Back to February 2003

To Making Light's front page

Forward to April 2003

March 31, 2003
Religious tat triumphant
Posted by Teresa at 11:53 PM *

There’s a war on, and these are serious times; but by god this is still Making Light, and this bit of religious tat has to be seen to be believed.

As I’ve observed here before, we know as well as we know anything in this world that artistic taste and judgement are not numbered among the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. (via Patrick, who got it from Tom Tomorrow)

Seymour Hersh pins it on Rumsfeld
Posted by Teresa at 09:34 AM *

Seymour Hersh’s much-anticipated New Yorker article about Rumsfeld repeatedly overriding the Pentagon’s military planners, and personally micromanaging what has turned out to be a military fiasco, has been posted online. It’s dead solid:

As the ground campaign against Saddam Hussein faltered last week, with attenuated supply lines and a lack of immediate reinforcements, there was anger in the Pentagon. Several senior war planners complained to me in interviews that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisers, who had been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, had insisted on micromanaging the war’s operational details. Rumsfeld’s team took over crucial aspects of the day-to-day logistical planning—traditionally, an area in which the uniformed military excels—and Rumsfeld repeatedly overruled the senior Pentagon planners on the Joint Staff, the operating arm of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “He thought he knew better,” one senior planner said. “He was the decision-maker at every turn.”

On at least six occasions, the planner told me, when Rumsfeld and his deputies were presented with operational plans—the Iraqi assault was designated Plan 1003—he insisted that the number of ground troops be sharply reduced. Rumsfeld’s faith in precision bombing and his insistence on streamlined military operations has had profound consequences for the ability of the armed forces to fight effectively overseas. “They’ve got no resources,” a former high-level intelligence official said. “He was so focussed on proving his point—that the Iraqis were going to fall apart.”

The critical moment, one planner said, came last fall, during the buildup for the war, when Rumsfeld decided that he would no longer be guided by the Pentagon’s most sophisticated war-planning document, the TPFDL—time-phased forces-deployment list—which is known to planning officers as the tip-fiddle (tip-fid, for short). A TPFDL is a voluminous document describing the inventory of forces that are to be sent into battle, the sequence of their deployment, and the deployment of logistical support. …

The TPFDL for the war in Iraq ran to forty or more computer-generated spreadsheets, dealing with everything from weapons to toilet paper. When it was initially presented to Rumsfeld last year for his approval, it called for the involvement of a wide range of forces from the different armed services, including four or more Army divisions. Rumsfeld rejected the package, because it was “too big,” the Pentagon planner said. He insisted that a smaller, faster-moving attack force, combined with overwhelming air power, would suffice. Rumsfeld further stunned the Joint Staff by insisting that he would control the timing and flow of Army and Marine troops to the combat zone. Such decisions are known in the military as R.F.F.s—requests for forces. He, and not the generals, would decide which unit would go when and where. …

Plan 1003 was repeatedly updated and presented to Rumsfeld, and each time, according to the planner, Rumsfeld said, “‘You’ve got too much ground force—go back and do it again.’” In the planner’s view, Rumsfeld had two goals: to demonstrate the efficacy of precision bombing and to “do the war on the cheap.” Rumsfeld and his two main deputies for war planning, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, “were so enamored of ‘shock and awe’ that victory seemed assured,” the planner said. “They believed that the weather would always be clear, that the enemy would expose itself, and so precision bombings would always work.” (Rumsfeld did not respond to a request for comment.) …

In early February, according to a senior Pentagon official, Rumsfeld appeared at the Army Commanders’ Conference, a biannual business and social gathering of all the four-star generals. Rumsfeld was invited to join the generals for dinner and make a speech. All went well, the official told me, until Rumsfeld, during a question-and-answer session, was asked about his personal involvement in the deployment of combat units, in some cases with only five or six days’ notice. To the astonishment and anger of the generals, Rumsfeld denied responsibility. “He said, ‘I wasn’t involved,’” the official said. “‘It was the Joint Staff.’”
All this and much more. Read it now. (via Maureen Speller)

Addendum:

Yesterday Rumsfeld appeared on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Check out the transcript. If you made it a drinking game, and took a drink every time every time Rumsfeld says the conduct of this war stems from General Tommy Franks’ plan, decision, analysis, idea, etc., you’d be under the table in ten minutes. An especially poignant moment:
Franks then sat down and began planning. The plan we have is his. I would be delighted to take credit for it. It’s a good plan. It’s a creative and an innovative plan. And it’s going to work. And it is his plan and it has been approved by the chiefs. Every one of the chiefs has said it’s executable and they support it. It’s been looked at by all the combatant commanders. It’s gone through the National Security Council process. And what you’re seeing is fiction. You’re seeing second-guessers out there. …The people who are commenting on the war plan, I think, are probably people who have never seen it.
One feels for the second-guessers who are on the ground in Iraq. Rumsfeld, that busy man, also appeared yesterday on Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow, where he said very similar things at greater length:
SNOW: Secretary Rumsfeld, there is a piece in the New Yorker today that is criticizing your management of the Pentagon and the war effort generally. I want to read a couple of quotes and get your reactions.

