anything new or particular -- there might have been some of that "use it or lose it" thinking, but their long-term goals are the same as for prior attacks:
1. Force the West into overreacting and spending resources.
2. Forestall any negotations with other Muslims in the Middle East.
3. Foment hate against the Muslims in Europe (especially the refugees), in order to keep them from co-existing peacefully with non-Muslims.

#141 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 09:01 AM:


Yeah, I find it dismaying how much political influence we give a small number of crazies with guns and bombs. Rewarding their evil behavior with influence, we get more of it.

#142 ::: Clarentine ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 12:39 PM:

I think Albatross is more likely to be correct, here, re the bombings in Brussels - if Abdesalam had information about impending attacks, it only makes sense (from the terrorists' perspective) that the others in that cell immediately push their plans into action, so as not to be kept from attacking at all.

#143 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 12:46 PM:

It's quite likely that the suicide bombers' families were provided for monetarily. Devotion to a cause is just part of the equation. These horrific events are financed.

#144 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 02:04 PM:

An engineer who tried, and failed, to halt the Challenger launch has died. He finally got over feeling guilty about it, before the end.

#145 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 03:06 PM:

Interview with Donald Trump.

This was fascinating to read. Trump comes off as a basically intelligent person who is also massively uninformed about the sort of things you'd want a guy to know to be president. The interview fit with the fact checking I've seen on his speeches, and with my broad impression of his campaign: He's used to talking in very broad terms about what he'd like to do or change, and often those broad terms are pretty sensible, or at least aren't any crazier than the ruling class consensus views. But when you dig, you find that he's spent zero time digging in and thinking through any of the details.

Like, the whole bit about NATO in its current form not really making a lot of sense, or about many of out allies kind-of free-riding on our military budget--that seems like a worthwhile thing to think through. There's not an obvious reason to think that NATO, designed to hold off the USSR during the cold war, still makes sense today. But it was obvious he had no idea about the numbers on military budgets for various NATO members, and hadn't given any careful thought to how a rethinking of NATO would work. It seemed like his entire understanding of the issue rested on what he remembered from TV news and newspaper articles.

Or the bit about changing the libel laws to make it easier for powerful people to sue news sources. He'd clearly had some bad experiences with the press[1], but he also clearly had not spent an entire unbroken hour thinking through just what he'd want to do, and how it might work out or affect the world.

I keep getting the impression that he's about as informed about world affairs as any reasonably bright, well-educated person who pays a moderate amount of attention to the news and talks to other bright, well-educated people. Which is fine for a voter, but not really what you need of you want to propose new policies.

One interesting aside in the interview: he talked a bit about why he felt it was necessary for him to respond to Cruz' "small hands" comment. And that was very telling--it was quite consistent with Scott Adams' view of Trump as a master manipulator/negotiator. When he saw that Cruz' smear about his hands and dick size[2] was sticking in peoples' minds, he *had* to respond in an effective way. My guess is that details of policies don't have much of a hold on his mind, but that details relevant to making the impression he wants to make on the people he's trying to convince of something stick in his mind like glue.

I suspect that this interview (freeform stream of consciousness) does actually reflect a fair bit about who he is, for good and ill.

[1] Not surprising--the press is broadly pretty bad at getting things right, and the political press is massively in the corner of the current powers of the two big parties. And Trump is in many ways very easy to attack, both on real grounds of what he says and does, and on imagined grounds based on his image.

[2] I'm afraid I'm sufficiently cynical about American voters to suspect that allegations that Trump might have a small dick could actually hurt him in an election. God help us.

#146 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 03:13 PM:


"One of my great frustrations with the discussions about free speech is that the nature of the rest of our society means that there's nothing you can say to a cis straight white man who has always been economically secure and is in the mainstream of his culture's religious* context that is as damaging as the poor-shaming, transphobic, sexist, genderist, racist things slurs that people who fall into other categories can be called. If you haven't spent a significant portion of your life being stepped on for being any value of X, then there is no anti-X button (with all the threats and damage that it invokes) wired into your psyche. It just isn't there. A thoughtful person who listens carefully and believes what he is being told can come to an intellectual understanding of that damage, but even then it's not easy."

A very good question, and one that links back to your previous thread about the "globalisation" of conversation on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. I'm still trying to think this through. Part of the problem has not just been the barrier free modes of conversation that the Internet has brought, but also the loss in the real world of other mechanisms that we used to broker some of these issues.

With my British Liberal hat on, I would note the increasing centralisation of political power: with everything decided in Westminster, the power of the parish, the town council, the local council, the once-great metropolitan corporations that (for example) built the sewer system of London, have all been diminished or lost. Naturally, when things are decided in distant Westminster, more distant Brussels or remote WTO negotiations those who can shout the loudest get heard more. Those people are unlikely to be the disadvantaged or people more comfortable in smaller environments.

With my British Left hat on (not one I wear much - but why be doctrinaire?) I'd point to the loss of mechanisms like unionisation have also removed localised, familiar and federalised structures which allow alternative communication channels.

Mechanisms like these have previously allowed a percolation of quiet whispers which otherwise would have been drowned out: in a brave new world of Direct Democracy where this is deemed "unnecessary", isn't there a danger that these voices will be silenced?

Still thinking and formulating here...

#147 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 04:36 PM:

James Harvey @146 (in comment to abi -- and with connections to a lot of the conversation): ISTM that the attempts to consolidate into larger and larger groupings is antithetical to the concept of community: that as groups get bigger, the amount of factors that make an "us" get more and more dilute. I'm seeing this playing out in a professional corporation (which calls itself an "association", but is acting more and more corporate each time I turn around) I've volunteered for; I see it in comparing the responses of a big chain supermarket to those of a small local chain about getting something into stock (S*f*w*y) does not care about what customers want, but just what they can sell easily; the local group listens to locals who shop there as if they were the target market, which is a different approach). And I'm not sure how to deal with that, or what can be done. Small local "us" groups tend to have a xenophobic achilles heel: large groups have no sense of support for those who are "us". And there's a continual lumping/splitting dynamic in groups that are an "us" -- if the group is too small, there's not enough support. If it's too big, it starts breaking up into smaller groups where people feel, overall, supported better than in a larger group.

Community is messy. It's not controllable, and it's unpredictable. This is not a good way to keep a corporate bottom line balanced.

#148 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 05:46 PM:


Local communities, unions, etc., are also alternative power centers, sources of resistance to decisions the people on top would like to impose. That can be good or bad, but I suspect it creates a pretty pervasive hostility to those organizations from the top.

#149 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 07:54 PM:

Politics: If only it was this easy. :-)

#150 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 10:35 PM:

xeger @ 75: it's easy enough to tell non-locals on the main drags or in Back Bay (rectangular grid) at rush hour, by the visible lack of planning a move ahead -- but I suppose some of those are just people who don't get out regularly. But you have a point in that Boston is made of very ... individual ... neighborhoods; someone from a couple of miles away could be just as baffled as someone from out of town.

Sarah @ 74 / Jacque @ 77: I learned a long time ago that bicycling on the sidewalk was anti-social (where not outright illegal), but I still see people do it occasionally so I understand your tenseness. OTOH, I have seen pedestrians assume they own the Paul Dudley White Memorial Bike Path despite it having been paved for bikes -- it's beside the road so it's gotta be a sidewalk.... And I see and hear about cyclists cutting at high speed through insanely thin passages, such as the one who got smeared by a turning truck -- but was probably doing >>20mph downhill to carry over the next upgrade (I know that spot well...).

Lee @ 112: India has a less-competitive driving style than we do? That's not what I see on the BBC, or heard from someone posted there for a year. Do you have any cites on that? I'm thinking specifically of in-city, and driving (the commuter rails are a known nightmare).

#151 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 11:12 PM:

AKICIML: I was looking over a shelf of hardbacks of varying age and noticed that if I were to lay them on a table face up some would have proper occlusion and some would have an overbite(*) but none would have an underbite. (The malocclusions are usually not recent, but I see them in books less than 15 years old, and not just in book club or juvenile editions; I think my sample size (400+) is large enough to be representative.) Is there some reason that deformed bindings always deform in the same direction?

(*) viewed with the cover right-side-up, the right edge of the front cover lies to the right of the right edge of the back cover.

#152 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 11:36 PM:

CHip @ 151 -

My guess would be that as you get toward the end of the book, the way you hold it would tend to make the top be a bit heavier, and then move the signatures of the pages already read to the right a bit.

#153 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2016, 11:37 PM:

Chip, #151: Maybe it has something to do with whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere? If you cross the equator will they be deformed the opposite way?
[I'll check my own books after I get home...]
Other possible explanations might be the current orientation of the planetary magnetic field, and possibly some principle of chirality affecting physics on a deeper level, which I don't know much about. Anyone got other ideas?

#154 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 12:12 AM:

>> ... principle of chirality

Well, the handedness of the reader would be one obvious question.

#155 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 12:26 AM:

And which of the books have been read all the way through would be another.

#156 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 01:23 AM:

CHip, #150: I went looking for that video and couldn't find it, but this one is remarkably similar. That intersection wouldn't go 10 minutes in any US city without a huge crash because of some asshole who wouldn't yield. But Indian drivers are fine with waiting until they have a safe opening to proceed, and somehow the traffic all gets to where it's going.

#157 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 07:25 AM:

CHip #151: My first instinct would be to look at your shelving (or stacking) habits. I don't keep many hardbacks, but I'm going in to work, and I'll try to remember to ask my boss.

#158 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 07:52 AM:

Lee @156: Interesting. Some observations from a late-learning driver and lifelong transportational urban walker who's been taught to jaywalk carefully by a mother who grew up in Manhattan:

- The cars entering from the right of that video are acting, to my eye, like skilled jaywalkers: they look for a gap and cross one "lane" (well, traffic tendency, in this case) at a time, waiting between the streams of traffic in small groups until it's safe to dart across the next one.

- To my eyes, not only is that street basically empty, traffic-wise (one reason why this organizational method works at all; there's space for the cars to buffer and clump as they wait for right of way), but there are NO LANES. If there were more cars, and it were an American-style controlled intersection, you'd have space for three to five times the vehicles, though many of them would wait longer to get through the intersection, especially cars on the free-flowing street that goes from bottom-left out the top (most of whom, in this video, simply proceed through at speed without even slowing).

- That said, there are clear 'desire paths' where the left-turners think are the most obvious way to get through, and so on: crowdsourced lanes, at least through the intersection; then they appear to go back to playing roller derby on the full width of available pavement on the straightaways.

- Anyone trying to cross this intersection on foot is DOOMED. Unless the cars actually yield, which will clump it all up. Not only is it uncontrolled, but the streets are WIDE, so it will take forever for someone who isn't a fleet-footed urban warrior to get across and clear the path again.

#159 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 10:11 AM:

Lee #156, Elliott Mason #158: Yeah, that intersection depends critically on having lots more space than cars. At a WA-guess, if the traffic from bottom and right doubled, things would start clogging up in a hurry, and if it tripled you'd have gridlock in no time.

#160 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 10:29 AM:

re 156: There are actually some lane markings in the video, but there's some sort of artifacting going on which obscures them most of the time. The one clear glimpse I got showed eight marked lanes in the oncoming traffic at the intersection. It's also sped up by perhaps as much as a factor of two, and I think it's flipped too: aren't they a left side country?

I really can't get a good picture of how that would work in the US, simply because nobody here would ever overbuild (by our standards) urban streets to that degree. If you look for some other Indian traffic videos, you can see that (a) they do have a lot of the sort of accidents you would expect from this, and (b) they ignore anything resembling traffic laws pretty much as it pleases them. What keeps them from having accidents almost constantly is that (a) people are actually really good at this sort of thing, when traffic is kept down in the right regime, and (b) traffic is generally heavy enough to force things into that regime. Other videos show that when the density gets forced up still further what saves the thing is that (a) the very disorder prevents true gridlock, and (b) so much of the traffic is in people and bikes that they can get through no matter what.

The other thing that keeps this from being translated into the US is that people here, even to the degree that they break traffic laws, do fundamentally respect them. We have an intersection near our house between two major roads which is controlled by a traffic light which is prone to being out (it's on the border between two electric companies). What happens when it goes dark is that, until the police show up to direct traffic, people tend to act according to a virtual traffic light: traffic goes in one direction until things slacken, and then they stop and traffic flows the other way. There's a lot of turning traffic in one direction and they get fitted in as if their arrow were turning red and green. There's none of the interleaving that you see in these videos. Now, this is a much smaller intersection (two lanes in each of the four directions) so to some extent the opportunity for a free-for-all is a bit limited.

#161 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 12:14 PM:

CHip @ 150

Could they be tourists? I once found myself walking through a park with some lovely Scandinavian gentlemen who seemed to have no understanding of the concept of "bike path" and didn't react to either the dirty looks we got from cyclists or my suggestion that we walk somewhere else...

#162 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 01:11 PM:

On Canadian Netflix (and possibly other Netflixes), there's a three-episode series called "The Code" which is about the mathematics underpinning how the world works. The third episode talks about starling flocks and crowds of people moving in multiple directions through a large open space. If I remember rightly, the large open space they use to illustrate it is Grand Central Station. I think folks might find it really interesting. I was surprised to learn from it that by placing a large obstacle in the middle of a space, you actually increase the ability of people to move through it smoothly by about thirty percent, because it disrupts paths which would otherwise intersect (essentially it acts like a roundabout).

#163 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 01:36 PM:

Yes, I enjoyed The Code a great deal. Another, related, entertainment: The Great Math Mystery.

Tagline: "Is math invented by humans, or is it the language of the universe?"

I'm guessing: Yes.

#164 ::: alisea ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 01:59 PM:

Lee @ 156: That video looks remarkably like the simulation of how an intersection would work with self-driving cars I stumbled over today.

#165 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 01:59 PM:

There's been a fair bit of coverage of campus protests in the news over the last year. Much of it has been pretty dismissive[1], especially from the right.

This article by itself is just a dialogue between a Yale student activist and a libertarian/somewhat conservative journalist. But it's part of a really extraordinary series of articles in which Connor Friedersdorf has been genuinely trying to engage with the people with whom he disagrees, as well as asking for commentary from anyone involved in the disputes.

It's clear to me that Friedersdorf has some pretty fundamental disagreements with a lot of the campus protest movements, especially on issues surrounding speech codes or firing professors for expressing the wrong opinions. But uniquely among people with that perspective, he seems to be honestly trying to engage people on the other side in discussions. He's got a point of view, and maybe you disagree with it, but he also is making sure the other sides get heard, and he's clearly trying to engage with them.

This strikes me as something worth calling attention to, especially in a world where 99% of coverage of these protests is "get a load of these idiots." This seems like coverage intended to make me smarter and wiser and better, rather than intended to reassure me that I'm superior to my stupid and evil ideological enemies. Strongly recommended.

[1] Campus protests are often pretty easy to dismiss, because even when protesting college students have some genuine and important points to raise, they usually don't have a lot of sense of proportion or intuition about what demands are practical, so you'll often see these lists of demands that include a bunch of impossible or extremely unwise proposals. Anyway, in any large protest, you can always find fools saying crazy things, and those guys are the ones who tend to get the most attention.

#166 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 02:22 PM:

OT: Anybody planning on going to MiniCon 51 this weekend in MN? Seen a bit of chatter on twitter, but I'm not involved in local fandom at all so I'm unwaware of most folks I might know from here, for example, who might be going. This may be my first 'con if I make it there. Not sure yet whether I and/or my family will be going, or what day or for how long. We have 2 kids, so unless we want to dump them on my MIL, they'll be in tow, which limits panels we can go to. Will be commuting from West Metro rather than staying there.

I know I'm asking a bit last-minute - seems to be the default mode for how stuff gets done for me these days. :-/

#167 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 03:09 PM:

alisea @164:

I thought of that video earlier today when reading this thread myself. My initial thought was that it was really neat, and I'd like to see it happen. Today, this thread made me consider adding pedestrians and bikes to the mix, and feeling that the slot-based system wouldn't really cope with that, not without modification.

The car/anti-car argument in the comments on that link is somewhat entertaining, though.

#168 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 03:55 PM:

In my city there's a road at the back of a large public building that I think of as the perfect torture test for self-driving vehicles: a steep road, mostly narrow enough for only one vehicle, descends with entrances/exits for car parks on both sides, and on one side there are delivery yards that quite big trucks have to reverse into. One of those yards is at the bottom of the hill, where the road turns left (it's pretty much a blind corner for drivers) and there are lots of pedestrians trying to cross. It's rather encouraging how the drivers and pedestrians mostly manage to make it work, but there are often three or four vehicles doing a careful 'after you! No, after you' negotiation to solve a sliding-block puzzle with vehicles. I honestly can't see how any autonomous car without human-level AI could consistently do the right thing there. It's not just a set of intersections, it's a social situation, and the car would need facial expression/gesture recognition and a theory of mind.

I'm sure Google's people are very aware of just how hard this sort of thing can be (see: San Francisco)... but I'm not holding my breath.

#169 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 05:21 PM:

Steve @ 168:
I've been told that, as an autistic person, I don't have "facial expression/gesture recognition and a theory of mind" and I do okay in situations like that that.

I hate situations like that with the burning passion of a thousand suns, but so far I've never caused an accident.

#170 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 05:58 PM:

Sarah #169: just because your "hardware support" for those capacities is buggy, doesn't mean you can't manage a little with higher-level cognition. That's the classic mistake of people who say "you're disabled, you can never do that at aaallll!". They don't "get" compensation. Of course, then there's the folks who see the compensation and don't understand its trade offs and limits....

#171 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 06:09 PM:

David Harmon @ 170

Sure! But If I can do it, why can't a computer?

#172 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 06:10 PM:

Sarah: Because there are still lots of things you can do that a computer can't, is why. :-)

#173 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 07:29 PM:

Sarah, even with difficulties deciphering facial expressions, I'm guessing you can interpret another driver gesturing "you go first".... (If not, I apologize sincerely for my assumption, and welcome correction. It's just I've never seen anyone driving in traffic who apparently couldn't interpret a "go ahead" gesture.)

I don't think an autonomous car could understand that gesture.

#174 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 07:56 PM:

Give it a few years, and the self-driving car - which very much will have to contend with a road environment that is a mix of autonomous, semi-autonomous and manually-controlled cars for decades - likely will be able to recognize driver facial expressions from other drivers in the road environment. There's certainly work being done now on facial expression and semi-autonomous driving (I know the people doing it), so it's not too much of a stretch.

More likely, to avoid problems like this, we'd expect some degree of a car to car mesh network with all vehicles communicating with each other, and a mandatory retrofit requirement for manually-controlled vehicles. You could look for facial expressions from other drivers, but it's easier to just have the cars talk to each other.

#175 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 09:35 PM:

Following up on what Benjamin Wolfe said, computer image classification and recognition has suddenly got a lot better in the past few years. When I was a student, neural networks were regarded by statisticians as interesting only to people like Dilbert's manager. It turned out all they needed was twenty years more development, and ten thousand times the computing power and training data.

There's an interesting post from 2014 talking about how hard it has become for humans to beat computers at image classification, when it used to be absolute no contest.

#176 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 10:04 PM:

thomas @ 175 Oh yes! Image recognition is AMAZING science. I went to a talk at Nvidia about this -- they were bragging about how the gaming industry has driven the development of massively parallel graphics processors, which have in turn been able to revolutionize fields that could never have afforded to develop that tech on their own. They put special emphasis on medical scanners. It was awesome. :)

Cassy B. @ 173 I've learned. It can still be confusing, though. Hand gestures vary by culture, too! I suppose the ultimate goal is for all of these cars to have computers driving them, so they can use rational algorithms to decide who goes first -- as opposed to a person I met on the road today, who stopped at a green light and waited for us pedestrians to cross. We were waiting for the traffic signal, the people in the car behind them expected them to go, they decided to signal us pedestrians by honking, and EVERYTHING would have been better if computers had been driving!

#177 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 10:07 PM:

Cassy B @173, And related to that, how would an autonomous car make that gesture? If I'm going to share the road with autonomous vehicles, I'd like them to be able to be as considerate as I aspire to be behind the wheel, so it seems they would need some way of saying to me "No, you first", not just understanding my hand waves. I don't think the passengers would be in a position to know exactly what their car was waiting for, so wouldn't be in a position to make the gesture on its behalf.

I suppose some sort of LED sign on top would do, but I can't help wishing for something more elegant, or anthropomorphic.

#178 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2016, 10:10 PM:

John @177: In some places I have driven, a brief blink of the headlights is used.

#179 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 12:35 AM:

An autonomous car could easily include some sort of people-signalling device... a semaphore? Big low-res hi-brightness screen? something, anyway, to produce the same kinds of signals that people give each other in traffic. Then somebody would hack them and every car in LA would display animated dicks for a week, but we'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

#180 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 01:29 AM:

Cassy B. #173: Actually, IIRC from the reports I've seen, the current Google cars can interpret not only such hand gestures, but even pedestrian body language to the effect of "I want to cross". Yeah, cultural differences will be a problem for a while, but those things not only learn over time, they share their learning with the rest of their fleet. And unlike most human drivers, they are willing (programmed) to consistently defer to pedestrians, even when it slows down their trip.

I can imagine mass pranks/protests aimed at blocking driverless traffic, but I can also imagine the cars/fleets recognizing the problem and automatically calling local police for help.

#181 ::: LizardBreath ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 07:33 AM:

Actually, IIRC from the reports I've seen, the current Google cars can interpret not only such hand gestures, but even pedestrian body language to the effect of "I want to cross".

Are you sure about that? I have a friend who works in a related area, who gets very worried about self-driving car advocacy because they're nowhere close to being able to do that sort of thing. He wrote something about it in Slate.

#182 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 07:51 AM:

LizardBreath: re the linked article, I wish someone would pour that kind of money into improving public transportation, particularly for the elderly and disabled.

#183 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 10:55 AM:

LizardBreath @ 181 : I've a similar background to your friend (I did my PhD in human visual perception - in fact, looking at your friend's publications, we may have bumped into each other at conferences), and these days, I work for an MIT research lab looking at the interaction between modern vehicle technology and humans. I'd disagree with him on the idea that current computer vision techniques aren't adequate to the needs of interacting with humans in/around the roadway. From what I've seen, sitting on the bleeding edge of the research here, we can get a remarkable amount of information very quickly - and the state of the art is moving fast enough that by the time semi-autonomous (and fully autonomous, which is what Google is working on) vehicles are more widely available, it wouldn't surprise me to see this capability as part of the mix.

#184 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 11:53 AM:

LizardBreath #181: Eyewitness report from the Oatmeal.

#185 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 11:54 AM:

Re: above: See #4.

#186 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 11:56 AM:

Also: Looks like easy environments will get it first, with progressive expansion into tougher cases. I assume there will be occasional "incidents" at the leading edges.

#187 ::: LizardBreath ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 12:25 PM:

184: That looks like an eyewitness report of the car distinguishing between a moving object (the pedestrian initially) and a motionless one. Which is a big deal, but it doesn't have much to do with predicting intentions.

183: I am certainly no expert in this stuff. But I'm hearing you say no, Google cars are not meaningfully interpreting people's intentions now, but you believe they're likely to be able to in the near future?

#188 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 01:09 PM:

Pretty much. Given that using computer vision techniques to classify the driver's emotional state is easy enough (if I wanted to know more about it, I'd need to go two offices down), there's no reason I can see that you couldn't train a similar system to look for and respond to indications from other drivers or pedestrians outside the vehicle. It's a harder problem in a variety of ways (the driver, generally, doesn't move much - pedestrians and other drivers do), but it's not inconceivable to me that something along those lines would be part of a semi-autonomous or autonomous car's systems so that it can safely interact with the world.

#189 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 01:30 PM:

cajunfj40 @166
I'll be at Minicon, and I'm sure a number of other people who post here are busily getting ready for it as well.

I'm on a panel this evening on accessibility, which I thought would be different from what the description states. It may turn into a con-survival discussion, but there is no way to know in advance. Minicon panels often meander.

The website has a list of pre-registered members:

#190 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 02:26 PM:

I have discovered that in Pittsburgh it is expected that the driver has their window down, and they put their hand out and make a "go ahead" gesture to communicate to another driver. I'm amusing myself by imaging a simplified robot hand, along the lines of a Minnie Mouse white glove, sticking out to gesture to the other cars. Hey, a lot of this robot car research & development is happening here in Carnegie Mellon University land, so it might happen!

Me, I usually have my window closed and the heater or A/C blasting.

#191 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 02:30 PM:

Oh, and Pittsburgh is a great example of a tough environments for robot cars to figure out. Intersections with two roads meeting at a 90 degree angle are the exception, not the rule in Pittsburgh. When we first moved here, we did NOT drive anywhere on our own. One person drove, the GPS gave instructions, and the passenger added clarification to the GPS instructions, e.g.

GPS: Turn left on East Liberty
DRIVER: Which left, dammit?!
PASSENGER: The really left left, not the one towards the middle.

#192 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 02:46 PM:

David Harmon @186: I assume there will be occasional "incidents" at the leading edges.

I'm suddenly having flashbacks to "The Roads Must Roll."

Benjamin Wolfe @188: respond to indications from other drivers

It also occurs to me that there are probably a number of "macro" indications of "intent" your car could pick up from the cars/pedestrians, such as movement/hesitation curves, and apply some fairly simple heuristics to calculate probabilities. I can do this in traffic without a lot of processing. (I'm speaking as someone who qualifies as a programmer only in the broadest sense.)

Prime example: I'm on my bike travelling west on Iris Ave, on the sidewalk/bike path on the south ("wrong") side of the road. I cross the drive that enters the Safeway parking lot. Immediately, I'm tracking cars travelling three directions:

Cars coming out of the parking lot, those coming east towards me in the lane nearest me, and those going west in the lane farthest to me. Obviously, the most-important-to-me at this passage are the cars entering and exiting the parking lot.

I can tell if an exiting car sees me by whether they stop at the zebra crossing, or pull all the way up to the corner; if the latter, they clearly don't know I'm there, and they become a moving obstacle to go around. I extrapolate their path based on oncoming traffic, presence or absence of turn indicators and so on, and I adjust my speed accordingly. If their motion indicates they know I'm there, I make eye contact (face recognition is old tech by now, so I imagine your auto-auto will have it) and negotiate my passage in front of the car that way. If they wave to me to pass (a comparatively conspicuous motion of their hand on their steering wheel), I'm confident I have right-of-way, and I go. (This is one of those cases where tinted windows are the devil's work.)

The trickier cases are the cars turning into the drive from the street. The ones turning left from the west-bound lane admit of very broad predictions based on density of east-bound traffic. If that's solid a block or two back, I can safely ignore the west-bound left turners, because they won't even have an opening for a while.

When they do turn, I assume they won't be able to see me, and even if they do, we can't make eye-contact. So they are moving obstacles to avoid. Simple extrapolations will do.

Cars turning right from east-bound may or may not see me (they won't see me if there's an exiting car in the drive that blocks their view), and may or may not give way; rules apply as with exiting cars.

The ones that are really dangerous are the left turning west-bounds, if they come up and start to turn after I've started crossing behind an exiting vehicle. We can't detect each other at all until it's too late, and the decision window is short-to-nonexistent. I'm always extremely careful crossing behind an exiter, for that reason.

So that's actually a comparatively few lines of code, plus some pretty gross tracking data. Rigging the auto-car so the opposing human driver can interpret its "intentions" will be a trickier proposition, since you've got to provide something (over and above turn signals) analogous to eye-contact and hand-waves, that the human can interpret quickly and unambiguously. But that's semiotics, and I can't see that being more than an engineering/design issue.

If you program the auto-car to give preference to the human-guided (in the way that some places give pedestrians absolute right-of-way), then this simplifes things further. The human passenger of the auto-car isn't going to be bothered by minor delays, as long as his or her reading/DVD-watching isn't interrupted, so road rage will become less of an issue.

I'd bet, as data accumulates, potential road ragers could be detected statistically, too, and dealt with in any number of ways.

janetl: I anticipate that, over time, auto-cars would precipitate economic pressure such that intersections will be re-engineered to simplify this kind of issue, which will (not un-ironically) benefit human drivers as well. (Cf. previous discussions about the benefits to the able-bodied of handicap accomodations.) I can think of a couple of intersections in Boulder that could really benefit from this kind of redesign.

(The one my mother used to call "Idiot's Corner" at Baseline/Moorehead/Hwy-36 leaps to mind. It has been improved drastically over the last 40 years, but is still a brain-melting snarl of on/off ramps, multi-lane intersections, and shopping-center entrances. With some bike-pedestrian lanes/paths thrown in just to make things interesting.)

#193 ::: Stephen Rochelle ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 04:10 PM:

janetl @191: I would guess, per my own GPS experience, that the flaw is with the language module, not the nav system's ability to manage a complicated intersection.

What I mean is, in your example, what is the passenger referencing to answer "the really left left"? If it's the GPS, then this is not actually an obstacle to autonomous cars; the system knows the correct route and is just bad about verbalizing the directions. Google Maps on my phone seems to have crossed this particular bridge -- even to the extent of selecting a particular lane or lanes prior to a turn -- with surface streets (both US-style intersections and UK-style roundabouts) and highway interchanges. The computer voice may not handle all of that, but the display (and the human navigator reading it out) does.

#194 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 04:31 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe @188: wrt anticipating driver behavior:

There will be limitations such as detecting through car glass, only being able to see head and (maybe) shoulders, and filtering out ambient IR, but ISTM that something like this, also, might come into play at some point.

#195 ::: Jacque, captured by gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 04:33 PM:

And it turns out I posted too soon anyway: the images are not IR; they are maps of self-reported sensation.

*nevermind* </latella>

#196 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 05:23 PM:

Driver/pedestrian behavior is part of my job, although in a more practical sense; I sometimes say I am a professional street-crosser. We try to get our students to 1) look for cars; 2) notice when cars are there (I usually ask Honey Badger, "What color is the car?" because otherwise she just says, "No cars no cars," and walks on); 3) respond appropriately; 4) not be super obvious, dramatic, or slow about the whole thing, if they are already accurate and not stressing us out. I have talked about getting friends to drive around a neighborhood as we drilled street crossing and almost hit our students because they've all been trained that the world will compensate for them, and that's well and good as long as the world knows to, trafficwise. Being waved across is a higher-level skill, as is the three-way stop intersection at Kirkwood and Dodge.

So much goes into crossing the street, and so much of it gets backgrounded. Much like the social and emotional skills highlighted in the Dys Day posts, people think it's innate until they can't do it. It's a skill, it can (and has to be) taught, it's frustrating to handle, but also fun in a way to explicate the steps.

With respect to eye contact and drivers, when I was learning to cross the street, my dad told me to never, ever look at the driver if I wanted to cross. Because then they'll know you know they're there, and they'll go, and you will never make it across. Know that the car is there, but only make eye contact with the car, not the driver.

It's not universally good advice, but it is better than getting stuck at a traffic-light corner because cars keep turning when the crosswalk says go.

#197 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 05:39 PM:

janetl, @191: That literally made me laugh so loudly that it scared the cat who was sleeping on my foot! I think because it reminded me of that classic exchange: "Turn left here. No, the OTHER left!"

Diatryma, #196: That's odd. I was taught that if you're turning right and there's a pedestrian trying to cross the street, the pedestrian has right of way, full stop. You, the driver, don't make that turn until the pedestrian is out of the lane you're turning into. But I-the-pedestrian would certainly also want to make eye contact with the driver, because in all honesty I don't expect drivers to notice pedestrians, and I'd rather be safe than sorry.

#198 ::: LizardBreath ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 06:07 PM:

With respect to eye contact and drivers, when I was learning to cross the street, my dad told me to never, ever look at the driver if I wanted to cross. Because then they'll know you know they're there, and they'll go, and you will never make it across. Know that the car is there, but only make eye contact with the car, not the driver.

IME, this is weirdly regional. In NYC, where I'm from, you make eye contact with the driver. If you make eye contact, they have seen you, and they have to yield the right of way. No eye contact, they probably won't yield.

When I went to college in Boston, on the other hand, things worked the way you described -- I had to walk across streets without making eye contact or the drivers wouldn't stop. I found this terrifying and insane, but once I figured it out, it seemed to work.

#199 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 06:40 PM:

If you don't make eye contact with the driver, how do you know they've seen you? Also I'm convinced that drivers are less likely to run me down if they have to look me in the eye while they do it (possible bloody-mindedness on my part).

#200 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 06:46 PM:

Diatryma @196: It's not universally good advice, but it is better than getting stuck at a traffic-light corner because cars keep turning when the crosswalk says go.

I expect it's a regional thing; one of the ways I stay alive in traffic is knowing when to make eye contact with an oncoming car turning left across my path, and extend ki in a way that unambiguously conveys, "Hi. I'm coming through. You are going to respect my right-of-way." Doesn't always work, but it does often enough that I can usually depend on it. (The crucial piece, of course, is knowing when it's not working, and not trying to bull through, anyway.)

I have several male friends on various points along the pro-bike-racing curve, and I hear them complain about getting cut off in traffic all the time. I speculate that the reason I don't run into that nearly as much as they report (aside from the fact that I'm just plain going much more slowly) is that they are in some kind of dominance contest with car traffic and, as such, they're not nearly so interactive as I am with the other parties on the road.

#201 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 06:51 PM:

The driver-training classes I got at work told us to make eye contact ('make sure they see you'). As a pedestrian, I find it helps. Too many drivers never see anything but the road in front of them, and that includes people and cyclists crossing their path legally.

#202 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 07:26 PM:

Sarah, #199: Heh. Yes, that too.

#203 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 07:53 PM:

Jacque #192: I make eye contact (face recognition is old tech by now, so I imagine your auto-auto will have it)

But will the pedestrian know how to make eye contact with a car that doesn't have an actual face -- at best, a front that vaguely resembles a face? Will the AI be able to compensate for the pedestrian's uncertainty? That's tougher than assuming that a person waiting at the edge of the sidewalk probably wants to cross.

Also, I'm amused by the developing neologisms: The former "horseless carriage" became an "automobile", then "auto" or "car" (shortening one or the other term). But now with the advent of a new driverless form, you just started with "auto-auto" and then shifted to "auto-car". My own bet is on "robot car" becoming "robocar", that usage having been primed by various SF works. But I'm not sure how it will be shortened to two or one syllables. At least until it becomes the default, upon which I'm fairly sure it will just be "auto" or "car" again, and the original will be qualified, perhaps as "manual", but more likely as "dumb cars".

#204 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 08:10 PM:

XKCD's "Thing Explainer" coming to science textbooks. High school textbooks. Arrgh... this was my least favorite thing Randall Munroe has done, and this is what gets picked up by the mainstream? Ptui.

#205 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 10:03 PM:

#191: The first self-driving cars I saw (~1996) were military trucks slowwwly driving around Schenley Park. Probably no too challenging compared to the actual streets of Pittsburgh.

There's a "block" west of CMU that really threw me when I first drove around it:

West on Forbes

Right turn on Craig

Right turn on the first side street on Craig.

Make the first right turn on . . . wait, where are we going?

Pass Mr. Roger's TV studio on the left.

Hey, WAIT. We're now in a gulch 50' below Forbes Avenue.

#206 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 10:12 PM:

Pittsburgh: Where three rights pretty much never make a left.

#207 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 10:23 PM:

David Harmon @ 204: Arrgh... this was my least favorite thing Randall Munroe has done.

Really? After my son got the book I picked it up to take a look, and ended up sitting up half the night paging through it - I couldn't put it down.

It's got good solid scientific information, and something about expressing it using incredibly simple words seemed to me to open up the wonderment of how amazing all of the science is - for instance, describing human anatomy in terms of "bags of stuff inside you", made up of "tiny bags of water" with "little animals" inside them. (Organs, cells, mitochondria.) I could see it working well to get the interest of some high school students.

#208 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 10:47 PM:

Clifton #207: It was funny the first time he did it, but after that is basically strikes me as twee and contrived. That said, I'm a hyperlexic who picks up new vocabulary aggressively -- that is, when I'm learning about a new thing, I want to know all the appropriate terms, and how they're properly defined. (and I'm very good at inferring meanings from context). I can see where others without my mutant talents might find the extra vocabulary to be "costly", and that sort of verbal schematic to be appealing.

Come to think of it, "Thing Explainer" is kind of a verbal equivalent to what he does visually with his stick figures....

#209 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 10:51 PM:

By the way, I was talking to a customer yesterday who was browsing the knitting books, and I quoted from here the bit about "knitting is the original 3-D printer". (TNH's? I forget. It was in one of the sidebars.) She thought that was pretty cool.

#210 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2016, 11:02 PM:

I try to feign indifference to traffic when I'm being a pedestrian, but I definitely keep track of where the cars are. And I've certainly perfected my glare for people who try to turn right as soon as the light turns green without waiting for the pedestrians. They're usually none too happy about that.

I'm really hoping for self-driving cars soon, because I don't really like driving. I'd much rather be reading or sleeping or, well, anything else. Of course, I'd really rather a public transport system that goes places I want to go at reasonable times, but that's not going to happen around here.

Unrelatedly, I went to the bookstore today because they called to tell me that the books I'd ordered had come in (The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells, and In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan). I thought this was rather odd, as they weren't due out until April 5th.

Me: I thought you weren't allowed to sell these yet.
Will call: *checks* You're right.
Will call: *takes them back and explains the facts of life to the other person in the back who had made the call*
Will call: Thanks. They'll be here for you on the 5th.
Me: *smiles and purchases other books anyway* Not a problem!

I was amused.

#211 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 12:29 AM:

The other part of the Dad traffic lesson was that you should probably be able to jump back before the car hits you. But seriously, I spent like twenty minutes at one intersection in elementary school one day. No one ever stopped.

It's taking advantage of the community traffic feeling, really-- everyone is supposed to be looking out for everyone else, and then one person acts 'selfishly' and gets ahead. It works because the system itself isn't working as advertised.

Not everyone has to like Thing Explainer. I find it soothing and fun, depending on what I need, and gave it to both my father and my tinyfriend, age gap sixty years. Tinyfriend's mom did some work regarding vocabulary in science and mostly found that insisting on jargon causes people vulnerable to failing to do so; the difference in the experiment I've heard about was stunning. I like new vocabulary because it lets me fit concepts into a bigger system, but I have that system to begin with, and not everyone has the resources to build it before they learn cell biology.

#212 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 01:03 AM:

Regarding jargon: I read at approximately a million words per minute, but my ability to learn will fall over and die if I hit a piece of jargon that makes no sense. The worst ones are words whose meaning in other contexts makes them incoherent in the context which I am currently working. I'm trying to think of a good one and failing; once they've been assimilated into my vocabulary (or I've learned to think around them), they don't cause the same sort of mental distress.

I like Thing Explainer as a piece of stunt writing.

Regarding autonomous cars: I, too, look forward to when our new Uber overlords have replaced the personal car with a network of roving people-moving drones, so I can nap or watch the scenery as I travel. However I believe they plan to start by automating long-haul trucking, and the economic consequences of that will be huge -- and not pretty.

#213 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 01:50 AM:

I have a hypothesis that most people fall roughly into one of two groups: those who get confused by specialized vocabulary and do better if they have the concepts explained to them in simple language first, so that then they have something to hook the vocabulary to; and those who either want the concepts and vocabulary at the same time, or actually need the vocabulary to hook the concepts to. (A spectrum in each case, not discrete points.) Thing Explainer seems to be aimed squarely at the first group, and I can see it being very useful in a classroom setting because of that.

There was an episode of Bones some years back in which Brennan had been called as an expert witness in a trial, and her insistence on using jargon (for precision) was actually hurting the case because to the jury, she might as well have been saying, "Quack, quack, quack." There's a place for precision, and there's a place for layman's language, and knowing when and how to code-switch can be very important.

#214 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 08:29 AM:

Specialized vocabulary can stop the best of us. I have a friend who read *everything* (including Beowulf in the original) in high school, and he was flummoxed by a book's adjuration to make sure that one's troops were well shod, "lest thy enemy hath placed caltrops in his martinels."

(A martinel, however it's really spelled, turned out to be a small member of the trebuchet family.)

#215 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 09:19 AM:

Really interesting discussion.

I suppose much of my caution about autonomous cars is down to the "complicated human problem? Here's a new-tech solution!" attitude among some of its proponents. Terrible things were done to cities to make them better for cars; thankfully this ground to a halt in the 1970s due to oil prices and a property boom that meant sweeping away buildings for roads was just too expensive. The things we'll have to do to cities to make them better for autonomous cars will probably be much less terrible but we don't know everything we'll have to do, yet. How will 'lollipop' crossings work, or stop/go boards at roadworks?

Roads deaths in Britain are much lower than they used to be—in WWII about half as many people were killed on the roads as by German bombs. (Road signs taken down for fear of invasion; the blackout, and minimal car headlights; driving tests suspended; everyone quite drunk most of the time.) The road carnage a few years either side of 1970 makes the Northern Ireland conflict look like a blip.

Autonomous cars would really be helped by telemetry from non-autonomous ones, and I see a *huge* fuss brewing over this. People otherwise apathetic about surveillance get very angry indeed about having their cars, which they see as being as personal to them as their homes, being tracked.

#216 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 09:51 AM:

#214 ::: Pfusand

I remember a mention of an "effing knife" in a Max Shulman book. For years-- possibly decades-- I thought it was some unusual sort of a knife.

#217 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 09:55 AM:

Diatryma@211: the Tufty road safety films turned up on TV all the time when I was a kid (Doctor Who fans will immediately recognise the voice of Bernard "Wilfred Mott" Cribbins). Even when I was very little, the advice that you should cross only when there were no parked cars nearby, and no moving cars visible or audible, was clearly strict to the point of uselessness. And our houses had no gardens so we always played in the streets, which didn't see much traffic.

Poor Willy. If you're characterized as a weasel the writers are inevitably going to injure you to make a moral point.

#218 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 10:09 AM:

Well, I just had a timely lesson in the hazards of excessive vocabulary. I just had a knock on my door, which turned out to be two women with a vaguely missionary aspect, "looking for Spanish-speakers". Since their English was unaccented, I'm guessing they were recruiting for translators.

Having been caught offguard, my own filters slipped a bit and I assured them I was "utterly monoglot". Their response was with "Huh? What language [was that again]?". Whoops. ;-)

#219 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 10:49 AM:

I was caught off-guard yesterday going out a door, when the person behind thanked me, and I reflexively said, "Thank you" right back. I hadn't realized there was a person behind me. I stopped walking, and muttered, "That didn't even make sense. Could we do that over?" So he thanked me again, and I told him he was welcome, and we both went on with our lives.

#220 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 12:44 PM:

I liked Thing Explainer rather a lot - as Sarah said, it's a piece of stunt writing (and a pretty ambitious piece, at that), but I think it's also got a serious point to make, about how we use language to communicate complex concepts, and how simplification, carried to extremes, can actually become obfuscation.

It's pretty much axiomatic in linguistics that there's no such thing as an untranslatable concept - anything you can express in one language, you can express in another, albeit sometimes with a great deal of explanation and circumlocution. Thus, for example, the old saw about "the Eskimoes have sixty words for snow*" just means an English translation has to run to more than one word, so that it specifies what sort of snow is meant. Or, an Anglophone talking to a Francophone might have to specify that "warm" is hotter than tiède but not as hot as chaud.

Anyway. Munroe is, effectively, translating English into a limited subset of English, here. And he demonstrates pretty effectively, I think, that it is feasible... but you wouldn't want to do it in textbooks.

*Which isn't true anyway, but never mind.

#221 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 02:02 PM:


I think it's important to make the distinction between:

a. Jargon that points to concepts the reader probably already has

b. Jargon that points to new concepts needed to understand the discussion

For example, if you want to explain about cell biology in small words, using "little bags of water" for cells isn't bad, but even if you break it into small words, I'm going to need a bunch of concepts that may be unfamiliar to understand you. I don't need to know the words "transcription" or "translation" or "ribosome," but if I want to understand much about how cells work, I will definitiely need those underlying concepts.

Jargon that points to commonplace concepts often serves to obsfucate. Jargon that points to new concepts not commonly understood is useful, and is also a useful marker to listeners that we're talking about something unfamiliar. Confusingly, sometimes the jargon gets remapped to commonly-used words, as with economics' use of words like "demand", "utility", and "rational" in a very specific and narrow way that has only a loose connection to what non-economists think of when they use those words.

#222 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 02:27 PM:

Tiny comment to see if that shakes out my much longer post, rather than double-posting it.

#223 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 02:28 PM:

(Nope! So here it is again.)

I find myself, after discussion with people in multiple places, very interested in making an actual proposal at the 2017 WorldCon regarding a new category for the Hugos. Specifically, one for interactive fiction, which could cover everything from text-only IF like Max Gladstone's Choice of the Deathless to video games like Undertale and Dragon Age and Sunless Sea.

There's a lot of fascinating SFF narrative going on in those places right now, and it just doesn't work well to lump them into Dramatic Presentation, AKA Wildly Popular Big Budget Movies. Much less the catch-all of Related Work.

But... I don't really know where to start. I watched people spend a huge amount of time putting together the voting method proposal last year, and I know I don't have the legal wording knowledge or stamina to put that much work into this kind of thing. So where should I start? Who should I talk to? Is there an existing community (in the 'place where I can address many people at once' sense) that's already doing this sort of work who I should be speaking with, rather than reinventing the wheel? Help?

#224 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 02:42 PM:

albatross@221: I suppose that in fields where you have to keep defining new concepts, you have to either keep coining neologisms or reuse simple words, and neither option is particularly great. Mathematics is full of easy English words whose technical meaning is completely opaque at first—ring, field, group, module—and you just have to take them as completely arbitrary labels that mark concepts collectively decided to be important, and that will be used when you're trying to prove things. (Which isn't to say it's impossible to give a concept a terrible name that really, really misleads you—there's the concept of open and closed sets in topology and the terminology always always always completely messed me up. I kept thinking 'this set is open, so it can't be closed', which is not true. Awful terminology.)

But then the real problem, as you point out, is where what looks like a normal English word is being used in a very specific technical sense.

Some years ago, English civil law got a big shake-up—the so-called Woolf reforms—and there was a well-intended attempt to cut down on jargon. Consequently the word 'writ' got dropped in favour of 'claim form'. A good intention, but I'm not sure dropping a fairly-widely-understood technical term that if necessary you can look up in the dictionary, and substituting two common English words whose new specialized meaning won't be in the dictionary for a few years, helps anyone. And all the newspapers and websites still talk about libel writs anyway.

#225 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 02:49 PM:

Sorry, that should have been

'is where what looks like a normal English word is being used in a very specific technical sense that isn't obvious to the uninitiated reader'.

#226 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 02:54 PM:

Kevin Standlee is very interested in this sort of thing. He helped with the precise wording on both the EPH proposal and the one to release 2015 nominating data. You might contact him.

#227 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 03:08 PM:

The discussion of jargon reminds me of a friend's recent blog post about "Technical jargon failure modes". He criticizes the biological term "berry" and the archaeological term "henge" for having diverged so wildly from the common uses of those terms. It turns out that biological "berries" and things with "berries" in their name have very little overlap. Likewise, Stonehenge is the origin of the term "henge", but is apparently no longer considered a "true henge" by archaeologists.

#228 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 03:11 PM:

Fade Manley @223: David Goldfarb's comment is aimed at your question. Another list to look at that likes to think it talks about such things is the SMOFs list (you can subscribe at -- they'll ask for very minor credentials about you being interested in running conventions). Kevin is a much better active resource: the list will discuss your proposal at great lengths, with several people dismissing it out of hand and others trying to turn it into something you don't want, where Kevin will do his best to help you craft the resolution into what you want it to be. I can do some of that, but he does it better. If you don't have his email, drop me a note offline and I will send it to you. He's put it out there pretty widely (he's easy to find at File 770, for example), so I'm willing to make the introduction of you to him without checking first. He can be quite pedantic at times: in this case, that is a sterling virtue. He also has a sense of humor, and a perspective that help you see the ways in which adding any Hugo is going to be an uphill fight. This does not mean it's a fight that shouldn't be fought! It merely means that not everyone will see the importance in the same way you do, at least at first.

Once you have a resolution drafted, then you'll want to find co-sponsors. That's a good time to come back here, because I think you'll find people here who will be interested.

#229 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 03:15 PM:

Tom Whitmore @228: Thank you! That's exactly the kind of info I needed. Since I'm doing grad school visits this coming week, I think I'll pause this question for myself for the space of a week, and then come back and start actively following up then. I want to have the brainspace and responsiveness available once I start asking other people to give me help on something like this.

#230 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 03:33 PM:

Jargon also fails when it is used as insider language -- when it exists to enforce boundaries between 'us the exalted insiders' and 'them the loser outsiders.'

#231 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 05:08 PM:

Jeremy leader #227: Heh. My Favorite bit: Nobody hearing the term “cobordism” or “simplicial complex” or “locally compact manifold” for the first time will think for an instant that they have any idea what it means, and this is perfect, because they will be perfectly correct.

Though thinking about it, I suspect that's only half-true for mathemeticians encountering the terms for the first time.

Techincal jargon isn't all de novo, a lot of terms are constructed according to rules. Latin and Greek roots play a strong part in this; often I can unpack a new term simply by recognising its roots. This comes to an extreme in chemical formulas, where a chemical name can diagram a molecule's structure.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but considering Thing Explainer; TE might be able to get by with simply translating a Latin or Greek usage, but any sort of chemical formula is hopeless: On the pages at that link, IIRC any liquid except blood is "water". That's a heckovalot of information to be eliding.

#232 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 05:33 PM:

I've been avoiding Thing Explainer because most of what I've seen in simple language has bored me. On the other hand, Munroe's description of a padlock as a shape checked is a wonderful insight.

How much of Thing Explainer struck those who liked it as really cool?

#233 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 06:23 PM:

(Sticking my head in here to say, to those who celebrate it, Christ is risen, alleluia!

I went to Dutch ComicCon today, having agreed to do a couple of panels arranged by the American Book Center: one on Horror & the New Weird, one on being a Dutch author published in English. The panels were great, but there was no amplification and a lot of ambient noise, so we all kind of had to bellow.

The con was also great, particularly with the sheer quantity of cosplayers. Fiona went as a character from Gravity Falls—Mabel—after we decided that gore makeup might be unwise in the light of Tuesday's events in Brussels. I threw together the costume in a couple of hours, and she added Doritos earrings at the very last minute. She met a lot of people with the costume; the Gravity Falls cosplayers arranged an informal meetup by word of mouth. I was at a panel, but it was apparently basically a mini GF convention in its own right. This seems to be the custom at DCC, since they were hanging out next to a group of Halo cosplayers and not far from a clump of Undertales ones.

Then I went to Mass and sang with my new choir. Including Handel, and a "Rejoice in the Lord" that hits some pretty high notes. And the choir, being Dutch, descended into a "three kisses for everyone" scrum when the service was done.

Between the shouting and the singing, I'm hoarse. And tired. But in all kinds of good ways, because community, because love of all the things we share within our communities.

So I had to come here to the community of my heart to gush.)

#234 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 07:25 PM:

abi @ #233


And good wishes to all.

#235 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 07:31 PM:

David Harmon @203: But will the pedestrian know how to make eye contact with a car that doesn't have an actual face -- at best, a front that vaguely resembles a face?

  1. Since your auto-car is in no special hurry, catagorically ceding right-of-way to pedestrians can be the default, with corresponding expectations on the part of the pedestrian. "If I step in front of it, it will stop."
  2. me @192: Rigging the auto-car so the opposing human driver can interpret its "intentions" will be a trickier proposition, since you've got to provide something (over and above turn signals) analogous to eye-contact and hand-waves, that the human can interpret quickly and unambiguously. But that's semiotics, and I can't see that being more than an engineering/design issue.
  3. This would also, of necessity, apply to pedestrians. I would actually think the peds issue would be the easier case, since the car is closer and you could potentially use verbal cues, too.

I'm amused by the developing neologisms

Me too. Another possibility is the first commercial brand will be coopted as the generic term (cf Xerox and Kleenex) (with the innevitable IP fight resulting :-> ). Is it time to start a betting pool?

Clifton @207: something about expressing it using incredibly simple words

Also, it's easy to forget that jargon typically started out as simple words; the lexicon now is generally comprised of iteratively stacked mutations, abbreviations, and composites of the original vocabulary. Medical and bioligical jargon are great examples. (See also: David Harmon @231.) They started out in Latin (because that was the default of the day) ("Paracardum," frex. L. for "around the heart"). Jargonification was amplified when the common tongue moved away from Latin, but the jargon stayed in it. (Which didn't hurt the privilege accruing to the "keepers of wisdom," so they didn't have incentive to migrate the jargon, too.) It's not a bad thing to be reminded that technical terms are basically just shortcuts and tags that evoke the larger content/context/meaning of the idea they represent. (See also: Darmok.*) (In fact, a lot of people who don't "do" vocabulary never know that in the first place. An entirely intelligent and educated (but not geeky) coworker just recently discovered etymology, and her mind was thoroughly blown, in a good way.)

* The self-reference of which usage always tickles me.

KeithS @210: You are too kind. I would have taken the books and then pointed out the issue. Saves them storage room, right? Right?? :-)

Diatryma @211: I like new vocabulary because it lets me fit concepts into a bigger system, but I have that system to begin with, and not everyone has the resources to build it before they learn cell biology.

I seem to share David Harmon's mutation. Additionally, I like vocabulary just for the sport of it. In particular, technical jargon has a "music" to it that I really enjoy. I freely admit that this is a particular kink of mine, and if I'm talking to someone who doesn't share my kink, and they stop me to ask for a definition, I will just as cheerfully back up and explain. There seems to be a large segment of the population who feels large vocabulary = intelligence = personal worth, and they often feel threatened when confronted with (especially big) words they don't know. Going from their experience, I'm "showing them up," and judging them. (See also: Sarah's @230 point.) I'm not (from my perspective), but it can take some work on both sides to get around that reaction. From my side, not least because it takes real and conscious effort not to use the relevant terminology, because that's how I think. So to simplify my vocabulary actually requires considerable translation on my part.

Lee @213: "Quack, quack, quack." There's a place for precision, and there's a place for layman's language, and knowing when and how to code-switch can be very important.

And, IME, an inability to code-switch to laymen's terms can betray a fundamental lack of, or shallow, understanding of the topic at hand.* I'm of the school that if you can't explain it in a way the average four-year-old can understand, you don't really understand your topic.

* Relatedly, it was a big break-through for me the time I realized that if I was confused by a piece of writing, it might not be because I was confused, but rather because the piece was confusing. Important distinction.

Steve with a book @215: Autonomous cars would really be helped by telemetry from non-autonomous ones, and I see a *huge* fuss brewing over this. People otherwise apathetic about surveillance get very angry indeed about having their cars, which they see as being as personal to them as their homes, being tracked.

This will depend hugely on how the tracking is done, and what the consequences of opting out of tracking are. And whether the tracking is of "what" or "who."

In this day and age, I see TPTB advocating for the "who" variant because Security (read: data mining). And, in truth, a lot of inroads have already been made on this front. People already happily use their GPS and Road Side Assistance, and that auto-pay thing on toll roads; ISTM that this is only a short hop from your car being tracked as part of the overall data/traffic flow. Contrariwise, I would not be surprised to see something analogous to the burner-cellphone evolve, that provides tracking data for that trip, alone.

The former will, of course, be cheaper and more convenient. (I often think that a lot of the corporate evil happens in this world because people so easily get seduced by the Convenient Side of the Force.)

Steve with a book @224: I kept thinking 'this set is open, so it can't be closed'

I had a similar contretemps with Boolean Algebra; I kept hanging up on the "algebra" structure, of which I had a strong, visceral, understanding. It wasn't until I completely turned loose of that that I was finally able to "get" Boolean.

abi @233: "three kisses for everyone" scrum

This mental picture makes me giggle.

#236 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 08:37 PM:

To abi, Patrick, Teresa, and all who celebrate it: may your Easter holiday be filled with joy.

I am in Holy Saturday mode -- waiting, waiting, waiting -- waiting another two and a half hours until Easter Vigil Service, my favorite liturgy of the year. (Loved but long, though. I don't expect to get home until 11 pm.) Unlike the disciples, I know what I am waiting for.

The joy of Easter is marred for me, this year, by a dreadful, brutal criminal act that has touched a portion of a community I am part of with grief and rage. For those of you who pray, I ask you to hold Henry Han and his family in prayer: may the Light enfold them, and may they rest in peace.

#237 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 08:49 PM:

Jacque #235: They started out in Latin (because that was the default of the day) ("Paracardum," frex. L. for "around the heart"). Jargonification was amplified when the common tongue moved away from Latin, but the jargon stayed in it.

Actually, my understanding is that early science initially adopted Latin for the same reason that the ongoing Christian/Catholic church had: So not there would be no nation advantaged by their language being "the language of science". And yet, the RCC itself has moved away from Latin masses... AIUI on the grounds that the antique language had become exclusive rather than unifying.

Lee #213: "Quack, quack, quack." While I'm passing, <snicker>.

Jacque again: And, IME, an inability to code-switch to laymen's terms can betray a fundamental lack of, or shallow, understanding of the topic at hand. I'm of the school that if you can't explain it in a way the average four-year-old can understand, you don't really understand your topic.

The first sentence, I agree with wholeheartedly. The second, I think can be unrealistically demanding.¹ There are some ideas that really do need background knowledge (or even a specific worldview) to understand properly.² However, even there, there's usually some sort of detail, consequence, or analogy that can be used to give bystanders a general sense of what's going on.

¹ Especially if you consider a literal four-year-old's developmental limits!

² This is one reason that sometimes science advances one funeral at a time.

#238 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 09:38 PM:

This comes to an extreme in chemical formulas, where a chemical name can diagram a molecule's structure.

There are actual formal rules about naming compounds. IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) is in charge of them. (The CRC Handbook used to contain a summarized version.)

#239 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 10:20 PM:

David Harmon @ 231

Depends on the field. The other day I wrote a bash script that unzipped a tarball (among other things).

#240 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 10:31 PM:

P J Evans @238: IUPAC

Which always makes me think of Heinlein's Speedtalk.

Interestingly, I think the use of acronyms has sort of leap-frogged this idea and is, in its own right, entertainly fractal.

Do we have a word for speach that uses lots of acronyms?

#241 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 10:34 PM:

Sarah @239: I occasionally catch myself thinking in bash, which is...disturbing.

#242 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2016, 10:44 PM:

Jacque @ 241

LOL. At least it's not Perl. I once sent an emoticon to a friend: \(^o^)/ and he actually tried to figure out what it meant in regex before he realized that it was a lil cheering face. Friends don't let friends do Perl. ;)

#243 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 12:00 AM:

Jacque @235: Correcting to be polite: that's "pericardeum". And it's Greek, albeit Greek that's been filtered through Latin.

Funny you should choose that one particular word, as it's one that has some meaning for me. When I was taking biology in high school, it happened that one of the questions on the final exam was, "What is the name of the membrane that surrounds the heart?" And I couldn't remember. But I did remember that the membrane around the abdomen was the peritoneum, and I also remembered that heart-related words often had "card-" as a root (e.g., "cardiac"). So I tried putting down "pericardeum"...and was slightly, pleasantly surprised to find that I'd got it right.

Tom Whitmore@228: When I wrote my #226, Fade Manley's post was the last one in my queue, so I figured my answer would come right below. Didn't expect two longish posts to intervene. Thanks for clarifying.

#244 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 12:22 AM:

Pericard_I_um, actually. But same-same.

#245 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 12:25 AM:

I figured that, David @243; and I also figured the disambiguation would help in this case. Feel free to do the same to me in the future!

#246 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 01:28 AM:

HelenS: You're right, thanks.

#247 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 10:35 AM:

Jacque (240): Do we have a word for speech that uses lots of acronyms?

We have two words: 'library jargon'.

#248 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 10:35 AM:

Isn't "pericardeum" the membrane that surrounds a god?

Oh, and Happy Easter to whoever wants one! (Even to the crafts store that keeps sending me announcements with "egg-citing" and "for some-bunny special" in the titles. I appreciate very much that they've closed all their stores so employees can go home and be with family, so I will overlook all the titles.)(Yes, it is mighty big of me, isn't it?)

#249 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 03:04 PM:

I have just surfaced, having crashed after the Easter Vigil Mass. I, too, am of uncertain voice today.

So, for all those who celebrate Easter:

Alleluia, alleluia -- He is Risen, Indeed! -- alleluia, alleluia

Happy Sunday to all -- the sun is shining here, and we have butterflies!

#250 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 03:25 PM:

Happy holidays to all those who have holidays!

#251 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 04:16 PM:

Kip W: Isn't "pericardeum" the membrane that surrounds a god? That pun is worthy of my dear Greek professor in college, David Porter, who has sadly just died.

I am afraid it must have been a terrible shock for his family. His memory for a blessing.

#252 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2016, 04:29 PM:

WRT Sunday/Easter, I actually got enough of a jump on my chores this weekend that I got it into my head that yesterday was Sunday. Very confusing, but in a good way! (I'm just grateful I didn't absently pack myself up and haul me in to work, today.)

Sarah @242: At least it's not Perl.

Probably only because I've never gotten around to learning Perl.

The ones that really crack me up (especially if I have to translate them to talk to actual people) are the times I find myself thinking in sed. Sed scripts I've written to process html often look like someone dropped a box of toothpicks on the floor.

David Goldfarb & HelenS @243-4: Paracardum ... pericardeum ... Pericard_I_um

Leaving aside the i that I left out after the d, "It's Latin! I don't need to look up spellings Latin!" Um, yes, well. I don't feel so bad now. :-)

One of my regrets is not doing Greek in high school, too. Oh well. Next time.

DG: pleasantly surprised to find that I'd got it right.

And this right here is why I will be forever grateful for having done at least Latin in HS. It attuned me to etymology, which has been a tremendously powerful tool.

Mary Aileen @247: 'library jargon'

*snerk* But there really ought to be a single, properly arcane, obfuscatory term for that process.... (Hm. Maybe there's a neologism out there with my name on it....)

Kip W @248: Isn't "pericardeum" the membrane that surrounds a god?

*snort!* There's a short story in that...go write it, if you would please. :-)

#253 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 01:43 AM:

Jacque: It's not too late to do Greek now, if that strikes your fancy.

#254 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 03:35 AM:

David: True. However, there are so many many things that strike my fancy more. The sort of problem (as my mother would say) one should have. :-)

#255 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 06:03 AM:

pericardigan n. a thin closely-woven outer layer intended to stop the wind whistling through your woolen jacket and freezing you to the bone.

#256 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 07:11 AM:

>> pericardigan

Literally laughed out loud. Thank you very kindly.

#257 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 07:57 AM:

Jacque@252: as well as the etymological side of things, I found it really interesting to study a language from a rigorous old-fashioned grammatical viewpoint. We hadn't done that with French. Really exciting to see a language taken to bits and analyzed thoroughly.

#258 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 11:27 AM:

Traffic, for elderly/disabled...I was just introduced to a new extension of the light rail in my local megalopolis. It got me from downtown to the desired neighborhood with startling quickness, but from the terminal I had to walk with 2 bad knees (one has been worked on, but it was complicated) across a busy street to wait a while for a bus to get to the bookstore, which the previous bus routes--now deleted--had dropped me almost at the door of. Adjustments of some sort need to be made...
As a longtime xkcd fan, I found "Thing Explainer" amusing and informative both, but can't help but question the selection of the 1K most often used words, which will vary between populations, even families.

#259 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 11:50 AM:

As I mentioned briefly here, and a bit more on Twitter, I planned on going to Minicon 51 this weekend as my first fandom 'Con. abi mentioned being interested in my impressions after seeing some of my tweets from Minicon, but I have no "platform" of my own, and 140-char chunks isn't really conducive to a first-time 'Con report. So, given that others post their reactions to 'Cons here on the OT's, hopefully this won't be out of place!

My first impression was that it was a lot more "normal" than I expected, having a lot in common with going to the various Girl Scout Adult Volunteer and Leader events/weekends that I've attended. (Yes, I'm "Man Enough To Be A Girl Scout" as the T-shirt my wife gave me after I joined up says, given that our daughter is in Girl Scouts and we both want to be active in her experience. BTW, I wore that shirt on Saturday and got one "Hey, nice shirt!" comment, which was nice.) Now, "normal" here needs a bit of unpacking - the overall air and feel of the event was very similar to other enthusiast gatherings I've been to. Nice people overall, willing to chat about what they're working on/doing, neat stuff to look at, etc. I think it boils down to "fandom" being a more generalizeable label than it is often used for. For example, I could easily class the motorcycle club I am in, the Land Cruiser club I used to be in, author readings/book-signings I've been to, and the Socrates Cafe amateur philosophy discussion group I lead/participate in as various forms of fandom. I don't expect to change the usage of the term "fandom" here, nor do I see a need to, but it feels useful as a way of explaining that "enthusiast groups have many things in common as groups". So, having participated in many other flavors of an expanded definition of fandom, this 'Con felt "normal" to me. Possibly (likely?) larger 'Cons will be a bit less so - but I've been to bustling trade shows, huge Auto and/or Motorcycle shows, etc. so it at least won't be the crowds of enthusiastic people that does it!

This is not to say I wasn't nervous, because I was. More later on that.

My second impression was that I should have brought trade goods. When I go to the Girl Scout events, I generally bring a large hunk of IIRC 30-pair telephone cable with me. That and my ever-present multitool means I always have something to do with my hands, and can turn out little wire stick figures relatively quickly in a given bit of slack time. Having something to attract other folks' attention and seed a conversation could have helped quite a bit with the nervousness I had. I had a momentary paranoid set of thoughts along the lines of "Guy with backpack full of wires going into a hotel given the general fear level in the US about such things" and just left it all. Wouldn't have actually been a problem. I hate that it comes up, though.

Generally my wife and I had a good time - we went to two of Seanan McGuire's panels on Saturday (parasitology and horror) which were quite entertaining, and found a partially completed puzzle that captured our attention until ~1AM or so until we finished it. The consuite had good food when we wanted a snack (we ran out to TGIF for dinner, partially because I needed an introversion break), and on Sunday we brought the kids to the Rumpus Room. Given that 5yo's are still too young to just leave there, we split the two Seanan panels we wanted to attend - I went to the Mermaid/Selkie one and my wife went to the later Fae one. So I basically spent most of the afternoon in the Rumpus Room. 5yo had a blast with the boxes, and 9yo was totally into the dismantling of discarded electronics bit (as was I) - to the point I think she didn't see her Bismuth crystal come out because she was too focused to hear them call her name, all of 15 feet away.

Nothing seemed crowded, other than the consuite at times (didn't make it to the bar), and there weren't lines for the panels either. If this was a typical turnout year, I can plan a lot less of "trying to be at X early to get in" next time. We'll also plan better overall - we were short on sleep due to doing everything last-minute, and trying to wrap attending on Sunday around the Easter Egg hunt, etc. Making more aquaintances with folks there could also open up some more leeway on "Hey, can you watch 5yo and make sure 9yo doesn't run off while we go to this panel for an hour?" or similar so neither of us feels "stuck" there, let alone feel like we've stuck my MIL with the job again. Generally felt like a family-friendly environment overall, too.

So, nervous. Yes. My introversion showed an odd (to me) quirk this weekend - I had no trouble striking up a conversation with a "complete stranger" doing something interesting (like the folks doing the Bismuth crystallization demo in the Rumpus Room on Sunday), but found myself utterly unable to walk up to and introduce myself to someone whos nametag had a name or handle I recognize from either Twitter or here on ML, let alone try to talk to Seanan McGuire, the author GOH that got me interested enough in her work that I wanted to go to Minicon to see her. (apparently this was sufficiently different from a book-signing event...) This is totally on me - next time I'll try to get the word out that I'll be somewhere and that it is OK to come up to me and introduce yourself, given that I may have that difficulty again (can't tell yet, it isn't then yet!). This is not to say that anyone will be required to do so! Having that permission out there and having some back-and-forth beforehand (here, Twitter, wherever) that so-and-so will be there, when, etc. ought to make it easier.

I noticed a number of people - Magenta Griffith was on a panel (Selkies, mermaids, etc. on Sunday), Elise Matthesen was selling some gorgeous jewelry in the dealer room on Sunday, David Dyer-Bennet was running the cameras at the Bismuth table in the Rumpus room also on Sunday, we noted Steven Brust in attendance both Saturday and Sunday, and probably a few others I can't recall now. So, "Hi" a bit belatedly. Nice to put a face with a name.

I'm pretty certain there will be a "next time"!

#260 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 12:22 PM:

Cadbury Moose, #255: "Pericardigan" sounds like what is often called a windbreaker; I've got one [nylon, I think]. Actually I kind of think I prefer your term...

#261 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 01:21 PM:

cajunfj40 (259): You're right about the similarities between different types of gatherings, and not just the fan ones. The first time I went to a Public Library Association conference for my job, I was struck by how strongly it resembled the science fiction conventions that I'd been going to since my teens.

I have a hard time introducing myself to people I know only from here, too. Discussing the possibility beforehand definitely helps, at least for me.

#262 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 01:40 PM:

Steve with a book @257: I found it really interesting to study a language from a rigorous old-fashioned grammatical viewpoint.

This was one of the great things about Latin, too. Doubly fun when I hit Russian, because it was the same structure (and in may cases, same forms), just different alphabet. I never really fully got a grip on grammar until I'd had a year or two of Latin.

#263 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 01:46 PM:

cajunfj40 (259):

I knew I should have checked here to see if anyone else was at Minicon. Family and I were in attendance (I was the purple-haired woman with the 10 year old girl-child who had to leave halfway through the Horror panel. Child wisely informed me halfway through that, while the panel was fun, she was getting super-sleepy and needed 10 minutes of non-horror reading before going to bed. Which is why we let her go to 10:00PM panels on Being Stuck in a Horror Movie.)

Trade goods are excellent ideas. I need to remember to bring what I call "fiddle toys" for me and my daughter to cons so that we have something to occupy our hands while at panels. Wire that can be twisted into shapes isn't a bad option. My usual default is something that can be shredded into bits; it would be handy to do something a little less messy/destructive.

I had a fun con, but am also super introverted, so I didn't talk much to strangers. (Talking in a panel to GoH is a different switch there.) Child had fun. I scored some cool artwork. Some of the panels needed stronger moderators, I felt, and I was super-sad that Seanan McGuire was on death's door during and that Pamela Dean wasn't able to make the Fae panel discussion, but these things happen. Hopefully both of them are feeling better.

Next on my Con-Going list: I need to try a mid-sized (like 5000-7500) con. I've done tiny (50 or so), small (100-1000) and Dragon*Con. I'll take recommendations happily if folks have them for someone in the South.

#264 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 04:10 PM:

Mary Aileen @#261: Glad to know I'm not the only one!

cyllan @#263:

I picked up the trade goods thing from Girl Scouts, actually - they do this thing called "swaps" and some are rather elaborate. I've got a decent sized collection from only a few events already. That I'm not really likely to use the attached e-mail address doesn't seem to deter them.

While "purple hair" isn't a sufficient designator by itself, I think I do recall a younger person being there at the start, and not being there at the end, of the Horror panel. Seanan McGuire and Patty Templeton were rather good at keeping attention forward.

The panel moderation, a bit mixed, yes. I don't know anyone involved nor the process of selection, so I've no way of commenting on whether/how it could be improved upon, though. I know I'm not the best moderator, and I've been doing so for a group for over a decade now. It's not an easy job.

Seanan getting whacked by con-crud looked like a whole barrel of no-fun for her.

#265 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 04:52 PM:

cajunfj40 & cyllan:Welcome and glad you had good experiences at Minicon! This was my 25th or so Minicon and I had a lot of fun at this one (Steven Brust reading from the hot tub and discussion afterward was great).
I know what you mean about striking up conversations with random people--I have to exert myself to overcome that wall also.
I was on a panel (Aftermath of the puppies) and don't have a problem with talking to groups of people (as long as I remember to use the microphone).

#266 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 05:12 PM:

@cajunfj40: Glad you had a good time. I for have no trouble at all with you referring to your other groups as "fandoms". At literary SF conventions (like Minicon or even Worldcon, and as opposed to more media-oriented events), having to get to panels early in order to get in is just really not a thing. Even at Worldcon, the only things you'll normally have to line up for would be the Masquerade and the Hugo ceremony. (Well, and for autographing by a popular author, I suppose...although usually not a reading by one.)

#267 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 05:23 PM:

There's an example! Right there! I have been baffled by the jargonish use of the word "media" in SF fandom ever since I encountered it. I've asked for an explanation from all sorts of people and never really understood the answers I've gotten. I think it means "lowbrow" but I'm still not sure -- It seems to have no relation to any other usage of the word I've encountered in English.

#268 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 05:29 PM:

Sarah @#267:

Closest I can come to a concise meaning of "media" is "stuff that's not usually on paper", with a sideline of "stuff that tells most of the story with pictures on paper". There's some of that in "regular" SFF fandom, of course (see: Ursula Vernon's "Digger", Randall Munroe's "XKCD", etc.), but the bigger "media" cons are the ones that are dominated by comic books, movies, videogames, etc. At least, that's how I parse it.

#269 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 05:29 PM:

I see a Rabid Puppy list has been promulgated. I'm not clear on why it lists no fiction categories other than "graphic story", but there it is.

#270 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 05:47 PM:

cajunfj40 @ 268

So 'regular' SFF fandom doesn't include movies, television, video games, comics... what else?

#271 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 05:54 PM:

Also, why is everything so awful the day after I go out and get extremely drunk? I don't mean a hangover, either -- I'm not in pain, it's just that everything sucks and I'm feeling especially vicious. Why.

#272 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 05:55 PM:

Sarah @#270:

I parse it the other way around: "Media" cons usually don't have the books - videogames/movies are the main driver and comic books are a major source for the movies, etc. Also, often they are large business-run events, though since I've only ever been to the one local volunteer-run con just this past weekend, this is me looking at it all from outside and via Twitter and whatnot. It's all neat stuff - I put "regular" in quotes only to differentiate from "media" for convenience of trying to define either as separate from the other. It's not a clear distinction, as there's no One True Fandom, of course. :-)

#273 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 05:59 PM:

Sarah @ 267:

As near as I can tell, "media" mostly means non-primarily-written-word media, such as television, movies, video games, and comic books. It can, depending on the user's prejudices, imply any or all of highly popular, lowbrow, or SF/F stuff that even non-SF/F fans are really into. I prefer to use it as a value-neutral term. There is some overlap, as SF fandom by and large likes Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and so on.

For a media con, the focus is typically not on books. As always, just because it's not (perceived as) a major highlight doesn't mean there isn't the interest (Phoenix Comicon usually has a strong literary track, for example), but the percentage of the overall con population interested is smaller.

#274 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 06:06 PM:

Sarah @#271:

Hmm. Everyone's brain chemistry responds differently, of course. I get a similar effect to what you describe just from excessive sleep deprivation or even just a shift of more than a few hours in my sleep time, let alone any alcohol. I get short with people, etc. and need to go watch/read/other something interesting/fun/non-challenging (varies for any given episode) for a few minutes to a few hours to blunt it. Be kind to yourself. :-)

#275 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 06:23 PM:

But books are a kind of media! Or medium, I guess. Anyway the term feels wrong and was super hard to understand as an outsider (except in the sense of things-lesser-people-like, which was upsetting because I grew up at anime cons and felt like people were using the word to dismiss me and my friends and our interests as being beneath notice).

cajunfj40 @ 274:
That's my secret. I'm always sleep-deprived. ;)
(i.e. physiologically incapable of getting a good night's sleep)

#276 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 06:24 PM:

C. Wingate@269: The page you link to is out of date; there is now a complete RP list covering all categories. Mr Day released it by dribs and drabs, and Mr Wright is presumably reporting on an incomplete version of it.

#277 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 06:36 PM:

Well-known author approaches milestone:

#278 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 06:39 PM:

Sarah @271: alcohol is a depressant, and it takes time for it to get out of one's system. I remember back when I stopped doing pot that it wasn't until several days later that I started noticing that I was thinking differently -- making more connections. And with alcohol, it's taken me up to 72 hours to detox (when I'd gotten particularly far gone in a long-term alcoholic haze). 24 to 48 hours is not unexpected. It is, pretty literally, a hangover -- though it doesn't hit the same way a hangover is usually described as hitting.

Drink extra water (alcohol tends to dehydrate people, and the water will help flush it through). Do treat yourself well! And if you find it happening more often than you'd like, consider finding something you enjoy doing more than drinking to occupy your time. That made a big difference for me.

#280 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2016, 10:41 PM:

re 276/279: Ah, thanks. I see that VD has cut down on the self-noms somewhat.

#281 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 01:53 AM:

Sarah @275: But books are a kind of media!

Back In The Day, the distinction between books and everything-else was termed "literary" vs "visual" media, leading to Jon Singer's snark pointing out that written sf is visual media...?

I think of it as a failure-of-jargon which continues to evolve. These are the terms people have come up with that seem to them to be clearer and less inelegant than "books" vs "not-books."

#282 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 02:54 AM:

Re "pericardigan"... First, LOL. Second, when did "cardigan" stop meaning an item of clothing that actually closes in the front? The last time I went looking for a cardigan, they were all open-front with no fasteners at all. I would call that a "shrug", and apparently that word is still in use but means something different now. Oy.

cyllan, #263: For people who need something to do with their hands while at a panel, I recommend looking into kumihimo braiding. The materials are cheap, and once it's been set up (which can be done in advance), it's readily portable in a small tote bag and there are no loose bits to drop. My favorite 8-strand braid (which is not the one shown at the link -- I can't find a tutorial on mine) doesn't require much in the way of concentration; I can listen to a panel or carry on a conversation while working it. You can see some of the things I do with the finished cords here.

Also, where in the South? If you're in striking distance of Memphis, you might want to look at MidSouthCon (which you've just missed for this year); if Oklahoma City is feasible, I can recommend SoonerCon (coming up at the end of June). If those don't work, give me a center point and a range (preferably in driving hours) and I'll see what I can come up with.

Sarah, #267: As used in SF fandom, "media" tends to mean movies/TV, comics/graphic novels, and (these days) video games, web series and webcomics -- basically, anything that isn't books. There are some people, especially among my age-group and up, who do use it in a pejorative sense, but for most of us it's just a designator. And yes, books are also a form of media, but... it's jargon, and jargon doesn't have to make sense.

#283 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 08:55 AM:

Cardigans, in common US fashion jargon, is one that OPENS at the front (with optional closure as well). If there is no front opening it's a pullover (or any of the many hyper-specific terms for various kinds of pullover, like henley). You can have a zippered cardigan, a buttoned cardigan, etc, but those are variants.

Shrugs are micro-tiny, rarely covering the stomach or even the sternum: sleeves with an attachment behind. There are also swing coats/sweaters, which have no fastening but are long and drapey, intended to flow behind you as you walk.

#284 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 09:47 AM:

I get irritated at "literary" for text sf-- it sounds to me like an accusation of pretentiousness.

There's probably nothing to be done about this. The language is very unlikely to change, and my reflex seems pretty stable.

#285 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 09:49 AM:

Jargon can be fun, especially in discussions or arguments where that one person comes back from the dictionary to tell everybody they're doing it wrong. Repeat forever.

#286 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 12:34 PM:

I think 'media' in this sense is short for 'audio-visual media'. Some libraries have AV [AudioVisual] departments, some have Media departments; in either case it means (now) DVDs and audio recordings. Graphic novels and comics don't fit into the AV description, but they're included in the media cons because that's the way the audience tends to be sliced.

I know old-school fans who sneer at "media" as opposed to books, but they seem to be a tiny minority these days.

#287 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 01:12 PM:

It might be concidence, but my recollection of "literary" SF starts with a con in Newcastle. UK, called "Mexicon". As I recall, in some ways it was very traditional fannish in style, but in the choice of guests there were signs of something that might be called "pretentious". There were many of the British BNFs of the time present.

In the same mid-Eighties period there were a mix of Media events, some more fannish in feel and some the more commercial style. People bounced back and forth. There were media fanzines, and I contributed to some, which contained fiction. more than what I saw in the fannish side.

But what I recall was more of a split between fannish and non-fannish. Maybe it was the con-runners that held it together.

Was there a fannish Voight-Kampf test in there somewhere? There could have been. I am sure there were more physical comic shops around in those days, but we hadn't had the content explosion in TV and video.

Maybe a part of it is that text is different to pictures. Back in those days it needed a bit of extra effort to put pictures in a fanzine. I actually used a hand cranked Gestetner. But I could argue that text is more direct. Yes I know about all the people working on the road between author and reader, but compare that to a movie at the other extreme.

Now we're getting comics and movies delivered over the internet. They don't need the same infrastructure. What does it take to make them? What would Orson Welles do with an iPhone?

I think the fannish/non-fannish divide matters more today.

As schoolteachers may say, discuss...

(In my experience, they were not good at handling ideas from outside the syllabus. That's maybe a streak of non-fannishness.)

#288 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 01:44 PM:

Dave Bell @ 287

So is the distinction actually books vs other, or is it commercial vs volunteer? By your description, it sounds like I am definitely not a fan, and neither are any of the folks who ran or attended the little all-volunteer con I used to work for, because it was an anime con and therefor 'media' rather than 'fannish'. Which is a baffling and depressing thought.

#289 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 01:55 PM:


Those are lovely and would make fabulous bracelets! That's an excellent idea; I'll take a look at getting started there. Nifty!

I'm in the Atlanta area, so there's plenty of things near-ish to me or even local. Memphis/Raleigh/Orlando are pretty much at the limit of my day's drive range if that helps.

Thanks again!

#290 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 02:03 PM:

The distinction seems to me to be basically generational and demographic.

By and large, the average/typical/majority/expected/stereotypical attendees of conventions that are less audio-visual-media-and-comics-focused and more book-focused are a generation or two (or three) older than the average/typical/majority/expected/stereotypical attendees of conventions that are more audio-visual-media-and-comics-focused and less book-focused, especially anime conventions.

So each population is less likely, in general, to notice that the other population is doing exactly the same sort of small volunteer-run convention as they are, just with different emphases used in choosing GoHs and panels and tracks and so on. And the small volunteer-run anime conventions may get lumped in with the large commercial "media" cons because of how the demographic overlaps work out, which probably contributes to the particular use of jargon that seems to be distressing Sarah.

At least, that is what I see from where I stand, as someone who has been, in the same year, very nearly the youngest independent* attendee at a 'traditional fannish' convention, and solidly in the middle of the age range at a similarly-sized, equally volunteer-run anime convention.

*independent here meaning "not attending with my parents."

(Interestingly, in my area it looked for a while like steampunk conventions might be a bridge between these two generational con populations, but then the semi-established area con blew up in a fountain of drama...)

#291 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 02:05 PM:

Sarah #288:

I see those as being two different axis, books v. other is one dimension, and commercial v. volunteer being another. While there may be a certain level of correlation, there are certainly fan-run media cons, commercial media cons, fan-run literary cons, and commercial literary cons.

I remember when I was playing more in Star Trek fandom there being a discussion between fan-cons (organized and run by fans, usually aimed to break even) and pro-cons (organized and run by professional convention organizers (usually for profit). Fan-cons generally were considered more desirable, more supportive of fandom; they were in it for the same love we had, not purely for the money.

If your "little all-volunteer" anime con was run by fans, for fans (and it sounds like it was), then it was a media fan-con. Media refers the content (anime), fan- refers to the organizational structure.

#292 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 02:20 PM:

Oservation after a second year attending Wondercon.

It still feels a bit strange just how much difference there is (for crowding, lines, etc.) between Wondercon with its 60,000 or so sttendees and San Diego Comic-con with its 130,000 or so attendees.

That partcular factor of two is apparently a very important one.

#293 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 02:21 PM:

Sarah, re: Media vs. 'Literary' Cons

This is a very hoary old story (think 1976)...

SF Fan is giving a neo-fan a tour of the convention, and they reach the dealer's room where there are many tables with books on them. The neo turns to the older fan and exclaims:

"Science Fiction comes in BOOKS?!!!"

#294 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 02:36 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 293

That's super gross. I hope people aren't still telling that one.

#295 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 02:39 PM:

It's my recollection, possibly false or at least biased by the people that I knew, that in British fandom of the mid-90s, Babylon 5 did a lot to break down the 'media'/written SF divide. Even fans who were distinctly sniffy about absolutely any form of TV SF unexpectedly got caught up in the slow burn of the story arc.

(When I was shown my first episode of B5—was it Deathwalker?—I knew nothing at all about the show and assumed it was part of the Star Trek universe. You could come to a show completely cold, in those days.)

#296 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 03:03 PM:

Elliott, #283: I appear to have expressed myself poorly. Yes, I know that cardigans are open in the front, but they're supposed to be ABLE to be closed -- with buttons, or a zipper, or something. It's finding things labeled "cardigan" that can't be closed which bugs me, because that's missing an essential attribute of the word "cardigan".

cyllan, #289: If you're going to do bracelets, I suggest looking at the kind of findings used with leather cord for your finishing. Measure your braid to length, soak the place where you're going to cut it with glue, and let that dry before cutting. Then glue appropriately-sized cord ends over the ends of the braid, and add a clasp if necessary.

Most of the fan-run cons I know of in your area are in the range you call "small cons", 1,000 people or less. If you want cons with 5,000 people, you're going to be looking at media-cons or anime-cons (not all of which are as huge as Dragon*Con!), and I'm less well-acquainted with those because I left the area before they became a major thing.