Number one is the allegation that you have been trying to micromanage the war. Somebody even likened it to what happened during the Johnson Administration in micromanaging the Vietnam conflict out of the White House.

Here’s the quote: “Rumsfeld and his inner circle of civilian advisors who have been chiefly responsible for persuading President Bush to lead the country into war, have insisted on micromanaging the war’s operational details. Rumsfeld’s team took over crucial aspects of the day-to-day logistical planning — traditionally an area in which the uniformed military excels — and Rumsfeld repeatedly overruled the senior Pentagon planners on the Joint Staff, the operating arms of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Are you telling the planners what to do?

RUMSFELD: No, what we really are doing—the planners are not on the Joint Staff, the planners are in the Central Command, and they come up with their proposals. And I think you’ll find that if you ask anyone who has been involved in the process from the Central Command that every single thing they’ve requested has in fact happened.

SNOW: So it is not true, for instance, that they requested more armor and more troops, and you said, “Nope, we’ve got to go in quicker and lighter”?

RUMSFELD: No, indeed that’s not true. The plan is a good one—and I would be happy to take credit for it because it’s an outstanding plan and it’s going to work and we’re going to win—but the reality is it’s a plan that was developed by General Franks. It was worked through the chiefs of staff in Washington. It was looked at carefully by the combatant commanders around the world. It’s been through the National Security Council. And it is—it is our country’s plan, and it’s a good one, and it’s working. And I think that the people who are talking about it really are people who haven’t seen it.
Well, of course we haven’t seen it! Detailed overall war plans aren’t circulated to the general public. Looks like Rumsfeld’s falling back on that mainstay of this administration: “You’d agree with everything we’ve done if you had access to secret information we aren’t going to show you.”

Trouble is, campaign plans must by their nature become manifest in the real world. Rumsfeld’s bluffing on cards that have already been turned face-up.

This was supposed to be a light, fast-moving war, but last I heard our beleaguered troops were digging in, so the original game plan must have gone out the window. There are reports of southbound Iraqi refugees giving food to our troops. Senior military personnel have said that we need to start this war over again from scratch.

It is not a good plan. It is not an outstanding plan. It is not working. And it has Rumsfeld’s fingerprints all over it.

March 30, 2003
As usual, it’s all about him
Posted by Teresa at 08:39 PM *

“They may be the ones facing danger on the battlefield,” says ABC News Online, “but US soldiers in Iraq are being asked to pray for George W. Bush.”

Thousands of marines have been given a pamphlet called “A Christian’s Duty,” a mini prayer book which includes a tear-out section to be mailed to the White House pledging [that] the soldier who sends it in has been praying for Bush. “I have committed to pray for you, your family, your staff and our troops during this time of uncertainty and tumult. May God’s peace be your guide,” says the pledge, according to a journalist embedded with coalition forces.
The pamphlet is the work of In Touch Ministries, which is a part of the Charles Stanley Institute for Personal Living and the In Touch Foundation, Inc. Their not exactly nondenominational site offers you a quiz on how well you know God, asking questions like Have you ever asked Jesus to be your personal lord and savior? and: If you die tonight, do you know without a doubt that you will go to heaven? They do have a piece called A Christian’s Duty in Times of War, but it’s very general advice, diffusely written, which boils down to “pray fervently, and do what God wants.” Those who feel that adults are entitled to a little more rigor than that might want to check this out.

But back to that pamphlet. Apparently it offers a daily prayer to be made for Mr. Bush et al. I had a moment’s hope when I saw today’s prayer, which was that Mr. Bush and his advisers “will seek God and his wisdom daily and not rely on their own understanding.” But given Monday’s prayer, I doubt that Sunday’s will do much good. Monday’s asks that Mr. Bush and his advisers will “be strong and courageous to do what is right regardless of critics.” Ignoring criticism is perhaps the one area in which Mr. Bush and his cronies need no help from anyone.

I find the whole enterprise grossly offensive. Which part of a Christian’s duty is it to pray for George W. Bush, except insofar as we are enjoined to pray for all our fellow critters? Yes, it’s traditional to pray for our leaders—but a pamphlet with set prayers, and a tear sheet you fill out and send in? The tear sheet is nominally sent in as a pledge, but I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts its real purpose is to gauge what more straightforward industries would refer to as market penetration.

I first heard about this from Erik Olson, a little while ago, but we just now got a spluttering, outraged letter about it from Andrew Phillips as well. He actually swears. I’ve known Andrew since the late 1970s, and I’m not sure that’s not the first time I’ve heard him swear. He’s normally the politest and most moderate of men. His letter continues,
If your stomachs are strong, I also just stumbled on http://www.prayforgeorgewbush.com, but I’ll warn you that it’s as bad as or worse than the URL suggests. Its front page asserts that divine mandate has put that feebleminded, morally challenged, inbred, penny-ante usurper in charge of the US. If you go, your visit will be counted, and I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. … I’m furious with this twit and his crew of sycophantic, self-enriching toadies.
No kidding.