Wizard's World runs a chain of media-cons which are pretty decent and have actual programming as well as a dealer room and autograph lines. Stay away from anything by Creation Cons -- they treat attendees like cattle. If you like zombies, there's another chain called Walker Stalker focusing on zombie/horror themes, but I don't know much about them except that there's one in Nashville sometime in the next 2 weeks.

If you're at all fond of filk, I'd like to encourage you to check out GAFilk in January. It's tiny but lots of fun.

estelendur, #290: From where I sit, anime-cons seem to fall in between fan-run cons and corporate media-cons; many of them are put on by volunteer organizations, but all of them seem to have heavy commercial sponsorship, which lit-cons traditionally don't. (SoonerCon is an exception to this -- they have several commercial sponsors including Bernina sewing machines, and that gives them enough money to bring in a B-tier media guest -- last year they had Robert Picardo.) I wonder if that's why older fen in particular lump them in with media-cons; I do know one person who considers the merest touch of commercial sponsorship unclean, but he's an extreme case.

My (very limited) experience with steampunk cons is that a lot of them seem to be trying to re-invent the wheel, and making what I think of as typical beginner-con mistakes.

#297 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 04:10 PM:

One of my local anime cons is very large. If they have commercial sponsorship they sure don't put it on their website, but to be fair I haven't been there in about a decade (not being, myself, a big anime fan, though I have friends who are).

#298 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 04:16 PM:

Sarah @ 150: The people I had words with on the bike path had non-remote accents. (I can't say "local" because there are a wide variety of accents around here.)

Em @ 162: that's entirely plausible; I've seen reports that double-door exits work better with a pole in the middle because otherwise too many people aim for the center of the opening.

Steve with a book @ 168 ff: Some decades ago I read an article about in-air collision avoidance which involved having equipment on both planes to make a mutual decision; ISTM that which of two goes first is a relatively simple problem given such communication, but it would require common standards (equipment? code?) that the current crop of autonomous-vehicle developers don't seem to be looking at.

Jacque @ 252: Sed scripts I've written to process html often look like someone dropped a box of toothpicks on the floor. Oh yes. awk is usually more powerful but there are some things that sed is just better for -- and I learned it informally, so I tended to make scripts the way a ship accumulates barnacles ("just one more can't hurt...).

cyllan @ 263: if Minicon was in reach and you really think of 5-7K as "midsize"(*), you might plan on this year's Worldcon in KC. People working on Worldcons often spend 8 or more nights there, but the public section is ~4.2 days and there's no requirement that you come for all of it.
      Note that as far as fannish gatherings go, Worldcon is still (AFAICT) the high end; there are a few close (Arisia runs ~4K), but most larger are fan/commercial hybrids (at least). This may or may not affect your experience as a first-time attendee.

Sarah @ 270: "regular" SF fandom includes everything you list; as cajunfj40 noted, it's a matter of dominance. IMObs, it also refers to cons that are more receptive than interactive; e.g., you're paying to gawk at stars whose expenses are paid, where panelists even at a mixed convention like Arisia come on their own dime and expect to talk to non-empaneled attendees. (One theory of Boskone's implosion is that a major cause was trying to provide things to occupy masses of attendees; during discussions some years later I (again without direct experience) offered Burning Man as a model given descriptions I've seen of having no spectators.) When used pejoratively there's also a sense of "They worship stuff that really isn't very good"; most readers will agree with Sturgeon's law even if they disagree about what is the 10%, where media cons seem to be less critical (possibly a reflection of commercial processes at the large ones). YMMV, massively; I've never been to either Dragon*Con or ComicCon, so I'm going by what I read.
      Mary Aileen @ 286 notes the mundane use of "media"; I think it started displacing "A/V" at least 40 years ago.

Buddha Buck @ 291: Quite so. IIRC even the first Star Trek cons could be considered fannish; commerce entered when someone noticed how many people were showing up.

#299 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 06:31 PM:

P J Evans @ #238: IUPAC isn't the only systematic nomenclature for chemistry. Here in the US Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) names are widely used (and are, for example, the only official names for substances in EPA's Toxics Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory. CAS names are extremely rigid, and for compounds of even moderate complexity require years of dedicated experience to construct, but they're pretty easy to unwrap.

#300 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2016, 11:54 PM:

AKICIML again: does anyone know what's happened to Dilbert? Looks like it's being drawn by someone who used to draw parodies of other people's strips for Mad magazine -- close, but definitely not the same hand (unless Adams is trying a style that's easier to draw?).

#301 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 01:00 AM:

@Chip: Heh! I had the same thoughts. Then I learned that there have been guest-artist strips lately.

#302 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 11:31 AM:

Yeah, but some of the "guest artists" seem to be mail-room clerks.

#303 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 02:06 PM:

KeithS lost his grandfather yesterday. I don't know if he would think to post here about it, but I'm sure good thoughts would be welcome.

#304 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 02:13 PM:

cajunfj40 @ 259 (with apologies for jumping in this late)

I had no trouble striking up a conversation with a "complete stranger" doing something interesting ... but found myself utterly unable to walk up to and introduce myself to someone whos nametag had a name or handle I recognize from either Twitter or here on ML

I have that one too. Last year when I went to several small specialty cons where I literally knew absolutely no one, I could plunk myself down at a table with a few people and say, "Hi, I'm so-and-so and I don't know anyone at this event. Nice to meet you."

But if I go to a convention where I know people but I'm not attending with them (i.e., as part of a planned social group), I get all tied up in knots over: "Oh, they'll want to spend their convention time with their real friends" and "I don't want to be an annoying tag-along" and "they wouldn't remember me anyway."

I've begun experimenting with alleviating this by making specific meet-up plans with specific people before getting to the event. ("Specific" along the lines of "let's plan to do dinner on Friday, feel free to invite others along.") It displaces the anxiety to the pre-convention period and leaves the con itself a bit less anxious.

#305 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 02:39 PM:

Re: con discussion in general:

I have more thoughts.

I see several potential axes for discussing the various ways different types of cons differ/are similar. There's all sorts of presumptions and assumptions and biases, etc. baked into all of them, whether realized or not.

Really, what matters is whether the con you (general potential con-goer) find is fun for you. These axes are mostly useful for trying to figure out whether a particular con is likely to be a good fit for you, based on your interests. ("You" can be expanded to any group size, of course.)

Word of mouth is invaluable in this, like in Lee's post at @#296. This bit: Stay away from anything by Creation Cons -- they treat attendees like cattle. is invaluable - even if the stuff at the con looks really interesting, and someone I'm really a fan of will be there, that sort of treatment would leave me miserable. I might stick it out if one of my kids really wants to see person/thing "X" and there doesn't seem to be any other way of doing that, but I'd adjust my expectations (and/or try to discuss kid's expectations with them) in advance.

CHip @ #298

Sarah @ 270: "regular" SF fandom includes everything you list; as cajunfj40 noted, it's a matter of dominance.

FYI, this usage of "dominance" is roughly consistent with what I stated about "media" cons being "less about the books." I wanted to confirm that.

The rest of that paragraph appears to be a discussion of "media" cons? I'm having a word-order or subject-object issue, as the first sentence started with "regular". Could you unpack that a bit please?

Buddha Buck @ 291: Quite so. IIRC even the first Star Trek cons could be considered fannish; commerce entered when someone noticed how many people were showing up.

IMHO "fannish" vs "commerce" is not a reasonable axis. Forgoing payment for services is neither a necessary nor a sufficient measure of whether or not one is a fan. Perhaps I'm tripping over jargonized usage in this particular instance, but it rubs me the wrong way in a very similar fashion to the types of questions that imply being an unpaid caregiver at home means one doesn't "work".

#306 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 03:13 PM:

There was a report on a while ago about how someone - I think the spouse of a famous cartoonist - was complaining about how conventions (of the sort they were familiar with) were being overrun by cosplayers nowadays, because 'conventions are supposed to be about commerce'. Which implies that the distinction people have commented on between commercial and fan-run conventions did indeed exist, but also suggests that it is being eroded.

#307 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 03:33 PM:

IMHO "fannish" vs "commerce" is not a reasonable axis.

I see it as 'fannish' vs 'intended-for-profit'.

#308 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 03:36 PM:

AKICIML: One of my children would like to put a tiny waterwheel at the main outflow of our gutters and use it to power a small light bulb inside the house. This is rain country, so it's feasible. Has anybody heard of plans for something like this? I don't even know where to start.

#309 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 04:05 PM:

Jenny Islander: Googling water wheel down spout reveals that it's totally a thing—though it seems to be a specialty, artisinal thing.

#310 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 04:24 PM:

Jenny @308: A quick Google search doesn't turn up any plans off-hand of the scale you are talking about, but it doesn't sound difficult. I'm assuming the purpose of the light is to alert you to when it's raining, and not for bright illumination.

You can get an inexpensive DC motors that will also work as DC generators. This may be as simple as tearing apart an old motorized toy.

You can also buy a "buck boost converter" which will take a low DC voltage and convert it to 5V, which should be sufficient to drive an LED or a small incandescent bulb.

The trick I see is waterproofing the sucker, and building the water wheel.

You could also do the same thing to make an anemometer (or at least, an "is it windy" sensor).

#311 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 05:20 PM:

Oh, if it's instructions you're looking for, try adding "instructables" to the Google search above.

The instructables I've found don't seem very clear.

Are wanting more the "waterwheel" part or the "generator" part?

310 ::: Buddha Buck @310: You can get an inexpensive DC motors that will also work as DC generators.

This immediately suggests simply repurposing a computer cooling fan. Just mount it inside of a tube and let (pre-filtered) water flow through it. But, yes, waterproofing could potentially be an issue.

Meanwhile, I incidentally tripped over a solution to a design problem I've been struggling with for years, so: thank you!

#312 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 05:57 PM:

Coincidentally, I just ran across a comment elseNet about how "media" (in fannish jargon) is used to specify visual media, as opposed to books which are text media. Which matches with the way I generally hear the term used.

#313 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 07:49 PM:

Buddha Buck @ 310

You could also do the same thing to make an anemometer (or at least, an "is it windy" sensor).

There appears to be an existing industry for small-scale wind-driven battery chargers focused on boats. I've noticed that about half the boats docked at the Berkeley marina have a set-up of this sort.

(One notices all sorts of things during dragonboat practice. Yesterday we noticed what is undoubtedly the cheapest sailboat for sale in the marina currently -- the one where only the masts are available for inspection.)

#314 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 08:28 PM:

Lee @ #156:

It might be worth noting that most of the comments on the video are pointing out that the video's title is wrong and the intersection depicted isn't in India (people are driving on the wrong side of the road, for one thing). Consensus appears to be that it's in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

#315 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2016, 09:03 PM:

#300, 301, 302:

What I want to know is: Why did Dilbert trade his signature curled-up striped tie for a polo shirt? This occurred at some point after I dropped my newspaper subscription, I guess.

(Everyone in Dilbert's office appears to wear polo shirts now.)

#316 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2016, 12:56 AM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey # 315: When was the last time you saw a design engineer in a shirt with a tie? The only place I ever saw it was my last employer's office in Texas -- we didn't do that at our office in Portland. Even the Texas office abandoned it about 3 years ago.

#317 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2016, 09:26 AM:

Jenny @308 via Buddha Buck @310 and Jacque @311:

A repurposed computer cooling fan would likely work, but you would need to do a simple check: hook up a voltmeter to the wires coming from the fan (red and black - yellow is usually a signal wire, if it exists) and get it spinning good. You'll want a low-power fan so it turns easily. Maybe use a hair dryer on "cold" to spin it, or take a drive and hold it out the window (whee!!!). If the voltmeter shows an output in volts, great! If so, see if you can switch the voltmeter to current, and read the mA output. That voltage and that mA will give you an idea of what small LED you can light with it. Note that the further away your LED will be from your generator, the less power you will have to drive it, and thus the dimmer it will get.

Jacque's comment about pre-filtered water suggests putting one of those mesh cone deals up in the gutter at the top of the drainpipe you are using to keep sticks and such from falling down and jamming into your little fan.

You can play around with the setup to see how much water you can keep out of the fan motor, but you may end up having to replace it every once in a while anyway - so use cheap fans! Maybe call around to places that recycle computer parts to see if you can get a handful of "to be scrapped because surplus" fans cheap.

Alternately, you can use the waterwheel generator as a power source (in place of a solar cell) for a "Solar Engine" ( is one source for circuits). You'll need to pick the most appropriate circuit - there are types that run motors, turn on lights, make noises, etc. You want to run a light (LED). What this will do is you'll get a blinking light. It may take a while for it to turn on the first time if the rain is slow or the motor isn't very powerful, but the faster it spins and the more power it generates, the more time the light stays on.

Still not enough, or not sensitive enough, or you want a steady light when it rains? Power your light with a solar panel (cut up one of those solar yard lights, so the panel charges its battery so you have power when it is raining, and make sure to modify the circuit so it doesn't automatically turn on when dark anymore) and use the waterwheel generator to power a really low-power-required relay or switch or transistor or similar, so when it rains the light switches on.

#318 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2016, 11:19 AM:

cajunfj40 @317, Jacque@311, me@310, Jenny@308:

Spinning a PC cooling fan might not result in a usable voltage output because of the fan controller circuitry in the way (it might, but it might not). You can get around this by connecting directly to the coil leads, bypassing the controller. What you'll get out will be AC, and not DC, but a few Schottky diodes and filter caps should be able to deal with that.

Either way, I'd recommend just having the fan in the water stream, and the rest of the electronics in a water-proof environment some not being rained on.

#319 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2016, 12:10 PM:

At work today, in our Slack channel, one of the developers posted this gem:

I have concatenated
the JavaScript
that's used for
the app

and which
you have noticed

Forgive me
it worked locally
so fast
and so light

#320 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2016, 12:25 PM:

janetl @ #319

Brilliant. I shall share it around the office today, if you don't mind.

#321 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2016, 12:42 PM:

@Jacque no. 309: Downspout! Thank you!

I need to buy a visual dictionary.

#322 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2016, 01:36 PM:

Sarah @ 320: It's fine to share. The author (not me!) prefers to remain anonymous.

#323 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2016, 02:20 PM:

Jenny Islander @308: I know very little about putting gadgets together, but American Science & Surplus has cheap parts. Also toys, goodies, gadgets, and just plain stuff.

#324 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 12:27 AM:

Fade Manley @223: there's actually current discussion on SMOFs about the viability of a "Best Game" Hugo. If you know someone who's on SMOFs, you may want to ask for a look at it (it's been going on for the last two days, so there's not a huge amount of posts to wade through). Kevin Standlee mentions that it was tried in 2006, and failed through lack of interest: that may not be the case now, but it's a data point.

#325 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 12:34 AM:

A possible solution to the Supreme Court standoff.

Better yet, there's historical precedent for it. When faced with an obstinate and stalling Congress over a treaty, Theodore Roosevelt simply declared that he was enacting it "until Congress finds time to consider the matter". Which they did... some 2 years later.

#326 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 12:24 PM:

So, are all the Photons just avoiding the web today?

#327 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 12:28 PM:

Bruce H, maybe post-Hugo-nomination hangovers....?

#328 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 02:04 PM:

Lee 325:

How comfortable are you leaving that precedent for president Trump or Rubio, come 2017? Like a whole lot of other executive power grabs over the years, it may be done to achieve a worthwhile purpose, but it will also leave a changed balance of power between congress and the White House from now on. I'm pretty uncomfortable with the concentration of executive power already, and looking at the set of people who might plausibly hold the presidency a year from now, I think you should be, too.

#329 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 03:15 PM:

Open threadiness: I wrote this on Facebook, but it occurs to me that some here might be interested in reading (or dare-I-hope even discussing) it.

Here's why I oppose pranking (any day of the year, but this is the day people think it's OK).

First, pranks are only funny if they're funny to the victim (sorry, pranksters, I know some of you don't think of the targets of your pranks as victims, but that's what they are). In other words, if after the reveal your victim is upset, frightened, or angry -- anything except laughing and saying WTTEO "wow, you got me good" -- it was not funny.

Note that, as in most cases of aggression, your intention doesn't matter. If you "meant it as a joke" but they're upset, sorry, doesn't mean squat. You hurt them. You don't get to say "why can't you take it as a joke" or "you have no sense of humor." You blew it. Start by apologizing. It may take more than that, but a real apology is a good start.

But how can you know how they'll take it, you ask? Well, there's the rub. You don't, usually. So don't risk it.

Now, if you've been the victim of pranks from this person, or even gone back and forth pranking each other for years, you're probably on pretty good ground. There's a problem intrinsic even to that, however: competitive pranking has only one end: going too far. You have to keep topping each other, and it's very hard for that not to end up with someone being hurt.

John Scalzi has pointed out that the failure mode of "funny" is "asshole." I'd say that the failure mode of pranking is just plain BULLYING. And the "it was a joke" justification afterwards shows that your victim wasn't someone you were playing WITH, but an object on whom you demonstrated your pranking prowess.

Which is, in case you need review, the classic crime of bullying: not seeing your victim as a person at all.

#330 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 03:16 PM:

Open threadiness, living in a cyberpunk novel edition:

This story is from someone who claims to be a hacker whose work has extensively affected elections all over Latin America. The social media manipulation bits sound like something I suspect is happening all the time right now. Very much worth reading.

#331 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 03:50 PM:

Tom Whitmore @324: Thanks for the information! I'll ask around re: SMOFs, and it's actually good to hear that it's been tried (and failed) before. Means that other people see it as a reasonable expansion point for the Hugos, and as games keep getting more interactively complex/ambitious with their narratives, there can be more interest in acknowledging that in the SFF area.

#332 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 04:49 PM:

albatross @328: I'd be very comfortable, because I don't care if it's a Democratic or Republican-dominated Congress refusing to do their jobs.

It only applies in cases where Congress is refusing to hold hearings and vote. If Congress holds hearings and votes, Congress gets a chance to turn down the nominee. If they take their ball and go home, the business of government needs a way to carry on while they're having their tantrum.

This is not equivalent to a filibuster rule change. It only ever affects cases where Congress is sitting on the sidelines refusing to act.

#333 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 05:03 PM:

Lee @325, Elliot @332:

As quoted in the first article linked, Dahlia Lithwick asks "Really, what could the other Justices do? They aren't going to have the marshals tackle him." In fact, if necessary, they would do exactly that. It isn't like the Supreme Court building is unlocked and unguarded. If he attempted to enter, grab a spare robe, and sit at the bench, he would be stopped and turned away long before that.

The fantasy would only work if the SCOTUS accepted it and admitted him to the Court despite the Senate's lack of explicit consent. I do not see that happening.

#334 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 06:14 PM:

albatross @ 328:

I'm with you; it would be yet another gross power grab by the executive branch.

#335 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 06:33 PM:

albatross, #328: Since it has no effect as long as Congress does its fucking job, I'm actually quite comfortable with the idea. I'm sick and tired of a bunch of spoiled brats holding the country hostage at whim, and am delighted to see something that might be used to prevent that happening from either side in the future.

I'd like to point out that once again you are arguing for the status quo in a situation where the status quo is untenable. You really need to rethink this knee-jerk reflex, because you're smarter than that.

#337 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 08:02 PM:

It may be too late for Abi to buy one of these (I forget if it's Daylight Savings Time in Europe yet), but Google has announced a Self-Driving Bicycle for sale in the Netherlands, available April 1 only.

In a somewhat related thread, Google's and some other self-driving cars have trouble on roads with bad lane markings*. I happen to live near the GooglePlex, and for the last couple of years, various generations of Googlemobiles have been driving around here, especially in the evenings, and some of the nearest chunks of freeway and one of the main local roads have hopeless messes of lane markings, some new painted ones, some old, several generations of seams between lane pavings, lots of lane re-alignments, including around curves, so there's plenty of bad lane marking for them to practice on.

(*Sorry, it's a Daily Mail link, but that's where the story was.)

#338 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 08:34 PM: announced a great new product today!

#339 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 09:15 PM:

I can see where it would be really useful! *g*
(I've done beaded knitting, where the bead goes over the loop. Really easy to drop a bead on the floor that way.)

#340 ::: Pamela Dean ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 11:01 PM:

HelenS @251: Oh no! David Porter was my beloved Classics professor too; he's Professor Ferris in Tam Lin. He and Jackson Bryce were actually interested in my writing. The English Department, while very good of its kind, looked down its nose at fantasy unless it was satirical, whereas David Porter simply subsumed it all under the umbrella of mythology and was always interested in what I was doing. I would never have studied Greek without him. He was one of the best teachers I ever had in my life. I am so sorry he is gone. The photo they had was perfectly recognizable, though I hadn't seen him since he left Carleton.

cyllan @263: I was very sorry to miss that panel, but when I had gotten up and dressed and gone to the Green Room and was trying to drink a cup of tea, I realized that I was unable to form a coherent sentence, and that in addition my efforts to do so merely led to coughing that would have alarmed an audience and probably given them the horrible virus. I was faintly horrified that Seanan did go to the panel, but she is tough and stubborn and takes her guestly responsibilities very seriously.


#341 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 11:18 PM:

AKICIML: Got my new glasses today, after they messed up the frame once and the prescription once... I discovered that in order for the glasses to work properly, they must be positioned about a finger's width higher on my face than they can actually sit given the shape of the frames and the shape of my nose. And they're one of those frames without adjustable nose pads. Can this possibly be fixed by remaking the lenses to account for pupil height, or am I doomed with these particular frames? Using the glasses in the default position is tiring, and actually worse than my old pair. (Note: the lenses are prismed, if that makes a difference.)

Going to go to the shop and ask about this tomorrow, but an outside opinion would be dearly appreciated because I am rapidly losing my patience with this particular shop.

#342 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 11:26 PM:

estelendur (341): Remaking the lenses to correctly account for your pupil height should fix the problem, yes.

#343 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2016, 11:27 PM:

(trying to shake loose a comment)

#344 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2016, 03:01 AM:


All right -- I'm not a complete geek. Close, but not complete.

I went to an estate sale today. Off in a bunch of oddities were a batch of share certificates from rail corporations. I was tempted, but I didn't buy them.

Why was I tempted? I'm a Lewis Carroll fan, and I know my Snark references. It would be so much fun to design a costume from The Hunting of the Snark, of the hunting crew, who followed this advice (quoted from

"'You may seek it with thimbles—and seek it with care;
You may hunt it with forks and hope;
You may threaten its life with a railway-share;
You may charm it with smiles and soap—'"

("That's exactly the method," the Bellman bold
In a hasty parenthesis cried,
"That's exactly the way I have always been told
That the capture of Snarks should be tried!")

And actually having a railway-share with which to threaten its life: that would be priceless! But I didn't buy one, and now I get to be content with avoiding the temptation. (The sale is on again tomorrow, and if anyone wants one at $5 plus postage I'll go get one for you if they're still available-- with my compliments to you for being a better geek than I am, Gunga Din.)

#345 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2016, 07:04 PM:

estelendur - I've mainly gotten my glasses from the last few years. They're just reading lenses with astigmatism correction, nothing difficult like progressive lenses (though they also offer those), and they end up being cheaper than the "free" frames and lenses my insurance covers (because Lenscrafters charges too much for non-reflective coatings, which the insurance doesn't cover.)

The big issue is getting lenses that are set for computer-distance focal lengths instead of book-distance; it mainly affects pupillary distance but can sometimes affect the strength a bit, so you need to ask your optometrist to give you those measurements.

#346 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2016, 08:27 PM:

estelendur @ 341: I just ordered a new pair of glasses yesterday. They had me put the frames on -- emphasizing that it has to be as I'd wear them -- and then used a gadget to measure where my pupils were and record that for the people who would be making the lenses. Your optician sounds incompetent. I'd consider asking for a refund and taking your prescription elsewhere. Assuming that your prescription is OK.

#347 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2016, 08:39 PM:

The last time I had glasses made, I went to Costco, and got them for about half what Lenscrafters would have charged.
I was Not Happy with Lenscrafters: the previous time, they'd misfit the glasses, because they were replacing a pair where the nosepads had broken and were missing.

#348 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2016, 10:10 PM:

+1 for Costco. They do a good job.

#349 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2016, 10:24 PM:

My glasses are Costco glasses. My partner Karen's glasses are from a local boutique optician, and cost her a lot. But they actually have been worth it to her -- she estimates they're worth thousands in terms of the way hipsters treat her, and the contracts they're willing to make with her.

I wish this wasn't true. But it is. People do judge by appearance (and not in a simple way). I get to have the luxury of not worrying about that (white male cis but longhair and sideburns not quite the norm privilege). She gets more jobs because Millennials think her glasses are cool. it's not an issue I want to fight about.

#350 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 03:09 AM:

HLN: Local raccoon mum discovers wonderful, heated accommodations for delivery of adorable raccoon offspring. Unfortunately, local human is generous enough to provide (admitedly otherwise unused) fireplace flue only until said offspring are well enough along to find other (probably not heated) accommodations.

Local human has scheduled two calls for Monday morning: The first will be to local wild animal sanctuary (who will probably be grateful to hear that the raccoon kits are not abandoned, judging by the contented chirring issuing from fireplace) to determine when that time might be. The second call will be to the local chimney sweep (who, local resident has been delighted to observe, does in fact wear tophat and tails on the job).

Once the proper date is established, local human plans to burn a lot of incense in local fireplace. After raccoon family has thus been encouraged to decamp, chimney sweep will be directed to find flue access and seal it up. It is therefore to be hoped that future local raccoon cuteness will be prevented, at least in this particular location.

#351 ::: SunflowerP ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 05:49 AM:

Xopher @ 329: Hear, hear! ::pounds desk in hir best parliamentary manner::

As far as discussing it goes, you've already said everything I might on the topic, at least as eloquently and more concisely than I'd likely manage.

#352 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 07:08 AM:

Bill Stewart @345

I have just bought a pair of computer-specific glasses from my local optician. They make a huge difference.

They always check frame-fit and pupil position. The actual measurement takes about 30s. For some sorts of lens, it maybe doesn't matter that much, but I need correction for astigmatism.

#353 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 07:46 AM:

I probably will not bother joining another Worldcon ever again. If you can't attend, my experience has been there's not much return.

I wonder if some people on the inside have started believing that every Supporting membership from Europe might be a Rabid Puppy fake.

Yes, I know the Worldcons are independent. Sasquan is not MidAmericon. But the failure pattern has been consistent. And tt's not just Worldcons, it's not just American politics as we're getting the same here. "Vote!" has become the abracadabra of the political process.

I do have my membership for 2017, but I doubt I shall make the journey to Helsinki. After another year of robbery by politics, I doubt I shall have the money. Should I bother with the Hugo Awards next year?

Maybe I should wait for somebody to offer to pay me for my Hugo vote. And then I can do what every American worldcon I have dealt with has done for me: take the money and fail to deliver. It's obviously a fannish tradition.

#354 ::: Elyse ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 10:45 AM:

Jacque @350
You are Boulderish, aren't you? Which chimney sweep do you use?

#355 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 12:24 PM:

I am picking up new single vision distance glasses at Costco Optical in about an hour. I've gone to many many different opticians over decades -- Kaiser (where I get my eyes examined and obtain my prescriptions), Lenscrafters, Sears, Pearle Vision, others -- but Consumer Reports gives Costco top rating for both quality and price. So far I have been very happy with their work. The saving on price is considerable: these new glasses are cheap enough that I plan to order a second (emergency) pair of glasses: I will ask them to fit new lenses into the perfectly good Costco frame I am wearing right now.

#356 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 02:06 PM:

Jacque @ 350 ...
Once the proper date is established, local human plans to burn a lot of incense in local fireplace. After raccoon family has thus been encouraged to decamp, chimney sweep will be directed to find flue access and seal it up. It is therefore to be hoped that future local raccoon cuteness will be prevented, at least in this particular location.

I wish you infinitely better luck than my experience with a very similar problem ... they're finally decamped, but getting to that point was ... trying.

#357 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 04:13 PM:

Pamela Dean@340: yes. I didn't do a whole lot of creative writing while at Carleton, but David Porter was kind enough to praise a poem I wrote for mythology class and said he would add a copy to his "Eternal Files." I was terrifically pleased about that. Come to think of it, Jackson Bryce also liked something I wrote that was not an ordinary paper -- he got us to write pastiche saints' lives on an exam for Medieval Lit in Translation. Apparently I was the only one in the class to write a life of a woman saint, which still surprises me.

#358 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 08:13 PM:

Elyse @354: Yes, I'm in Boulder. Midtown seems to get the highest reviews on Google; I'm going to give them a call. (Sadly, the photos of their staff on their website show them wearing boring old service-people togs. I realized I saw the top-hat-and-tailed ones on the order of twenty-five years ago. :-( )

xeger: Well, I'm planning on using lots of smoke. (I realized I'd much rather my condo smell of woodsmoke than incense. Also, one of my neighbors is an apiarist; I'm going to see if I can borrow a bee smoker from him.) I'll have to contact the owner of the unit above mine, to have their smoke alarms disabled during this process. My flue has a crack in it (which is why the fireplace hasn't been in use) and I'm certain any smoke will get into their unit, too.

(It's going to take effort to resist going full-on Geek about this. The temptation is strong to rent an arthroscopic camera to spy on the little monsters to be damn sure when they've left. Also, a camera drone to make sure that the chimney is adequately capped once they're gone.)

#359 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 09:03 PM:

Jacque 350: For a brief period just before her death, Janet Kagan was my "writing buddy." One time she explained that she had missed her wordcount goal because she had to deal with some raccoon kits in her house.

Being a city person (and a suburban one before that), I had no idea what a raccoon kit was. I'd always thought they came fully assembled.

SunflowerP 351: Thank you! And thanks for the most complimentary RAEBNC I've ever received.

#360 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 09:31 PM:

I am suburban, but late every winter the local raccoons use my deck as their honeymoon suite.

#361 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 10:04 PM:

Jacque - This sounds like one of the few occasions for which a selfie stick would be useful, poking a camera up the flue to take pictures. Of course, raccoons being what they are, there's some risk they'll take the phone and use it to start ordering bags of dogfood from Amazon or whatever.

#362 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2016, 11:25 PM:

So, done "there and back again" from my family gathering, this year rescheduled from (last) Hannukah to April Fool's Weekend. (No pranks, by request of the host.) Book exchange, as usual for us; I got my nephew the graphic-novel bio of Richard Feynmann, which he likes. My drawing for the accompanying card prompted my mother to say "oh, that's not a real animal". Yes it was. ;-)

The return trip got... interesting. We arrived at Penn Station to find our connecting train delayed "due to police action", which turned out to be a derailment. My BiL wound up renting a minivan to get the clan home, an 8-hour trip. (We still beat our train back.) On the way back, someone pointed out that most years we would have been on that earlier train, but this year it had been filled before my sister made reservations.

#363 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 12:17 AM:

I'm not sure whether we qualify as urban or suburban here, though given the amount of lawns, maybe the latter. In any event, about the only major North American fauna we don't have in the vacinity is elk and wolves, and I've heard talk about reintroducing the second to Rocky Mountain National Park. Well, okay, and buffalo, though not for lack of trying.

#364 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 12:17 AM:

Jacque @ 358 ...
(It's going to take effort to resist going full-on Geek about this.

I ... misread that as 'going full-on Greek' the first several times, and was picturing a full chorus, gesticulations, lamentations and masks ...

The temptation is strong to rent an arthroscopic camera to spy on the little monsters to be damn sure when they've left. Also, a camera drone to make sure that the chimney is adequately capped once they're gone.)

How about a motion sensor as well? ;D

#365 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 01:45 AM:

I admire raccoon tenacity and adaptability, but I don't *like* them.

So, I love the term recently coined for the critters:

"Trash pandas."

I'm kind of worried for the local coyote population. The little pockets of wetlands where I suspect they have dens are untouched, but the big vacant fields in my neighborhood where they hunted are getting plowed under for apartments and offices.

#366 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 09:22 AM:

Some day, I should write up the biography of the frequently invoked patron saint of internet comments: St. Fu.

#367 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 09:26 AM:

Stefan Jones, "trash pandas" has a ring to it that I like. You must be aware of red pandas already, or I'd be hopping up and down to tell you about them. When we went to the panda facility in Chengdu, they had some enclosures of the red sort as well as of their (probably unrelated) large black and white cousins, and when we visited the gift shop afterward, Sarah chose a red panda stuffed animal. It was a good purchase, as she already had a number of the more common kind, usually given to her as gifts.

#368 ::: Elyse ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 10:10 AM:

I've never heard of elk in Boulder, but the closest known wolves are in Wyoming and the closest elk I have encountered were in Estes Park, which is not nearly as far away.

I attended some Yoga conferences at a YMCA camp in Estes Park in late September some years ago, and there were small herds of large elk wandering around the campus. I don't think I want them in my yard. Walking out my front door last fall to find two large deer with lots of points laying on my patio was startling enough.

#369 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 11:35 AM:

xeger @364: How about a motion sensor as well?

At this point, that would be redundant. Especially when Mum scratches, and I can hear her little heel whacking against the damper flap. :-)

That does, however, give me an interesting idea: get one of those motion-activated flood lights and install it in the flue, so anytime anybody moves, it turns on a BRIGHT LIGHT!! </evil>

Elyse @368: I've never heard of elk in Boulder

Oh, heavens. How could I possibly forget about Big Boy? :-(

I don't think I want [elk] in my yard.

I think you're right. Mule deer are not known for chasing tourists.

#370 ::: Clarentine ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 01:03 PM:

Jacque @50: We successfully evicted a raccoon (fortunately not in the family way) from our flue some years back by playing loud rock music into the fire chamber during the day, when the "trash panda" would be sleeping. It only took two days.

#371 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 01:36 PM:

Stefan Jones @365 : I would't worry too much about the coyotes in particular. Coyotes are very adaptable and do well in urban environments* (just as they adapt well to artificially-produced fields!)

Bird and insect life's more worrisome in that situation, and the small rodent population will change, but coyotes will be fine from a food-finding perspective.

*A good friend of mine is doing her doctorate on Calgary's urban coyote population.

#372 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 05:19 PM:

We had a pet raccoon for a little while. Dad found her while walking the dog, eyes still shut, no mask yet, no parent or nest to be found. Having learned from the brought-in-to-school squirrels, which died, we were pretty okay with tiny baby screechy leather-pawed scary thing (black clawed leather hand reaching out from a grapefruit box: spooky). We named her Lefty, as her right eye was infected in some way, and eventually handed her over to a couple wildlife rehabbers. Mostly, once she wasn't a baby, she slept in the woodpile and made Mom nervous.

#373 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 08:38 PM:

In the book Domesticated I recently read a claim that some cities have a much higher density of raccoons than is typical in rural areas. The author cites Toronto (and also Kessel, Germany) as having up to 400 raccoons per square mile, versus a typical rural density of 1-5 per square mile.

#374 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 08:43 PM:

If Toronto's anything to go by, raccoons are quite happy to live in the city -- I see them pretty frequently. My brother had some trouble last year with some camping out on his house's second-storey windowsill, but the remodelling seems to have taken care of that.

Then there was the raccoon earlier this year that apparently entered a donut shop through the ceiling, took an orange crueller before a crowd of onlookers (after spending some time choosing, according to a witness) and escaped the way he came. Later he presumably met up with his laconic tree buddy.

#375 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 09:33 PM:

I read this study when it came out. The tl;dr version is that kit foxes in urban areas seem to be healthier than kit foxes in typical kit fox habitat, and the difference seems to be due to human food scraps.

#376 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2016, 09:49 PM:

This amounts to a Q for those in the UK:

For a while there was a Twitter account called Emergency Fox, featuring pictures of foxes looking adorable and/or fey, often in urban or suburban settings. (And, surreally, quotes from Marx.) (Not Groucho.)

This led me to wonder: Are foxes in the UK occupying the same urban-sometimes-pest niche do raccoons do in the US?

#377 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 12:02 AM:

Lots of raccoons here in Seattle; and a fair number of opossums, too. We have a problem with local coyotes eating cats (they're really big coyotes -- possibly coyote/dog crosses).

#378 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 12:04 AM:

Coyotes get big when there's no pressure from wolves. Out where I used to live, coyotes would sometimes pack up and take down cattle.

#379 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 12:41 AM:

I wonder if bears exert a similar pressure on coyotes? Or if mountain lions do? The coyotes I've seen around here look about the size of large foxes. The bears certainly knock over a lot more trash cans than the coyotes do. I wouldn't be surprised if the mountain lions eat the coyotes sometimes, too.

#380 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 01:14 AM:

In the Portland area, coyotes are more of the Oversized Fox variety. Like a very leggy Border collie. Very businesslike and laconic.

They almost certainly eat cats. I get sads when I see a Lost Cat poster.

#381 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 04:04 AM:

Urban foxes are commonplace in the UK, not really pests, and not really big enough to be a threat to cats. They've adapted pretty well to the urban environment. It's awkward that they are, like the rest of us. the natural prey of the ruling class in England.

Fox hunting with dogs is illegal here, but there is growing evidence that that law is flouted.

A lot of the reputation of foxes has roots in the possible confusion between predation and scavenging. Foxes are not pack animals and a sheep is big enough to be dangerous to them.

Foxes and other British wildlife photos: @RichardBowler1

#382 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 04:52 AM:

Urban foxes in the UK: I concur with Dave Bell - they're pretty common but only graduate to 'pest' if you get one that's really persistent about digging through your bins. The ones round here mostly seem to live on takeaway scraps, and probably mice.

#383 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 08:06 AM:

I would note that foxes have been adapting to large dense cities longer than coyotes have.

Foxes are a danger to small fowl, but not larger livestock.

#384 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 09:56 AM:


Raccoons are also into bin-tipping. They graduate to pests when then get into attics and chimblies.

Rabid raccoons are fearsome; there's an eye-opening "This American Life" story in which a woman describes getting attacked by one.

#385 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 10:59 AM:

The thing about raccoons in human/coon interactions is that, even when not rabid, they have absolutely no "back down" reflex.

They will keep coming until there's an insurmountable barrier. If you stick your head up into a crawlspace that they think is "theirs" God help you unless you can get the hatch shut again quickly.

There was a half-grown kit (teenage, maybe? Old enough to be out on their own foraging, but not full size) in my yard having a snarlfight with my dog, and I hit it full in the face with the tightest stream of my garden hose sprayer while simultaneously dragging my dog back by the collar and he kept snarling, kept fighting, and actually tried to walk into the spray to keep the fight going. When I got the dog inside and the door shut the raccoon stomped back and forth snarling at the door for about five minutes before deciding he'd won and going about his life.

#386 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 11:07 AM:

Sarah @378:

Coyotes also get big when they've interbred with wolves. The eastern coyote subspecies - found in a range where historically (i.e. since prior to European settlement) there were no coyotes, most likely since the wolves kept them away), is larger than western subspecies and has some wolf DNA, most likely picked up as they spread eastward via southern Canada. They're doing quite well in suburban areas and urban parks.

There's a reason coyotes have a longtime reputation for being smart and sneaky. I'm not too worried about their prospects. (I do, however, seem to recall reading that fox populations tend to decline when the coyotes move in, partly due to direct predation but mostly because the coyotes outcompete the foxes for rodents.)

#387 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 12:10 PM:

#386 ::: lorax:

I thought coywolves were more of an east coast problem? Not so much in the central states. There haven't been timber wolves in my home state since the 1800's. Of course, folks have a strong motivation not to report wolf (or cougar, or bear) sightings, because then the government will get involved.

#388 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 12:31 PM:

Sarah @387,

Yeah, they're definitely an eastern thing, sorry for the confusion. No wolves anywhere near here either, but there were in Canada, which is between here and where the coyotes started.

#389 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 01:12 PM:

Remember that Clarke story about teaching technology to ants? I wonder what would happen if someone did genetic engineering so coyotes had thumbs.

Our feline successors

#390 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 02:13 PM:

Nancy: That link brings up a 404...?

#391 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 02:57 PM:

AKICIML: I thought people here might know if anybody did. Is there any brand of wooden pencil out there that doesn't have fragile leads these days? Sometimes my homeschoolers have to sharpen two inches or more off the pencil before the lead stops falling out of the center. I'm willing to pay extra.

I know this used to happen when I was a kid as well, but I am dead certain that it's a lot worse now.

#392 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 03:06 PM:

Jenny Islander @ 391

We use Ticonderoga pencils from CostCo for our children. The leads seem like my wife and I remember them.

My daughter, like me, chews on her pencils, and eventually that will break the leads up.

(Also, "Hi, fellow homeschooler!)

#393 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 03:29 PM:

#389: There's a great Bruce Sterling story, "Our Neural Chernobyl," showing what happens when a virus gets loose that smartifies various mammalian species.

Raccoons turn into an organized, deadly menace, turning swaths of rural areas into no-go zones.

Coyotes start stealing kid's clothing to wear in chilly weather, and run protection rackets, staying away from livestock in exchange for offerings of dog treats and BBQ.

I love the image of coyotes wearing hoodies and sweatshirts; reminds me of

#394 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 03:30 PM:

Jenny Islander @391: If the box has been dropped on the ground a lot, that breaks up the leads. Might be a problem for all brands, given where you are. :-/ I mostly run into it with the cheaper kind of colored pencil, not yellow-painted school ones.

#395 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 03:45 PM:

Have wasted a lot of time reading the #ecologistconfessions tweets. Then I made a compilation of a few of my favourites. And got even more carried away and made another compilation.

#396 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 03:58 PM:

Jacque, I'm sorry. It should have been

#397 ::: Pamela Dean ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2016, 08:00 PM:

HelenS @357: Oh, the Eternal Files! That is a very high compliment indeed.

That was an amazing Classics Department. We shall not see its like again.


#398 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2016, 10:49 AM:

Random observation: I just got an email from Goodreads saying "you're in the top 1% of Goodreads Reviewers". This gobsmacked me because I feel like I don't post reviews very often. The email also listed my most popular review -- it has 9 likes. There must be a lot of people with Goodreads accounts who never post any reviews.

#399 ::: Clarentine ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2016, 12:03 PM:

Jenny Islander @391 - I'm a landscape designer, and I need a pencil that won't break when producing a good, solid line. I use only #7 lead now (in a mechanical pencil, but the same grades are available in regular pencils). The standard size breaks too often.

#401 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2016, 04:40 PM:

Someone pointed out that the rabbit from Zootopia looks like the girl from Frozen and now I can't unsee it. /(^x^)\

#402 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2016, 04:51 PM:

Raccoons are also reasonably good at turning over the glass recycling trash can, especially when it's about 1/4 full and can make an incredibly loud crashing noise when it hits the ground.

#403 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2016, 05:49 PM:

eric: That took me a minute: "Why in heavens name would anybody make a trash can out of glass? —Oh. Right."