I’d better finish up and get this posted, because we just heard from Susan Palwick about it. She said, “Jesus would be spinning in his grave, if he had one.” Also: “I’m certainly praying for him. I doubt my prayers are the ones he wants; but hey.”

Just so. Exactly so.

Hard-bitten tongue
Posted by Teresa at 08:33 PM *

It would not be proper for me to say anything here about what happened this weekend Elsewhere On The Net. Besides, Movable Type doesn’t support glasses of Coke.

March 28, 2003
Talking Points Memo
Posted by Teresa at 11:43 PM *

Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo is on fire, in an I-wish-this-wasn’t-happening kind of way. His latest concerns the administration’s latest piece of complete insanity: actively threatening Iran and Syria. To make things even more bizarre, it appears that Syria’s alleged offense—selling certain bits of military equipment to Iraq—is something we’ve known about for a while now.

Marshall also talks about how our current numbers in Iraq—we’re painfully shorthanded, which is causing real trouble—are four times what Rumsfeld et al. originally wanted to send.

When you’re finished with that one, just keep reading.

Incompetence: further fallout
Posted by Teresa at 06:36 PM *

The possibility of censuring or expelling Paul Celucci, the US Ambassador, is being discussed in the Canadian government. This comes in the wake of Celucci’s publicly rebuking the Canadian government for not supporting the war with Iraq. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jean Chre9tien has decided he won’t be going to Washington next month as planned.

The Onion has nailed it again.

A quote from last November
Posted by Teresa at 11:52 AM *

The quote is from a writeup of a CBS News/60 Minutes interview, Bob Woodward talking to Mike Wallace about his own recent interviews with George W. Bush.

Woodward says [Bush] told him that when he chairs a meeting he often tries to be provocative. When Woodward asked him if he tells his staff that he is purposely being provocative, Mr. Bush answered: “Of course not. I am the commander, see?” Bush: “I do not need to explain why I say things. — That’s the interesting thing about being the President. — Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”
O, my heart sank when I read that quote. I’ve been thinking about it, off and on, ever since.

I recognize that behavior. Lord help me, I’ve seen it done. It’s one of the tactics you can use if you’re in an executive-level job that’s beyond your abilities, you have to have meetings with underlings who know more than you do, and your only concern is to save face while making sure they’re giving you what you want.

The discussion that passes at a normal meeting is subject to normal criticism and analysis. You don’t want that. If instead you run the meeting in a deliberately provocative fashion, it skews the discourse out of shape, generates a lot of noise and confusion, and throws everyone off balance. This camouflages the fact that you don’t know which end of the stick is sharp. It also teaches people that they’re only safe if you’re happy.

Having to ask questions is likewise unacceptable. Being provocative is a way to get your underlings to automatically give you a recap of what the issues are, their relative importance, how the whole picture fits together, and where that underling comes into it. How so? Because of the skew in the discourse. Someone giving an answer he’s already thought about will generally just give the answer. But if you knock him off balance, make him think on his feet and talk while he’s doing his thinking, he’s more likely to narrate the whole mental process leading up to the answer. Even if you don’t get the whole process out of him, he’ll still be giving you half-formed answers, and those will have a lot of context still sticking to them. Either way, you’ll pick up a lot of framing information, and can then act like you knew that stuff all along. You’re unlikely to get called on it by someone who’s still trying to regain his balance.

If in the course of your provocation du jour you make some egregious blunder, you can claim you were just trying to think outside the box. After all, the more basic and obvious the thing is that you just demonstrated you don’t know, the greater the need to periodically examine its underlying assumptions—right? And if you also take the attitude that you owe no one any explanations, you’re pretty much covered on all fronts.

Pulling a trick like that once might be funny if Harry Flashman were doing it; but then, he’s fictional. In the real world it’s lousy management technique and irresponsible command behavior. Proper meetings are an exchange of information that enable the organization to make better decisions. What you’ve got instead is a recipe for meetings where the overall organization comes out knowing less than it did going in.

Your more earnest and straightforward underlings are still going to be trying to fit all that random noise you’re generating into some larger overall picture. It’ll be tough going. The less honest ones will just be trying to keep you happy while pushing their own agendas—and they’ll be at an advantage. It’s tough to come up with truthful, responsible answers under those conditions, because there are thousands of bits of real-world circumstantiality one has to account for. Agenda-pushers just need to know which direction to push, and they’ve got that going in. There’ll be no one to save you from folly.

One more observation. Consider Bush’s statement: Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation. That is not and cannot be the voice of a public servant. What you’re hearing there is a long-accustomed and automatic assumption of privilege: You’re there for me. I’m not there for you.

March 27, 2003
Officer X
Posted by Teresa at 03:30 PM *

Further recommendations for getting good-quality news: 1. Go to The Daily Kos and search on “Officer X”. 2. Read Officer X’s communiques.

The deal: The pseudonymous Kos has a friend named Billmon. I can’t tell whether he has posting privileges on TDK, but he’s clearly a friend of the weblog. In his turn, Billmon is acquainted with Officer X, who made his first appearance in TDK on Tuesday morning with a piece called What the Experts Are Saying. It starts with Billmon’s introduction:
A reporter friend of mine just slipped me something interesting. It’s a background analysis of the situation facing the coalition forces in front of Baghdad, written by a fairly well known military officer and commentator who under the circumstances is going to have to remain unidentified, other than to say that he is fairly well known military officer and commentator. I was told I could post this as long as I carefully scrubbed out all personal references, which I think (hope) I’ve done.

This memo doesn’t spill any secrets, but it is a thoughtful analysis based on Officer X’s conversations with some of his colleagues — all of whom are harshly critical of the war plan and Rumsfeld’s meddling with it. I’ve added descriptions of some of the acronyms, and cleaned up the spelling a bit. Otherwise it is verbatim:

The “Shock and Awe” campaign failed completely. The traditional term of “Mass” has not been used by ground forces. Air power has supplied the mass, while the ground forces have suffered from “economy of force” being redefined. The march of 3rd ID (infantry division), while amazing, has left huge supply lines from Kuwait. These supply lines do not seem to be well guarded. The Apache attack on the Medina division was largely ineffective.

The 4th Generation War has begun with the fragging of the BDE TOC of the 101st by a Muslim soldier, and the use of irregular forces in Umm Qasr, Basra, Nasiriya and Al Najaf. Basra has not been taken yet, nor has Nasiriya.

The lack of ground forces, combined with Turkey’s refusal to allow 4th ID to attack from the North, has allowed Iraqi forces to concentrate their efforts on the Euphrates River and the numerous axes of advance from the South.

If one or two heavy divisions were on the ground, the Iraqi OODA (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action) Loop would be lengthened significantly. Instead of the Allied three division elements attacking at once, there would be at least a somewhat equal amount of Divisions on the ground to tackle the 6-8 Republican Guard Divisions in and around Baghdad. …
And so on. Officer X weighed in again today, with more startlingly blunt commentary, in More from Officer X:
…Now look at how the top leadership is changing or modifying their stories, from quick victories to explaining a longer war.

It has now gotten to the point that arrogance and an obession with technology undermines our ability to come up with effective grand strategy and (word missing) strategy, conduct operational art, and focus on the tactical battle as the means to the end to accomplishing those goals.

The CENTCOM plan: My perception

The plan was based on the false assumptions that the Iraqis would not fight, the people would welcome us, and that airpower would dominate and force — through the immature “shock and awe” or “effects based targeting” — the Iraqis to submit. The Army was only there to march and occupy Baghdad as an occupation force.

This explains in part why the force is small to conquer such a country. On the other hand, it is not too small — don’t let the generals say otherwise. They see strength as risk averse. The force was not task organized correctly and maneuver warfare was not applied correctly.

The M1s were too dispersed, particularly among the Marines, in equality. The 3ID (infantry division) took their entire trains instead of organzing into battle groups with resupply by air. The 3 ID battle groups should have taken the same route, but used the Marines to secure the western bank of the Euphrates.

The 101st could be used to secure FARRPS (forward area rearm and refuel points) to keep the forward edge of the 3 ID supplied. Use a mixture of Longbows and A10s constantly overhead of the advancing Armor to blow paths in front of the columns as they move.

The Brit battlegroups should have advanced with the 3rd ID. The Marines would establish a series of Guard and Screening forces west and south of the Euphrates River as the main effort advanced.

Use all air power to associate with the movement of the ground force, either as close air or tactical battlefield integration.

We are now just discovering the fallecy of our planning. The troops are working and fighting hard — I am really proud of them — but we have not even began to fight the Republican Guard. It also seems the Iraqis studied the Kosovo War and the Serbians. But even 3-7 (Cavalry Squadron), after days of light contact, lost 2-3 tanks and a Bradley because they drove into an ambush. Only the incredible fire power of the U.S. and the mobility of the M1A1 (defined as the ability to maneuver under fire) saved 3-7 CAV.
Do I believe in Officer X? Maybe I do. Maybe it doesn’t matter. His writing may not fingerprint as clearly as Salam Pax’s, but it has a coherent intelligence and a sense of context. More to the point, it’s very illuminating.

Further stunning incompetence unfolds
Posted by Teresa at 12:06 AM *

In a move that is fundamentally as stupid, if less consequential, than opening a second front with Russia, those Dilbertian idiots we’ve got running the country have chosen this moment to be grossly offensive to Turkey and Canada, both of which have been our long-term close allies. This follows in the wake of the Bushies’ churlish behavior towards France, and what The Onion (which at the moment is brilliantly on form) has referred to as Operation Piss Off the Planet.