#404 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2016, 07:16 PM:

Sarah @ 401

I saw an article somewhere recent (wow, that's a bit weak-sauce, I know) showing how narrow the range of facial types is that female characters in animated feature films have, especially compared to the range of facial types for male characters.

So the resemblance may, in part, be due to how similar all female-coded animated characters are, as opposed to an intentional resemblance between those specific characters.

#405 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2016, 07:40 PM:

There's this article on the AV club about Sameface Syndrome, which obligingly includes traced face shapes.

#406 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2016, 10:56 PM:

Dave Bell @#381
I had an interesting urban fox encounter in Toronto. We were in a city park, and had just crossed a small bridge across a stream. I looked back toward the parking lot, and there was a fox crossing the bridge, less than 25 feet from us, in broad daylight.

I live in a rural suburb of Ottawa, and at least once I've surprised a fox sleeping in the middle of the road. And many nights we hear coyotes. I've also seen coyotes in daylight well into the suburbs, including right beside the Canadian Tire Centre (hockey arena where the Ottawa Senators play).

#407 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 01:16 AM:

What was that discussion we had a while back about knitting machines?

#408 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 09:22 AM:

Yarn is so flexible and passive-resistant. It seems almost impossible that you could knit much of a machine with it.

#409 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 09:56 AM:

Depends on your machine, I suppose--people seem to have succeeded with engines...

#410 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 10:04 AM:

Kip W #408: On the other hand, I could easily imagine a machine knitted out of, say, chainmail wire. Or some nanotech powered fiber....

#411 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 10:15 AM:

Wandering around a bit: Turning Dirt Into Perfect Spheres: Hikaru Dorodango.

#412 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 12:42 PM:

David Harmon @411: Wow -- Colossal really doesn't have a copyeditor, do they?

OT: Ta-Nehisi Coates on writing Black Panther for Marvel.

#413 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 01:00 PM:

Em @ 405

Yes, that's the one. Thanks.

#414 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 01:11 PM:

Linked at Slacktivist:
H P Lovecraft Insurance

#415 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 02:27 PM:

Open-thready interesting article by Matt Taibbi. I've seen a ton of stuff written about college protests and the demand for safe spaces, mostly written from a pretty dismissive perspective. Taibbi links this phenomenon back to the tendency of media to be split out ideologically, so that conservatives never have to be confronted with a liberal opinion, and liberals never have to be confronted with a conservative opinion.

#416 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 09:13 PM:

Well, the typo we all knew would happen has finally happened, to no less prestigious an organization than the BBC (and puns on that abound).

Elseweb I have a capsule review of the gay porn film with this title, but I think I'll spare this audience that bit.

#417 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2016, 09:22 PM:

I've just (as in moments ago) been made aware of a Twitter feed called @CollidrApp, which purports to be the feed for a dating app for gay male physicists.

Collidr calculates exact solutions for 69, but uses perturbation methods to approximate solutions for 3-way scenarios.
I quote that one because I expect this readership to find it especially amusing.

#418 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 01:04 AM:


Surely somebody, somewhen, has tried to go back in time to kill Superman back when he was a relatively breakable little kid. Why didn't it work?

#419 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 08:11 AM:

Jenny Islander@418: That was really good!

#420 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 08:38 AM:

Oh, man, that was great. I am not a Superman person in general-- like many things, I like discussion about the stories more than the stories themselves-- and that was great.

#421 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 10:08 AM:

#418 ::: Jenny Islander

I liked the story a lot, but this bit didn't sit well with me.

"We’re going over there, and we’re going to keep going over there, until you two are the best of friends."

It didn't seem likely to work. Was I missing something?

#422 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 10:37 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #421: Ma Kent says straight out she's depending on his character: “But I know my son. I know you like I know my own heart, baby, and I’m not going to have to make you. It’s just what’s going to happen."

I note that Kal-El has apparently been retconned to not gain his powers until (some stage of) maturity. This is an entirely reasonable change, even if it doesn't match the comics I grew up with myself! Niven's classic article actually doesn't go quite far enough, but even he noted that "he might not have realized that things have surfaces" before controlling his X-ray vision. Given what we've learned since about child development and environmental feedback, we'd be lucky if a "Superbaby", growing in a world made of Kleenex, came out with a human psychology at all.

#423 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 01:37 PM:

Jenny Islander
Thanks! That was rewarding. I linked it from my Twitter as well (with credit, all in 140).

Nancy Lebovitz
One awkward phrase in there (not that this was your point, but I'm hanging it from your comment, as we do) where two people were described as being in a fight, and it's not immediately clear whether they fought each other, or other party/parties. I'm assuming the latter now.

#424 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 02:50 PM:

David Harmon@411: that's lovely.

Xopher Halftongue@416: it happens embarrassingly often in the literature. This one is old enough to be a probable OCR/rekeying error in the title, but the abstract of this one has presumably been on the web in this state for 11 years.

#425 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 04:13 PM:

#389, Nancy Lebovitz: I wonder what would happen if someone did genetic engineering so coyotes had thumbs.

#393, Stefan Jones: Coyotes start stealing kid's clothing to wear in chilly weather, and run protection rackets, staying away from livestock in exchange for offerings of dog treats and BBQ.

Hehe one of my nanowrimo novels from years back featured smart (genetically engineered) coyotes. They did like pranks, and got creative when bored, but were also very shy.

#426 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 07:49 PM:

David Harmon @ #422:

That was one of the changes they made in the Big Reboot of '86, along with Lex Luthor becoming a dangerous man in a business suit instead of a dangerous man in a lab coat.

Kip W @ #423:

I read that as them fighting each other, because the other party is the kid whose bigoted opinions Clark was thoughtlessly parroting earlier. The implication I take from it is that the kid expressed some more bigoted opinions, and this time Clark challenged him on them.

#427 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 07:59 PM:

Steve 424: Oh, my. Biggs Hose-on's costar in the porn version has to be Bottom Quark.

#428 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 08:11 PM:

Xopher 427: He's got a certain strange charm.

#429 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2016, 09:15 PM:

Jenny Islander @418 -- one of the things I like best about that story is the fact that all of the people except Brainiac who went back in time actually succeeded at what they were trying for: they changed the future to make it better for everyone.

#430 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2016, 06:21 AM:

In recent news: SpaceX have done it

#431 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2016, 08:58 AM:

Paul A
I have confused the names of two characters? Gee, that never happens. [/infallible]

#432 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2016, 02:21 PM:

HLN: Local woman sees sign on streetside pole:
Entrepreneurs Wanted - Will Train

(Local woman wonders if they know what entrepreneurs are.)

#433 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2016, 04:58 PM:

Perhaps the advertiser was French?


#434 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2016, 11:37 PM:

Jenny Islander @391:

At my work, we use Staples store brand pencils, and I don't think we've ever had that sort of breakage.

#435 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 04:02 PM:

Just two comments on the link It Is One Thing to Date Your Father but There Is No Excuse for Not Knowing the Difference Between the Tudors and the Hapsburgs:
1. Very entertaining read, and
2. Yes, Mallory Ortberg is awesome. I follow her on Twitter and she is very restorative.

#436 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 04:47 PM:

AKICIML, or help me, math nerds, you're my only hope!

I'm thinking of a hypothetical planetary system. This is a binary star system. The suns are pretty Sunlike and orbit each other closely enough that from the Goldilocks zone they always appear within the same handful of sky. The Goldilocks zone contains one planet, a rocky Earthlike world. Its day is close enough in length to ours that humans who live there for a while stop noticing the difference, while its orbit is within 50 local days, either way, of our year.

Now. This planet has three moons. They orbit the planet in the same plane. While the moons all show different phases, there is one and only one day each planetary year when they are all full simultaneously. This day may move back and forth a bit, as the lunar and solar years are not precisely the same length, but it only happens once.

Do I have enough information to plug in some numbers and figure out a possible month for each of the moons, and if so, how the heck do I set it up? I get the general notion that I am looking for three primes(?) that all fit into the same three-digit number somewhere between 300-ish and 450-ish, but never form multiples of one another--? No, that's probably wrong. I'm a verbal thinker and I'm all confused.

#437 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 06:16 PM:

Jenny @436:

You are roughly on the right track. You are looking for three numbers which have a least common multiple (lcm) in the range you are looking for. An example is 5, 7, 9, which are all relatively prime so their lcm can be computed simply by multiplying them together to get 315, or 50 days shorter than our year. Three moons with those orbits will only sync up once per year.

Those may be rather short "months" though (the locals might consider them as three different types of "weeks" though). But as 5, 7, and 9 are sufficient to get you in the right range, you can see that even slightly larger numbers will give you too long of a year. 7, 8, 9 have the same relatively prime property, but their cycle is 504 days.

If you don't need the months to be relatively prime, you can get longer months by letting the months share factors. I found a nice set at 20, 30, 35 days, which would yield a year of 420 days. Every 60 days the 1st and 2nd moon would be full together, 7 times a year. Every 140 days the 1st and 3rd would be full, 3 times a year, and every 210 days the 2nd and 3rd would be full, twice a year.

#438 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 06:34 PM:

Jenny 436: I'm not exactly a math nerd, but I do know that the numbers only have to be relatively prime; that is, they must have no factors in common, but they don't have to be prime individually. For example, 14 and 15 are not prime, but they're relatively prime.

I would point out that

a) 'Full' has a somewhat modified definition in a binary system, but if the two stars are close you can ignore that.

b) if the moons orbit in the same plane, when they're all full the nearest will at least partially eclipse the other two (and from the outer moons the inner ones will eclipse the sun). If the apparent largest is also the outermost, the middle the middle, and the inner the smallest, you could see all three at once, but the shadows of the inner of each pairing would be cast on the outer.

c) Three numbers whose product comes out in the 300-400 range are going to be very small numbers, as moons go. For example 7*9*11=693, which is a bit long for a year and a bit short for a lunar orbit.

#439 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 06:40 PM:

Ohh, Buddha, I like that set! Those make very nice divisions of the year for calendar purposes too. Excellent!

The other alternative, of course, is to make the fullness of all three a much rarer event. 26, 33, and 35 have the property of never pairing, but only triple every 30,030 days, which with a 300-day year is once every 100 years, regressing by a month each time.

#440 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 08:09 PM:

Thank you, everyone! This is awesome!

#441 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 08:39 PM:

You could also use 15, 21, and 9 which have the same LCM as 5, 7, and 9; pulling a 3 out of the 9 and multiplying the other two by it doesn't change the LCM.

#442 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 08:44 PM:

P. J. Evans @ 432:
Just from the phrasing and the fact it's a flyer on a telephone pole, I'm guessing that's Tupperware parties/some kind of pyramid scheme.

#443 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 09:47 PM:

Off-the-cuff thoughts @Jenny Islander:

Binary stars, even close-orbiting, would exert some complex forces on moons that would perturb their orbits.

If your moon system is a given, then I'd say put the planet pretty far out, to minimize that effect.

Star increase disproportionately in luminosity with mass, something like L = M^3.3, so a pair of slightly brighter stars would mean a much larger Goldilocks zone that your world could be on the outer edge of.

Have fun worldbuilding!

#444 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2016, 10:09 PM:

Given that it was near the local college, I was thinking something like magazine sales. (Or some other kind of sales.)

#445 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 02:01 AM:

Right, also expect the habitable zone of a binary system (assuming a relatively familiar spectrum) to be rather farther out than ours, so a longer year is a definite possibility. IIRC, speculation is that Earth and Mars roughly bracket Sol's habitable zone,* so that's a range of 365-689 days. If the year is meant to be 300-400 days, that suggests that each of your binary stars is individually somewhat less than half as bright as our sun, or that your world is unusually small or has some other reason for being cold.**

If they're close-orbiting stars, I'd actually expect their gravitational effects to be less disruptive on moons with likely orbital altitudes than would be the effect of simply having three moons with non-resonant orbits. You'll get a little bit of perturbation from having two stars instead of one, but it shouldn't be serious, maybe less than our moon gets from Jupiter.

It's unlikely that your three-moon system will actually be entirely stable, though it's quite possible for the calendar properties you're asking about to have remained constant for, say, all of human history. This is only going to be a problem if you need that calendar to remain consistent over rather longer periods.

*Sure, Mars isn't habitable at present, but it could be if it was bigger and could trap a deeper atmosphere to keep it warmer. And Earth possibly wouldn't be either, if it didn't have a burly oversized moon to strip away some extra atmosphere.
**I'm not actually sure of a couple terms needed to work this out for reals. The relationship between mass and brightness matters, as if the stars end up being much more massive than our sun but only a little brighter, the habitable zone may be farther out but the increased gravity could still leave you with a shorter year. But assuming your two stars aren't, say, five times as massive as ours while only 150% as bright, which seems safe, you're probably still looking at a longer year.

#446 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 02:43 AM:

One final question: If the moons are full simultaneously once per X days, are they also dark simultaneously at the opposite point of that cycle?

#448 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 07:00 AM:

#446: No. In the cycles people have been discussing, the moons only sync up once per year - that is, there is only one day in the year where all three are in the same phase at all (and for the purposes of your worldbuilding, that shared phase happens to be "full".)

I think. I can't quite work out the maths to prove it.

I did test it on one of the sets below, though (the 350-days): one triple full, several double full, several double dark and one day, halfway through the year - day 176, taking the triple-full-moon-day as day 1 - when two moons are full and the third is dark. How often the various full/dark combinations turn up would depend on your month-lengths and their prime factors.

I was noodling around with other possible moon-sets for my own amusement, here are some that I think work ...

A 350-day year with moon periods of 35, 25 and 14 days (10 months, 14 months, and 25 months respectively)

A 385-day year with moon periods of 35, 55 and 77 days (11 months, 7 months and 5 months)

A 450-day year with moon periods of 18 days, 25 days and 30 days (25 months, 18 months, and 15 months)

Or, for closest compatibility with Earth numbers, a 364-day year with moon periods of 28 days, 26 days and 91 days (13, 14 and 4 months) - which might be interestingly confusing for Earth colonists used to things the way they are here - just close enough for people to get their calendar systems mixed up.

#449 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 09:38 AM:

Of course, all those moons are cycling in whole numbers of days, and even our own moon doesn't do that.

Devin: And Earth possibly wouldn't be either, if it didn't have a burly oversized moon to strip away some extra atmosphere.

Or possibly, if Earth hadn't had a big chunk of its crust ripped off to form said moon. Or if we didn't have tides sloshing around the primordial ocean, or.... With only the single example, we really don't know what features are important, or even favorable. And for all we know, we might still be a sideshow to the Jovian cloud-minds or somesuch.

#450 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 09:44 AM:

David Harmon @449: I can imagine a situation where "day" might be defined as a fraction of a moon's orbit. But that would be culturally rather different than a society that used sunrise/set as a day definition.

#451 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 09:58 AM:

It's also possible that with harmonic orbits, the full moons won't be phase at the conjunction, or it will slowly precess around so that the 3xfull configuration would still only happen once in a blue moon.

Also, if two of the moons are close enough in period (e.g. 26 and 28 days) and big enough to have noticeable phases, then they're going to be at nearly the same distance from the planet, which would lead to a binary moon, or a splatted moon, or a ring.

#452 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 01:30 PM:


That was a really fun talk! It made me think of the Asimov quote: The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny..."

#453 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 02:19 PM:

Jenny @ 436

Some additional thoughts on your system design:

You'll get a bit more design leeway with the recognition that perception of "true full" for a moon is a fuzzy concept. Our own moon will look functionally full for at least a day on either side of true full. So I suspect that you could allow for "all three full at the same time" being a condition met by them all being within the same certain percentage of orbital arc rather than requiring them to be precisely in line.

Unless the periodicity of the triple-full cycle is exactly the same as the solar year (which would strike me as enormously improbable), there will eventually be a year when there are two triple-full conjunctions (if the lunar cycle is shorter) or none (if it's longer). This could mess with your culture's minds if the tri-lunar period is almost identical to the solar period (such that it's a once in a lifetime event) or simply be a noted oddity (if it's a once-in-a-decade-or-so event).

However the system is set up, it strikes me that a culture evolving in that circumstance is likely to develop a deep fascination with astronomical calculations at a very early date.

#454 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 04:36 PM:

David Harmon @449

Yeah, totally, all very speculative. We do have a couple of other examples: Venus and Mars have enough in common with Earth to make some partial comparisons and do a little guessing.

#455 ::: Devin ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 04:40 PM:

I'm also reminded of that proposal for working out the longitude by using the Galilean satellites as a clock. Rather more practical if you have much more easily-observable moons whizzing around your own planet, that.

#456 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 05:08 PM:

Jacque, thanks for the link. I had no idea the anomaly was discovered because humans were batter at looking for planets than the computer program.

"John Henry was a real star-watching man...."

Also, does anyone know what proportion of exoplanets are likely to be at the right angle so we can see them?

#457 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2016, 06:56 PM:

I'm still thinking about what the triple-conjunct full moons would look like, with the shadow of each one on the one behind. I think it would look like a giant glaring eye...and if it happened during a lunar eclipse, a RED one.

#458 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2016, 12:53 AM:

cajunfj40@259: Sorry, just got to seeing this today. Yep, definitely me doing bismuth crystal-making photos (both days, in fact). Sorry if I didn't say Hi (what you had on your badge, whether I actually saw it, and what my memory managed to come up with all no doubt playing their part!).

While knowing one person's feelings probably has no impact on your own emotions towards saying hi to people, I always like online acquaintances saying something when we're in the same room. The worst outcome is something like "Hi glad to see you I'm 5 minutes late for setting up lighting bye!".

#459 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2016, 11:10 AM:

Tom Whitmore @ #441:

Or 35, 45 and 63, having the same LCM as 5, 7, 9 (since no extra prime powers are added).

Or you could go for 5, 7, 10 (or any pair-wise product of these, like 35, 50, 70) for once-every-350-days.

#460 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2016, 01:42 PM:

Open threadiness: This article by socologist Zeynep Tuficki is a couple of years old now, but has some real insights about the overlap between the plusses and minuses of the online world. The services we want tend to come with massive data collection--sometimes, that's how they get paid for, other times that's just a happy (for someone) side-effect of providing the service.

Interestingly, since the article was written, the Turkish government has (as I understand it) lost popularity, and has cracked down on both old and new media to protect itself from criticism. (The stuff going on in Turkey right now looks creepy as hell to me, though I'm a poorly-informed outsider, so I may just be misunderstanding the situation.)

#461 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2016, 03:25 PM:


>Or you could go for 5, 7, 10 (or any pair-wise product of these, like 35, 50, 70) for once-every-350-days.

10 and 5 are not mutually prime. They're going to be in sync or out of sync forever.

#462 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2016, 06:10 PM:

Hello, it's my periodic "I'm not dead" post.

Still no computer of my own, and the last two weeks have been a cycle of kids being sick enough to have to stay home but not so sick that they stay put. (Seriously, sinus congestion and fever for a solid WEEK.) I haven't gotten it yet, but I'm hosting a birthday party on Saturday for which I still have Things To Do (like weapons-grade weed-whacking), so I just know that Murphy is waiting.

Anyway. Still here.

#463 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2016, 04:07 AM:

Sandy B @ #461:

Doh, you are of course entirely right. 5, 7 and 12 for 410...

#464 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2016, 09:30 AM:

I get 5x7x12=420. 5x7x11 would be 385.

#465 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2016, 07:51 PM:

Hyperlocal News: Area woman protested outside of Trump event in Pittsburgh. Had a lovely time out in the sun on a beautiful spring afternoon. Headed home just before protesters took to the streets intending to block Trump's path from the first event to the second.

"A nice young man stopped to help me up a low stone wall at the first event," she said. "We were heading up the lawn toward the door chanting slogans. I think when 20-something men assume you can't manage a very minor athletic effort, perhaps you shouldn't put yourself in a situation where you might need to run from tear gas."

#466 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2016, 07:52 PM:

He was quite right -- I could use his help getting over the wall. And out-of-shape asthmatics are poor candidates for running from tear gas.

#467 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2016, 08:02 PM:

Oh! I completely forgot to include the photo of me -- I'm part of one of the letters spelling out LOVE next to the line of people heading into the Trump event, photographed from Pitt's Cathedral of Learning. It's a reference to the love trumps hate hashtag. It was lovely to stretch out on the grass in the sun on a nice spring day.

tweet with photo

#468 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 07:24 AM:

Local man has been rebuilding an ancient rack-mount switch for my home network, and wondering whether it was really worth doing. As-delivered the thing was working, but the fans were screaming like banshees. There was nothing really bad about it.

Local man cleaned out a decade's worth of dust and replaced the fans, and was rewarded with silence. The port speed is slow, by modern standards, and local man, when he looked at the total cost, wondered why he hadn't just bough a new switch from Netgear, or whoever.

Local Man is also managing to make his own patch leads, and sticking with T-568B wiring. It's more common in Europe. The T-568A standard has reasons if you want to use the fixed cabling for phone signals in the USA.

Local Man was once told that "you old guys can't understand networks" and was tempted to use some old-fashioned English sign language.

#469 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 11:11 AM:

This announcement says that MAC2 got more than 4000 Hugo nominating ballots. (Sasquan got a little over 2100.)
Nominations will be announces on the 26th starting at 1pm EDT with the Retro Hugos.

#470 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 11:14 AM:

PJ Evans, no wonder their email servers choked. Especially since I have to believe that many of those 4000 nominators were either submitting or updating on the last day, possibly several times...

#471 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 12:41 PM:

I see that Gareth Thomas (Blake in Blake's 7) has died. For those of us weaned on 70s Doctor Who and Blake's 7, this is like losing Leonard Nimoy.

A little piece of my childhood has, literally, died, and I'm saddened.

Rest in peace, Gareth: your work was a primary reason for my love of SF

#472 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 01:26 PM:

Not looking forward to seeing a brand-new doctor tomorrow. Sometimes I feel like everyone in California has an eating disorder. Refusing to develop one of of my own is already taking up more of my mental capacity than it ought to.

#473 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 02:16 PM:

P J Evans@469:That's very interesting.

#474 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 02:18 PM:

We had a real problem for a while with raccoons breaking into our attic. My partner had to replace the screening on all the eave vents with 1/4"-mesh heavy wire screen (known, for some inexplicable reason, as "hardware cloth") fastened down every inch on all sides; anything else they could either tear thru or pry loose along the edges. Even now, we get the occasional prospector working his way along the edges of the vent outside our bedroom window in the middle of the night, looking for a weak spot.

Coyotes we definitely have in our area; we're pretty sure that's what got our previous pair of backyard ferals. As we seem to have acquired another set, my partner is going to put some time into finishing off the fence along the back of the property, which will give the cats a protected territory.

Em, #405: Wow, that's damning. The tracing makes what's going on appallingly obvious.

Jenny, #418: WOW. That is absolutely amazing. I love the way Ma Kent responds to every incident by doing something to make sure that timeline doesn't happen.

Tom, #429: Just not quite the way they intended, and I don't think they get to take the credit.

P J Evans, #469: Whoa. That's a big jump!

#475 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 02:37 PM:

Lee @474: Coyotes are better at getting over fences than you think. At least, they're a lot better at getting over fences than I thought! Consider some sort of rolling top to the fence, which will slow them down significantly (and may bother the cats a bit, but they'll figure it out soon enough).

In at least one case, though (on the Superboy story) the person who came back does deserve credit -- because he was clearly more concerned about result than method (though he thought one method would work, I expect he was just as happy another one did).

#476 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 03:22 PM:

James Harvey @471: Aw, damn. I'm about 3/4 through a B7 rewatch. Blake wasn't my favorite character, but that's still sad news. The series finale will be all the more painful, now.

#477 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 04:09 PM:

I live in a small city in southern Ohio, just downhill from a patch of woods. For a while there was a gray fox popping in and out of the storm sewer at my corner; while it was there no rats were to be seen in the vicinity, so it was quite welcome to me. I've seen possums and raccoons in the neighborhood, garter snakes, a box turtle, and pileated woodpeckers in my yard. Deer are frequent garden pests. I haven't yet seen a coyote in town but friends have. Urban wildlife, we haz it.

#478 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 05:25 PM:

Thanks for the interesting article, Albatross #460.

#479 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 06:36 PM:

PJ Evans (444)-- It would be any kind of sales (magazines or tupperware or coupon books for example) where the salespersons are employees, but are called "independent contractors" so they can be treated badly by the employers. In order to be contractors, they have to be "independent" businessmen, hence "entrepreneurs".

Lee (474) -- Long ago, there used to be two kinds of wire products where wires crossed at right angles and the product could be regarded as a sort of "cloth" -- that is, it came on rolls and could be cut up into various shapes and to some extent deformed, so to a very limited extent they were cloth-like. One was called "hardware cloth" and consisted of flexible wires woven in and out like the warp and weft of cloth. The finished woven stuff was then dipped in a zinc solution (galvanized). The other was made by simply laying one set of wires across another set and spot-welding them together where they crossed. This was called "welded wire fabric." Some time in more recent years, the one ceased to be made and the other took over its name.

I know this because in that far-away time (60 or so years ago), I made a good deal of money constructing small-animal cages and selling them by mail. I started out using "hardware cloth" but the wires were not very heavy, and as I got into making larger and more elaborate cages, I needed the strength and dimensional stability of "welded wire fabric" to make my cages stand up to the wear.

#480 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2016, 09:43 PM:

Mark Frauenfelder, in his Made by Hand book, recounts seeing a coyote grab one of his chickens and climb back over a 8' high fence.

Amazingly, after a few days the chicken turned up alive!

* * *
After a minor round of layoffs last month, there was another departure at work, and I couldn't be happier. A VP who didn't have the technical chops or leadership skills to manage a development group through a changing environment. Five years too late; he should have never gotten the position.

#483 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2016, 12:44 PM:

Older @ 479 ...
... I needed the strength and dimensional stability of "welded wire fabric" to make my cages stand up to the wear.

In rather the opposite direction, I've just expanded the feline compliment of my home, and based on the last kitten experience, went out of my way to make the (hardware cloth) top part [from ~3'-~6'] of the (roof free) enclosure loose enough to make climbing feel unstable.

I expect said kitten will eventually gather enough enthusiasms to figure out how to cope, but in the interim, the results are good[0].

[0] ... although writing that here probably increases the odds of a breakout by several orders of magnitude...

#484 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2016, 01:05 PM:

Like a little wire is going to stop a determined cat?

My indoor-only Siamese got out last month and when I chased him he swarmed up the chain-link fence and into the back yard, where I caught him and got him back inside. I could not believe the speed at which he went up that fence...

#485 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2016, 02:04 PM:

Lori Coulson @484 ...
Like a little wire is going to stop a determined cat?

It's the instability that does it, not the wire ... they're generally not bit on ~3' worth of wiggling back and forth worse than a jelly, and in a way that suggests falling backwards.

My indoor-only Siamese got out last month and when I chased him he swarmed up the chain-link fence and into the back yard, where I caught him and got him back inside. I could not believe the speed at which he went up that fence...

That, OTOH, I have no problems believing -at all-! (glad to hear that you caught him, though!)

#486 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 10:03 AM:

Stefan Jones #480

Congrats on losing the VP. That level is hard to get rid of. Cheers!

#487 ::: Crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 12:28 PM:

AKICIML - hyperlocal news involves a new business in our neighborhood.

Said business is being run by someone who, most charitably put, behaves as if he's the only person in the world. One of the most urgent problems is he's running a ventilator fan -from 10 am to 10 pm and on weekends later - that is killing my enjoyment of our home. That's because the fan motor is open to the air, directed almost directly at our living room windows from a distance of less than 15 meters. The decibel level is not the issue, it's the frequency - low, resonant and piercing.

We're taking various measures, but the reason I'm approaching ML is for some guidance in the world of ventilator motors, European edition. Since the advent of our problem, I've made myself something of an amateur connoisseur of similar equipment installations in our local area - noting for instance which other fans in operation are not creating the same problem as the one plaguing us. Most of the time, the fan is tucked away in some area not-open to the air, so all I hear is the actual fan part, not the motor. I've heard the same "note" of motor in two places - one is another cafe, around which there are no residences, and, interestingly enough, on a train at the station.

I'm guessing, having learned this fan is likely to be second hand (the cheep-solution being something of this shop-owner's signature), that he's installed kit that is not fit for purpose. But, not being an engineer nor related specialist, I'm not sure how to proceed further researching my query. Not only the actual kinds of motors devoted to ventilation work, but also what people have seen in terms of the supportive structures - like do building codes in your area require such equipment to be housed or put on a special base for the purpose of reducing irritating stray noise, for instance.

So, I'll toss this out here, and see what people reading might have encountered elsewhere.

Crazy(but thankful that you've listened/read)Soph

#488 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 01:05 PM:

What's your city, Crazysoph? Since you're asking about local regulations, knowing that would definitely help!

#489 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 01:25 PM:

My gallbladder got infected gradually enough that I didn't realize how short on spoons I was. Went to ER and was told " That was a hell of an infected gallbladder. " Out of hospital now, gallbladder free and much happier with the world. Apologies for phone typos.

#490 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 01:58 PM:

Sandy B. : That's good news.

#491 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 01:59 PM:

Hiya Tom Whitmore @ #488 - I'm not pinpointing my precise location for personal reasons.

I guess I am looking for "how it's done elsewhere"; I can research local regs well enough, but I found it sometimes helps to see what others are up to - if nothing else, it knocks the "but everyone does it this way!" answers for a cocked hat.

Don't know if that helps you formulate your own answer, but thanks for giving my problem some consideration.

Crazy(and sometimes seemingly just throwing words on a screen and hoping they stick in some kind of communicative arrangement)Soph

#492 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 02:26 PM:

If the fan has a solid base, that would help. Pointing it straight up would help even more - and putting some kind of wall around it would do a lot.

You might talk to your local gas company, as they deal with this for things like their compressors and ventilating equipment.

#493 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 06:39 PM:

I am engaged, once more, in the process of grading. This, ahem, gem surfaced:

In many developing African civilizations as well as the United States of America people who are from the African Diaspora struggle most.

#494 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 08:30 PM:

@Sandy B: I hope your recovery is quick.

#495 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 10:40 PM:

I'm making a fairly good recovery, I think. Items of note:

1) They shaved only the parts of my belly that they needed to for the laparascopic (?) surgery. So like 30% of it. Good thing I don't rely on dignity much in my day-to-day life.

2) Apparently [rot 13 for possible visuals] they vasyngr lbhe noqbzra n YBG va beqre gb unir ebbz gb jbex guebhtu gur yvggyr ubyrf, naq gurl qba'g trg nyy gur nve bhg jura gurl pybfr lbh hc, fb vg gnxrf n srj qnlf sbe gur nve gb jbex vgf jnl bhg guebhtu gur oybbqfgernz be ubjrire. Fb gurer'f oybngvat.

3) I'm pretty darn good at sleeping right now. There's a Warren Zevon song ("Mr. Bad Example" that ends with the line "Wake me up for meals" and that's pretty much how I'm living right now.

Separately, I read an old Theodore Sturgeon collection (E. Pluribus Unicorn) and ... a lot of it didn't age very well. It starts with a unicorn story, and one of the main characters is what I think of as The Girl Who's A Bitch For No Reason. (She's the squire's daughter, invites a boy up from town for a night when her dad is away and the servants are off and ... bitch for no reason.) It occurs to me that I've read a couple of these sorts of story and I never understood the world through the BFNR's eyes. Is it, like, an objectification thing where she's just like a grizzly bear or forest fire, and we're not supposed to understand her point of view?

This is probably really obvious, but I'm still nowhere near operating at 100%.

#496 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 10:45 PM:

495 (2)
Yeah, I remember finding out about that when my mother's gallbladder had to be removed.

#497 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2016, 11:18 PM:

Inuit cartography is incredibly cool.

#498 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2016, 01:07 AM:

Crazysoph @ 487 ...
Said business is being run by someone who, most charitably put, behaves as if he's the only person in the world. One of the most urgent problems is he's running a ventilator fan -from 10 am to 10 pm and on weekends later - that is killing my enjoyment of our home. That's because the fan motor is open to the air, directed almost directly at our living room windows from a distance of less than 15 meters. The decibel level is not the issue, it's the frequency - low, resonant and piercing.

While I'm certain that your person isn't the same person as my couple, the attitude and problem source suggest that they're probably related... (or in other words, my empathies, and good luck with that!)

#499 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2016, 03:18 AM:

CrazySoph @487

My experience is that excessive motor noise is a sign of imminent bearing failure. I have run some big fans, shifting a lot of air, and it's not the motor that makes the noise. A long time ago, I was still at school, we had to change from a diesel engine to an electric drive: same fan with different noise from the engine. The electric motor gave less total noise, but the perceived noise was worse.

Your situation, fan close to your window, is something I would want to avoid if I could. There are things that can be done, but that close, it's difficult. Arguably, it's not just a bearing failure that looms, but the whole system is badly designed.

#500 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2016, 10:05 AM:

Sandy B @495, glad to hear your recovery is going well. As someone who had laparascopic surgery at the beginning of March, I can sympathize with the sleep needs. At least a month after my surgery, I canceled my attendance at a meditative prayer group I greatly enjoy, admitting that if I sat in silence in the evening for 20 minutes with my eyes closed, I was guaranteed to fall asleep. (5 minutes would probably have done it.) ObSF, I viewed it as similar to Cordelia Vorkosigan's thought when she was pregnant with Miles, that she was sitting on the couch, gestating assiduously. I thought of myself as sitting in the recliner, healing assiduously.

#502 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2016, 12:42 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #501:

If there is nothing in this cave worth dying for, then what is worth dying for?

#503 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2016, 01:41 PM:

This article explains how turbulence causes a low frequency noise that seems to match Crazysoph's description.

Passive Noise Reduction Options for Axial and Centrifugal Fans

If the article is correct, adding an air inlet grill to the fan would make it quieter. It would also make the fan use less energy and last longer.

#504 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2016, 02:44 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @502: Was that a Platonic comment?

#505 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2016, 05:59 PM:

I'm thinking about offering "Charismatic Megafauna" as a button, but is fauna singular or plural? If it's not singular when applied to an individual, does it matter? If so, what would be the correct word?

#507 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2016, 08:36 PM:

Fauna is a grammatically singular mass noun, like "wildlife." Which doesn't really help.

#508 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 04:23 AM:

I dropped out of reading Making Light for a couple of months there, for no adequately defineable cause. So, like a cat who denies it's been away, I shall slink back in again, and rub myself on the furniture.

Today, I am unproductive at work. Because today, I have finally succumbed to the respiratory horror that my boss has been merrily spraying around the office for a week. She caught it off her boss and has already passed it on to at least one other staff member.
Just. You're sick. You're infectious. Just go home.

#509 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 09:43 AM:

Welcome back, Duckbunny.

I'm sitting here facing another respiratory horror, the kind that comes from trees shoving gametes up your nose.

Trying to decide how dysfunctional a Benadryl will make me at work . . .

#510 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 10:20 AM:

HLN in Houston area: It's wet!


#511 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 10:25 AM:

For me, one provides about 10 hours of non-functional, thus not used unless I have at least that much time available.

Dare I ask what part of Houston? (I have relatives on the west side. Fortunately my most-senior-aunt lives in a 4th-floor apt.)

#512 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 10:27 AM:

P J Evans @ 511 -

It's in Sugar Land (southwest of Houston), but the whole area is getting pounded. Some parts of NW Harris county have gotten 20" of rain, and more is on the way.

#513 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 10:58 AM:

Crazysoph @ 487:

With a self-centered neighbor, I would not try to become an expert in ventilator fans, I would take the matter up with your local council. Look for a way of reporting noise complaints or nuisances; some councils even have websites to do it. It sounds like you want some sort of standard or regulation to hold over your neighbor's head, and the council can do that much better than you can.

Steve C. @ 510:

Egad! It's things like this that make me wonder how feasible a water pipeline to take the excess from there out west would be. (Probably not very, but I can dream.)

#514 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 02:07 PM:

Re Houston floods -- we're on the local high ground and in no danger. We do, however, have a roof leak that's dripping water into the tea cabinet -- and the rain isn't supposed to let up until Friday when we'll be on the road.

#515 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 07:47 PM:

So there I was, listening to a lecture about engineering, when the speaker puts up a slide that says "Living life with meaning, purpose, satisfaction, and joy depends on human dynamics and interaction."

I think they're probably right, but it was a little distracting to be presented with a slide that basically said "You, personally, are living a hollow life."

I'm wondering if I should bring it up with the speaker or if I should just let it lie. Like I said I don't think they're wrong.

#516 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 10:01 PM:

Sarah, #515: They're not completely wrong, but the statement is rather One-True-Wayist. There will always be people for whom FTF human interaction is simply not a necessity. If you're one of them -- if you find your life meaningful, satisfactory, and pleasant without recourse to that -- then you are not broken, and it's not nice of the lecturer to imply that you are.

One approach I've found useful in the past when confronted with that sort of thing is to ask the other person, "Where in that statement is a place for me?" This puts the ball in their court, to explain the assumptions behind their generalization, and perhaps in the process cause them to re-think things a bit. The risk is that they will be so invested in said generalization that they'll become defensive and insist that you are wrong and broken.

It's up to you to decide whether or not you have the spoons to tackle this. If you let it lie, you can at least mark the speaker as being an unreliable narrator for future reference.

#517 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2016, 11:35 PM:

Sarah @515: You've got your own human dynamic. How you've gotten to it has been shaped by interaction -- I judge this by the fact that you write English well, and language grows interactively. Your set of dynamics is not the same as the speaker's; your need for interaction is not the same as his. I'm quite sure he's guilty of mistaking the median for the range: that he doesn't think of your type of person in what he's saying. But it's quite possible to interpret what he said in a way that is respectful of who you are, now, even if that was not quite his intent.

Shorter version: living well on your own terms is the best revenge against folks like that.

#518 ::: ctate ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 12:20 AM:

Ann Christy published a bit a few days ago about Kindle Unlimited scammers. TL;DR: Kindle Unlimited scams; authors beware / be aware.

There are people out there pushing fake books through Kindle Unlimited, buying "hey download this for me" in bulk, and collecting tens of thousands of dollars each (!) from the Kindle Unlimited payment pot. That pot is finite, and so this means that total payment to real authors is reduced by exactly that much.

#519 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 02:41 AM:

#515 ::: Sarah

...when the speaker puts up a slide that says "Living life with meaning, purpose, satisfaction, and joy depends on human dynamics and interaction."

I've been getting interested in how people can say things like that with such certainty when it's not possible to have the information to prove whether it's true or not. And why it's so easy to to get hooked by the claimed certainty.

#520 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 03:00 AM:

Nancy: Yeah, the whole "IME" clause is one that a lot of people miss. I think it's strongly related to the phenomenon where, if someone doesn't feel the pain someone else reports, that pain must be an exaggeration or imaginary. Relatedly, I notice that if someone reports an experience I can't relate to, this often causes me some anxiety; denying that experience is one handy way to suppress that anxiety.

#521 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 09:35 AM:

Jacque, if IME means "in my experience", I think you're too kind.

I think a lot of the kind of statements we're complaining about aren't based on experience, except *possibly* in a very vague way like "I'm happier if I have people in my life".

I think those statements are based more on "it feels good to make grand pronouncements which are consistent with my culture". It an earlier era and in other places, those statements would have been about the importance (though not necessarily for self-development) of the dominant religion.

#522 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 09:37 AM:

Or possibly I'm being a little too unkind. It wouldn't surprise me if most people think their culture is correct, so they aren't just being self-aggrandizing when they support it.

#523 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 12:07 PM:

Nancy: IME (:->) the people I've known who aggressively promote their religion at me have done it out of a sense of, believe it or not, kindness (or what they perceive as such). They've actually been sincerely worried about the fate of my immortal soul.

One of them would, very begrudingly, make room for my perspective out of respect for me as a person, though not out of respect for my perspective, which they were firmly convinced was just plain wrong.

I don't think this person ever put any effort into considering the possibility that my perspective was correct, even if just for me, because to do so would call into question a whole lot of axioms that they could not, emotionally, deal with being challenged and possibly found flawed.

This is my best guess at what goes on in their mind; I've never been able to enquire, because the whole topic is so fraught.

But I have a very limited personal exposure, and I am confident that the Universe is fully capable of generating folks all across the sincerity/kindness/arrogance space.

Contrast my personal experience with these two individuals, for example, with the lovely devout folks we find here in this forum, who would be a credit to any creed.

#524 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 12:09 PM:

...And I just realized I mutated the discussion from "this is how people are happiest" to "this is the one true religion."

Please forgive me. We shall now return you to our discussion already in progress.

#525 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 12:25 PM:

More generally, anyone have thoughts about the rhetoric of certainty?

Obviously, it involves not using any qualifiers (look at the implications of calling qualifiers "weasel words" as though admitting there are exceptions is cheating), but I suspect there's something about rhythm, too.

Jacque, it's quite possible that self-improvement is the religion of our time, or maybe it's a substitute for religion.

#527 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 01:41 PM:


I think there are a lot of things that are an important part of many peoples' versions of a complete and happy life--friends, children, community, religion, church, rewarding work, literature, music, science, art, math, philosophy, sex, romance, fashion, politics, sports teams, exercise, travel, membership in various clubs and groups, and so on. And for any given person, probably some of those things are more important, some are less important, and some are not important at all. For example, rooting for a sports team a big part of a lot of peoples' lives, part of what makes their lives fun, and yet I find sports pretty boring. Other people feel that way about religion or church attendance (not quite the same thing) or music or art.

The interesting question you need to ask yourself is whether *you* feel a lack in some of those places, and if so, is there something you can do to make it more likely that those missing things will start happening for you. If you notice that many people derive great meaning in their lives from following their favorite sports team, but you don't really find it all that meaningful or rewarding, maybe it's just not something you need to pursue. If you notice that many people really make live musical performances a big part of their lives, and that makes you feel sad that you don't spend more of your life seeing live music, that's probably useful information for your life.

Unfortunately, a lot of the things that people build their lives around aren't entirely under your control--if you'd love to build your life around romance and marriage, you can't really do that till you find someone to do it with. If you'd love to be part of a community, you still have to find a community you want to be part of, and that you can fit into. But still, if hearing about other people deriving meaning from those things makes you wish you had them too, maybe that's useful information for your life.

#528 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 02:15 PM:

Jacque, #524: IMO the two are fairly closely related. "You can't be truly happy without personal interaction" is not actually very far from "You can't be truly happy without (my) religion". In both cases, it's an unexamined article of faith, and if you claim to be an exception you either get no-true-Scotsmaned or told flat-out that you're lying.

albatross, #527: Well said. And conversely, if you don't feel any lack from not having one or more of those things in your life (whether it be sports, music/arts, interpersonal interaction, or anything else), that's also valuable information. It helps you see the shape of YOU.