India and Pakistan have been firing off deeply alarming test missiles. North Korea’s just getting nuttier. The economy’s singing “My Heart Will Go On.” And the expectation that the Iraqis would give liberating US troops a rapturous welcome has been downgraded from “a disappointment” to “an embarrassment” to “a slot in the world history register of manifest follies.”

It’s time for the country to get serious. If all these blunders could magically be set right by Mr. Bush’s conducting a dalliance with a White House intern, what patriotic American could do anything but cheer him on in the attempt?

If you disagree with me on this, it’s because you simply aren’t serious about the United States.

Away with you, America-haters! This is what you get for deriving your political beliefs from radio-show panders and mountebanks.

March 26, 2003
At the Dream Cafe
Posted by Teresa at 09:27 PM *

Steve Brust has a weblog. His wordcount isn’t high, but on the other hand he only posts when he has something to say, so if you let it accumulate for a little while, when you do read it it’s all good. For instance:

Well, I now have most of the outline for my new poker book:

Chapter 1. How to slowplay until you’re beat and then check raise. Chapter 2. Drawing dead and getting there.
Chapter 3. How to bluff the nuts into the guy who has them.
Chapter 4. How to prevent bad beats by always going in with the worst hand.
Chapter 5. How to put your opponent on a hand you can beat so you can call.
Chapter 6. Chasing with overcards and other loss leaders.
Chapter 7: Bad call justifications:

A) I was in the blind, so I was already half in. B) They were suited
C) My good hands are getting beat, so I have to play this stuff.
D) In a game like this, you can’t win playing just the good cards.
Appendix: Lecturing your opponents on how you would have won if they’d played right.

March 24, 2003
Get real news
Posted by Teresa at 10:38 PM *

Live in the States? Feel like your standard newsfeed is giving you garbage?

You’re right. Here are some better sources:

The easiest way to do it is to go to The Agonist and just keep hitting the reload button every five minutes. Newshound Sean Paul Kelly has turned his weblog into all war news, all the time, and he’s constantly updating it. Important note: He’s getting too many hits for his bandwidth, so please read The Agonist at one of its mirror sites instead: 1, 2, and the stripped-down text-only 3.

If you’re only going to read one online newspaper, you want The Guardian. It has intelligent, full-bandwidth coverage, good analysis, and an easy-to-use website. Additional helpful features: (1.) They run unobtrusive sidebar lists of links to related stories. (2.) Media Guardian, which keeps track of the media wars. (3.) Their running tally of claims and counterclaims—made, disproved, confirmed—organized by topic. (4.) Jargon Watch, which keeps track of terms like mouseholing, granularity, and kinetic targeting.

An underappreciated fact about Kos of The Daily Kos, until now primarily known for his expert grasp of electoral mechanics and politics, is that he’s a Gulf War veteran. Yup, it’s true: Kos knows sandstorms from shinola. Since the war started, The Daily Kos has been incisive and useful—not that it wasn’t already. Don’t miss the comments threads, where Kos and his readers (some of whom obviously have a military background) get into chewy technical discussions about what exactly is going on in Iraq.

Begin addendum:BruceR’s Flit is another informative and very military weblog. An additional point of interest: it’s Canadian. Does good maps, too. End addendum.

The mysterious Salam Pax continues to post sporadically from Baghdad in his weblog, Where Is Raed?. There’s been some discussion about his authenticity. I’ll say here what I said in BoingBoing: We don’t know everything about who Salam Pax is, what he knows, what he does, et cetera; but for what my ear is worth, that weblog is a real person talking about real things. Or, as Eve Tushnet put it:
If either our side or theirs is faking a gay anti-war anti-Saddam weblog, either they are much smarter than I thought, or the CIA is no longer screening for current drug use.
Q. But isn’t The Guardian sort of lefty? And isn’t Salam Pax an Iraqi? A. Yeah so what who cares. Enough already with the cotton candy.

Days like these
Posted by Teresa at 05:00 AM *

A quickie: an image from an ad for a show at the Tate. I’d call it decoration, not gallery art; it looks like the old MacPaint “trace edges” command. But I do think it would be fun to see Trading Spaces do that to someone’s floor. (Update: a larger image of it, which Clark Myers found for me.)

And another: Thinkofthechildren.co.uk:
Who are we?

We are concerned parents, many of whom have children of our own and who want the law changed to protect them. Every day in Britain happy, popular children who do well at school are being murdered by evil paedophile scum. Well enough’s enough! Its time the law got tough on child murderers.

What do we want?

We want the law changed to make it illegal to murder children and bury them in woodland. We want it to be made illegal for adults to work with children. We want an end to the ridiculous process of ‘criminal trials’ for suspected child killers.
The site offers you a variety of helpful options, including joining an upcoming mob, starting a mob of your own, and buying a “Stop Justice Now!” t-shirt. And a reported sighting of a .sig:
I was kept naked on display in a cage for my Master’s pleasure. The steel band around my ankle told everyone who saw me that my role in life was to chew on his stiff cuttlebone. (From Parakeets of Gor)
(via Geri Sullivan)

March 23, 2003
23 March 1979
Posted by Teresa at 09:29 AM *

Twenty-four years ago today, Patrick and I got married, which in my opinion gives this space-time continuum a fair claim on being the best of all possible worlds.

March 21, 2003
The Naica crystals
Posted by Teresa at 05:15 PM *

Ray Girvan’s reliably interesting Apothecary’s Drawer has turned up some astounding photos from the Naica lead and silver mine in Chihuahua, Mexico. As the photo site says:

On december 4th, 1999, an exploration drift in development located at 290 level of the mine intercepted a cave full of fabulous samples of selenite, as never seen in the world. Some of these samples are crystals more than 10 meters long and 1.5 meter diameter.
Seriously, this looks like something out of a comic book.

Apothecary’s Drawer also links to two further articles on the find, from Smithsonian Magazine and American Mineralogist.

March 20, 2003
Eve Tushnet, Garcia Lorca, and a retired librarian
Posted by Teresa at 10:29 PM *

First, Eve’s contribution to the general enterprise of warblogging:

TWO WAR LINKS. How to pray the rosary. How to go to Confession. “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” —Matt. 25:13
Second, she reproduces Christopher Smart’s “My Cat Jeoffry”, by way of encouraging readers to buy a particular children’s poetry anthology she’s high on. A sample thereof:
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.

For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him. …

For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.

For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.

For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.

For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.

For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.

For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.

For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.

For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.

For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.

For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.

For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.

For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
This pleases me. It’s a night in need of civilization.

Earlier this evening I was in search of a poem by Garcia Lorca. This is one of the best things about the web, that you can find partly-remembered songs and poems that have haunted you for years. I’ve been gradually working through my backlog.

This time it was a poem from my junior high school Spanish textbook, something about a horse and rider travelling toward Cordoba: unforgettable, but alas, not fully remembered. I fed “poem Spanish Cordoba” into Google, and like a good reference librarian it informed me that what I wanted was “Canción del Jinete” (“The Rider’s Song”) by Garcia Lorca:
Canción del Jinete

Córdoba
Lejana y sola.

Jaca negra, luna grande,
y aceitunas en mi alforja.
Aunque sepa los caminos
yo nunca llegaré a Córdoba.

Por el llano, por el viento,
jaca negra, luna roja.
La muerte me está mirando
desde las torres de Córdoba.

Ay qué camino tan largo!
Ay mi jaca valerosa!
Ay que la muerte me espera,
antes de llegar a Córdoba!

Córdoba.
Lejana y sola.
I can understand the Spanish far better than I could when I first encountered it, but I still fall short, so I went looking for the translation I remembered. I didn’t find it. I found a bunch of others, though.

It turns out that, as one site put it, “Canción del Jinete” has enchanted and humbled translators into every language. It’s a beautifully clear and simple little poem, and it’s impossible to get it exactly right in any other language.

It’s not the same effect if your language doesn’t use a single word to express both “to wait” and “to hope”, as Spanish does. In some places you have to pick one meaning and lose another; Aunque sepa los caminos doesn’t specify whether it’s the rider or the horse that knows the way. And La muerte me está mirando, a plain clear construction in Spanish, can be taken to mean that Death is looking for me, looking at me, watching me, watching out for me, and asst’d other interpretations; so this being poetry it means all those things not otherwise ruled out by the rest of the poem.

Herewish, my best reconstruction of the translation I read in that long-ago Spanish textbook. How much it owes to the mutations of memory, or to the other translations I’ve subsequently read, I can’t begin to say:
The Rider’s Song

Cordoba.
Distant. Alone.

Black my pony, full the moon,
and olives in my saddlebags.
I know this road and yet I know
I shall not get to Cordoba.

Through the plains and through the wind,
Black my pony, red the moon.
Death is looking out at me
from the towers of Cordoba.

O, the road is long!
O, my pony brave!
O, that death waits for me,
before I get to Cordoba!

Cordoba.
Distant. Alone.
One of the sites where I found a translation of “Canción del Jinete” struck me to the heart. There’s no getting away from the troubles of the moment. Barry Tobin is a litterateur of various sorts, a retired librarian born in Ireland but now living in Cardiff in Wales. On his home page, a large block of boldfaced type says:
I wish to express deep sympathy with all those affected by the terrible events of Tuesday 11 September 2001, especially the families and friends of the victims.

I also wish to express my unreserved admiration for the members of the New York fire and police departments—and other emergency services—who lost their lives with such amazing courage and uncalculating selflessness. Who can forget how they climbed up the stairs of the doomed Twin Towers past the office staff as they made their way down to safety.