#529 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 02:26 PM:

I'm wondering why they put that particular slide in a presentation on engineering.

#530 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 02:44 PM:

@ all, I guess...

I don't think the speaker was wrong. I don't see how anyone could be happy without meaningful emotional connections to other human beings. It's just not something I'm capable of. I've got my coping strategies and they work well enough. Again, I agree with the speaker! I just don't like being reminded.

#531 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 02:55 PM:

P J Evans @529: I suspect it was this presentation, titled "Empathy and Engineering", subtitled "Being a successful engineer isn't just about coding". I found the analogy between technical, cultural, and emotional debt very interesting. Overall, the presentation makes some important points about engineers-as-humans, but it also has a strong air of argument by perky assertion.

#532 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 04:47 PM:

Jeremy Leader @#531: also has a strong air of argument by perky assertion.

I just wanted to look at that again. That is a useful descriptive phrase for a rather particular style of discourse.

#533 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 05:13 PM:

Cool, well-done explanation on creating an illuminated manuscript.

#534 ::: Incoherent ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 07:09 PM:

Steve at #533:

in re: illuminated manuscripts, _Illuminating the Word_, a book documenting the creation of the Saint John's Bible is a detailed examination of the process of creating the first hand-written and -illuminated bible since the invention of the printing press.

The book has multiple pictures of both the processes and the finished work.

Much of the specialized technology supporting calligraphy and illumination on the create-an-entire-bible scale is now rare to the point of near-extinction: finding sufficient prepared vellum, usable quills, specialty inks, and skilled calligraphers were all issues during the project.

#535 ::: Incoherent ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 07:16 PM:

me at 534:

The first hand-written and -illuminated bible commissioned by a Benedictine monastery since the invention of the printing press.

Apparently there have been a few other similar projects, but the Saint John's Bible may be the largest in scale.

#536 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2016, 09:29 PM:

#534 ::: Incoherent

I was going to mention that book.

It (naturally) goes into a lot more detail.

#537 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 12:31 AM:

So sometime after I quit even flipping through People at the library--sometime in the past few years, then--runway fashion became unashamedly beautiful again. For so many years there seemed to be three alternatives: boxy and architectural, how-naked-can-we-make-her, or variations on the dinner gown. But so many designers seem to have rediscovered drape, weight, classic full-coverage patterns and cuts, and even comfort! And the fabrics! And the men get to wear long dashing coats and detailed shirts! It's like everybody gets to be a background character in a Star Wars movie!

Or maybe they were always doing stuff like this and it was the goofy clothes and the red carpet numbers that always got the coverage. I dunno.

#538 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 07:14 AM:

Jenny Islander @537: I sew, and started paying attention to the fashion section a couple of years ago because for me, it suddenly became way more interesting to look at clothes when I knew a bit about how they were made. People are designing so many wonderful things!

(Although it does always seem to be the really off-the-wall stuff that gets noticed, you're right.)

I've found that even the bonkers/meh ensembles are frequently fascinating from a technical standpoint. (The amount of internal structure needed to produce some of the architectural styles - how do you even do that in fabric?)

#539 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 07:15 AM:

Dammit, looks like the Shenandoahs are burning again:

This has been spreading all week. Dry leaves and an abundance of mountain laurel are being blamed for the rapid spread. Haven't seen any discussion of forest-management practices yet, but they'll get around to that once the crisis is over.

#540 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 07:20 AM:

Also, one of our favorites, behaving badly in mainstream competition: .

Briefly, "The Martian" decided to win a Golden Globe award, as a comedy rather than a drama.

#541 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 09:34 AM:

It's illustrated, not illuminated, but I recently became aware of the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible.

It's on my "I want one" list.

#542 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 11:12 AM:

At a guess, boning and the stiff mesh called haircloth. I got interested because I wondered how strapless gowns stay in place. (There are designers I follow because their stuff doesn't look like they're misogynists.)

#543 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 01:31 PM:

Sam Chevre @541: that link goes to a (really interesting and glad I saw it!) article about Barry Moser teaching art -- did you want this page? Note -- the unreadable text on the order page (and the decision to make the type a light color on black) indicates that however good the designers of the book are, the designers of their webpage suck. No thought to user experience -- just make it look pretty (for certain values of pretty). Possibly it's better on a huge screen, but on a laptop it does not work.

#544 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 01:36 PM:

That page is barely readable on a 22-inch screen. (They really should have tested it before going live.)

#545 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 01:53 PM:

Tom Whitmore@543, P J Evans@544, it looks like they straight-up made a 500x650 image for each page and went "yep! good enough!" So it would probably look much better on a 600x800 screen...

#546 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 01:54 PM:

me@545, those X and Y measurements are mixed up. I think it should be 650x500, and 800x600.

#547 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 02:03 PM:

Tom, #543: Not just light-colored text on black, which is actually not a bad decision per se; the problem here is their choice of a thin-stroke serif font, which would be just as unreadable at that size in black on white. Doing the CTRL+ trick a few times gets it up to a size that can actually be decoded, but that shouldn't be necessary.

The thing that drives me bonkers in webpage design (and also on things like CD liner notes) is insufficient contrast -- things like light-grey text on white, or dark-purple on black. Light text on a black background passes that test.

#548 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 02:32 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @ 538 and P J Evans @ 542

Along with boning and hair cloth, there are also things like fusible/sewable interfacing (they come in at least three weights) and buckram (stiffened gunny sack material). For my kimono/yukata project, I used a combination of heavy-weight, fusible, waist-band interfacing combined with fusible web[1] to create a machine washable collar on my juban ("slip" or "sweat layer") instead of a commercial, nylon eri-shin. By the time I was done fusing-folding-fusing-sewing, I had a flexible, cardboard-like fabric.

The end result was not traditional in manufacture, but it was very functional in a wash-and-wear way that looked correct to someone from Japan.

[1] AKA: double sided interfacing used to heat-bond two separate fabrics together. Most often used in crafting when working with appliques or applying decorative patches to clothing.

#549 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 03:04 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 543

I picked the link I did because I really like the David--also because the official site is (as noted) poorly designed for readability.

#550 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 03:14 PM:

SamChevre @549: I couldn't actually find anything about the Caxton Pennyroyal on the page you linked. Yes, there's an image - but no detail or information.

And, as I said, it's a really interesting little article, and thank you for linking to it.

#551 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 03:40 PM:

Oh, and there's a batch of used copies of the trade edition of the Caxton Pennyroyal Bible on eBay for under $50 -- if you want to go that route! Searching for "Pennyroyal Bible" works well.

#552 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 05:25 PM:

Lee @ 547: The thing that drives me bonkers in webpage design (and also on things like CD liner notes) is insufficient contrast -- things like light-grey text on white, or dark-purple on black.

If the DOJ ever releases their official statement on the accessibility requirements for websites (requirements which are, incidentally, not at all hard to guess if you've been following their litigation history--WCAG 2.0 Level AA) of government institutions and of places of public accommodation, this would most likely be an ADA violation. But they've only been working on their NPRM for six years now, postponing it a half-dozen times, so I don't dare hope that they'll finally release it this year as announced.

#553 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 05:41 PM:

Craft (Alchemy) @ 538 and P J Evans @ 542 Victoria @ 548 ...
For my kimono/yukata project, I used a combination of heavy-weight, fusible, waist-band interfacing combined with fusible web[1] to create a machine washable collar on my juban ("slip" or "sweat layer") instead of a commercial, nylon eri-shin. By the time I was done fusing-folding-fusing-sewing, I had a flexible, cardboard-like fabric.

Much also depends on the fabric being used -- a stiff, tighter weave, or a heavier fabric will behave quite differently from a knit, for example.

Wandering into far too much added detail, for a yukata, IIRC, the traditional method involves multiple layers of folded cloth (but it's also a casual garment, and there's an expectation that it's going to be worn during the horribly humid summers, or to/from the bath...).

Some of my kimono seem to use paper[0] in the collar, to get the desired stiffness (bearing in mind that you're supposed to (a) have a sweat-catching bit of fabric sewn over the collar of your inner kimono, which is, itself, supposed to be worn over a set of cotton (usually) underthings, in a similar sort of concept to a western chemise), and (b) take the whole thing apart for washing, at which point using paper for stiffening isn't an issue at all) -- but my older kimono just have multiple layers of fabric, and aren't stiff in the way that's been in fashion of late.

[0] yes, paper...

#554 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 07:27 PM:

Tom Whitmore #543:

Goodness, the text is all images (therefore not scalable) so zooming-in results in (yes) larger letters, but also fuzzier letters.

My typo sense is acute today: "Also, origional signed prints now available."

#555 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 07:46 PM:

Speaking of typo-watch, I was saddened to read an online version of an article that also appeared in print in the New York Times that used the phrase "millenniums".

I'm pretty sure it's millennia, actually, in plural.


#556 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 08:14 PM:

Latin plurals aren't mandatory in English. "Millenniums" is acceptable, and some style guides prefer it.

#557 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 08:58 PM:

Some Latin plurals are more mandatory than others. I think most of us would flinch at "datums" -- so it's mostly a matter of where we each draw the line. I'm with Elliott on this one.

#558 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 09:48 PM:

Lee @557: But with "data" being so often used as a singular collective noun (and people insisting on using singular verbs with it), using "datums" actually conveys a specific meaning: that the writer wants to make you remember that it's a plural noun. So while we'd balk at it, I'd push that there are times and reasons to use it. (Spoken with my Language of Data hat on.)

#559 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2016, 11:09 PM:

My personal feeling about Latin plurals (and about most grammar issues as well) is clarity above all else. If the meaning is clear, I'm willing to cut a lot of slack. For instance, I'm pleased to see that using they as a gender-neutral pronoun is catching on.

#560 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 06:36 AM:

Oh hey, remember the proposal to get Jackson off the $20 bill, trading him for Reagan? Seems we're not getting Reagan after all. We're getting Harriet Tubman. Holy cow.... Someone go hook a generator to Mr Jackson, we're turning some lights on here!

#561 ::: meme ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 07:00 AM:

i need to wait some time

#562 ::: OtterB sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 07:09 AM:

Looks like spam to me

#563 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 09:11 AM:

David Harmon @560: My joy is tempered by the announcement that Jackson will still be on the BACK of the $20.

Genocidal assholes who burn the constitution and defy the Supreme Court in executive overreach to commit murder do not belong on my money.

I'm willing to argue that Jefferson's positive qualities and contributions mitigate, somewhat, the morally disgusting things he did in his private life. Jackson cannot, IMO, be defended.

#564 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 10:58 AM:

Re: the Social Autopsy particle... wow, that is one heck of a train wreck. :( Not sure I have anything coherent to say, just... wow, train wreck. I feel bad for most of everyone involved. (Except the actual harassers and eggers-on, of course.)

#565 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 11:39 AM:

estelendur @ #564:

I wouldn't necessarily say "I feel bad for [the harassers]", I feel sorry and sad for them, though. At some level, I wonder how things went, so as to make them end up where they are. And if there's anything we (the rest of online humanity) could have done, or even can do, so as to guide them in a more fruitful and less destructive direction.

#566 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 12:16 PM:

Tom Whitmore @558:

Speaking as a data scientist and a firm believer in "data" as a mass noun that, like "water", takes the singular verb, I have never seen "datums". When you want a countable version, I've always seen "data points".

#567 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 01:02 PM:

There are reports that the musician Prince has died.

#568 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 01:26 PM:

Confirmed by his publicist, apparently. What a year.

#569 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 01:52 PM:

I have a vague sense* that 'datums' is used as a term of art in some kind of science, possibly archaeology. This article from the NOAA on geodetic surveying would seem to bear that out.

*I've been waiting for an expert to chime in with actual knowledge of the subject. Anyone?

#570 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 02:24 PM:

"Datums" sounds like a term of affection.

#571 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 03:02 PM:

"Datums" sounds like a term of affection.

Like someone falling for Data? "Awwww, Datums, sweetie, it'll be okay..."

#572 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 04:42 PM:

Since v1.1 of Kerbal Space Program is out, I may not be appearing much in these parts for a while.

#573 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 05:11 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 569 wrote, "I have a vague sense* that 'datums' is used as a term of art in some kind of science, possibly archaeology."

Well, I haven't noticed it in the magazines I subscribe to: Archaeology, Biblical Archaeology Review, and Current Archaeology.

#574 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 06:55 PM:

Pfusand (573): Okay, scratch archeology off the list of potentials.

#575 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 06:56 PM:

Dave Bell @572: My husband says, "Great, that means that everything that survives reentry right now WON'T anymore. Mind you, I keep my reality level pretty low."


#576 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 06:58 PM:

You might see datums as a plural in mapping, so geography. (North American Datum 1927 (NAD27), 1983 (NAD83), 1984 (NAD84) where each one has a slightly different geoid for Earth.

#577 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 08:56 PM:

P J Evans@576: I was going to say, I think of tides; e.g., NOAA Tidal Datums

I confess, though, I had the same thought as Sarah@570 earlier. "Does my widdle datums want some tasty measurements?"

Apropos of nothing, I was really tickled to run across this reference just now, just for the title:

Silcox, M. T. & Teaford, M. F. (2002). The Diet of Worms: An Analysis of Mole Dental Microwear, Journal of Mammalogy, 83(3), 804-814.

#578 ::: DJ Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 10:05 PM:

Lorax @558:

Speaking as a retired US Navy Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Officer and a firm believer in "data" as a plural noun that, unlike "water", takes the plural verb, I have seen "datums".

A datum, in ASW, is the last known good position of a submarine object. If you have more that one, they get numbers. Collectively, they are datums.

#579 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2016, 10:20 PM:

Sharing some happy: a few weeks ago, as part of their program requirements, I asked my third-year Guides (two 11-year-olds and a 12-year-old) to plan an activity to teach to the younger girls and some visiting Brownies this week. The little overachievers planned a whole meeting. That's two hours of activities for fifteen girls aged nine to twelve. Tonight, they ran the meeting, having practiced ahead of time, and did a superb job with only a little help from me in the form of "being taller, so easier to see". They even adapted on the fly after a quick huddle when something wasn't working.

I am so freakin' proud of them.

#580 ::: Thomas Lumley ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 06:41 AM:

As a statistician I'm professionally required to have an opinion on 'data'. And I do. I compared it to 'agenda' and 'candelabra' here.

Also, yes, "datums" is geographer-speak. A 'datum' is a coordinate system and reference points to tie it down to the real world. As with all standards, everyone wants one of there own, so we have "datums", plural, which is why I once had to fight with two Los Angeles geographic data sets that were about 100m off from each other. If you're measuring air pollution, that's enough to move you from the upwind to the downwind side of, say, Hwy 1.

Note, however, that we do not have "*datas"

#581 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 07:17 AM:

From the Department of o.0

What Does the Spleen Do?

#582 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 08:43 AM:

That brings back fond (though vague, and google isn't helping) memories of alt.spleen.

#583 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 09:17 AM:

Thomas Lumley (580), and others: 'Datums' is surveying and geology! That explains why I thought it was archeology; I once saw it used* in reference to surveying a small archeological dig before beginning work.

*in a novel

#584 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 09:36 AM:

xeger @ 553

I'm familiar with paper used as stiffener. My project isn't based on historic authenticity, it's based on creating wearable, easy-to-care-for works of art. "Wash and wear" is very important.

My first yukata (cotton kimono) was a quick Halloween costume made of muslin taken from my crafting stash. I've embellished it over the years -- cherry blossoms done in acrylic paint (which takes to washing/tumble dry/warm iron very well).

I've been helping with a local Japanese festival and we had a dress rehearsal last weekend. One of the Japanese ladies told me I could start a business with what I've made. It was quite an ego boost.

#585 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 10:10 AM:

Victoria @ 584 ...
I'm familiar with paper used as stiffener. My project isn't based on historic authenticity, it's based on creating wearable, easy-to-care-for works of art. "Wash and wear" is very important.

Yup -- was aiming at adding more information to the thread, not by any means suggesting that what you were doing wasn't perfectly valid in its own right!

The whole "take the thing apart for washing, and then sew it back up again" isn't exactly my idea of fun, either! (nor do I happen to have the desireable sort of mountain river water for doing so going past my door ;D).

My first yukata (cotton kimono) was a quick Halloween costume made of muslin taken from my crafting stash. I've embellished it over the years -- cherry blossoms done in acrylic paint (which takes to washing/tumble dry/warm iron very well).

Nice! I haven't really done any paint-on-fabric type things in ages -- the last time was when you still had to cut silkscreen gels, instead of just using the light sensitive gel... Do you happen to have photos posted somewhere?

I've been helping with a local Japanese festival and we had a dress rehearsal last weekend. One of the Japanese ladies told me I could start a business with what I've made. It was quite an ego boost.


#586 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 12:47 PM:

Incoherent, #534 & #535:

In one of the most fascinating interviews I've ever seen on C-SPAN, Donald Jackson, chief calligrapher, talks about the Saint John's Bible project, and demonstrates some of his techniques.

A few years ago, I got to examine one of the 299 limited-edition full-sized reproductions of the book at Saint Mary's College in South Bend. What can I say? It was very, very nice.

#587 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 04:40 PM:

cajunfj40 @ 305: my mess. I should have said "IMObs, 'media' also refers to cons that are more receptive than interactive." (Apologies for the delayed response; I've been overseas with poor connections and not enough sleep.)

However, I disagree with your response to Buddha Buck, including your analogy. Most of the people on this list know that people throwing Worldcons and their offshoots work very hard, and do not dismiss that labor; however, the presumption is that everyone brings what they can to the table, including professional skills (like the friend who has spent most of his life doing database management and has done extensive work in this area for his local convention), without expecting payment. In short, your analogy is backwards: the work is honored even/especially if it isn't paid.
      Large conventions will occasionally cover special expenses, e.g. site visits, but IMO the presence of even an honorarium (let alone something like a living) is one of the distinctions between fannish and other conventions. Note that media conventions aren't necessarily money generators; there's been just one commercial Trekcon in Boston (my home), but there's been a long-running Trek-oriented con put on by fans.

wrt the discussion of multi-moon periods: ISTM very unlike that they'd be so much in one plane as to line up exactly; notice how the Earth's moon has infrequent eclipses because its orbit is ~5 degrees off the ecliptic.

SamChevre@541: thanks for the link; fascinating to see Barry's still at it. (45+ years ago, I built the sets he designed when he was teaching at a highschool.)

"datum" can also be a reference -- point, line, or plane -- in a model in MCAD. PTC used to give all their new software engineers a week-long course in the basics of their software; I didn't think to ask how the collective was pluralized, but "datums" seems logical given the discussion.

HLN: Back from 2 weeks in the Mediterranean. It wasn't until day 10 that the millennia of Then we'd been looking at every day connected on me, when I saw that exit 1 from the Rome ring highway is labeled "Via Aurelia". (This if you don't know the reference; I've heard at least two tunes, one of which was one of the first things I learned to play in the SCA.)

AKICIML: I am still using a flip phone but have recently had to do occasional text messaging. Is there a delete-last-character function on some key? The vendor has demo videos of how to text on all their smartphones, but not on my flipphone (which has the same key layout as my previous 2, so I'm hoping there's some standard.)

#588 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 05:04 PM:

CHip@587: When I still had a flip phone, there was a 'c' or 'clr', for 'clear', key up by the other control keys (dial, hang up, navigate) that would backspace-delete one character at a time (or the whole message if held down long enough).

#589 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 06:16 PM:

Elliott Mason @575

You might need a slightly flatter trajectory for a re-entry, but I haven't had any big problems.


It's more been about the change to Unity 5, and working 64-bit support for Windows. There have been big changes to wheels, and a lot of reorganising to deal with the changes in Unity. it's not like the changes that came between v1.0 and v1.05

I've found RAM usage is lower. Most of the key mods are out now, such as Module Manager and Interstellar Fuel Switch, and Kerbal Engineer.

I don't go through Steam, so I've never had problems keeping older versions, and I have managed to max-out science mode once.

Be careful on the early sub-orbital shots.

I am going to test my basic Mk2 fuselage spaceplane designs, but I preferred using a Procedural Wings mod over the stock wing system.

#590 ::: David Langford ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2016, 07:59 AM:

Remembering a past post about saints and their symbols, I wonder how Teresa would have got on with this recent UK crossword with just that theme. Read and boggle.

#592 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2016, 12:07 PM:

My book won an award!

parkrun: much more than just a run in the park won Best Book at The Running Awards 2016 last night. I wasn't at the awards ceremony as I really didn't expect to win.

Very pleased, obviously. Great to have this proof that lots of people like my book.

#593 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2016, 01:54 PM:

CHip @587: When I reached "Via Aurelia" in your post, my back-brain politely provided:

"When I left Rome...etc." without my even clicking the link, which I then did JUST to confirm my hunch.

#594 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2016, 01:54 PM:

CHip @587: When I reached "Via Aurelia" in your post, my back-brain politely provided:

"When I left Rome...etc." without my even clicking the link, which I then did JUST to confirm my hunch.

#595 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2016, 03:34 PM:

dcb (592): Congratulations!

#596 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2016, 04:44 PM:

Tom Whitmore #504: Why, yes it was.

#597 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2016, 07:40 PM:

Extremely Accurate Charts for Book Nerds

Via MetaFilter.

#598 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2016, 01:07 PM:

Estelendur @ 588: Thank you; when I looked for CLR, there it was. What, was I thinking? It shares a key with Voice Commands, which I am not going to explore even after I get a ringtone that actually sounds like a phone; it's bad enough talking \on/ the phone in public, talking \to/ the phone suggests I should be watching out for the Men in White [Coats]....

Lori Coulson @ 593: Just so; K ... sticks ... to one's memory, especially when there's music bound to it. And parts of the scenic two-lane SS1 are signed, so I can say I too have traveled the Via Aurelia (near Pisa, on the way back to Livorno).

#599 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2016, 03:01 PM:

Congratulations, dcb!!

#600 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2016, 03:04 PM:

dcb @ 592: Congratulations -- well done!

#601 ::: Xopher Halftongue with old email ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2016, 05:01 PM:

Last post with old, hardly-used-anymore email.

#602 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2016, 05:03 PM:

First post with shiny chrome new email.

Link to last post with old email.

#603 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2016, 09:57 PM:

Em #579:
You should be proud. I love it when a plan comes together.

dcb #592:

#604 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2016, 11:16 PM:

Xopher: I'm still using an old address that doesn't even receive email anymore, just for continuity of identity.

#605 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 12:27 AM:

I am sad to report here that Texas fan and con-runner Ed Dravecky died in his sleep while attending/working on the third WhoFest in Dallas. His absence will leave a large hole in Texas fandom. OTOH... there are worse ways to go than peacefully while in the midst of something you love.

#606 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 12:57 AM:

More on Social Autopsy and Candace Owens, who is. Um. Well, I could assert various suppositions, but I'll just stick with a description of how my eyebrows keep twitching further upwards.

MetaFilter on the whole schmear, and her own most recent post.

#607 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 09:28 AM:

dcb @ 592:Nice! Congrats.

#608 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 10:27 AM:

dcb #592: Congrats!

#609 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 10:50 AM:

A little more news on Kerbal Space Program.

The update to Unity 5 is definitely using less RAM and running faster. The big and complicated craft aren't slowing it down.

There's a good chance that simple mods for v1.05 will still work, but a lot of the widely-used mods have been updated. If something depends on a plug-in, that will need to be updated. I haven't noticed anything yet about the flight modelling that has changed.

"As long as they go up, who cares where they come down?"

Meanwhile, in the real world, SpaceX are getting close to a launch from KSC, with a much more demanding profile for booster recovery. Due on 3rd May, with a drone-ship landing.

A drone-ship landing? We suddenly seem to be living in the future again.

#610 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 11:11 AM:

xeger @ 585 was aiming at adding more information to the thread, not by any means suggesting that what you were doing wasn't perfectly valid in its own right!

Ah. Got it. I've been around some costumers who are "it has to be done in a historically accurate manner!"

No photos on line... yet. "Good art is knowing when to stop." I'm not done painting the yukata - the sleeves and back are done, but not the front. When I finish it to my satisfaction, I'll post photos. Looking at Kimono's on line only show the back. Getting to see a variety of fronts up close gave me some necessary references.

I've never done silk screening. What I've been doing is "stretching" the fabric on heavy cardboard with binder clips and then directly painting the design - using the broadcloth/acrylic combo like canvas/oils. (I also paint using watercolors.)

The Festival was yesterday. While re-doing my obi, I was told that what I thought was a flaw to be hidden was "unique and interesting" and should be displayed. Blew my mind. I think I will add some subtle embellishments to the "mistake" to highlight it when worn.

#611 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 02:31 PM:

Note to mods: TNH's "A Line of Hamlet" sidebar points to a video which has been blocked by the BBC on copyright grounds.

#612 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 05:44 PM:

That's too bad, David Harmon @611 -- it was still up when I looked, and very funny.

#613 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 09:09 PM:

#611-612: I haven't verified online, but tonight someone told me that was a fragment from a 2 hour Shakespeare special broadcast in the UK, and that it will be available in the States in a month or so.

#614 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2016, 11:28 PM:

Victoria @ 610 ...
Ah. Got it. I've been around some costumers who are "it has to be done in a historically accurate manner!"

You'n'me both ... which means I should have been clearer about what I mean the first time through ;D

No photos on line... yet. "Good art is knowing when to stop." I'm not done painting the yukata - the sleeves and back are done, but not the front. When I finish it to my satisfaction, I'll post photos.

Heh. Well -- maybe some in-process shots? ;D

Looking at Kimono's on line only show the back. Getting to see a variety of fronts up close gave me some necessary references.

I suspect you'll enjoy a browse through Daily Japanese Textiles ... but I'd strongly suggest that anybody that goes there budget plenty of time for enjoying ...

The Festival was yesterday. While re-doing my obi, I was told that what I thought was a flaw to be hidden was "unique and interesting" and should be displayed. Blew my mind. I think I will add some subtle embellishments to the "mistake" to highlight it when worn.

Have you run into the concept of Wabi-sabi before? It might be an interesting read, if not ...

#615 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 12:15 AM:

Popping in to note that the number of fan-written Harry Potter novels on fanfiction dot net is nearing four thousand. This number includes only those works more than 100,000 words long, completed, and in English.

#616 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 11:20 AM:

Is anyone else planning to be at Penguicon this weekend? Any interest in/numbers for a mini-GoL? :) I'll be volunteering in the hackerspace for parts of Friday and Sunday, but have reasonable flexibility through the weekend.

Also, HLN: Local human is feeling kind of burned out, and is not sure how to fix this, as nearly all suggestions for how to undo require having a) time or b) money, both of which are pretty tight. :/

#617 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 01:02 PM:

Remember the VW emissions scandal? According to the Guardian basically nobody's diesel car meets the emissions limits. This raises some stuff we've discussed here before about what happens when the respectable institutions in your society become known for lying and being dishonest....

#618 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 01:45 PM:

Soooooo I got a discount at Dell and very limited space. I read a lot online, download public domain books as PDFs, create largish word processor documents, listen to music on Youtube, generally have multiple tabs open, and may someday create a musical slideshow and upload it to somewhere. Also I would like a CD player.

So. I could go with the ginormous XPS 8900 (just under $700 pre-discount), which currently does way more than I need but will be able to keep up with the ever-complexifying Internet for some time. (I got 12 years out of the computer I am replacing, which was similarly overpowered at first.) Or I could go with the Inspiron Desktop (just under $500), with an AMD A10 Quad-Core APU processor. Or smaller (just over $250), with a Celeron processor. Or for under $200 I could get a box the size of a library book with an itsy bitsy Celeron processor in it.

Anybody out there have experience with these different designs? What would you recommend for my circumstances?

#619 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 02:06 PM:

estelendur @616: For me, lack of time is the harder one; not having time to recharge is...difficult.

#620 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 02:38 PM:

albatross @ 617

" It’s up to manufacturers now to rise to the real-world tests and the tough standards we’re introducing,"

I've never trusted the idea that governments can just invent standards and expect that it will be possible to meet those standards-- that businesses will reliably find ways to meet whatever standard makes political sense.

It's nice to have the smoking gun (car?).

See also the SNAFU principle (communication is impossible in a hierarchy).

This is a story of irresponsible government as well as business cheating.

#621 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 03:12 PM:

Whereas all the major US car manufacturers could be turning out 60mpg gasoline SUVs if they wanted to. But they don't want to. So we're stuck with widespread 20mpg stupidness, burning way more carbon than necessary, and even 40mpg is treated as a bizarre high-end outlier, only possible on subcompacts.

One reason they don't want to is because they want to keep cars as dirt-cheap as possible to encourage people to keep buying them every two years, instead of buying a more expensive one and it becoming normal to keep it for ten.

#622 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 03:34 PM:

Jenny @618:

Your usage pattern sounds similar to mine, although perhaps I'm a bit harder on the system than you. At work I currently have about 50 tabs open in Chrome, including 2 Youtube tabs (both idle). I probably have a similar number open on my home machine. Both these machines are dual monitor setups (the A10 can drive two 1080p monitors). It is not unusual these days for me to have a video from Coursera playing on one monitor and a development environment with multiple windows on the other monitor, working though the examples in the lectures as they go.

Any of these machines; heck a $35 Raspberry Pi 3 even, has a better capability to meet your described usage pattern better than your existing 12 year old machine it is replacing. The Pi wouldn't have a CD drive, though.

My home machine most closely resembles the A10 machine you described. Looking at the Dell website for A10-based Inspiron desktops which could reasonably be discounted to about $500, all of them are better than my current machine.

If my needs didn't expand past what I'm doing now, I could use my current machine for 12 years, easily. If my wants didn't expand past what I'm doing now, I would.

Really, any of the machines would work. If the Celeron library-book is reasonably portable, that might be useful, too.

This is a disjointed reply, and I'm uncertain how helpful it is. Sorry about that.

#624 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 03:39 PM:

The continuing drama around the Hugos is grinding me down. These people -- it's the same old awful story. As soon as these people see someone who they don't like having fun, or enjoying something... they have to run up and kick it over. Like the little boys I knew in grade school who would torture animals in front of me because they knew it would make me cry. These people always win in the end. The only strategy I've ever found that can keep me safe from these people is to hide the things I love. And I hate it, I hate it, that they have found something that matters so much to so many people to ruin.

#625 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 03:40 PM:

Sorry, malformed link.

#626 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 04:00 PM:

@Buddha Buck: First moons, now computers. Thanks!

I might actually be able to fit that A10 desktop model on my desktop. If I can't, I'll be able to tuck it under my desk without constantly bashing my knee on it.

#627 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 04:38 PM:

xeger @ 614 Well -- maybe some in-process shots? ;D

I'll try to post some over the weekend -- along with my emergency festival shoes' post-market alteration. Not being the kind of person who obsesses over shoes, having to obsess over a pair amused me.

Have you run into the concept of Wabi-sabi before?

Yes and no. No, in the fact that I've never heard of Wabi-sabi. Yes in a non-Buddist, non-Japanese sense. My friends and I have a quip we exchange on craft days when one of us mess up something (usually while knitting or crocheting). "It's not a mistake, it's a design element!" followed by "And if you like it, repeat it, and it becomes a motif!" Some time ago, I came to the realization that perfection was a flawed concept. It's important to do my best and move on (to the next thing or step or whatever "Next" is next). So I'm familiar with Wabi-sabi by a roundabout, back-door way.

And in other news.... The Local Japanese Maven (who is also a friend*) has decided I must learn the Tea Ceremony (I was narrating it for the festival--but that's another story). Apparently, if I can make my own (proper) kimono with obi, and speak in a knowledgeable way about an important cultural ritual, I must also be able to perform said ritual. (Plus, according to her, I need a reason to wear my kimono**.) My lessons start Thursday.

* I jokingly refer to her on occasion as "a little-old-lady-steam-roller".

** This was a strong motivation to comply, but not for the reason she thinks. My interest has nothing to do with getting dressed up for it.

#628 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2016, 11:03 PM:

HLN: latest feline resident (~4.5m-5m kitten, skittish) spent several hours snoozing in lap. Am pleased to report finger had dent from combination of relaxed kitten faceplant and toof.

#629 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 06:44 AM:

Sarah @ 624 That sense of despair is familiar to me. How do you defend against someone who only wishes to provoke you? Any active defence is itself a victory for someone whose goal is to make you react.

I thnk it's about control. I think it's about making other people small. Look, I can make you flinch, I can make you argue, I have power over you. "Just ignore them" is the advice we usually get, and on one level it's the best thing we can do - the only thing that doesn't make the bullies think they've won - but it's no solution to the problem. The moral victory does not heal or protect. The problem is one that can't be solved by anything the victim does or doesn't do. It has to be fixed from above.

I, also, hide the things I love.

#630 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 10:16 AM:

#629 ::: duckbunny

Another problem with "just ignore them" is that I think it can work with a single attacker, but once you've got a group, they can keep each other entertained even if their victim isn't supplying them with reactions.

#631 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 10:29 AM:

albatross @ 617:

Looks like more cases of studying for the test, not the broader thing the test is supposed to be a proxy for. That said, I am surprised by how much over the limit some vehicles are in the real world.

Maybe I should add the California Air Resources Board to the list of places I'm looking for job openings. I did have fun there when I was a student.

#632 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 10:51 AM:

Is anyone else seeing only the most recent 3 entries on the front page? Refreshing didn't change anything.

#633 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 11:06 AM:

Lee @632, yes, now that you mention it.

#634 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 11:07 AM:

Lee (632): Same here.

#635 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 11:23 AM:

Lee @632, same here. There may be a time threshold to what's shown on the front page; looking at the archives shows that the most recent non-appearing post is from February 27, exactly two months ago today.

#636 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 11:47 AM:

Just, y'know, hypothetically, I have a friend.

This friend has a chimney. And a water heater. And the water heater's pilot light keeps going out (which is annoying, because MY FRIEND has to go down in the basement and make it relight every time we notice there's no hot water).

Skilled tradesman have been called, and diagnosed the problem not as a total blockage, but instead as a too-large flue: it's a 10-inch-square shaft, whereas the skilled practitioners think the two appliances venting into it can put a draft up, at maximum, a 6-inch-round flue liner.

The proposed cost for the entire procedure made m-- MY FRIEND gasp (in private, after they left), but later inquiry showed it to be a fairly standard bid for the services in question.

It's still twice of what we paid for a new dishwasher last year, and that caused months of belt-tightening and putting off expenses.

So, hypothetically, for this particular homeowner problem, what do any of you guys know about solutions for it short of lining the entire flue with a smaller-diameter pipe?

#637 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 01:11 PM:

Jacque writes in #619:

estelendur @616: For me, lack of time is the harder one; not having time to recharge is...difficult.

I was scrolling up from the bottom, and read #619 first. Was about to suggest hlepfully that Jacque obtain one of those little 2600-milliampere-hour batteries that cost about ten bucks. They've been very useful to revive my cellphone or Ipad or Bluetooth speaker when their own batteries run low.

Then I read #616.

Oh. Never mind.

#638 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 01:14 PM:

duckbunny @629: "Just ignore them" is the advice we usually get

Part of the problem is that this advice is badly phrased. "Ignoring them" implies that one also ignores the effect their provocations has on one. One can't, without a supernatural (or psychotic) level of dissociation.

What I learned to do was to refrain from reacting or responding in a way that they could see. Bland poker face. It always worked best if I didn't even look at them or acknowledge them in any way. The objective is to make me a less appealing target, and that was often effective. They'd get bored (eventually) and go away.

However, it's important to emphasize that this is a first order response. It is by no means the whole arsenal. The arsenal includes a range of escalating responses, up to and including invoking Authority (if it's safe to do so).

Elliott Mason @636: Did this issue start recently? I.e., have those appliances been in place longer than the problem has been manifesting?

I ran into a similar issue with my water heater: it shares a closet with my furnace, and there was a while there where the pilot on the water heater would randomly go out. I finally noticed that it tended to happen if the heater and the furnace tried to start up in close succession, whereby I deduced that it was an oxygenation problem. Sure enough, when I checked, the vent grills on the closet's door (which had not been cleaned in the fifteen years I'd lived there) were nearly opaque with cruft.

Unmounted the grills, hosed them down, reinstalled them, and the problem went away.

#639 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 01:15 PM:

Elliott Mason #636:

Hmm. Unfortunately, I'm not a licensed natural gas system or plumbing installer - and you need someone with those qualifications for this issue. I can theorize from first principles, and google searches, but that is about it. Apologies if you've already heard some of these things.

First thing, and the most important: check the draft of the flue, for both the water heater and the other appliance. If the flue is not drafting right, it is unsafe - you need a proper draft.

If it drafts good, there are other things you can check. Do you only find that it has gone out after it has been windy, or cold? If it only goes out after being windy, easier fixes might exist like a draft diverter or wind-baffled chimney cap, basically things designed for naturally drafted appliances to block wind gusts from causing a temporary back-draft. If it only goes out when it has been cold, then you need to check the draft when it is cold. If the flue does not draft right when it is cold, then it is unsafe, and relining or power-venting (abandoning the chimney, basically, as the power vent usually goes out the side of the house) are your only options if the water heater is otherwise properly installed next to the chimney with the proper ducting angles and whatnot. Bad angles on the ducts going to the chimney can cause draft problems, as can too-long flue runs to the chimney. Note that retrofitting power-venting may not be possible/legal on your particular water heater - here's where expertise I do not have comes in. Moving a water heater approaches the cost of replacing it pretty closely, unfortunately. Also, if you take the water heater off that chimney, the other appliance might start having issues, or you may need to not use it under the "bad" weather condition. Power vented appliances do not work when they do not have power - the safety interlocks won't let it light if there's no draft, and there will be no draft without the fan.

If there is no pattern, it is relatively cheap to get the thermocouple in the water heater replaced. For some reason I can't figure out, they go bad, even though they are basically an inert lump of two metals in intimate contact that generate a voltage when the junction is heated. Apparently it is the most common issue of pilot light failure. Having it be dirty or not in the right place can also cause the same problem, but the part is cheap enough vs. the labor that replacing it while the repairperson is there is generally what is done. Basically, the right part of the clean, properly functioning thermocouple has to be in the right part of the pilot light flame to generate the required voltage to keep the gas valve from shutting. A dirty electrical connection of the thermocouple to the gas valve could also cause issues. The part is like $5-$20.

#640 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 01:18 PM:

Bill Higgins @637: It would be so cool if, when one was feeling overwhelmed, one could recharge by means of a wee battery.... Get right on that, if you would, please? :-)

#641 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 02:05 PM:

lorax (635): That's probably it. Posts definitely don't stay on the front page forever; I had vaguely thought that it was number of posts, but a two-month limit is very plausible.

#642 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 02:20 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 636: I'm also not a relevantly licensed professional, but I'd note that there are four potential problems as I see it:

1) The flue is too large and so is pulling too hard--creating a vacuum/air current that puts the pilot light out. Indications that this is the problem: it's worse on cold days, and there's no problem in warm weather; you can see the pilot flame flickering or feel a draft. In this case, partially blocking the flue somehow will help--some type of damper is likely the appropriate solution.
2) The flue is too large and so isn't heating adequately, creating too little draft and letting carbon dioxide build up and extinguish the flame. This is dangerous: get a carbon monoxide alarm TODAY, if you don't have one already. Indications: it's worse when only the water heater is running, and when it's warm outside.

In both above cases, this wouldn't be a newly-bad problem.

3) Something is blocking the air intake--a dirty screen or so forth; see cajunfj40's suggestions above.
4) It's one of the safety features malfunctioning; the common ones are a thermocouple (to keep the gas shut off if there's no flame), and on newer appliances a CO/CO2 sensor to shut the gas off if it isn't venting properly. That's it is only the pilot light, and not the full flame, that goes out makes me think the thermocouple is the more likely target of the two. Unfortunately, the thermocouple on most modern appliances (a $10 part) can't be replaced without replacing the valve and thermostat (a $200 part).

#643 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 03:32 PM:

Elliot Mason @ 621:

Whereas all the major US car manufacturers could be turning out 60mpg gasoline SUVs if they wanted to.

Considering that Toyota spent a couple of decades sweating blood to get a ~3000-pound car (3rd-generation Prius) to score over 50mpg, I don't think so. (Mine averages almost 52mpg, but I don't know how typical my usage is.)

#644 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 04:54 PM:

Jacque @638: It started blowing itself out intermittently about a year ago, with increasing frequency; since the weather got warmer it almost can't stay lit.

There's just a furnace and a water heater; both are loose in our basement, not in a closet that restricts their airflow in any way.

Both the furnace and water heater date only to when we bought the house, about three years; they are both significantly more efficient than their predecessors, which means they make significantly less hot combustion gas than the old ones …

cajunfj40 @639: The drafting-well is precisely the problem. It blows back down because there's not enough hot updraft to make it consistently draw when the furnace and water heater aren't actively running.

The flue's not obstructed. It does run all the way from our basement through a tallish first floor, the second floor, and the attic. But we can't exactly shorten it. The ducts are all of a foot or two -- the appliances are right against two sides of the chimney, and just need to get to the masonry from their vents.

#645 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 08:20 PM:

Elliott @664, I'm talking through my hat here; I freely admit I know nothing about this. But from what you've posted... is there a way to put a little heat on the flue, to make it draft properly? I dunno; a heating pad or something? Would this help?

Possible down sides; would this be a fire hazard? Would the electrical bills cancel any savings?

I'm just brainstorming here....

#646 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2016, 11:26 PM:

If the water heater worked fine for two years, I'm highly skeptical that excessive draft is the problem. I join with cajunf40 in suggesting a new thermocouple first. In fact, I use that as a troubleshooting rule of thumb, try the cheap and easy tests first, even if you don't believe they are the most probable issues.

The next thing I would investigate is if it's possible to retrofit your WH with electronic ignition. This would remove one of the major advantages of pilot light ignition, which is that the water heater still works when the power is out.

#647 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 03:24 AM:

#618 Jenny

Uh, you do know that Michael Dell, founder and owner of Dell Computers, was one of the enablers of the 2001-2008 misadministration and hipdeep involved in it, a crony of the Grief-in-Chief, someone who's forked over a fortune to put and had kept the ilks of Mitch McConnell in office, an blatant offshorer and multiply fined for fiscal sleight of hand executive, etc.?


"2009 ... Opposition by Michael Dell helps defeat a proposal that would require federal stimulus money to be spent on American-made goods. Dell Inc., the 43rd-largest federal contractor, now makes most of its computers abroad.

"Lebanon, Tenn., threatens to sue Dell Inc. for eliminating 700 of the 1,000 jobs it had offered as part of a tax deal. Dell Inc. then shutters its last large US factory, in North Carolina, and sends its 900 jobs abroad.

#648 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 06:38 AM:

Vehicle mileage.

20mpg is typical for a Land Rover of the 1960s.