We can and must be critical of many aspects of United States policy in today’s divided world. However, the unimaginable heroism of that day in New York was, is and will continue to be of another order where debate falls silent, where only praise is heard and where the only feelings are those of wonder and compassion.

Ar dheis Deó go raibh a n-anamacha dedlse.

Heddwch i’w llwch.

May they rest in peace.
But then, after that, he’s added:
The launch of a war against Iraq in the face of worldwide opposition marks the opening of a new and sadder phase in the history of the relations between the USA and the rest of us. Many people of my generation recall the years when the USA was the welcome and admired leader of the free world but feel deeply disappointed, even alarmed, as an erstwhile role model turns into a domineering, hectoring and selfish one man band. The USA no longer considers itself bound by any international laws, treaties, usages or customs and sees itself as being solely concerned with looking after its own interests leaving the rest of us to flounder in a leaderless world. It has become another example of the old story of “Every man for himself and God for us all”
as the elephant said when it danced among the chickens.
My god, this is terrible. I wrote him a letter, which I reproduce here because I can’t get it to send to the e-mail address on his page:
How do you do, Barry Tobin? I found your page because I was looking for translations of the Cancif3n del Jinete. I like yours, and your brief remarks on Garcia Lorca.

Thank you for your kind words about 9/11. I live in New York City. Would you believe me if I told you that almost all the people I know here are deeply unhappy about the attack on Iraq? It feels like a bereavement; like our flags should be flying at half-mast. We know it wasn’t Iraq that attacked us, and that that idiot fratboy and his advisors don’t care.

(He stiffed the FDNY, you know, after getting all those great photo ops standing next to them. He made lavish promises of help while the cameras were running; but last I heard, they hadn’t even gotten enough to replace the equipment that was destroyed on the day.)

These days I’m taking courage from small things: That our military (which isn’t stupid) have gone into Iraq with a sober attitude and no flags flying. That the State of New Mexico’s legislature passed a resolution abrogating the so-called Patriot Act, instructing its state police to neither use nor enforce the act’s provisions, nor cooperate with federal officers who seem likely to do so. That there were candlelight anti-war vigils in the towns of Logan and Kanab in Utah, which in the past I would have reckoned as likely as pigs taking wing.

Where these loud hectoring near-fascists are coming from is a mystery. They claim they represent the majority, but the people I know don’t believe that. We’d know more of them personally if they were anything close to a majority. Their true aims and beliefs are likewise a mystery. I suppose we’ll all find out, sooner or later.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that America is still here, and we’re appalled.

Cheers —

Teresa Nielsen Hayden
And so good night to you all, and sleep well.

Reading protocols
Posted by Teresa at 09:31 AM *

From an article in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s online site, about the increasing popularity of Mormon-specific romance novels:

“I have always felt the long, detailed sex scenes are an insult to our intelligence because we all know how it works,” [author Anita] Stansfield said.
Er. Not the point.

I am resolutely not imagining sex scenes written for the benefit of readers who don’t know how it works. (via Andrew Brown)

A human voice from Baghdad
Posted by Teresa at 08:07 AM *

This isn’t exactly news in the blogging world, but just to remind those who’ve forgotten, and inform those who missed it the first time around, there’s a very good weblog being written in Baghdad: Where is Raed?. It’s that simple and transforming thing, a human voice, unstoppable as water. Here’s from yesterday:

A couple of weeks ago journalists were exasperated by that fact that Iraqis just went on with their lives and did not panic, well today there is a very different picture. It is actually a bit scary and very disturbing. To start wit the Dinar hit another low, 3100 dinars per dollar. There was no exchange place open. If you went and asked they just look at you as if you were crazy. Wherever you go you see closed shops and it is not just doors-locked closed but sheet-metal-welded-on-the-front closed, windows-removed-and-built-with-bricks closed, doors were being welded shut. There were trucks loaded with all sort of stuff being taken from the shops to wherever their owner had a secure place. Houses which are still being built are having huge walls erected in front of them with no doors, to make sure they don’t get used as barracks I guess. Driving thru Mansur, Harthiya or Arrasat is pretty depressing. Still me, Raed and G. went out to have our last lunch together.

The radio plays war songs from the 80’s non-stop. We know them all by heart. Driving thru Baghdad now singing along to songs saying things like “we will be with you till the day we die Saddam” was suddenly a bit too heavy, no one gave that line too much thought but somehow these days it sounds sinister. Since last night one of the most played old “patriotic” songs is the song of the youth “al-fituuwa”, it is the code that all fidayeen should join their assigned units. And it is still being played.

A couple of hours earlier we were at a shop and a woman said as she was leaving, and this is a very common sentence, “we’ll see you tomorrow if god keeps us alive”—itha allah khalana taibeen—and the whole place just freezes. She laughed nervously and said she didn’t mean that, and we all laughed but these things start having a meaning beyond being figures of speech.