It was possible to replace the original engine with several more recent alternatives that could get close to 40mpg. The choices included later Land Rover engines and some engines from other sources.

For a particular generation of engine technology. there's a pretty clear relationship between mass and fuel consumption, but driving style can also make a big difference.

American cars are bloody big. My last Land Rover took up less space in a car park than the current version of the Mini.

#649 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 12:50 PM:

@Paula Lieberman no. 647: I also shop at Wal-Mart. My social activism cannot stretch any farther than my money.

#650 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 01:50 PM:

When I visit my sister, W*lM*rt is the nearest place in her area that sells food, drugs, and hardware. Everyplace else requires a car, or a lot of time on buses.

#651 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 01:56 PM:

#649 Jenny

The last two laptops I bought are both Asus machines (bought a couple under $150 tablet devices for the portability, over the past few years). The price/performance/features are way more attractive than what Dell offers, and they weren't from Dell. I don't know what the politics are of the ownership of Asus, but I doubt if they are funding the War against Women and the politicians who wage it, and they haven't moved call center and manufacturing jobs from the USA to China-they created the jobs originally an indigeonously outside the USA, as opposed to jobs created in the USA and then relocated by the thousands en masse to Asia. (Machine bought yesterday at the Microsoft Store, Asus UX303 with 3200 X 1800 display, Core i7, GTX640 Nvidia graphics with 2 GB of VRAM, 8 GB memory, 512GB solid state drive, metal case, slightly over three pounds, price before veteran's discount $1199. There are less expensive relatives of it. The previous Asus I bought was essentially a netbook, with 1344 X 768 graphics, 2 GB of memory, 250 GB hard drive, AMD A4 1.0 GHz processor and I've constantly run it out of memory and get frustrated with not enough pixels. I'd had my eye on gettimg something with higher resolution for years.... (I'm typing on an HP with 1344 X 768, 8 GB of RAM (originally less, I changed out the memory cards) 250 GB hard drive, AMD E-350 processor at 1.6 Ghz, purchased back in 2011, and creeps when I have lots of windows open.)

#652 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 02:55 PM:

Jenny, #649: My social activism cannot stretch any farther than my money.

Which is part of the way the system is rigged to keep poor people poor and then shame them, both for being poor and for not being more activist, at the same time. It's in the same continuum with "make healthy food expensive and then blame poor people for eating unhealthy food".

#653 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 02:59 PM:

Today's Google Doodle is about Hertha Marks Ayrton. Reading about her remarkable life, I was immediately reminded of some characters in Courtney Milan's historical novels. They are just the sort of fictional characters that some people point to and say that's not historically accurate. Women could only be wives, mothers, and prostitutes. Nope-ity, nope, nope!

#654 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 03:10 PM:

Bruce H. @ 646 ...
If the water heater worked fine for two years, I'm highly skeptical that excessive draft is the problem. I join with cajunf40 in suggesting a new thermocouple first. In fact, I use that as a troubleshooting rule of thumb, try the cheap and easy tests first, even if you don't believe they are the most probable issues.

I'd also agree. Along those lines, @Elliott Mason ...
Jacque @638: It started blowing itself out intermittently about a year ago, with increasing frequency; since the weather got warmer it almost can't stay lit.

You wouldn't happen to have more windows/doors open, or things changing air movement now, would you?

It's anecdote (and sounds flaky as hell), but... I had problems with my water heater going out semi-regularly (at least once a week), after my neighbours poorly implemented renovation, up until the point where I went through and did my level best to block off any points at which air could be exchanged. In the year-and-some since then, I think I've had the problem once (maybe twice), both times linked to heavy air consuming/rearranging activity next doors.

#655 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 03:29 PM:

My mom and stepdad live in a town in the midwest where, if you refuse to shop at Wal-Mart, you are more-or-less going to have to drive 30 miles to the nearest bigger town to do any shopping. And in fact, the presence of the Wal-Mart makes life in that town enormously better--there's a grocery store with very wide selection open late every night, you can get all kinds of things you want (consumer electronics, clothes, school supplies, pots and pans) without driving 30 miles to the nearest bigger town, etc.

#656 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 04:20 PM:

#651 (myself)

Corrections-the new laptop has a plastic case, with metallic-looking surface. On the other hand, the amount of memory is 12 GB, not 8 GB.
I'm still setting it up. Windows 10 is for paraliterates.... I am not impressed. The machine is responsive so far, on the other hand Asus did something REALLY stup, tone on/off power button, should NOT be kittycornered adjacent to the Delect and Backspace keys. The Apple/Jobs mentality of Form Appearance Over Function design mentality strikes again On/off buttons/switches and such, should NEVER be where someone's finger slipping or missing a Hamming distance of 1 away from something used frequently and regularly, will hit it. NEVER. (Apple owns the "stupidest surface design ever on a computer" award, sticking "Format Hard Drive" on the dropdown menu of the Mac XL in the middle of the dropdown list, with NO confirmation popup One finger slip, and you unrecoverably set the hard drive to reformatting, losing everything on the machine...

#657 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 05:12 PM:

#655 albatross

Until the Wal-mart closes, that is. Lots of places have had Wal-mart come in and price merchandise lower than the existing stores. They go out of business, and if the economic climate in the vicinity deteriorates to where Wal-mart corporate decides the store is "underperforming," the Big Box Wal-mart closes down, leaving a mercantile desert behind.

The reasons why Amazon has been so successful, include investors who were willing to accept and underwrite Amazon's years of red ink, and people for whom Amazon in terms of pricing, availability, responsiveness, delivery time, merchandise choices, etc., is one or more of more convenient, less expensive in money, less expensive in time, less effort, less frustration, etc., than alternate suppliers. There are costs in time and effort and money and wear and tear going to stores, or searching online elsewhere for stuff. Amazon's mix of products, site navigation, etc. etc., are "better" for lots and lots of people.

Wal-mart originally was more convenient, inexpensive, responsive, etc than alternatives. Also, Wal-mart's really big advantage at the center, was what was the world's best inventory control system--Wal-mart maximized its sales per square foot of floor space, and anything failing to sell at the desired profit rate, got marked down and sold off to free the shelf space for more profitable faster-selling merchandise. Wal-mart also hammers suppliers down to the lowest possible price to Wal-mart, and orders in large quantity.

Their prices are not necessarily the lowest-Wal-mart does not undersell e.g. Market Basket stores, which are privately owned (and which had a quarter-century legendary family feud including literal fights in court, as in fistfighting, end some months ago). But Wal-mart uses economy of scale advantages and its inventory control system, to advantage. But don't look to Wal-mart to have snow shovels in April, or summer clothing in August...


Defaults--defaults are the path of least near-term resistance. They're the automatic actions and responses, conditioned by not having to go to effort to think about it, or pay a lot of new attention, or otherwise spend time/effort/resources/attention/inconvenience. It can take a little or a lot of effort, time, expense, attention, research, etc. for something to become a default, be it book shopping at Amazon, or going to Wal-mart, or going to Dell to buy computers, or taking the same route to work in the morning. If something majorly disrupts the process of using defaults, then people will look for alternatives. Otherwise, it's The Usual, without conscious thought. People can stay in the same job or a bad marriage for years, because it's what the default is, and the prospect/threat/dread of change, is higher anxiety and such, than coping with the current condition/default.

#658 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 08:25 PM:

Until the Wal-mart closes, that is. Lots of places have had Wal-mart come in and price merchandise lower than the existing stores. They go out of business, and if the economic climate in the vicinity deteriorates to where Wal-mart corporate decides the store is "underperforming," the Big Box Wal-mart closes down, leaving a mercantile desert behind.

That is absolutely true; it was a well-known feature of Wal-Mart's business model back in the day, and may still be for all I know.

(Side note: This is also one of the many places where free-market ideology fails badly due to not taking reality into account. Wal-Mart is able to do that in the first place because they can afford to have their other stores subsidize losses on a new one until all the competition has been driven out of the area -- at which point they raise their prices, often to more than the stores they shut down were charging, because now they have a captive audience. No single town can compete effectively against the entire damn country.)

However, I think you're missing the larger point that both Jenny and albatross are trying to make, which is that being able to say, "Hell no, I won't set foot in a Wal-Mart" is a statement of economic privilege, and an option which is simply not available to many people. Not to mention, how much does the cost of gas for a 60-mile round trip add to the price of things you have to drive to the next town for?

#659 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2016, 11:34 PM:

#658 Lee

No, I am not missing the point that Wal-mart gets into monopoly positions where there are no other reasonable accessible options for general and grocery shopping for something needed on the most convenient, accessible, and expeditious bases. Driving an extra hour to and from is not reasonable-I thought I made that point. If the least infeasible option is a Wal-mart, of course shop at Wal-mart!

The Wal-marts are there, again, for as long as they are meeting or exceeding the revenue stream specified by Wal-mart corporate goals and policies, and as long as they conform to corporate goals and plans otherwise.

Once upon a time I was a front-end development person in a billion dollar a year plus division of a Fortune 100 company. My boss reported directly to the corporate VP and Division Manager in charge of the division. I was involved in financials and was on the technical side, working directly with business development program managers, and involved in seeing corporate policies for business development carried out.

Big companies look at all sorts of things strategically, including if an area has cheap labor and if they get financial benefits from putting facilities in places where there are local/regional/state/federal financial incentives in terms of funding, tax breaks, loans, infrastructure paid for by government, etc.

Wal-mart in retail is a different sector than than I was in in telecom and defense contracting, but the same -types- of considerations apply, of costs, of financial incentives, of interesting legal considerations ("This business is now minority-owned and there is a requirement for set asides for disadvantaged-ownership businesses....") of how long a company has to have a facility open and how many jobs it must have there to not have to pay back the incentives it receives for locating/relocating facilities to an area, of the financial bottom lines of what the revenue must be from sales for the facility to be/remain viable, etc.

Wal-mart is a big company, it has corporate policies, it has I presume revenue requirements for stores for both sales and profit levels, has profiles for payroll costs, metrics for determining where to locate stores and how to space them in a region... and isn't likely to be shy about closing "non-performing" stores.

I grew up in Leominster, once the plastics capital of the world. Borden Chemical had a big facility, DuPont had a large facility, Foster-Grant had its headquarter there... all gone now, the factories pulled down and to some degree remediation applied to the ground where the benzene-rich plastics polymers and the toxic other chemicals --toluene, methanol, and I forget what else had often been poured as industrial waste from the first half of the 20th century until EPA regulations stopped it. Where Foster Grant was is a shopping center. I don't know what wound up where Borden and the Doyle Works of DuPont, and Union Products which was one of the last stragglers to shutdown, bankrupt and its trademarked pink plastic flamingoes product line sold off to the buyer, had all been, but they're all gone.

What would be billions of dollars of factories and facilities today, are gone, totally. A couple of plastics companies are still there, or rather, there's at least one left, but otherwise, the plastics industry is as gone from Leominster as the machine tools and woodworking businesses are gone from Athol, Gardner, Orange, etc., or the TV manufacturing from the Rust Belt.

Some of the companies went bankrupt (Foster-Grant and some others), others got bought and moved, some moved without being bought out--Massachusetts is not a state full of oil wells. Much of the industry moved closer to the raw materials supply, which also had cheaper labor, more undeveloped land and less concern for environmental quality, less support of labor and more support of labor-abusive factory management, and politicians who offered big financial lures for relocation of business to their area.

Wal-mart looks as Lori noted, over all the USA (for that matter, worldwide) as regards facilities, sales, etc., and decides where to open and where to close stores and warehousing facilities and IT centers, based on maximizing revenue and "value." It doesn't have roots in most of the communities it locates stores in, it doesn't have emotional/social stakes held, or loyalty to people and communities for the long haul. Its goals are revenue enhancement across the whole company. If a store fits in in that, and the strategic plans going forward, and the financials are bright, the store stays open. If it need significant refurbishment, closing it may be financially optimal, rather than sinking money for refurbishment in. If the labor costs go up, etc., that may prompt store closings. If the revenue drops or does not grow, that tends to prompt store closings00-again, Wal-mart's stake in the localities its stores are in, tend to be minimal, they're rather less attached on a corporate basis to communities, than professional sports teams of team which move, tend to be.

Wal-mart's reputation tends to be a variant of Gresham's Law, in comes a Wal-mart, away goes the competition, and then if the Wal-mart closes, those who were dependent on the Wal-mart are SOL.

My original comment which prompted the discussion, was not saying "Don't buy Dell," it was a questioning. There was definitely not a positive spin on Dell in it, as regards "the owner of the company ran/runs to do things I consider evil" and I wanted to point that out. But I did not outright say, "Don't buy a Dell" in the original post.

Meanwhile, I am typing this comment on my new computer. Windows 10 is a PITA, but I like the bright big hi-res display, the keyboard has a relatively nice feel to it, and this machine is a LOT faster/way more responsive that the ones I've been using which are next to me...

#660 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 12:30 AM:

Paula, Lee:

I understand what you're saying, but I can also tell you that I grew up in small towns in Missouri and Illinois, and the pre-Wal-Mart set of stores available were pretty rotten. Typically, you got a bunch of places that carried almost no selection, charged really high prices, and kept inconvenient hours.

There is plenty bad to say about Wal-Mart w.r.t. how it pays its employees, how hard it squeezes its suppliers, etc. But the pre-Wal-Mart (or K-Mart, or whatever other chain store) situation in the small towns I was in as a kid was lousy, and having a Wal-Mart come into town made life noticeably better. I'm pretty sure it *didn't* make life better for the local grocer, clothing store owners, etc., but their customers mostly saw a big improvement.

#661 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 09:16 AM:

#660 albatross

Was Wal-mart when you were growing up as corporatist as it is today, though?

I mean, once upon a time there were chainstores which took it upon themselves to contribute to the local communities the individual stores were sited it. I've gotten the impression that originally Wal-mart was a better local communities citizen than it became later. (Once upon a time the Republican Party had members in the US Government who promoted environmental protection, too, and were for civil right etc.)

#662 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 10:32 AM:

Paula @661:

Wal-mart moved into my town a few years ago, well into their most-maligned corporatist phase. The progressives in this town fought long and hard to keep them out, citing all of the evils that you have regarding Wal-mart. Principle among their claims was that Wal-mart would destroy the downtown economy, competing directly with local shops and putting them out of business. In the end, the progressives won the battle (they kept Wal-mart from getting approval to open up across the street from the state park in town), but lost the war (Home Depot immediately developed that location, and Wal-mart opened in another location no one was defending).

But I noticed, looking at Wal-mart and the local businesses it was threatening... they weren't competing. The overlap of goods between Wal-mart and the downtown businesses was, and still is, virtually non-existent. Downtown was filled with restaurants, bookshops, and specialty boutiques. Wal-mart sold mass-produced low-cost consumer items.

Wal-mart wasn't competing with Trader K, the local consignment used clothing store, it was competing with Target, K-Mart, Ames, and other Big-Box stores. When Wal-mart added a grocery store, it was competing with Tops and Wegmans.

Downtown Ithaca has had struggles, some self-inflicted (a 2-year downtown reconstruction project that stretched to nearly 4 years, for instance), but the horrors of Wal-martization just didn't happen.

#663 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 10:43 AM:

On a totally different topic,

"Human somatic cells subjected to genetic induction with six germ line-related factors display meiotic germ cell-like features


The in vitro derivation of human germ cells has attracted interest in the last years, but their direct conversion from human somatic cells has not yet been reported. Here we tested the ability of human male somatic cells to directly convert into a meiotic germ cell-like phenotype by inducing them with a combination of selected key germ cell developmental factors. We started with a pool of 12 candidates that were reduced to 6, demonstrating that ectopic expression of the germ line-related genes PRDM1, PRDM14, LIN28A, DAZL, VASA and SYCP3 induced direct conversion of somatic cells (hFSK (46, XY), and hMSC (46, XY)) into a germ cell-like phenotype in vitro. Induced germ cell-like cells showed a marked switch in their transcriptomic profile and expressed several post-meiotic germ line related markers, showed meiotic progression, evidence of epigenetic reprogramming, and approximately 1% were able to complete meiosis as demonstrated by their haploid status and the expression of several post-meiotic markers. Furthermore, xenotransplantation assays demonstrated that a subset of induced cells properly colonize the spermatogonial niche. Knowledge obtained from this work can be used to create in vitro models to study gamete-related diseases in humans"

#664 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 10:49 AM:

Paula Lieberman, please correct me if I'm wrong, but on a quick reading of the abstract you posted, it looks like it might be possible to create a haploid human from just one egg cell or sperm cell. Is this accurate? Has anyone done anything like this with non-human mammals?

(I'm wondering if a hypothetical haploid mammal would be healthy, given that the second set of genes can patch over bad points in the first set...)

#665 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 10:56 AM:

In re getting things "right" being expensive: I think one sign of this is the lack of respect for frozen vegetables. As I understand it, they're not much inferior to fresh vegetables unless the fresh vegetables are *very* fresh, and they probably won't be.

#666 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 11:14 AM:

Nancy @665: Even frozen vegetables have a bit of a problem with economic privilege. While it certainly is less expensive to buy frozen vegetables instead of fresh, it doesn't do you much good if you can't afford a freezer (or space for one).

#667 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 11:29 AM:

I am following this subthread about grocery stores, convenience, and so forth with some fascination, because I'm about to swap from one extreme to the other when it comes to my options in this area.

Right now, I live in walking distance from a large, excellent grocery store with huge selection and great prices. And by 'walking distance' I mean 'less than five minutes at a leisurely stroll, including crossing the giant parking lot'. I can go pick up fresh salmon for dinner at 6pm if I feel like it, or run out and grab milk for coffee at 2am when I realize I'll want it the next morning and I'm currently out. I also have a full fridge, a chest freezer, and an enormous kitchen. And if I want anything heavier than I feel like carrying, I can just drive there. (On top of being able to drive to specialty stores not far away...)

Starting this August? I'm going to be in a student apartment with three strangers. We'll have a tiny kitchen and one fridge to share between the four of us. I will have no car. My closest convenient grocery location appears to be a co-op, which I know will cost more and have worse selection than the grocery store I live next to right now. It's about half an hour of walking away--and that assumes good weather. And of course right when making fewer, larger trips to the store will be more useful, I have no way of hauling home large amounts of groceries except by car services, and if I do use those, I then have nowhere to store large quantities of food unless they're dry goods. And if I do make cheap food in large batches, I can't use much fridge space to hold the leftovers.

Logistics, man. I don't know how people dealing with setups like these and then caring for kids on top of it manage. I'm already having trouble trying to figure out how to make this work with my dog.

#668 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 12:12 PM:

#666 ::: Buddha Buck

I'm not saying everyone can manage frozen vegetables, though I think a large majority of Americans can.

A lot more people can do frozen vegetables than can take advantage of farmer's markets-- admittedly, that's a higher standard than merely fresh vegetables.

#669 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 12:22 PM:

Sarah at 624: Like the little boys I knew in grade school who would torture animals in front of me because they knew it would make me cry. These people always win in the end. The only strategy I've ever found that can keep me safe from these people is to hide the things I love.

I think you mean tactic, not strategy. Another tactic is to kick their asses (metaphorically, in this case) up and down the street. Not a good tactic to employ in the case of brutal children, because the efficacy of violence is precisely not what you want them to learn, but when you're dealing with adults in a limited sphere, it can work. Sometimes the lesson needs to be repeated until they get it.

#670 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 03:59 PM:

It always seems to me like it's easy to get tangled up in worrying about economic privilege to the point that we don't come up with useful ways of making things better. I understand not everyone has a freezer, but my expectation is that the great majority of homes in the US do have one, just as they have TVs and indoor plumbing.

I'm not poor (unless you look at my meager retirement savings), so I may be missing something, but my personal experience is that without using frozen vegetables, my family would have vegetables with dinner much less frequently. (If you also eliminated boxed / bagged salads and precut carrot sticks, things would get much worse.)

#671 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 05:17 PM:

Fade Manley @667, one thought regarding your upcoming half-hour walk with groceries, something like THIS may be useful to you. I had something similar years ago, and it was a great help; also with transporting laundry to the laundromat. Mine was flimsy and eventually broke; this one looks sturdier. I also approve of a 4-wheel design; mine was 2-wheel and had to be balanced if you stopped for any reason...

#672 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 05:27 PM:

Ideally, the axle is protected where it's mounted to the cart. (The other weak spot is where the wheels mount on the axle. They tend to use springs to keep the wheels away from the cart body.)

#673 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 05:38 PM:

albatross @670: My family of origin could only rarely afford fresh vegetables or fruits that couldn't keep in the fridge for a month or more (because we couldn't guarantee to eat them in the first week, and then it's trash).

We always had carrots and celery, because they keep, and they're good for stewing. Quite regularly we had potatoes.

Almost everything else was canned or stewed, or sometimes my mom would get a great deal or barter for some fruit.

When we finally got access to decent frozen veggies, that was great -- but the variety was limited, and our freezer was just the one in the top of an ordinary fridge, and most of it was taken up with meat.

Because we could only ever afford to BUY meat when it was on sale, so we would buy a lot of it all at once on the sale day, carefully package it up to dissuade freezer burn, and freeze it.

We bought meat maybe once every month and a half or two months, because of the vagaries of grocery pricing.

And we did have ice cream, but the kind we could afford came in a huge bucket: so there's a quarter of the freezer gone, for just one item.

What was left could be ice trays and frozen veg, and frozen veg was more reliably cheap than most things (tended to stay the same price, and affordable), so we did keep stocked.

We also had cans, because they would keep, so on the one day they were marked way down, we filled the cart and our cabinets.

My mom sometimes went nearly two months between paychecks big enough to buy groceries with (as opposed to $100 here, $100 there small projects). We would stuff the kitchen as if it were a hamster's cheek pouches, putting everything in rodent-and-bug-proof storage, filling the freezer, stacking cans (rotated for date and labeled) and box mixes in the cabinets. And then we would eat it for months.

My mom did her very darnedest to make sure we ate till we were full every day, and that we had solid protein consumption and at least one big serving of veggies each day.

But I can't eat most fruit, because when I was young, my brain learned that peach is "what shampoo smells like" and grapefruit is "facial scrub" and so on, so when I try to eat it, my reflexes ask me why I'm eating soap and then I can't eat it.

This is because we couldn't afford to expose me to it regularly when I was small enough to be learning what foods were good. And it is a long-lasting consequence.

She did her best to make sure we got fed, and even had a little bit of happysplurge and dessert (affordable variants) pretty often, so we didn't feel deprived. But it is NOTHING like how the parents of most of my friends thought about grocery shopping.

The entire process is different. And it starts with "Can I store that? For how long? Will it go bad before then?"

#674 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 05:43 PM:

The thing some people do when grocery shopping that just hits me as the behavior of a complete alien is buying, every week, specific ingredients for a menu of dishes you plan to make for dinner that week.

Or going grocery shopping several times a week, so you can buy fresh items that go bad, or because you bought in small enough amounts that you ran OUT in three days.

I don't even understand that. Except of course if you have one of those tiny European fridges or live in a dorm, and have noplace to store pantry.

#675 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 05:55 PM:

Elliott Mason (674): I go to the grocery store every 4-5 days to buy more milk, because otherwise it goes bad before I drink it all. But I buy meat* in (smallish) bulk on sale and freeze it, and I keep plenty of frozen vegetables etc. around as well.

*and other things. (Me at the store yesterday: "I just opened the last jar of peanut butter so I should buy another one. Oh, hey, it's on sale!" ::grabs three jars::)

#676 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 06:04 PM:

Cassey B. @671, that's a great idea, and I should totally get one! ...though then it's also one more thing to store in a small room with limited space. Heh. But those generally fold, right? So that definitely helps.

I admit my current plan was along the lines of "Walk to the grocery store, get Uber or Car2Go or a taxi back, as infrequently as possible." (I feel weird about Uber for a long list of reasons, but much like Wal-Mart, I can't deny it's handy at times.) I should investigate which veggies, other than potatoes, can stand to go unrefrigerated for a while.

#677 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 07:01 PM:

Mary Aileen @675: There were extended periods of no-milk in our house, too; and when we bought it, it was smaller containers, because only my mom used it, and only on morning cereal.

#678 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 07:02 PM:

Elliott Mason #674: Amen... Planning out a week's worth of meals in advance? My question is usually "what do I have the spoons for and also non-spoiled ingredients?"

Re: freezer space, ziplock bags are also a game-changer, and AIUI a fairly recent one. It sounds like your mother was putting a lot of effort into pushing her family's diet up a socioeconomic bracket.

Fade Manley: Yup, a "granny cart" is way useful! It doesn't quite let me go to Trader Joe's (across an effing eight-lane highway), but if my friends can't drive me (usually weekly), I can use it for the Kroger's, across a smaller highway which has an actual crosswalk. And yes, handy for laundry too.

#679 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 07:13 PM:

I just saved a car trip by bringing our Big Green Wagon (like a little red one, only ... yeah. Roughly this model) to school, and offering the kid a deal: she could ride in the wagon for the school-to-grocery-store leg, but the groceries got to have the wagon to themselves on the store-to-home leg.

Went tolerably well. I certainly bought more groceries than I could walk home without it -- including 6 24-packs of soda cans, 6 big cans of tomatoes, and a huge multipack of paper towels (not that that was heavy).

I did have to baffle the bagger by asking him to just put stuff in the wagon so I could deal with my own load logistics. It took a lot of careful stuffing and also how I packed one bag and tied it shut to make sure we didn't lose anything onto the sidewalk going over bumps.

And I got my steps in! It's about 1.3 miles to the kid's school straight from home, but doesn't add much to the total trip by foot to detour to the grocery store on the way, because of the geometries involved. And the wagon's bearings are really wonderful; I can pull about 100lbs of load before it becomes a serious effort to keep walking. And at that point, the metal rods the wheels are ON start visibly bending, so clearly I shouldn't load it so heavy. :->

It's also great for beach trips here in the city, because the parking lot is a significant distance from the beach, and we like to bring a cooler and quite a few bulky items with us down to the waterside. Wide knurly plastic "tires" don't sink in TOO badly (though it's definitely a lot harder to pull on sand than on paving).

#680 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 07:45 PM:

We used dry milk for a lot of years.

#681 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 08:10 PM:

Last time I checked, the store brand dry milk at my local supermarket costs about twice as much as the cheapest whole milk.

Another change I've seen in about the last ten years is that there is no longer a price difference between skim, 1%, 2%, and whole milk. I used to drink 1% because it was the cheapest milk that tastes like milk. Then I quit drinking milk for several years and when I started up again, the 1% didn't taste enough like milk anymore, so I switched to 2%. Then I noticed that the whole milk didn't cost any more than the 2%, so now I'm back to drinking whole milk.

#682 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 08:58 PM:

While I understand that in the biggest urban areas of the state things may be different, most of Alaska has always operated on the "What have I got to work with?" principle. You can write any menu you like, but it won't matter if half of the ingredients spoiled before they even got here on the barge, or the early birds bought it all. Or, you know, you have umpteen pounds of salmon and a quarter of a moose and that's it for protein besides peanut butter.

I write a week's menu based on the sales flyer from the store where I buy most of the meat and produce I cook. I compare the sales flyer with a database of grocery prices that I built up a few items at a time, to make sure that I'm really getting the best deal. I always have the ingredients on hand for several "Plan B" meals, long-keeping stuff that can be put together quickly if (a) the stuff I was planning to buy is sold out or spoiled or (b) our schedule gets pretzeled again. I also have a memorized list of the top prices per pound I will pay for protein items, produce, etc., so that if there's an unadvertised deal for something we hardly ever get to enjoy I can jump on it. I also read a lot of cookbooks, and I've written my own indices to my personal cookbooks listing absolutely everything in each book that can be made with various ingredients that are only cheap as quantity buys.

Logistics indeed. It took me years to ramp up to this. If I quit doing it, our grocery bills would go up by at least a third. This goes for dry goods as well.

There was one bad patch where we had to pay the poor tax and so much of my hard work on this system was for naught. Thanks, Predatory Lenders' Recession! But then they unfroze my husband's salary and things got better.

#683 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 09:27 PM:

Elliott Mason @674: The thing some people do when grocery shopping that just hits me as the behavior of a complete alien is buying, every week, specific ingredients for a menu of dishes you plan to make for dinner that week.

This issue is compounded if you're single, because most groceries that don't offer bulk sell things in quantities designed with families of at least four in mind. Cookbooks frequently have this issue in spades.

I've run across a couple of cookbooks that actually have good, single-serving recipes. The kicker then is: how much work goes into picking which recipes, and then compiling the shopping list. I have one otherwise very promising cookbook that even has meal plans, though the user is left to themselves to comprise their shopping list. It's soaked through with crazy-making privilege, though, because with the author seems to assume it's reasonable to buy [multiple meals worth] of [expensive ingredient that doesn't keep], just so you have enough for one serving. I've only run across one (1) meal plan that had (a) good meals in (b) single servings with (c) bi-weekly shopping lists that would actually fold into my weekly schedule. Unfortunately, the site got hacked and never recovered, so I only got some of the plans I'd paid for.

Actual shopping-wise, though, I count myself lucky. I've got two (2) good supermarkets available to me on my way home from work, one of which is only a fifteen minute walk from my house.

(And, being single, I've got proportionately more freezer space available. So that's handy, too.)

#684 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 09:30 PM:

...actually three grocery stores, one of which is literally across the street from my house. But it's a Walmart. So this is where I get to exercise my economic privilege (and appreciate that I can).

#685 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 09:48 PM:

Elliott Mason @679: how I packed one bag and tied it shut to make sure we didn't lose anything onto the sidewalk going over bumps.

I increased the capacity of my Burly bike trailer considerably by repurposing a wire pet playpen to be stockrails. (My trailer is only 2'x3', but you see the idea with this trailer I borrowed from Community Cycles.

The panels would probably have to be re-jointed to fit inside your wagon (or buy and cut blank stock (if your hardware store sells it by the yard), but you could rig it to be foldable-up so kid could ride, then deployable for cargo.

#686 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 10:05 PM:

I solve the problem of single-person cooking by cooking a big pot of something on Sunday and eating it all week for dinner. Usually it's a casserole, a stew, or a soup - the kind of dish that improves after sitting in the fridge for a while, as the ingredients get to know each other.

My tolerance for repetitive dinners may be unusually high, I will admit.

#687 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 10:21 PM:

Jacque @ 683 ...
I've run across a couple of cookbooks that actually have good, single-serving recipes. The kicker then is: how much work goes into picking which recipes, and then compiling the shopping list.

Jane Doerfer's Going Solo in the Kitchen is a surprisingly decent and practical cookbook for singletons (and also deals with the "oh no, not leftovers" and "why do they only sell $thing in quantities starting at unreasonable and going up?").

#688 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 10:28 PM:

Jim, #686: We do that in multiples -- make a big-pot meal, eat a couple of meals from it, and freeze the rest in single-serving containers. Then we eat other things for the rest of the week and make another big-pot meal. Do that a few times and you've got a freezer full of different types of food, conveniently sized (if you're really hungry, you pull out 2 instead of 1), and you don't have to eat the same thing all week. Admittedly, we don't keep much else in the freezer -- a small carton of ice cream and some frozen easy-cook meats, a few frozen veggie packages, and the ice-cube trays. The economic privilege here is in being able to make a big pot and not have to eat all of it because you can't afford other stuff.

But there are a lot of evenings where we just don't feel like cooking, and 1 serving of frozen soup/stew/chili + 1 serving of fresh or frozen veggies + bread and butter + fresh fruit is a quick and easy dinner that's just as fast as a TV dinner and a helluva lot more nutritious.

#689 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 10:31 PM:

I'm very fortunate to live near the Italian Market.

This is market which has a lot of varied stuff, but it includes amazingly cheap veggies, and sometime in the past 20 years, the merchants started selling them in smaller quantities, like a pound rather than minimums of three to five pounds.

I have an impression that most cities don't have anything like it.

#690 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 11:21 PM:

Jim Parish @ 686:

You aren't alone in your tolerance for repetition. I usually cook up a big main dish that will give me leftovers throughout the week, and cook up some quick side dishes as needed. At the end of the week I can start over again. Although now that I'm no longer living alone, I have to contend with someone who doesn't have as high a tolerance for that as I do. We'll figure something out.

I like cooking, but I like having to cook less often than I have to, so the cooking for one types of cookbooks aren't as helpful for me. There's also the aforementioned problem of small ingredient portions (that Ursula Vernon refers to as "they won't sell you half a tomato"). I don't have a big basement cupboard and freezer to store all the extra things in like at my grandparents' house. Although, with the tomato, provided it's not one of the ones that tastes like packing foam, the easy solution is to eat the rest.

#691 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2016, 11:24 PM:

Nancy at #689: Detroit has the Eastern Market. Haven't been there yet myself, but local (Ann Arbor) friends speak highly of it.

#692 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 12:30 AM:

Re: milk, if you live in a place with bagged milk, bags of milk actually freeze really well. It's cheapest for me to buy 4L of milk, use one bag, and freeze the other two. I just write on the bag the date it was defrosted.

I have no idea if this is also true for bottles or cartons of milk, though.

(Sidenote regarding milk-that-tastes-milky: in Newfoundland, there was 0.5% milk, and it somehow tasted creamier than the 1%. I wish they had it here.)

#693 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 05:39 AM:

One of the things about milk is that the fat is encapsulated by proteins, so the taste is hidden. Churning cream to make butter is about breaking open those protein packets to get the fat out.

So it doesn't really surprise me that the fat content doesn't map well onto the taste. I can see the cream being separated out, and there being some mechanical damage to the protein capsules left in the 2% milk so that the effects of the fat are easier to taste and feel.

Whether the process involves going all the way to skimmed milk and cream, and then some cream is restored to the milk, which makes some sense as an industrial process, I don't know.

I can remember the old-style milk bottles, and the layer of cream forming at the top, and I can't remember the last time I ever saw that. I wonder a little if the real, straight from the cow, stuff always had more fat that the minimum allowed for "milk", and what we get now is always processed to the legal margin. It sort of makes sense and fits some of the things I heard when I was farming. The big milk companies are not so different from any big company, and both farmers and the end customer are tiny individuals who don't really matter to them.

#694 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 06:59 AM:

Dave Bell @ #693

This moose remembers doorstep milk deliveries (in glass bottles), and the cream separating out on storage. Also, the dairies definitely processed their milk to different standards. Back in the day, we had two deliveries (Midland Counties and The Co-Op), the milk was definitely different grades and mum bought a small amount from Midland Counties and the rest from the Co-Op (because egg custard made with Co-Op milk wouldn't set properly, and she had a severe dislike of the Midland Counties milkman for never disclosed reasons).

Mergers, etc. led to the consolidation down to "United Dairies", and I kept the doorstep delivery running as long as possible (because the whole street was "new build" in the mid 1950s and there were a lot of elderly people relying on the service) but it became impossible after "Milk & More" started delivering after the moose had left for work. (Coming home to find two bottles of cheese on the doorstep, which happened on more than one occasion, was not an option. Nor was finding soured milk on the doorstep first thing in the morning because they'd loaded the bottles the previous day and left the truck outside in the middle of summer.)

I'm within walking distance of four supermarkets (Morrisons, Iceland, Tesco and Aldi), so take the granny truck and a shopping list, do a pricing run first and then the actual shopping on the return leg.

At least the supermarkets keep their milk properly chilled so it will last several days in the fridge.

#695 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 10:29 AM:

Jim Parish (686)/Lee (688): I do something similar: On weekends* I cook the four-person meals beloved of cookbooks, then alternate leftovers during the week. It works pretty well, especially since it means that when I get home from work all I have to do is heat something up. Unlike KeithS (690), I hate to cook and find it very draining, so I'm glad I don't have to deal with it after working all day.

*defined as any day off, often Friday instead of Saturday

#696 ::: Elyse ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 11:22 AM:

I have a handful of crockpot recipes that produce enough food to keep a single person in dinners for a week. I tend to rotate them so I usually have "leftovers" of two or three types available. As the oldest variety gets eaten up, I decide what the next batch added to the active rotation should be. (ham and bean soup, pork-posole, lamb stew, chicken-bean stew, ...)

In a typical week, 4 or 5 dinners will be something from the stockpile, and the others will be something like a grilled pork chop or salmon filet chunk, plus veggies. Or something like hotdogs and beans.

#697 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 12:29 PM:

#668 Nancy -- a dehydrator is a useful item, slice stuff up and dry it for use later
#676 Fade
Yellow turnips usually come covered in wax, which helps them keep. Most types of onions keep well. Beets can keep, and round cabbage heads. For that matter, make sauerkraut....
Salting, brining, preserving in sugar or sugar syrup, drying, cooking to can or to dehydrate, grinding up and combinging with something else then drying or cooking (some types of cakes and cookies are long-duration), preserving with alcohol.... are all traditional techniques for food preservation. I eat dried fruit--what I've alwasy found repulsive though is rehydrate whole or halve dried fruit. My father liked to have fruit compote made with rehydrated fruit for Passover, my reaction to it was "fruit compost." The texture and odor and some other characteristics of rehyrated traditionally dried fruit are highly offputting to me.

#698 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 02:04 PM:

Paula Lieberman @697, that is a great point about onions and beets! I don't think I have the time/space/skills to do canning, but having some more veggie options that I can throw in a box rather than using fridge space on is a definite plus.

I am starting to realize that green veggies don't seem to be ones that keep well outside the fridge. Spinach is my go-to green staple at home, and that goes bad pretty fast even in the fridge; broccoli needs refrigeration as well, I believe. Possibly this just means I should do green-heavy meals right after shopping, and then swap to the onions and potatoes for the later part of the week(s).

#699 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 02:10 PM:

You could try putting spinach in water, like cut flowers. (I've done it with some very dead-looking cilantro, which actually recovered after about a day; it got put in a container of water on the counter, where there was light, and seemed quite happy.)

#700 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 02:16 PM:

Leaves in general don't keep well; neither do juicy fruits.

As a general guideline, if pioneer families could store it in a root cellar over winter, it will keep well, as long as you keep it cool (but not necessarily refrigerated -- 40-65 degF is good) and well-ventilated.

Potatoes, beets, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, onions, and some varieties of apple (if you don't mind them withering a little on the surface in month 2-3) are all great.

If you can bang it on the counter without causing it to bruise, it probably keeps better than most.

#701 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 02:49 PM:

Fade Manley @698:

One thing you can do with spinach is to cook and purée it. It takes some fridge space to share, but a lot less than uncooked.

#702 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 03:04 PM:

I've used spinich to make "pesto" before -- raw spinich, almonds, olive oil, garlic -- and it freezes quite nicely (although you'll want to freeze it in units of the desired size, because it's bloody impossible to cut up after, unless you're using a bandsaw).

#703 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 03:14 PM:

LOTS of things freeze well, and if you use a muffin tin for portioning (then transfer to a freezer ziploc bag and suck all the air out), it's great for one-person stuff.

Long-simmered marinara: freeze into pucks, filling the muffin tins, and one puck is good for a bowl of noodles.

Ground beef: brown thoroughly, portion into tins, add grease or water to help it freeze solid, and then you've got one serving to put as protein into a quick-cooked one person meal.

Mashed potatoes.

And so on. :-> You need to ahve the freezer space to freeze the muffin tins, and then to store the bagged pucks, but if you do, it's great.

#704 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 04:00 PM:

Ah, if I had the freezer space, I'd definitely go with a lot of frozen green things! But "not much fridge/freezer space" is as much a limitation as the "can't get to the grocery store often" thing. They kinda stack their debuffs...

That said, I may just be borrowing trouble at this point. For all I know, I'll end up rooming with a bunch of people who eat out all the time and are happy to cede most of the freezer space to my veggies.

#705 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 04:03 PM:

You can also use ice-cube trays for freezing stuff in smaller pieces.
Bell peppers, diced, freeze well. Then you can put them in a bag. (I'll cook and freeze mushrooms, too.)

#706 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 05:14 PM:

The availability of frozen spinach from the supermarket has done excellent things for my iron intake.

I tend to cook "properly" every other day or so, defined as making at least two portions, the first of which is dinner, the second of which is reheated for lunch at work, and the third if it exists is dinner again (if I'm tired enough that I don't care) or lunch on the third day (if I am operating with enough forward planning capacity to have soup or scrambed eggs or something else low-effort for dinner and save the leftovers). The canteen at work is... minimal in its edible options, but reliable. I can always get a jacket potato with cheese if I don't have food to bring with me.

When I was living with my parents this was a similar routine, but required daily cooking - once you have fed three adults and made two packed lunches, that uses up a bag of pasta.

(and if you want this to work, and my parents are two of the adults, you should portion out the packed lunches before you bring the food to the table, because food in boxes will be left alone but food in the pan will become seconds.)

My present routine also involves Middle Class Shopping, wherein I get a bus into Cambridge and get lunch, a basket of Sainsbury's stuff, veg (and sometimes bread and sausages) from the market, and Starbucks with a friend. It's a very pleasant way to get my shopping done and very good for me to have the regular, low-expectation social interaction.

#707 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 05:46 PM:

I am already in the midst of finals. Does anyone know a good suicide hotline?

I wish I were joking. Here are some passages from essays by (hopefully) graduating seniors. The non-graduating turn in their final papers next week.

Nozick argues that pattered distribution in society conflicts with liberties such as self-ownership and property rights.[Gilbert and Sullivan immediately spring to mind.]

Jaspin explains some of these cases, moreover, explain how documents were created to give the illusion that these transactions had legally occurred legally.

Often when citizens within a state consider the concept of liberty many think of freedom.

John Rawls was an American Political philosopher born in 1971. He continued his education at Princeton University soon after he went on to teach at Harvard University in 1962. [A certain Dr Who worked closely with him?]

In light of studying blank blank and blank in modern political theory the four theorist blank, blank and black explain the struggle with confronting the balance of equality and justice in many ways. [There is a blankety-blank chance this student may not be graduating.]

Frantz Fanon was born in 1961 in Bethesda Maryland.

However, over the semester one has learned that liberation and equality is not a monolith and the perception and journey to justice is different situation.,

Liberty is the right to have the freedom to do whatever a person pleases to do within social society.

Without these two balanced aspects presented in a government/political system there will be essentially possible way to attain fair justice within a society.

Emma Goldman was considered to be a political theorist that believed in the government system of Anarchy. [Let me die, please.]

Goldman practices anarchist beliefs.

#708 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 05:49 PM:

And once again, Making Light goes foodie!!

#709 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 07:42 PM:

Fragano, you're making me think of the horror that was my experience mentoring a couple of aspiring engineers last semester.

I decided it was a bad sign when I started bolding comments in track changes on their final report so they'd actually do some of them.

To their discredit, they've entered lab lore. And they are not remembered fondly.

#710 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 08:52 PM:

I do a similar thing to Lee and cook 2-3 big pot meals per week (main dish only); freeze one dinner's worth of the 2 dinners' worth of leftovers, and then fill out the week with the rest. Side dishes are either fresh/canned/frozen fruit, frozen veg, or bagged salad/carrot sticks/ what have you.

There are only 2 of us at home (so there's room in the fridge and freezer) and I usually reliably have the spoons to cook 2-3x per week, unless I'm sick. I also keep quick and easy stuff on hand for when I Just Can't Even.

Privileges I depend on are: having several good grocery stores within a 15-minute drive and a couple crappy ones within a 2-minute drive; having a car, money for gas, an oven, stove, crock-pot, fridge and freezer, and power to run them, and not having to work 2 jobs.

#711 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 09:50 PM:

Paula Lieberman@708: It's always there; sometimes we're just digesting.

Fragano Ledgister@707: I admit, I read more than a few of these and think, "you know, n decades ago I could easily have perpetrated that, if I'd missed one last-minute edit at 3 a.m." I don't think I ever did—certainly, I don't remember anyone ever red-lining anything like that—but...

Of course, I was never in the position of having to read dozens of essays with lines like that.

#712 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 10:08 PM:

I'm now having the screaming heebie-jeebies and going over my own (already submitted, too late to fix) final research essays.

#713 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 10:19 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe #709: I do seem to come across a lot of absence of thought these days.

#714 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 10:22 PM:

dotless i #711/ Em #712: Everyone makes mistakes. What bothers me is the lack of thought (and in one case the sheer witlessness) that goes into these.

#715 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 11:11 PM:

I'm entirely with you there, Fragano - I expect students to make mistakes, because it's inherent in the act of learning. I also expect them to think, because that's the point.

There's nothing more frustrating than a refusal to think.

#716 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2016, 11:18 PM:

Speaking of papers, going through some old stuff today I found my Favourite Paper That I've Ever Written: "Radar Love: Long-Distance Romance in McCaffrey and Tiptree"*. I wrote it a long while back. I'm tempted to type it up and see if I can improve it.

*Which I handed in at half-past five, as you do.

#717 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 01:18 AM:

Em @716

If it's any comfort, something similar was true of the academic book manuscript that I submitted about a year ago (and I'm normally a strict 9-5er with these things.)

#718 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 02:38 AM:

I got into an argument with a 9/11 conspiracy nut who claims it is a "fact" that there were explosives planted in the World Trade Center buildings..... Peer-reviewed engineering analysis papers don't affect neutronium obdurance....

#719 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 09:21 AM:

I saw "Spacex says it's sending a Dragon to Mars", and said:

If only it were a literal dragon. There wouldn't be enough water for a litterol dragon.


From ethelmay:

Quaking as Penns (=aspens)?

(I only thought of that because Quaker Oaks made me think, wait, oaks don't quake, that's aspens. Though oaks are, indeed, Quercus.)

#720 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 10:40 AM:

They also never seem to have any explanations for how that could be done in buildings where there are people around all the time.

#721 ::: Jim Parish ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 11:10 AM:

720: Obviously, the explosives were planted when the buildings were erected. Long term planning, y'see.

#722 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 12:56 PM:

Hadn't seen anyone mention it here, and because he's been a long-time commenter and stalwart at Making Light, I wanted to let folks know that Soren "Scraps" DeSelby is in the hospital. According to his roommate, Tamara, he had a fall early Friday morning and was eventually convinced to take an ambulance to the local hospital (Providentce, Everett, WA) where it was discovered that he had broken his hip. He's been through surgery today and is in recovery, apparently enjoying his opiates. That's about all I know at this time, but I thought I would pass it along.

#723 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 01:57 PM:

Nancy @ 719

re: the "Quaker Oaks/Oats" infringement correspondence

The news item has been around for a while but never really gets old. I heard about it from Bill Lovett himself back when my parents were involved with trying to design/develop/get zoning for the proposed Quaker conference center on the Quaker Oaks property. (Not sure whether it eventually went anywhere. My parents eventually stepped back from involvement sometime before my mother died.) Lovett has…quite a sense of humor, and seemed to have been glad for the opportunity to make a point about who was appropriating whose brand.

#724 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 02:23 PM:

Ulrika at 722, thanks for the news about Scraps. Broken hip bad, but hospital and presumably effective surgery, good. Sending hopeful thoughts and prayers for healing toward Everett.

#725 ::: Debbie Notkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 02:25 PM:

Just a little more about Scraps. I've gotten two short emails directly from him, one saying that he had fallen and would need surgery and one saying that he is out of surgery. I've also been in touch with his roommate Tamara, and his mother.

No word yet on prognosis.

Thanks, Ulrika for passing the news along! I'll keep people here informed. I don't think money is a pressing need for him at this point, but if anyone _wants_ to send money, get in touch with me as I have systems for getting it to him which have been in place since before Velma died.

#726 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 03:18 PM:

Debbie and Ulrika,

Thanks for the updates about Scraps.

About the cooking thread: I have a cookbook that has recipes/meal suggestions that serve two adults (called, imaginatively, Cooking for Two Today, where the value of "today" was some time in the mid-1980s). That doesn't address the shopping/package size problem, of course.

What Andy and I sometimes do when we make a big pot of something (stew, pea soup, that sort of thing) is eat it for supper either on two consecutive days, or on days 1 and 3, with something else on day 2, and freeze whatever's left. One day of something else in between, or at least the option of that, means I am less likely to get bored.

#727 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 06:14 PM:

Sign misread as I passed a country store on the way home this afternoon:


#728 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 07:51 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 727: I always try not to read a starting sign or headline again. Wouldn't the world be a more interesting, though frightening, place if your local store sold monkey organs? But, no, I always look again, and see the mundane meaning.

#729 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 08:04 PM:

@728 -- argh. I meant "...startling sign...", not "starting sign"

#730 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 08:31 PM:

Now trying to decide if it would have been any better if they sold organ monkeys.

#731 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2016, 08:45 PM:

Stefan Jones@727: I'm now picturing n gval yvggyr yvire jvgu n unaq penax (rot13'ed for disturbing imagery) which seems slightly steampunk.

#732 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 12:03 AM:

Steampunk hepatic equivalent of heart-lung bypass. Sounds very useful, actually.

#733 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 12:03 AM:

I dunno; I think an organ designed to be played by monkeys would be kind of small. But then, you could arrange stops behind the seat to be manipulated by the tail....

#734 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 02:59 AM:

Signal boosting for a friend of a friend. I vouch for the person who posted this. She's in a poly household with people I've known for 20 years, and was at Sasquan. I haven't met Kit, but I trust my friend's judgment.

My friend "Kit" is a trans woman in dire need of temporary housing. She is recovering from complications of major surgery, along with a "surprise" blood clot. Just as she got back on her feet, she was let go in a round of company lay-offs earlier this month.

Kit has to be out of her current residence by May 9th. She has a rental lined up to move into June 1st, but she has nowhere else to go during the time between. As a trans woman, options like homeless shelters are extremely dangerous and not an option.

This is why I'm asking for help. Kit needs a queer/trans-friendly place to crash between May 9th and June 1st. She has money to cover food for herself and other personal necessities during her stay.

Other things of note: Kit has no pets and is severely allergic to cats. She is also allergic to cigarette smoke, which causes breathing issues and migraines -- but, she's noticed she's okay if people smoke outside. She's 420-friendly.

Kit has no special requirements when it comes to sleeping arrangements; she's fine with a bed, a couch, or even a sleeping bag on the floor. The WiFi password so she can job hunt on her laptop would be great, too. ;)

Kit lives in the Denver/Boulder/Longmont area.

If anybody is able to assist with space for her to get on her feet again, please contact Kit at

I know we have several people in that area. If you can help or you know someone who can, it would be deeply appreciated.

#735 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 03:01 AM:

Photographer Brian Ach remembers Prince & touring with him.

It's a wonderful article providing glimpses backstage, and also into the art of both photography & music. Reading this triggered my hayfever something chronic...

#736 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 09:00 AM:

dotless ı #731: Try that drawn in Foglio style, it would fit nicely into a Girl Genius panel.

#737 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 10:58 AM:

@ Stefan Jones @ 727

Re: We sell monkey organs

Well, where did you think the itinerant street performers got their musical instruments? :)

My favorite "I don't want to know what that sign really said" was "Catering for lizards."

#738 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 11:56 AM:

Ulrika @722

Broken hips are odd. The surgery for a new hip joint seems almost trivial. It isn't, but the docs want you putting weight on it pretty quickly. And they don't feel quite so bad when they happen.

I broke my hip and was back home within the week. And that was with some bleeding from the incision that was unexpected.

Wasn't anything like the other times I broke that leg, with weeks in plaster.

#739 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 12:06 PM:

Lee: Email sent. Warned her about the guinea pigs and their hay. We Shall See What We Shall See.

#740 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 01:06 PM:

xeger @ 585

Ask and ye shall receive!

Kimono Pic From the festival.
My late sister, Kiki, is spinning in the grave because I posted this. "Why didn't you iron it!"
"Because festival shoes." Which, ironically, would be the only thing to get me a pass from the fashionista who once thought I had to wear makeup to church[1].

I was working on those shoes until it was past time to get dressed. Tumbling cotton fiber cloth in a dryer to remove wrinkles is not the same as a good ironing, starch optional.

[1] I won that argument. However, I didn't say a word when she ironed my t-shirt.

#741 ::: Quill ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 02:51 PM:

@Fade Manley 676:

Whatever cart you choose, make sure to get one with wire-spoke back wheels. The plastic ones are too fragile, and will shatter if they get hooked on something, such as a curb corner or a step. Also, make sure it's tall enough that you can push it comfortably.

I've bought a number of them over the years, and the best combo of size, price, and sturdiness I've found has been at Bed, Bath and Beyond, though one has to do a bit of assembly. Strong pliers are a must.

One can also get inserts for them, sort of vinyl boxes with lids, to protect the contents from weather.

Alternatively, IKEA sells a very cheap, surprisingly sturdy grandmother cart (bag on wheels) that won't hold quite as much but is lighter and can be a little more compact on public transportation. Depends on your needs and how you're getting to/from.

#742 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 04:54 PM:

Victoria @ 740 ...
Ask and ye shall receive!


Kimono Pic From the festival. My late sister, Kiki, is spinning in the grave because I posted this. "Why didn't you iron it!" "Because festival shoes." Which, ironically, would be the only thing to get me a pass from the fashionista who once thought I had to wear makeup to church[1].

*ROTFL* I'd love to claim I've never done that (or held a hem up with [tape|staples|hope]) ...

... the painted flowers work beautifully, and the colour combination is, indeed, classic :D

#743 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 07:05 PM:

In re the handicrafter/costuming thread in 704/742/etc:

I discovered the morning before that my kid had an "out of uniform" day at school ... where the theme was "dress like a decade." Produce a vintage look that is recognizably of a particular time.

On no notice.

Out of items my kid already owned.

She hates tie-dye, so although we have jeans and several bright tie-dye shirts, the 60s was out.

She had a few things that could maybe be bodged into 80's, but that night (when extra tired, at bedtime, because it was the only time available) she crankily nixed all of them.

I finally Tom-Sawyered her into recreating Annie Hall, because she had white button-down shirts and dark pants (nixed by her; she wore a long navy skirt instead) and a tie of mine, and I went hurriedly through my closet for a vest.

Found one. It was comically too big around the barrel, but would work for the look if it could be cinched.

Which is why I found myself at 8PM tailoring WITH STAPLES to take a big dart out of the center back of my own damn vest.

Doesn't hurt the fabric, but oh my goodness the massive side-eye I was getting from my imaginary mental version of the grandmother who taught me to sew!

Mind, she'd done all kinds of reprehensible things when I'd needed something on no notice, but still. :->

(I think one of the things my family may have been proudest of, on zero notice, was making me the donkey costume for the Christmas Pageant in preschool. Soft grey felt ears on a headband -- dead simple. But the shaggy grey fur was ... the brand-new, still-rather-too-big footie sleeper we'd just bought to last me all winter.

It was pastel yellow the night before. Morning of, it was a bizarre somewhat greenish grey.

Then I just had to crawl down the aisle into the auditorium, with Joseph walking beside me and Mary riding piggyback. After that my pagent participation involved 'standing' on all fours beside the cardboard-cutout-with-cotton-balls sheep, trying to crack up the shepherds and make them lose it in front of all the parents.

#744 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 07:57 PM:

Ouch, Fragano. I suspect Jaspin explains how words were padded to give the illusion that these studies had studiously been studied.

#745 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 08:25 PM:

Elliott, #743: Dear sweet Ghoddess, WHY do schools do shit like that? (Probable answer: aspects of privilege.) We were lucky enough to miss most of that WRT my partner's daughter, and the one time it hit at a truly awful time it was her mother's fault* -- but I have not forgotten or forgiven the instructor at the dance school who decreed (the night before the performance, and hours after anywhere but Wal-Mart would be closed) that all the performers should have one specific type of hair ornament.

* For having said, for months on end, that she was going to have B's TRF costume professionally made that year. Four days before dress rehearsal, she called and said she hadn't gotten around to having it done, and could we? Of course, this was right as we were getting ready to leave for a con...

#746 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2016, 11:25 PM:

Lee @745: From the school's point of view, they announced it a couple weeks ago. If there was a flyer sent home, I never got it; also the teacher didn't put it in the weekly newsletter and the principal didn't put it in the weekly emailed newsletter either.

School-to-parent communication is a long-running problem; either I end up getting fifteen notifications (because i'm hooked into every possible info channel, including attending LSC meetings), or never. And a lot of parents get some, but not all, of the channels.

So half the parents are complaining about too many duplicate notifications, and the other half never hear ANYTHING.

Plus we have a lot of families whose English fluency is shaky.

I mostly blame Beka for not coming home all excited about it two weeks ahead -- sometimes she tells me really early and sometimes I hear about it when another parent on Facebook asks the principal to confirm whether the thing her son told her is true or not. :->

#747 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 12:11 AM:

I once stapled a student into a pair of too-large swim trunks because the drawstring had broken. Said drawstring is now fixed because I probably could have made staples work with preparation, but with preparation, I would have just fixed it. At least Trains didn't lose his suit in the pool.

Every once in a while, we'll hit a problem with theme days. We are very clear that theme days are for kids and everyone here is adults, thank you, and adults do not dress up for Halloween or pajama day or anything like that.*

*I work with disabled young adults. There are many places we make grey areas black and white because we don't have the resources to teach nuance.

#748 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 08:05 AM:

Diatryma, Cliff Pervocracy recently addressed this problem: "when you’re dealing with a client’s life-threatening medical emergency, it adds an extra touch of pathos when everyone involved in the resuscitation effort is wearing fluffy pink jammies."

#749 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 08:14 AM:

I once startled a young man who was clearly on his way to his First Real Job(tm) by saying that I'd noticed that he'd stapled up the hem of his trousers (badly, although I didn't add that -- I think he already knew..) ... and then got a brilliantly relieved and happy smile out of him by telling him about 'iron-on hem tape'.

No idea if I brightened his day -- but his response certainly brightened mine!

#750 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 08:44 AM:

I keep buying iron-on hem tape, and then I can never find it when I want it.

The reason I stapled, that night, is because absolutely all my sewing needles (and the closable plastic case of compartments I keep some of them -- but not all of them -- in) are missing. Dammit.

#751 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 09:25 AM:

Open threadery:

The Retro Hugos list on File 770 says that Gray Lensman was published (in a magazine) in January, 1940, and Slan (in a magazine) in December, 1940.

I have always thought that Slan was a tremendous ripoff of Gray Lensman, and the dates make this seem possible.

Does anybody else see the resemblance?

#752 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 09:34 AM:

Brenda Kalt @751: I don't see it. Grey Lensman is all space battles and lizard aliens, and Slan is a small, almost intimate, piece about hiding your uniqueness in almost-the-present-day, underground, secret.

I mean, they both have telepathy in them?

Slan reminds me more of Methuselah's Children (well, the converse).

#753 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 09:52 AM:

xeger @ 742
Thanks! Fusible web is my newest favorite save.

Elliott Mason @ 750
I feel your pain about sewing needles. I need to go get another pack or two.

#754 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 10:34 AM:

Elliott Mason @743: Really, I honestly tried to resist, I did, but:

After that my pagent participation involved 'standing' on all fours beside the cardboard-cutout-with-cotton-balls sheep, trying to crack up the shepherds and make them lose it in front of all the parents.

So what you're saying is that you were just being an ass...?


#755 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 10:59 AM:

I got one of those plastic index-card-sized storage boxes to hold all the packets of needles. It's a lot harder to lose.

#756 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 11:00 AM:

I got one of those plastic index-card-sized storage boxes to hold all the packets of needles. It's a lot harder to lose.

#757 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 11:28 AM:

#750 ::: Elliott Mason

I decided that the solution to not being able to find scissors was to just keep buying scissors until all the places where scissors end up are filled in. This worked without filling the house with scissors.

Presumably a similar strategy would work with iron-on hem tape.

#758 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 12:05 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @757: That assumes that iron-on hem tape doesn't just fall into a black hole, like socks but not in the dryer. :)

#759 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 12:13 PM:

I've been trying to accumulate all objects of a type into a single place[0] for the past few years (eg: all sewing needles, all sewing scissors, all gardening tools).

On the one hand, when it works well, it really works.

On the other hand, once I've managed to accumulate all of said objects in a single place, if I fail to remember that place[1], it's deadly.

On the third hand, it's been a remarkably good way to discover that "I'd better get one of X, since I'm out of them" seems to persist in memory for far longer than it should.

[0] ... per object of type
[1] ... where the *(@#&$*(# did I put the cat collars?!?!!

#760 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 01:09 PM:

xeger @759 it's been a remarkably good way to discover that "I'd better get one of X, since I'm out of them" seems to persist in memory for far longer than it should.

In my childhood, my mother once had this problem with salt. And ended up with four of the classic round Morton's salt boxes in the pantry. On the plus side, at least it wasn't very expensive. On the minus side, we used it really, really slowly.

#761 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 01:26 PM:


April 29, 2016
Spam, Spam, Spam Spam: Inkitt and the Grand Novel Contest

#762 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 01:37 PM:

xeger, #759: There are several classes of object for which I do that, and yes, it helps a lot. Not least because when tax time comes around, all the envelopes with "IMPORTANT: TAX INFORMATION ENCLOSED" stamped on the outside are in one particular drawer, not scattered in piles of paper all over the house. It also helps to have a "system interrupt" response, so that any item-that-goes-in-place-X found elsewhere is immediately taken to its place before you continue with what you were doing.

#763 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 04:19 PM:

Hydraulic Press Channel on YouTube.

I did not know about this internet rabbit hole until a co-worker told me about it. "Strangely addictive" indeed. Book lovers, don't watch him press a book. Explosion lovers, do watch him press a book. Also pressed - Lego objects and things that explode. The marble pulls a Houdini. I adore the extra content at the end of each video.

#764 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 04:36 PM:

All my finals are in! My brains are now totally fried.

I have learnt a few interesting things:

Quobna Ottobah Cugoano advocated on behalf of the inhumane treatment of people.

The modern world has failure of the modern world to achieve real happiness is due to the fact that the modern political thought of freedom, justice, and equal is not being enforce in today’s societies.

C.L.R. James and W.E.B. Dubois fought this type injustice his entire life.

During his time blacks could not use the same bathrooms or even congress in the same environment without their being chaos.

In this Essay, I will provide an analytical analysis on Leon Trotsky and what he would have made of Martin Luther King Jr’s arguments on the subject of politics while providing a brief background of his upbringing along with the type of person he was through his famous viewpoints.

Trotsky was almost totally a different person than Dr. King.

In rebuttal to the people’s concerns, she states that the government entities promises were null and void due to the fact that they could not truly be fulfilled simply because man’s subordinations and understanding of himself/herself and others lacked.

#765 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 05:20 PM:

Fragano Ledgister@764: "Trotsky was almost totally a different person than Dr. King."
Does this mean that Trotsky and Dr. King were partially the same person? Very interesting. :-)

#766 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 05:49 PM:

Nancy #757 - that's my approach with pens. It works well enough and saves doing some archaeology in my piles of stuff.

#767 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 06:55 PM:

Steve Halter (765): Indeed, I started wondering if that made Trotsky and King conjoined twins.

#768 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 07:04 PM:

James Earl Ray, with an ice axe, in the study?

#769 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 09:16 PM:

guthrie @ 766 ...
Nancy #757 - that's my approach with pens. It works well enough and saves doing some archaeology in my piles of stuff.

I'm admittedly well beyond tired, and over into "why are you still vertical" -- but it took me multiple readings of your comment to realize that my brain was adding an extra 'i' ... although it all still makes sense that way.

#770 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 09:56 PM:

>> ... just keep buying scissors ...

A friend takes this approach with pens. He describes the mechanism as, "The atmosphere in the house becomes supersaturated with pens and they start precipitating out on horizontal surfaces."

#771 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 10:24 PM:

Elliot Mason @752

The central feature of both of them was an all-powerful man who wore gray (the World Coordinator vs the Gray Lensman). Perhaps that was a trope floating around, but it seared into my brain.

#772 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 10:37 PM:

US politics. Oh, dear, these are interesting times. "You said you wanted excitement and adventure and really wild stuff."

#773 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 10:59 PM:

At Knitter's Breakfast a few weeks ago, we discussed the types of things you put everywhere you might look for them: flashlights, scissors, Sharpies, and tapestry needles. I like the precipitation hypothesis quite a bit.

#774 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 11:00 PM:

At Knitter's Breakfast a few weeks ago, we discussed the types of things you put everywhere you might look for them: flashlights, scissors, Sharpies, and tapestry needles. I like the precipitation hypothesis quite a bit.

#775 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2016, 11:41 PM:

I recall my father-in-law saying that when his sister moved into assisted living and he was helping clear out her and her late husband's house, one of the things they found was a drawer chock full of screwdrivers. Apparently her husband would buy a screwdriver every time he needed one, because he could only find the screwdriver drawer when he was putting screwdrivers away, not when he needed them again.

#776 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 12:14 AM:

I generally know where my tools are, but that doesn't keep them from being in multiple places.

I have multiple sets of screwdrivers and such. The real extensive set is in my shop, but by my computer is a small set of tools for opening cases and the like. And a spare screwdriver ended up in my bathroom; it's for taking the tub drain plug off for periodic fishing-out-of-hair.

#777 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 12:29 AM:

I have a whole box of tools that includes an assortment of screwdrivers - the box was in my father's stuff after he died. It's one of the old wood mil-spec boxes, about 18x24 inches and 8 inches deep.

It also has the hand drill (which I asked for) and my hacksaw frame and caulking gun, which don't fit in my regular toolbox. I have several hammers that also don't fit in it.

#778 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 01:21 AM:

xeger @759: This is why I currently have three jars of cilantro lime salsa in the apartment. Good stuff, but not good enough to justify that.

Brenda Kalt @771: The man's name was Gray; did he wear gray also? (It's been a long time since I last read Slan, so maybe he did.) Anyway, I'm afraid I'm with Elliott: I don't see it.

#779 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 07:01 AM:

Hair in drains: I was told by a plumber that if you live the sort of life where you get hair clogs in drains, pouring bleach down the drain(every month or so) does the trick and is cheaper than Drano. I presume that is because Drano is supposed to destroy hair AND fat clogs.

(Sample size n=1) Bleaching the bathroom drains every couple months seems to work for me.

#780 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 08:32 AM:

I have at least one pair of scissors in every room. Including the bathroom, so that I can open the #$&*(^%(^&% blisterpacks that one of my medicines now comes in.

#781 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 09:25 AM:

Mary Aileen @ 780 -

I hate those blisterpacks too. One of my blood pressure meds come in those. What's wrong with a bottle????

#782 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 10:11 AM:

Re tools in multiple places: my husband is the primary household user of tools, but I am capable of the occasional task requiring a hammer or a screwdriver. Except for the problem of finding the tool when I need it. In theory the tools have homes on the pegboard at the back of the garage. In practice, because the garage is inconvenient (detached garage, lots of things like bikes and lawn mowers and kayaks in between the front and the back of the garage), the tools are somewhere in the kitchen or the basement or on the shelves along the stairs down to the basement or wherever they were last needed. I have been seriously tempted to buy one of those tool kits marketed for women, with a pink container and pink handles on the tools, not because I feel the need for my very own highly gendered tool set, but because there's a much better chance that those tools would be returned to their proper home where I could find them.

#783 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 10:40 AM:

I just realized that Glory Road is an inversion of Joseph Campbell patriarchal crap. Being relatively late Heinlein there are artifacts of the endemic sexism and outlook warpage of the cultures Heinlein was born/raised/trained in and of reactions of excess to them, however--:

With Moorcock's Eternal Champion, there's the Champion, his loyal Sancho Panza male companion, and his Lady (cue up Richard Kiley singing Dulcinea). In Glory Road there's Star, the Empress of All Worlds, Oscar whom she's hired for a Quest which she and Oscar are in together, and the comic relief male companion is... younger than Star (and .... .... left out because it's a spoiler) Oscar is by far the youngest of the three....

#784 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 11:42 AM:

Open threadiness:

This NYT link has graphs that summarize the relationship between income, race, and educational success. Very much worth looking at.

Most news stories are about trivial crap that won't matter in a month, and even stories about important things are often fuzzy on the actual data that's available about them. (Or sometimes, the reporter or editor prefers to spin out their own story rather than discuss the data that messes up their nice story. Or they're innumerate and can't really think coherently about the data even if they want to.) So it's *really* important to get and understand the high-quality data we can get hold of. And this is a really important issue.

For example, one thing this makes clear is that students in school districts in wealthy areas do a *lot* better than students in poorer districts. Another is that white students do a *lot* better than black or hispanic students. That's true everywhere, but the wealthiest school districts have the biggest gaps. Some of the gap can probably be attributed to differences in family income, but they also have some data about performance by blacks, whites, and hispanics in school districts where the three groups were pretty comparable in income--the gap remains, though it's narrower.

All this data is, as best I could tell, aggregate data at the school district level. That is, we're looking at how well all the white students did on average in a school district vs how all the black students did on average, and we're looking at the average income of white and black families in that school district. That can give you some weird artifacts because you're not looking at individuals, but at broad groups. So, for example, if you had someplace where most of the wealthier black familes in a district sent their kids to private schools, you'd get a misleading picture from this data[1].

Very much worth looking at.

[1] A famous example of the way this can go wrong, Simpson's Paradox style: When you aggregate income statistics and votes at the state level, you find out that rich people are liberal--that is, higher-income states vote Democratic more often than Republican, and also tend to be more liberal on most issues in polling. But, within every single state, the higher your income, the more likely you are to vote Republican.

#785 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 12:15 PM:

On the thread of looking for tools: A friend had a cat that stole silverware and tools, and hid them -- like with like. She didn't realize what was happening until she found the cache of screwdrivers. There was a separate stash of forks, one of spoons, ...

#786 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 12:21 PM:

albatross @ 784: That's one of the things that makes me so angry at the No Child Left Behind sort of education programs. We test the students, and then punish the principal and teachers if they don't do well. We could skip all these expensive, time-consuming tests, and just go directly to beating up the school systems that have the bad judgement to be located where poor people live.

#787 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 12:45 PM:

OtterB, #782: The cheap-ass cut-anything-with-them junk-drawer scissors are one of the things that generate an interrupt if I find them anywhere else in the house. The scissors that I keep by my computer and in my jewelry work area have been rendered Do Not Move by virtue of my having a fit every time I went to look for them and they weren't there, and making him stop whatever he was doing to find them. (The same trick worked for the pens I keep by the computer.) I do not touch his good sewing scissors, and the kitchen scissors are put back whenever used, and never used to cut paper. The system seems to work reasonably well for us.

#788 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 01:38 PM:

Brenda @771: By the time of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) sixteen years later, gray suits seem to have become shorthand for "inconspicuous middle-class professional attire." If the point is that the man in Grey Lensman and Slan is powerful but low-key, it seems that we might be dealing with a trope that began with the end of the war and trickled down?

#789 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 01:41 PM:

Argh, just realized you said 1940. So maybe it's a trope that was temporarily derailed by the war?

#790 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 01:57 PM:

I have said repeatedly over the last few months that the state of public schooling in this country is going to drive me to become a communist.

My child attends a high poverty school, and the structural bullshit that keeps that school from thriving drives me crazy. I'm not worried about my child. She's bright, white, has educated and well-off parents, and she's going to do fine. The poor black kid who is just as bright and motivated and awesome as she is? Gonna have a whole lot of issues. Her school does really well in educating people, but the deck is CLEARLY stacked agains them, and it is infuriating.

I just don't know how to fix it short of becoming Queen of the World.

RE: Food Thread
I am one of those people who plans a menu, goes to the grocery once every two weeks, and then fixes dinner based on plan. What seems alien to me is the people who don't know what they're going to have for dinner on a given night because if I left it up to chance, I would eat take-out pizza every evening due to lack of cope, and I don't do well physically on that.

Pre-planning doesn't take that much effort for me due to several things that I've implemented (spin the wheel of dinner!), and then I can do all of the prep work and such on the weekends when I have time and space to breathe. However, I realize that I'm super fortunate to have the skills, wealth and space to be able to do this.

#791 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 02:17 PM:

Sarah E @787,788:

It goes back much further, as "Éminence grise" (Grey Eminence) has referred to a powerful man behind the scenes since the early 1600's.

#792 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 04:09 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 595; Xopher @599; janetl @600; Soon Lee @603; Steve Halter @607; Fragano @608: thank you, everyone.

Apologies for not responding before, but on the day after I posted about my book winning the award I set off on the London Marathon as a training run… and stress fractured my pelvis at 16 miles (I didn't realise that's what I'd done, so I did finish, walking the last 10 miles). Anyway, it's taken me since then to come to terms with the fact that I won't be running for the next six weeks or so and definitely won't be running Comrades (56 mile iconic ultra marathon in South Africa at the end of May), so I'm afraid I've been rather out of it for the last ten days.

Food: (Rather late to the discussion) - I'm another one of those that will cook enough for several means, particularly e.g. lentil dishes - eat one that night, couple more portions during the week, freeze the rest in single-meal portions. And we buy in bulk when stuff's on sale, and we live 5 mins from a local 24-hour supermarket and can wander over at 'final-reduction' time and get stuff at 10-25% of normal price. But we totally recognise that we're lucky to have the cash to buy when things are on offer, and the storage space (cupboards, refrigerator and freezer) to store the food, and the time/flexibility (no child care to worry about) to go to the supermarket at final-reduction time...

#793 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 04:36 PM:

Hm. This thread has caused me to realize that I seem to have a category that's essentially "tools belonging to location" (for example, each sewing machine/set of machines gets a pair of scissors, and there's basic tools of the screwdriver, pry and cut variety on each floor -- but it's still specific object sets with a specific location in which to belong).

Flashlights, it seems, are both a mobile and stationary category -- there are flashlights in the places where one might want them, when not dresesd for the day, and carrying one.

... but as a number of folks have said, one of the critical parts is making sure that the objects end up back where they're expected to be, if you're not going to go with the "put them everywhere" approach.

#794 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 06:27 PM:

dcb @ #792

Congratulations on the book and "Waaaaaah!" on the fracture.


Wishing you a speedy and complete recovery. Just take it steady, OK?

<Sends hugs (if acceptable) and virtual cocoa dusted truffles in your direction.>

#795 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2016, 08:40 PM:

dcb, #792: Ah, geez, you just can't catch a break, can you? (Pun intentional.) Sympathies on the latest problem that's interfering with your running.

#796 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 01:43 AM:

Sarah E @788: Kimball Kinnison was many things, but "low-key" was not one of them.

#797 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 05:02 AM:

The London Borough of Barnet has made a cock-up of running the elections today, apparently the correct lists of voters have not been delivered to Polling Stations.

It's making all the British news media.

It doesn't yet look like the sort of voter-list rigging that the USA is known for, but we have imported so much from you.

Late June, we have the Referendum on EU membership. In or Out? The option to Shake It All About is the policy of the MLRP, who keep coming up with good ideas.

It's not a close analogy, but the way the EU runs has evolved, and there are some similarities wih the situation at the time of The Federalist Papers. We're not getting anything of that quality, from either side.

#798 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 06:03 AM:

Back when I was cooking five nights a week for six people - this was a decade ago - I was very much a planner. We did a main shop every three weeks and had a set of about twenty-five meals we cycled through and when it came to shopping time I would sit down and Write The Menu, and then reel off what we'd need to buy to make it happen based on what we had in the cupboards. Sometimes I'd come home and swap today's meal for tomorrow, based on what I felt like eating and how much cope I had for cooking, but the shopping made it hard to change my mind entirely.

Nowadays I don't write a menu and I do my shopping weekly, but I still have a plan in my head when I shop. Otherwise I find it very difficult to know what to buy. And it's easier, for me, to come home from work tired and implement a plan - the cooking takes much less executive function than the deciding, so it's quite common for me to have all the energy necessary to make curry and do some laundry and an hour or two of writing, but only if I've already formed the intention.

#799 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 10:19 AM:

cyllan @ 790, duckbunny @ 798

I found I have a specific range of dishes I typically make, even if I cook them in random order. So I purpose-plan-buy when I know I want to experiment with something new where I don't have all of the ingredients' stocked.

While I keep a pantry/freezer full of "stuff I use a lot" I do some special-ingredient shopping when there are sales on the items. (yay for freezers and pantries!) Actually, I buy shelf-stable stuff and freezable things in bulk when the items are on sale whether I need stocking or not for commonly used items (like canned tomatoes, certain kinds of frozen vegetables, dried/canned bean, certain cuts of meat, etc). Sales don't always come on a reliable cycle.

#800 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 10:20 AM:

Storage and Retrieval

When we decided we needed a bigger house, I put a shoe box in every room in the house, and dropped cruft (pens, paperclips, combs, etc.) in the box as I noticed it. (What do you call the phenomenon of out-of-place things becoming invisible?)

Then I gathered the boxes together, sorted everything into like piles... and went out and bought toolboxes for electrical thingies (electric blue), plumbing thingies (red), and general tools. I also tested all the pens, and did a lot of tossing.

Then we moved, and things were good. Oh. We still had two packing tape dispensers, and a dozen rolls of tape, so we have a tape dispenser in the junk drawer, and one at the other end of the kitchen. And a scissors next to it. (The sewing scissors are in the sewing box in the sewing/SF room.)

But then things got crowded, and where do I store this Stuff? I made a Word file, and recorded where I had stuff put away, and now I add to it when I have new stuff to be put away, and I can find things!

But I need to put out the long folding table in the basement, and put every tool from everywhere in the house and garage on it, and sort them into categories, and store them accordingly.

It will be fun.

#801 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 11:47 AM:

Sorting geekery. Far too much fun. 8-)

#802 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 01:20 PM:


You need a hat.

#803 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 01:25 PM:

Dave Bell #797 - I keep waiting for a push to introduce electronic voting.
Remember though that they changed the law so you aren't leafleted repeatedly to go and register to vote, now you basically have to decide to go and get yourself on the register, so it's lowering viter registration rates. Naturally if you move house often or don't have a decent internet connection, things will be a bit harder.

#804 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 06:24 PM:

I have some shopping and cooking habits from when we had a year-round weekly Greenmarket (NYC farmers' market) closer to our home than the grocery store. Three years later, it still feels a bit odd to be shopping for cheese, fish, or apples at a supermarket (the Greenmarket could be counted on for those year-round), and I haven't yet found a good source of fresh fish in Arlington. But we're fine for apples, and Andy seems basically satisfied with the cheese situation.

#805 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 06:37 PM:

Something I thought I saw while scrolling rapidly past a bunch of stuff, and then couldn't find again... is there a rubber wristband that trans-friendly people can wear to indicate our willingness to be restroom escorts, or was I imagining that? And if there is one, where can it be had?

#806 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 06:55 PM:

I dunno about wristbands, but there's the I'll Go With You buttons.

#807 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 07:06 PM:

Alan Shepard became the first American in space 55 years ago today. It was a very different time.

#808 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 10:58 PM:

Is there any interest in a spoiler thread for the latest Captain America film? We just saw it and...well, there's a lot to like, and some other parts.

#809 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2016, 11:21 PM:

Dave Bell @ 802 ...
Sorting... You need a hat.

... so what do you do when you've got lots and lots of hats to sort?

#810 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 02:39 AM:

Tom Whitmore @807

And SpaceX make their second first-stage landing on a drone ship out in the Atlantic. Would have been yesterday, only they decided to delay the launch until today because of weather forecasts.

They've also announced a plan to land a Dragon 2 capsule on Mars, and NASA have sent a humanoid robot to Scotland.

#811 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 05:42 AM:

Elliott Mason @ #674:

I do most of my shopping "on the way home from work", utilising my feet and public transport for getting around. Shopping small amounts, multiple times per week, means I get fed and can avoid the cost of a car. I do have a fridge/freezer combo (I'd guess 1-1.5 cubic metres of fridge space and about 75% of that volume as freezer space), don't know if that qualifies as "tiny European" (it's undeniably European, but I've seem smaller fridges), but it's not actually fridge/freezer space that causes the high-frequency shopping.

A relatively typical shop fits in the backpack that also doubles as the storage for "laptop, plus all the other stuff I seem to be lugging around on a regular basis".

#812 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 09:27 AM:

Ingvar M @811: A small fridge for a whole household, in the US, is nearly two meters tall, a meter wide, and nearly a meter deep (of which some of that is freezer, but not half).

Big fridges are bigger than that.

In the US, dorm rooms and hotel rooms are equipped with a fridge that's a bit more than knee-high and about 3-by-5 in aspect ratio, of which the top handspan is "freezer" (but doesn't actually keep anything frozen).

It is my understanding that most European refrigerators fit under the kitchen counters. In the US, some fridges don't even fit under the HIGH kitchen cabinets (there has to be a bump-up to accomodate them, and an inconveniently-short cabinet above).

#813 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 10:28 AM:

Elliott Mason @ #812:

The fridge/freezer at home is roughly 2m tall (maybe 1.8 m), about a metre wide (probably a bit less) and a bit deeper than it's wide. Just over half is the fridge (on top) and the rest is the freezer (bottom).

I've lived, I think, in one place that had one of those stunted mini-fridges that fit under the kitchen counter, everywhere else has had either a full-size fridge, or the half/half fridge-freezer combo I have now.

#815 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 11:27 AM:

You can get under-counter fridges with freezer compartments that are about big enough for an ice-cube tray and a couple of frozen dinners.
They have to be manually defrosted, and they aren't particularly energy-efficient.

(For several years I lived in an apt with one of those - it was actually under the range, and the oven was above the range where you'd expect a microwave.)

#816 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 01:38 PM:

Elloptt, #812: The efficiency of hotel-room freezers varies widely. We use frozen bottles of water as ice-packs in the cooler that we keep under the table in the dealer room. Some hotel freezers are more than adequate to re-freeze the bottles overnight. Others... not so much. And occasionally there's a refrigerator that will half-freeze even things that aren't in the freezer section!

Also, most hotel refrigerators are not the tiny dorm cubes, but the next size up -- just tall enough to fit underneath the table that the TV sits on. Some are taller than that, and free-standing (often with a microwave on top, in that case).

#817 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 01:42 PM:

Dave Bell, way back at 693 (this is what happens when I forget to cruise through daily): I don't think anyone else mentioned this, but the definition of "whole milk" has changed over the years. It used to be 5% fat, and now it's 3% fat. So drinking 2% is a lot closer to the current "whole milk" than it once was.

Best wishes to Scraps on his recent surgery.

Elliott at 750: Not being able to find things when you need them? That's Tansey's Law of Reverse Serendipity being applied. It happens to me all the time with hearing aid batteries: I find them all over the place every day, yet when I need one, they've all disappeared. They reappear the very instant I buy or find a pack.

(Inverse Serendipity is finding things you don't need when looking for something else.)

Count me as another person who used to do menu planning, and now just does something with whatever's in the fridge. My Honey is home from Hawaii and has been cooking for us, so it's less of a chore and more of a pleasure these days.

#818 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 02:51 PM:

Ginger @817:

The FDA definition of "milk" says it has to be at least 3.25% milkfat, and this definition has been in place since at least 1993 (the last change date to the section containing that definition. Unfortunately, the online archives of the Federal Register only go back to 1994, so I can't check to see if that change affected the percentage milkfat).

#819 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 02:53 PM:

Dave #810 - a humanoid robot in Scotland? I hope they've given it some minders, otherwise it could get into trouble.

#820 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 02:59 PM:

When I was a kid*, the whole milk we bought was 4% milkfat. We mixed it with reconstituted nonfat dry milk** to make 2% "half and half"***.

*call it the 1960s and 1970s
**Confusingly, we called both the dry stuff and the reconstituted stuff "powdered milk".
***Yes, I know. And boy was I confused when I first encountered the half-cream stuff, as a teen.

#821 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 07:47 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @814: As I read this, I'm listening to mum and babies chirring in the chimney.

(I've decided to give them until June. Then they get Pinesol and Lynyrd Skynyrd.)

#822 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 10:38 PM:

RE hotel fridges:

Stayed at what might have been the cheapest motel in Bend, OR last weekend. Turned out to be very clean, with relatively new and unworn furniture.

One of the pretty-much-expected furnishings in motel rooms is a small fridge, and it had one. Bigger than usual, actually, with a microwave on top and a coffee maker on top of that.

It had a freezer compartment, with a plastic ice cube tray, helpfully filled with who-knows-how-old water. There was no separate door on the freezer; I figured it had been ripped off and never replaced. I didn't need ice so I wasn't bothered. The fridge wasn't plugged in. I fixed that, and in the morning found my orange juice cold and the ice cube tray quite solidly frozen.

It turns out that the door's top shelf fit neatly into the freezer compartment, sealing it shut. That's a very nice design.

I was pretty pleased by that motel. $48 a night (plus the inevitable local taxes bringing it to $61).

#823 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 11:28 PM:

There's a Civil War spoiler thread? Well, I'm going to be obnoxious and just say it: The Confederacy lost.

#824 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2016, 11:30 PM:

(Seriously I'm grateful for the spoiler thread, because I haven't seen CA:CW yet. If the above joke has been made there already, please forgive this humble one, who of course has also not read the spoiler thread!)

#825 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2016, 05:42 AM:

HLN, local man has just bought a rack-mount server, for not very much, and discovered he is an apprentice weightlifter.

Story so far: it is a Dell 2850 box, and it has passed the smoke test. If things don't work, local man can carefully dismantle it and sell enough bits to get his money back. He is not sure he needs the the two extra NIC cards and the card for external Serial Attached SCSI.

After much furkling with Google, Local Man understands that the system can take a SATA drive. The drive connector is physically identical and the backplane automagically switches modes.

Further hyper-local archaeology reveals an unused VGA lead which will connect to the the TV, and sundry other useful bits and pieces.

Local man is already using an old rack-mount switch, which works well and silently with new fans, and wonders if some of this gear is cheap because IPv6 is coming. Though since Windows XP supported it, the optimism in that statement is palpable.

The manuals are still available from Dell. The 2950 is the 2U version, and has room for a couple of full-length PCI-E cards (which space could be used for a fairly potent graphics card instead of gigabit networking).

It uses DDR3 server-type RAM, which came out in 2007, and it has a floppy drive!

Local Man is getting better at correctly crimping the connector to UTP cabling for ethernet.

#826 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2016, 05:12 PM:

HLN continues. I powered up the server-beast, and the messages made sense. No hard drive yet. The PCI-E slots might not be as good for graphics as local man thought, but that was a bit of a bonus anyway. A smallish drive is on order. but an old Ubuntu Live-CD worked fine. There was an warning message about the RAID battery. Worst case, the battery needs replacing, but it will run in write-thru mode.

Apart from the hard drive, which was cheap on eBay, local man shall not be spending much more. It can take four hard drives, in a RAID array, and that could be more storage than ever likely to be needed here.

#827 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2016, 05:56 PM:

I came across a brilliant and gem-like series of tweets from Alexis Kennedy, creator of the Fallen London story game I have been playing utterly obsessively lately* and decided I had to Storify it in the hopes it might reach a broader audience.

Jamfall, or How to complain about your Internet provider

I wish the complaints from our customers had been in this format.

* If anybody else here plays Fallen London (I guess Fade must?) please feel free to make the acquaintance of cliftonr.

#828 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2016, 11:12 PM:

I've been having my own tech trials lately. A few weeks ago, I realized that my crashed (machine freeze) while playing Minecraft were not so occasional anymore. With my previous machine, the same symptom turned out to be a pair of dead fans (leading to my current machine). I installed a temperature-sensor widget, which revealed that indeed, when I played Minecraft, the temperature was spiking to 60 Celsius and up.

So I took the machine to the Geek Squad, in hopes of dealing with a developing problem before the entire machine died. After a week, they confirmed that indeed there was a fan problem; the CPU fan was maxing out at 40 rpm. However, they could not fix it without potentially damaging the machine, because the fan had screws running down through the motherboard, and they couldn't get at the "backplate" (that side of the case is riveted shut).

So, off to Lenovo technical support (the machine is starting the third year of a three-year warrantee). After eventually managing to get an online chat with a tech and more chat on the phone with a another tech, they offered to send out a tech to replace the fan. The tech who arrived Wednesday (not the one I'd been talking with) replaced the fan, which involved removing the entire motherboard, with continuous reference to the images on his iClone. This was needed in order to attach the fan's backplate on the underside of said motherboard. (WTF, Lenovo?) In fact, he also replaced the case fan, because whoever took down the original report had specified that fan instead (fortunately I'd already sorted this out over the phone, but again WTF?).

When the tech arrived, I'd had a working system which occasionally hung if I pushed it. When he was done, the system no longer booted Ubuntu, Windows, or even the Lenovo diagnostic disk. The tech shrugged and said he couldn't do anything besides replacing the fans, WTF #3. (Also, it turns out that both techs are in fact with IBM, which apparently handles support for Lenovo.)

Friday the original tech I'd spoken with came back, and over the course of her diagnosis and repair attempts, it became progressively more obvious that the Wednesday tech must have damaged the motherboard, despite his static-leash and pad. So I am currently waiting on a new motherboard, and a Windows 7 install CD, because the machine didn't come with one, and "they don't support Ubuntu". (Funny, I bought this model specifically because it was certified for Ubuntu.)

Grumble, snort, piss, I've now been without my desktop for two weeks out of the last three, limping along with my iPad. And who the hell designs a system so that the only way to replace the CPU fan is to pull the whole motherboard? Let alone that first tech....

#829 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 03:42 AM:

The CPU fan/heatsink assembly does depend on a motherboard backplate, and it can be tricky to change without getting at the underside. On the assemblies I have worked on, the fan can be removed without affecting the heatsink.

There are three main parts.

1: The fan.

2: The heatsink

3: The base.

The base and the motherboard backplate are what are held by the screws through the motherboard. The heatsink is removed to access the CPU chip.

With some designs, that base is two strips/brackets, each held by a pair of screws. You can replace them one at a time, if they need changing for a different heatsink, so the plate on the back of the motherboard stays in place.

All this needs to be done carefully, anti-static precautions and all, but I have done it.

I am a farmer, not a computer technician. This is the sort of little trick you learn when fixing combine harvesters.

#830 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 05:26 AM:

A thing of beauty, and Relevant to Our Interests:

[Aristotle] "On Trolling"

For every community of speakers holds certain goods in common, and with them the conversation [dialegesthai] as an end in itself; and the troll is one who seeks to damage it from within.

via Crooked Timber, from the original at Journal of the American Philosophical Association by Rachel Barney

#831 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 12:20 PM:

Your tech troubles, my tech troubles:

Part I. I installed Chrome the other day because an editor interested in a story wanted to edit it jointly via Google Hangouts. When I installed Chrome, the fonts in web pages were tiny. Somehow I found a page that offered sizing at 100%-125% (the default)-150%. I checked 150% and restarted my machine for the new setting to take effect. Everything on my desktop was enlarged, including the icons and the datetime stamp in my taskbar.
I was not amused.

Part II. Having been unable to find the 100%-125%-150% page to reverse the change, I posted a question in the Chrome help forum. I went away for two days, and when I came back, I couldn't find the question I had posted. There is no way to search the forum by the poster's name, and my answer, if any, is lost in the sands of the desert. I'd really like my original icons back.

(The editor bought the story, by the way. Yay, but I wish she hadn't wanted Chrome.)

Needless to say, I'm sticking with Firefox.

#832 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 04:25 PM:

Brenda Kalt @831

What operating system are you using? In my Windows 7 installation, Start -> Control Panel -> Display brings up a menu which includes "Make text and other items larger or smaller". Selecting that choice brings up a page with 100% 125% 150% radio buttons.

#833 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 05:24 PM:

Bruce H. @832

Thank you! Thank you! Hugs and kisses!!!!! How I got into the control panel when I thought I was in Chrome is beyond me, but the Display panel did the trick. Yay!

#834 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 06:36 PM:

In Chrome on my Windows machine, I can adjust the font size on a web page by holding down ctrl and scrolling the mouse wheel. ctrl + or ctrl - also works, and there's a magnifying glass at the right-hand end of the address bar. (The first two things also work in Firefox). You may have already tried these things and not had them work, but if not, I hope they're useful in any further enforced Chrome usage!

Congratulations on the story sale :)

#835 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 07:13 PM:

A Firefox extension that may interest you is NoSquint. It provides magnification that can be individually adjusted for each site you visit. It works pretty well for me, with occasional glitches on sites that mix a lot of text with graphic icons. It's nice to be able to adjust for one site and not have to change the magnification when going to other sites.

#836 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 08:38 PM:

AKICIML: Is there a named law regarding how practicing a skill or trick goes well until it's time to demonstrate the skill or trick for someone else?

#837 ::: Sarah E ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 09:55 PM:

Invisible Boy's Law? (After the hero in Mystery Men whose power only worked if no one was looking.)

#838 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2016, 10:34 PM:

Jenny Islander at #836:

See the story "The Flying Yorkshireman" by Eric Knight.

A man can fly. But when he tries to fly on stage he finds he can't do it in front of an audience.

(this does not answer your question though about whether there is a word for it.)

#839 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 12:58 AM:

Jenny, #836: Stage fright?

#840 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 01:12 AM:

Jenny Islander @836:

At work, where as a product owner I have to show off our new features to our stakeholders, we call it the Demo Effect.

(But any feature that survives both the Demo Effect and the Abi Field is rock solid.)

#841 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 01:25 AM:

Jenny Islander @836: "Murphy" is probably too broad, ya?

See also: Michigan J. Frog.

#842 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 02:25 AM:

I have just recently found my screen text and images growing and shrinking uninvited. This is happening in both Chrome and Firefox.
I'd like to stop it from doing that, especially when what I actually want to do is copy and paste text, or scroll down.

#843 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 06:39 AM:

Open Thready: I've stumbled upon a striking small webcomic named The Secret Knots. Many small stories with a couple of larger ones, all quiet but evocative, usually uncanny.

Casual Reading is a piece that seems especially appropriate to this crowd.

#844 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 10:05 AM:

Dave Bell @ 828/829:

Not that it'll make you feel any better, but at least it wasn't a late-'90s vintage Compaq. Or, worse, a Packard Bell. I've almost managed to repress the memories of dealing with them.

Jenny Islander @ 836:

Murphy's Law is possibly a little too broad, and Sod's Law is possibly (or not) too malicious. Abi's suggestion of The Demo Effect is probably pretty close, although demo effects are also show-offy computer graphics things that were popular for a while, especially in the '80s. I can't think of any other words or terms off the top of my head.

#845 ::: eliddell ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 11:03 AM:

John M. Burt @ 842: Is there any possibility that one of the CTRL keys on your keyboard is stuck or getting pressed accidentally, such that it's combining with the mouse wheel to form the shortcut that Em @ 834 described?

#846 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 01:16 PM:

KeithS @ #844:

We used to refer to that as "acts of the demo devil" in Sweden (but Sweden also has a mythical mipsrinting gnome).

#847 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 01:28 PM:

Ingvar M@846: wouldn't that be a ngome?

#848 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 01:46 PM:

Ingvar M @ 846:

I see what you did there!

I'm familiar with the demon Titivillus who introduces and collects scribal errors; I learned about him here on ML, actually. Is the gnome related?

#849 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 04:09 PM:

Cadbury Moose @794; Lee @795: Thanks.

AKICIML: If I want an SD-type card to act as expansion for the stupidly-small SSD in my mini-laptop (Toshiba Satellite Click Mini), what sort of speed/spec should I be going for? I was intending to get a 128 GB card, but don't know what's a reasonable speed. I already have a 32GB mini-SD card in the available mini-SD slot, and I need to keep the single USB post open for whatever else I need to attach, such as a printer or my external HDD. I may end up replacing the 32 GB miniSD with a larger one as well.

#850 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 04:23 PM:

dcb @ 849: The stat you probably want to focus on is 4k Random Writes. Higher is better, but if it's just bulk data, you can get away with less. Random reads are easier, and Bulk reads are the easiest for the cards to do well on.

Look at reviews for MicroSD cards used for the RaspberryPI or other single board computers. Something that will work well for them will work ok for you, and there's a substantial difference between the various brands.

#851 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2016, 10:13 PM:

Ah, cards for computers in 2016! I just attended a 40th anniversary celebration and saw some punch cards. What memories cards bring up!

#852 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 12:06 AM:

I am going to SHRED someone at Comcast.

For the past year or so, I have had to opt out of having them store my credit-card information every single month -- and the opt-out message/checkbox is in pale grey and green on a white background, very easy not to notice. Which is annoying because that sort of thing should never be opt-out in the first place, but it was only 1 click every time.

This month, I go to pay my bill, and instead of the nearly-obfuscated opt-out box, there's something else.
"NEW! Now every new payment method you enter will be AUTOMATICALLY added to your account information!"


No way am I putting my credit-card information on any server controlled by Comcast. Until they fix this, they will be getting my payment by check, and having to deal with the fucking paperwork, every single month. Furthermore, every payment I send in will have that message in large red type on the printed bill. Ghod knows it's not as though I don't have checks enough to last me to the end of time, since I hardly use them for anything any more.

WTF, Comcast?

#853 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 02:59 AM:

dcb @849

There's a rather important difference between an SSD (Solid State Drive) and the assorted external flash-memory options such as SD cards and USB sticks.

All flash memory has a limited life. A storage cell can only be written to a limited number of times. It's a big number, but it is a limit.

An SSD uses wear-levelling to spread the writes over the whole physical drive. Something such as an SD card doesn't do this, and things such as the data defining a folder will sit in one place, being written to a lot of times, while the rest of the flash RAM will be written to a few times.

OK, you can get huge storage, and the capacity is useful for some things, but be careful what you use it for. You should make a regular back-up of the data.

I don't feel all that comfortable about using the current huge USB sticks. I could put some downloads on one, essentially off-line storage, but it's not something I want to keep writing to.

#854 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 04:04 AM:

eric@850: Thank you.

Dave Bell @853: That's very useful information. I was mostly thinking of using the SD card to store files that I call "resources" - downloaded academic papers etc. - so I don't need to always have my portable external hard drive with me. But I'd been unaware of the built-in limited life. Many thanks for that info. I guess if I use a USB stick to store the files of my next book-in-progress (so I can work on it whichever computer I'm using) I'd better be very very careful about keeping it backed up.

Hm, this affects my next larger-size laptop purchase as well. Now less happy with buying one with a smallish SSD: I want my external hard drives to be backups, not essential for everyday access to files. Maybe I'll buy a replacement battery for the present one (Toshiba Portege R830, 500MB HDD) and see if there's anything I can do to stop it (the laptop) heating up so quickly (ideas, anyone?) and keep it going another year or two.

#855 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 07:48 AM:

Lee @852: I had a Comcast door-to-door salesman on my porch recently.

I told him:
a) your Internet-only package is nearly twice the price we're paying right now, and
b) I want to be held hostage to Comcast's customer service like I want to be boiled in lava.

He attempted to retort:
a) door-to-door staff have special rates to offer (fair enough), and
b) What are you talking about? Everyone LOVES our customer service! We're the best in the business!

I laughed so hard I scared the dogs, then told him to peddle his nonsense elsewhere, we weren't buying.

Apparently he believed it.

Either he was an amazing actor or he has literally never read the Internet.

#856 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 09:19 AM:

I'd be tempted to ask the Comcast sales team if they're RFC 1149 compliant.

(RFC 1149)

#857 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 09:27 AM:

Elliott Mason, without looking it up (so I could be wrong, but I don't think so) I think that only Time-Warner has a worse reputation than Comcast. Across ALL businesses. "Uncle Hank's Used Car Lot" would be considered more trustworthy....

True story, from about a year ago.

My cable went out, with a message about the bill being overdue. I called the company to say what the frack because I always pay my bills the day they come in; they said, "oh, we're emailing you your bill now and not sending paper ones."
"Oh yeah? I didn't authorize that, and I haven't gotten any emails from you."
"We sent you an opt-out email to your Comcast email address and since you didn't opt out you switched to electronic billing."
"I don't have a Comcast email address."
"Sure you do, one was automatically set up for you when you subscribed."
"You mean, back about twenty years ago when we said we didn't want a Comcast email address because we had our own domain names?"
"Um, that's not in my records."
"So, you're saying that because I didn't reply to an email I didn't get, because I didn't know I had a Comcast email account, you've been sending all subsequent bills to that Comcast email account you set up for me without my knowledge and to which I don't have a password?????"
"Um... well....."

I got them to forward that account to an account that I actually check, paid the back bill, and got my cable back. But I was furious.

Honestly, a no-response to an email being taken as an opt-in? Seriously? In an account where NONE OF THE EMAIL HAS EVER BEEN MARKED AS READ?

#858 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 10:20 AM:

Tom Whitmore @ #847,
KeithS @ #848:

The original is Tyrckfelsnisse (from "tryckfel" -> 'printing error' and "nisse" -> colloquial term for a tomte, which can be approximated by gnome). The actual, non-misprinted, word is used in the Wikipedia article, which is amusingly correct and incorrect at the same time.

Translation is amusingly hard, but I'd say that "mipsrinting gnome" is a better translation than "misprinting gonme" (or similar, that puns the speeling of gnoem). Besides, it behooves us to spell "gnome" correctly, otherwise they may come and poke our comments, which is something we do not want.

#859 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 10:37 AM:

I'm starting to have a strong inkling that I just want to opt out of this whole internet thing....

#860 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 01:13 PM:

Cassy B@857: Time Warner is not an option in my neighborhood. Verizon or Comcast, or dish etc.

#861 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 01:17 PM:

Xopher at #823:

Del Cotter had, preceding you by seven hours, posted an even better joke to the film's spoiler thread.

(I peeked there, risking spoilers, when I saw that Del had contributed, because Del.)

#862 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 01:20 PM:

I have very strong feelings about T-Mobile refusing to send detailed paper bills anymore. I can cope with "Okay, remember to pay the bill when they text me about it," but I hate not having that attached to the itemized list: every time the bill varies a bit, I have to jump through hoops just to look into why.

And now I need to submit some very expensive international phone calls as business expenses for reimbursement, and instead of being able to just take a picture of the itemized list and mail it in, I'm going to have to jump through hoops and screenshot things once I find them and ARGH. Sometimes paper is useful! For the love of god!

(Meanwhile, the internet service that we have on autopay, which never varies by one cent, religiously sends us a multi-page "Yup, auto-paid the unchanging number again" statement every month. Go figure.)

#863 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 01:44 PM:

Elliott Mason, as I understand it (caveat; I might be mistaken) Time Warner and Comcast (and perhaps one or two smaller players) have very, very carefully sliced and diced the various cable markets up between them so that they rarely or never compete. (So much for the free market....)

#864 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 02:40 PM:

I've heard that in the UK, a customer has a choice of 7 or so internet service providers. I was thrilled to have a choice of 2 at my house in Pittsburgh. Sigh.

#865 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 02:56 PM:

janetl @ #864:

That very much depends on how you count. Many, if not all, ISPs simply use BT's access network for "the last mile", but if you count those as separate (and I would, since the internet connectivity they provide may well differ widely in quality), you may have up to "twenties" in some areas.

#866 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 03:23 PM:

Well, I found Comcast's online-chat link. The agent I chatted with was competent enough to understand my issue, and said that it would be kicked upstream to Technical. She actually had enough snap to suggest that I try a different browser first and see if I got the same thing (which I did). While I have little hope that they'll actually DO anything about it, at least I have no complaints about the service agent.

#867 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 06:07 PM:

dcb @854

I would not be worried about storing "resources" on an SD card. The write limit is pretty big, tens of thousands of writes, but something such as the directory info would get written into the same block of flash RAM every time, and just storing a new file might need several writes.

An SSD should handle all this much better. The wear-levelling spreads that load around, and the bigger disk helps. The hardware built-in to a laptop should be able to cope. But regular back-ups are always a good idea.

Everyone talks about battery life. Flash memory write life may be the hidden hardware limit.

#868 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2016, 09:14 PM:

I'm surprised that no one else has picked up on the mention by thomas at #830 of the pseudo-Aristotelian treatise "On Trolling". It makes a really powerful case for defining trolling by reference to an intentional effect on a pre-existing community with common interests. So it is a really thought-provoking look at issues that are central to Abi, TNH, and others who live here.

Plus it's also really hilarious. Have a look!

#869 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 01:06 AM:

Arggh. I got my computer back to dual-booting (Ubuntu and now, Windows 10), only to discover that during my backup phase, a basic UNIX command completely backstabbed me and I've lost my encrypted directory and (AFAICT) all the partitions it contained the access keys to. I'll survive, but I'm not happy.

I hadn't verified that it was actually copying the relevant files because I had no idea that "cp -a" could simply decide to replace two apparently normal directories with malformed links. (Also I was both stressed and somewhat rushed at the time, given my computer was in a seriously unstable state.)

#870 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 07:04 AM:

In the course of trying to roust out backup keys for the above, I discovered some bad news just in time: The cross-platform password keeper Memengo has shut down its servers.

Their app has been removed from the app stores, but if you have a wallet on your phone, you can still open that. Customers have one last chance to recover their data to a PC, from May 15 to May 30 2016, when you can log into their site and print out the passwords. See for their announcement.

#871 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 09:09 AM:

Of possible interest to other MakingLight people: Ada Palmer's (of Ex Urbe) "Too Like the Lightning" is out, and the first 50 pages (all I had time to read last night) are great.

#872 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 09:18 AM:

David Harmon @ 870

My Early Tech Adopter friend laughed at me last week when I dug out the small notebook that I use to keep my passwords. Then she went on to talk about how secure it wasn't. Between your post and Jacque's @ 859 links... I'll stick to my luddite ways.

#873 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 09:41 AM:

RE tech woes, this has been Replace That Hard Drive month. The spare 2tb drive I swapped into my DVR was technically in better shape than the old one, but still got read errors. Ended up swapping in a brand new 2tb. Thank goodness they are cheap. I think I lost two recorded programs; an episode of the Good Wife from a while back (not sure why I still had it) and a forgettable movie.

I'm hoping to turn a newly-bought refurbished mini-desktop into a dual boot. Bought a larger hard drive into which I hope to clone the Windows partition, then add Linux.

#874 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 10:05 AM:

Finally went to see Jungle Book yesterday -- the giggle of the morning was a trailer for "The Secret Life of Pets" whose opening shot was a colorful Flatiron Building...

#875 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 10:09 AM:

Cassy B. @ 863:

Of course local monopolies that don't have to care about customer service and that can gouge their customers isn't a failure of the free market. If you don't like your current cable provider, you can always move to another city...

I seem to recall that a while back, Comcast marketing tried to spin the term "Comcastic" to mean something like "fantastic". Unfortunately, their customers had been using it to mean the opposite for much longer.

Ingvar M @ 858:

That's fascinating. After doing a little more research, another translation for a plain, not-Christmassed tomte/nisse might be brownie, but gnome works too. And Google image search gave me a lot of things that looked like garden gnomes.

Now I have more critters to blame my tyops on!

Victoria @ 872:

While I use a password manager and am very happy with it (Lastpass), a small notebook with passwords in it is not actually insecure, provided you look after it properly. Passwords are not something that if you write them down, some hacker on the other side of the world will instantly, psychically know. Now, yes, if you leave your password book out where anyone can grab it, it's insecure, but I doubt that's what you're doing. People have been managing to keep pieces of paper secure for hundreds of years now.

I'd say a password manager program is probably better, because everything seems to need a password these days, but if it's a service instead of a local program that you run, you do have to watch out for what happened to David Harmon.

Speaking of which, David, my sympathies on the computer and the passwords.

#876 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 10:51 AM:

KeithS #875: Well, the password thing isn't a major problem, the app still works for now, and most of the passwords are duplicated elsewhere (including index cards). The encryption loss... well, I have to take responsibility for my setup, I'm mostly pissed that what should have been a KISS-positive procedure turned around to bite me.

#877 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 11:16 AM:

Tom W @ 807:Alan Shepard became the first American in space 55 years ago today. It was a very different time. Was it ever. I remember kids bringing transistor radios into class to listen to launches, and the teachers supporting this because space mattered. I wouldn't have the 1960's back on a bet (Kantner didn't know what he was talking about -- I lived through them and remember them very well), but that's one thing I miss. Now we have to send people halfway around the world to get them into space.

#878 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 11:58 AM:

Keith @875:

My password manager of choice is KeePass. It keeps the passwords in a locally encrypted database, which you can share between machines as easily as you share other files (I personally keep it on DropBox, which isn't necessarily the most secure option, but I'm OK with the risk).

It's open source, strongly encrypted, and not cloud-based. If the project dies, I can take the data with me, and there are 3rd-party compatible software already available. It generates strong passwords (usually random 20 character, mixed upper-case, lower-case, digits, and symbols). I don't usually ever see the passwords, except perhaps on generation. The database itself is passphrase protected.

#879 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 11:59 AM:

@830 - yes,"On Trolling" is a wonderful work. It's about time there was a good basic analysis...

#880 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 11:59 AM:

@830 - yes,"On Trolling" is a wonderful work. It's about time there was a good basic analysis...

#881 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 04:30 PM:

I do not use keyboard-smash passwords, even though everyone tells me they're the safest kind. I have a couple of systems that I use instead:

1) Components. I have 7 or 8 basic components that I use in different combinations, with different special characters, occasionally l33t3d. This is a quick-and-easy way to get passwords that are unique but still easy to remember. It's not proof against a brute-force attack, but it averts the "trying the username and password combination from the hacked account against other major sites" weakness.

2) The Sonnet. I have one particular favorite sonnet, for which I can use the first letters of the words in any given line to make a random-looking password, which is then often combined with other components from (1).

Then I have a "Hints" file. It contains, for every site for which I have an account, the username (in plaintext because that doesn't matter) and, not the password itself, but a hint that will let me reconstruct it. I keep a backup of that file on a thumb drive in my belt-pack, and another one on my laptop.

Apparently my hints are really, really opaque. My partner, who knows me better than anyone else, can't figure them out. :-) Which means that I should probably write down a translation on paper and stick it into the Important Papers file with the wills and other stuff.

#882 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 05:35 PM:

KeithS @875 I'd say a password manager program is probably better, because everything seems to need a password these days, but if it's a service instead of a local program that you run, you do have to watch out for what happened to David Harmon.

Lee @881 Which means that I should probably write down a translation on paper and stick it into the Important Papers file with the wills and other stuff.

One of the reasons I prefer paper is that I use unique passwords for each program and will change them on a regular/random basis (sometimes when prompted, sometimes not. One of my duties at the Day Job is disaster preparedness. What happened to Dave Harmon is one reason to keep a hard-copy file instead of an electronic one. Also, I'm waiting for a password keeping site to get hacked sometime in the future. If I can think of it, so can the e-thieves. Ditto for "on my phone" or other personal electronics that could be lost/stolen/broken/etc. Then there's the Bus Test. Would your loved one be able to access your electronic life if you suddenly died from being hit by a runaway bus? And, no, I don't leave that notebook lying around.

As for hard to crack passwords, when the program allows me, I like to use no fewer than ten characters in a mix of l33t, deliberately misspelled and abbreviated words. With the occasional punctuation mark when the password can be long enough to contain a sentence. There are sites out there that have really crappy encryption protocols (numbers & letters only) and very limited key length.

#883 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 06:33 PM:

One way I have successfully made passwords that checkers think are quite secure is starting with Latinate taxonomic binomials (say, for dinosaurs, or small native mammals), which I already happen to know how to spell quite well, and then replacing certain letters with 1337'ed munge, letters, punctuation, and whatnot.

Usually survives a dictionary attack, if you're careful what you pick, and means your password hint can be a picture of a critter. Plus some of them are 30+ letters long, which has a security factor all on its own. :->

#884 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 07:00 PM:

I pick a sentence and then munge certain letters of it in a certain pattern. Hint can then be a completely different sentence.

#885 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 07:04 PM:

I pick a sentence and then munge certain letters of it in a certain pattern. Hint can then be a completely different sentence.

#886 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 08:28 PM:

I also have Too Like the Lightning in my e-reader. I want to finish the latest Asimov's before starting it, though.

#887 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 09:06 PM:

Victoria @882
Restricted alphabets for passwords are most annoying. I use the Password Keeper on my BlackBerry, which is at least a moderately secure toy. It likes to generate "keyboard smash" style, often including less common characters such as ~{}>` -- I am no longer surprised when the password gets rejected either for "character not allowed " or breaks the software. In the second case, I consider if I really need to do business with these people.
I have devised a technique for generating Ok passwords for restricted character sets. I generate passwords repeatedly writing down the parts that work and then concatenate them. I could use passphrases if they allow enough characters.
I have to be careful when changing random passwords to never save the change in the password program until the new password is fully accepted.
I had an experience that confirmed my determination not to reuse passwords : I got an email from a forum site about too many password attempts, even though I hadn't visited. I believe someone was trying username and password pairs there, looking for combinations.
We have seen similar things at work, a script clearly running through a list leaked or stolen from somewhere. We wrote a special detector for that, because it wasn't causing multiple bad passwords on any single username. It was a very harried experience, I blocked the single IP and then the same pattern picked up from other IPs, so I started blocking IPs, then class B groups, and then whole countries! After three hours they quit trying. From something on the order of one hundred thousand attempts, three username and password combinations succeeded for the bad guys. Of course when we knew that, we forced new passwords via the administrator tools.

#888 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 11:11 PM:

I am at "#1 of 2 copies" on my public library system's hold system for their non-e books of Too Like the Lightning! (they don't have it in e- at the moment).

Of those two copies, one is "On Order" and the other is "Processing" at the main branch. :->

#889 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2016, 11:37 PM:

I often end up locked out of systems for trying three different passwords because I can't remember their guidelines. I change a standard passwordish thing according to the requirements in most cases. But is it the standard, the capital letter, the number, the special character?

I like the idea I have heard for parents having access to their children's social media passwords without destroying the privacy therein: write password on piece of paper, put into sealed piggy bank in an obvious spot in the house. When necessary, break the bank to get the password.

#890 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 05:22 AM:

Diatryma @ #889:

I do (occasionally) do the same with various passwords that others MAY need access to, although I tend to go for "write on paper, place paper between two other papers, stuff in relatively opaque envelope, seal envelope, sign crossing the flap/body line, tape with Scotch Magic ensuring entire signature is taped over".

It's not perfect, using a wax seal would be WAY cooler, but it's quick, cheap and is at least minimally tamper-resistant.

#891 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 05:44 AM:

Diatryma, Ingvar M.

I like the piggybank idea, but my cynical/hacker side asks what happens if the kid provides a fake password, reasoning that you either won't find out or won't be able to admit to finding out.

That's even more true since passwords need to be changed regularly, and one might credibly claim to have forgotten to update the piggybank.

#892 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 06:00 AM:

thomas @ #891:

In my case it tended to be things like "root password to my home machine, that is hanging directly on the internet, password left with someone I know, in case it misbehaves while I'm on extended off-line", so it would've been counter-productive to provide non-working credentials.

I've also used it for "machine with sensitive data, where we want to change the password anytime someone has accessed it", in a work context.

For the specific case of "kid's social media credentials", I can see that providing incorrect credentials would be tempting, until the first time it is found out.

#893 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 07:26 AM:

thomas #891: Depending on the system (who gets notified on a password change) the kid could simply change the password. But in any case, it comes down to trust between the parent and the kid.

Regarding the piggy-bank and similar input-only archives: Put the date on the paper as well, so whoever has to open the archive knows which slip of paper was the current password!

#894 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 08:44 AM:

I use a core root password which should be dictionaryproof, plus a couple of sitespecific letters on the end. I had to change the core root password a few years ago, so there are always a few dangling unchanged passwords, and the letters on the end are not always what I think they will be. But it works pretty well.

#895 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 10:12 AM:

Periodic post to let people know that I'm still out here and still without a computer of my own. (Really, I'm busy enough that it's mostly not a problem, except when I have to do an art thing and I have to fit it within Photoshop's seven-day trial period because I can't access my own copy.)

#896 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 12:37 PM:

I keep library books and pending items on my desk, so when I need a new password I pick whatever is in my line of sight (currently it's a library call number) and adjust the ratio of letters to numbers/symbols as required. I write all of my passwords down on a sheet of paper that lives in our fire safe. If somebody can get to that piece of paper, hackers are the least of my concerns.

#897 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 01:39 PM:

Your hyper local sysadmin has been having fun, for some values of "fun", but that cheap server is running a version of Linux, without falling over.

1: It is still noisy.

2: Fitting a SATA drive instead of SAS really is easy. Dell do make an "Interposer Card" which pulls a couple of cunning tricks to maximise the performance, but the SAS backplane will support SATA drives, you just need to plug them in.

3: The box is currently plugged into the TV, which has a VGA socket. It isn't going to stay there. Local Man isn't sure where he is going to put the thing, and he is not inclined to spend a lot of money.

There is no way that Local Man can be mistaken for a PFY but he is going to make sure any cables are clearly labelled.

#898 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 04:11 PM:

For a while I had a sticky note on my monitor with a list of smash-keyboard passwords, generated by a password generator program. The passwords weren't identified by site (so just a list of random passwords), and only a couple were passwords in use. The rest were dummy passwords (generated by my password generator, but not meeting the password rules of whatever site I was using). I knew which one was valid, and what site it was for, however.

HLN: Local man will be starting new job soon, and is considering what cleanup actions need to be taken on his current work machine. Certainly deleting SSH keys, browser stored passwords, etc. Local man's IT department has already nixed the idea of local man shooting hard drives and SSDs with shotgun and disposing the fragments in multiple county dumps.

#899 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 05:03 PM:

@898: A wood-chipper would probably be more effective.

#900 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 05:31 PM:

As would eBay item 252306273781

(Smaller quantities are available, but shipping would still be a problem.)

Guvf zbbfr oryvrirf gung gur A/E va gur tenqr ersref gb "Angvbany Envy", naq vg'f gur fghss hfrq sbe wbvagvat envyjnl yvarf va gur svryq (be gur zvqqyr bs abjurer).

#901 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 05:49 PM:

Moose @900:

I've made and used the stuff in a chemistry class I taught a bunch of teenagers. I know I recorded it on my phone, but I don't think I uploaded it to YouTube.

Shipping isn't really a problem, as it is not really hazardous under normal circumstances. I could probably borrow a shotgun or woodchipper easier than making it anyway.

#902 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 08:19 PM:

An aircraft-type flare might be easier to find. I recommend the same precautions.

#903 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2016, 09:53 PM:

Cadbury Moose@900: Many thanks for pointing out that the rot13 of "nowhere" is "abjurer". I feel that this ought to be useful for something, although I have no idea what.

#904 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 12:41 AM:

And "envy" is "rail". Mildly useful....

There are lists of ROT-13 word pairs. They're amusing (Anna and Naan is a nice one).

#905 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 04:22 AM:

The magical possibilities of nowhere/abjurer seem extensive.

We discovered some time ago whilst playing around with rot13 and larp characters that "of" becomes "bs" and "bs" is both mildly pronounceable (in the manner of "Ms"), unfamiliar enough to look foreign, and quickly becomes comfortable as the joint between a personal and group name - such as Znev bs Aninee or Onenx bs Unebf. I keep meaning to use it for a human diaspora culture sometime.

#906 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 07:14 AM:

Many @ #900-905:

If you have a unix machine at hand, it's easy to verify that the command sed can, with one single statement, turn a cat into cement. To try it out:

echo cat | sed statement

#907 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 07:18 AM:

I did meet a guy, at a client company one time, who had the job of preserving data security by, well, taking old hard drives and bashing them with a sledgehammer until they were comprehensively beaten out of shape.

Since I'd been wrestling with their data storage for some time at this point, I thought he had the best job in the world.

#908 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 09:04 AM:

Dave Bell @897 -- Having had several rackmounts in my office at various times on their way to colo, I'd only say that the appropriate location for them is "Nowhere near me". I even ran ethernet out to the garage at one point to deal with the 4 12krpm micro turbojet fans. That being said, if you install the sensors package and fan-control, you can generally turn off/throttle way back the fans below 35c and nothing bad will happen.

Buddha Buck @898: Hard drives that displease me or have reached the end of their lives are given to the hyperlocal children along with a supply of torx drivers. I figure that the fingerprints and scratches and missing pieces are good against anyone short of NSA level adversaries. Also, it amuses the kids.

#909 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 09:40 AM:

Area creative type uses a con-script for written-down passwords. The key for said script is engraved on the inside of zir skull.
However, AKICIML, if one has not accessed one's Gmail account for years, has forgotten the password and doesn't even have it written down, what does one do? Do such accounts evaporate if unused?

#911 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 03:01 PM:

Ingvar M @906: echo cat | sed statement


I'm reasonably adept at sed, but a) I had no idea that syntax was even available, and b) how does that even work? (Yes, I tried it, and it does.)

#912 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 03:07 PM:

Steve Wright @907: I thought he had the best job in the world.

I think any job involving smashing things (especially with hammers) is very cool. I had a friend who worked for a glass shop for a while (long time ago, before recycling), and one of his jobs was to don safety glasses, grab a crowbar, and go out and reduce the volume in the trash bin. That's one that (if you could deal with the insurance issues) I'll bet you could charge money for. I know there are days when I could use an hour or two of wanton destruction. (I so love that destruction is the obverse of construction.)

#913 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 03:28 PM:

I will risk being the guy who explains things: sed is commonly used in the style

echo cat | sed s/a/emen/

That's "s" for "substitute", then a regex and substitition delimited by slashes. But, it turns out, you can use any character in place of the slash.

For your next assignment, come up with an amusing consequence of "sed saturnalia".

#914 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 03:33 PM:

Jaque @911:

It's using the sed command 's/replace/withthis/', but using 't' as the delimiter instead of '/'.

So 'statement' is "substitutes 'a' with 'emen'" and you are passing in 'cat'.

#915 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 03:33 PM:

Jaque @911:

It's using the sed command 's/replace/withthis/', but using 't' as the delimiter instead of '/'.

So 'statement' is "substitutes 'a' with 'emen'" and you are passing in 'cat'.

#916 ::: Buddha Buck calling for double-post cleanup... ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 03:36 PM:

I clicked "Post", it told me it failed due to too many rapid postings, checked the "recent comments" list,s saw nothing, and clicked "Post" again. Argh!

That, and Andrew Plotkin beat me to the explanation ;-)

#917 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 04:04 PM:

sed statement

Ohhh! Yes. Of course. Duh. I missed it partly because I was distracted by the absence of an option. I was conditioned from the beginning of my UNIX career that either -f or -e had to be included. Simply never crossed my mind that those were, you know, "optional." ;-) (Thousands of characters—wasted! Woe! :->)

Meanwhile, HLN: Local neighbor literally shouting at the sky, trying to shoo away local "town crier"* raven. Finally stopped (the neighbor, not the raven) when your correspondent shouted back, "Yeah, good luck with that."

* Or possibly juvenile, practicing their "voices." This one, in addition to trying out different styles of cawing in succession will also do animal and bird immitations, drippy click noises, and vocalizations that sound for all the world like he or she is mimicking human speech intonations. On the whole, quite hilarious.

#918 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 04:05 PM:

P.S. Raven has moved on to "spring" noises: "Boing. Boing Boing." This is actually a new one.

#919 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 04:19 PM:

@Jacque no. 918: "Boing! Boing!" is a pretty common way for male ravens to show off in springtime in Fairbanks, at least on the UAF campus. The ones here in Kodiak tend to puff up hugely, then carefully say, "Tweet!" before settling their feathers and looking around for applause.

#920 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 04:38 PM:

Area woman has gotten a great deal of fun from listening to ravens talking to themselves, as well as watching them doing aerobatics (often for fun) and 'pairs flying'.

#921 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 05:22 PM:

Jenny Islander: Yes, I've also heard tweeting, though in our case, it does seem to be mostly just self-entertaining performance art. (The tip-off that it's imitation is that the calls don't actually match those of any other bird species in the area. It's like he/she is doing "bird.") Haven't observed the affect that goes with it. Have observed hotly contested disputes over dumpster finds, though, leading me to wonder what percent of calorie intake is expended on chases.

(It would surprise me not in the least to learn that ravens have "cultural" variations in things like kid learning and courting behaviors. They're scary smart folks, by all accounts.)

The performer (assuming it's always the same one) tends to sit by him/herself at the edge of the roof or high in the tree, running through his/her repertoire. This, a slight scruffiness, and apparent clumsiness hopping around the tree is what leads me to wonder if it's Kid waiting for Parent to come back from foraging. Occassionally human response will cause looking around with interest, but I haven't actually managed to incite a "conversation."

Neighbor's variants of "Shoo!" did seem to elicit some interest and variation of calls, and standing at the foot of the tree looking up will produce a certain amount of head cocking. But we naked monkeys don't actually seem to be very interesting, on balance.

#922 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 07:01 PM:

Weird open-thready question:

For a set of stuffed animals planned to include Doctor Whoo-oo (owl), Doctor Roo (kangaroo), and Doctor Moo (cow), should the dog be Doctor Woof or Dogtor Who?

#923 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 07:03 PM:

Okay, that was weird; I think I just saw the double-posting bug in action. I previewed my comment above, hit Post, and it just hung. I then loaded Making Light in a new tab to see that the comment had in fact posted.

#925 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 07:37 PM:

@Jacque no. 921: The male ravens on the UAF campus would show off by hopping from roof to roof of the cars in a relatively secluded parking lot, while the females looked on from the trees. If you walked through the area, they would stop what they were doing and just Look at you. Like, "Hey, I'm courtin' here."

In Kodiak, I once saw a big raven and a bald eagle, two species which normally give one another hell, close together in a Sitka spruce tree during a downpour. They were very carefully not looking at each other, but every now and then the eagle would say, "Yock," to which the raven would casually reply, "Quork." Like, "We still good with this truce thing? "Yeah, I don't feel like getting wet. Still good."

#926 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 08:14 PM:

922 Mary Aileen:
Not positive about the dog (though I favor Dogtor Who), but have you considered a dove (Coo)?

#927 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 08:34 PM:

Mary Aileen @922: If it's a beagle, he can be Doctor WOOOOOOOOO.

(Our beagles did learn to bark, as adults, from another dog staying with us for a week. It was hilarious watching them try to shift vocalization gears from their innate tendency to bay)

#928 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 08:41 PM:

When I lived in Corner Brook, I shared an apartment with three other girls. Of the four of us, I was the only one who could take out the garbage, because one time I dropped some. A local raven decided based on this that I was The Good One, and provided me with an escort to and from the dumpster when he was around.

My flatmates, on the other hand, got soundly yelled and flapped at.

#929 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 09:38 PM:

Mary Aileen @ #922:

I incline toward "Doctor Woof", on the basis that then they're all Doctor [pun]; "Dogtor Who" would break the pattern. Depends on what your criteria, are, though; if it's euphony, I might go for "Dogtor Who" instead.

#930 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 09:40 PM:

Carol Kimball (926): Doctor Coo is excellent! I could maybe adapt my duck pattern to be a dove. I was already thinking about Ducktor Who.

Elliott Mason (927): Someone on FB suggested Doctor Awoo for a hound. I like it, but the dog will probably be a Rottweiler. Although I *could* use the basset pattern...

#931 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 09:42 PM:

Paul A. (929): Good point about the pattern. Dogtor Who would go nicely with the possible Ducktor Who, however.

So many good ideas, so little time to do them all...

#932 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 11:01 PM:

Jenny Islander @925: the eagle would say, "Yock," to which the raven would casually reply, "Quork."

That somehow reminds me of these guys.

#933 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2016, 11:57 PM:

Then there's Doctor Mew and the fly Doctor Shoo.

#934 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2016, 04:41 AM:

HLN: Local Man has had the Rack-thing running overnight. He has a few ideas for a location and a use for it.

There are still complications, but it is booting and running fine with a cheap SATA drive.

The big problem was getting it to boot from the flash drive with a current Linux version. Eventually, local man found the key on the net: The flash drive appears as a "Drive C:" option in the boot menu, and needs to be selected there.

Local man is beginning to suspect he needs a new DVD writer, but they are cheap.

#935 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2016, 07:31 AM:

David Malki being silly: The Joy of Mismatching Photo Captions.

#936 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2016, 09:23 AM:

Diatryma (933): I have a series of buttons made in the 80s(?) depicting various Doctors as cats, all labeled Doctor Mew. It's inevitable, really.

The collective name for them all is, of course, Doctor Zoo.

#938 ::: Selfie Stick with Bluetooth ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 02:50 AM:

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