March 19, 2003
SF professionals against the war
Posted by Teresa at 02:00 PM *

The statement:

We, as science fiction and fantasy professionals, hereby register our opposition to the impending invasion of Iraq. Some of us are opposed because it is a violation of international law. Some are opposed because it is contrary to the ideals that America strives to uphold. Some think this war is simply wrong. We all call on those in power to prevent it.
Michael Swanwick is keeping the list. What you see there is just his first approximation. He’s still collecting names.

The so-called Patriot Act
Posted by Teresa at 12:33 PM *

The New Mexico state legislature doesn’t like the Patriot Act. If you think about it a minute, this gets less surprising. New Mexico combines a broad streak of Western “a man’s business is his own” libertarianism—what used to be called conservatism before the werewolves and used-car salesmen shanghaied the term—with a ground-level understanding of how much latitude for harm lurks in laws aimed at immigrants and enforcement aimed at ethnic groups. I’ve been in small towns in New Mexico where English-speakers were few and far in between, and furthermore the Spanish-speaking community had been there a lot longer than the Anglos.

Anyway, their legislators have come up with a resolution denouncing the Patriot Act. After a little preambling and a statement of basic position (“WHEREAS, the house of representatives believes that there is no inherent conflict between national security and the preservation of liberty and that Americans can be both safe and free”), followed by a concise description of the Patriot Act’s various abuses and unwarranted expansions of power, and the objectionable consequences and implications thereof, they get to the good bits:
WHEREAS, these new powers pose a particular threat to the civil right and liberties of the residents of New Mexico state who are or who are assumed to be Arab, Muslim or of South Asian descent; and

WHEREAS, other communities throughout the country have enacted resolutions reaffirming support for civil rights and civil liberties in the face of government policies that threaten these values and have demanded accountability from law enforcement agencies regarding their use of these new powers;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that it:

A. affirm its strong support for fundamental constitutional rights and its opposition to federal measures that infringe on these rights and liberties;

B. affirm its strong support for the rights of immigrants and oppose measures that single out individuals for legal scrutiny or enforcement activity based on their country of origin;

C. direct the New Mexico state police to:

(1.) refrain from participating in the enforcement of federal immigration laws;

(2) seek adequate written assurances from federal authorities that residents of the state of New Mexico and individuals in the custody of the state who are placed in federal custody will not be subjected to military or secret detention or secret immigration proceedings without access to counsel and, absent such written assurances, refrain from assisting federal authorities to obtain custody of these individuals;

(3) refrain from engaging in the surveillance of individuals or groups of individuals based on their participation in activities protected by the First Amendment to the United States constitution, such as political advocacy or the practice of a religion, without reasonable and particularized suspicion of criminal conduct unrelated to the activity protected by the First Amendment to the United States constitution;

(4) refrain from using race, religion, ethnicity or national origin as a factor in selecting who is subject to investigatory activities unless race, religion, ethnicity or national origin is part of the description of a specific suspect to be apprehended …
And my favorite part:
(9)E. direct public libraries to post in a prominent place within the library a notice as follows: “WARNING: Under Section 215 of the federal USA Patriot act (Public Law 107-56), records of books and other materials you borrow from this library may be obtained by federal agents. This law also prohibits librarians from informing you if records about you have been obtained by federal agents. Questions about this policy should be directed to Attorney General John Ashcroft, Department of Justice, Washington, DC 20530”.
For those living in more backward parts of the country, Librarian.net (“Avoiding the Patriot Act since 2001”) has a page of Five Technically Legal Signs for Your Library. For instance:
THE FBI HAS NOT
BEEN HERE

(watch very closely for the removal of this sign)
(via Ne9ablog)

Jingoistic yahoos
Posted by Teresa at 12:15 PM *

Believe it or not, some gaggle of idiots is trying to drum up support for the idea that since the Statue of Liberty was given to us by the French, we should send it back.

(Maybe it’s just one person. Anent which, I can’t tell whether the Josh Wander who created the site is the same guy who writes for the Jerusalem Post.)

Whoever it is, the campaign is abysmally stupid. Liberty fries, liberty poodles, liberty ticklers, good; Statue of Liberty, not good? How can anyone care this much about symbols while having so little sense of them? (via a comment in Space Waitress)

March 18, 2003
Rough Justice
Posted by Teresa at 10:14 PM *

From Adam Felber’s Rough Justice IV: The Movie Inside President Bush’s Head:

ANNAN: I’m taking you off the case.

BUSH (leaping up): You can’t do that!

ANNAN: Yes, I can. Sort of. Officially, at least. Dammit, Bush, you can’t just storm in and kill an important man like Hussein. There are laws. We need proof.

BUSH: You need proof, Chief. I just need my investigatative partners.

ANNAN: Partners? Your partners have already requested reassignment.

BUSH (with a flourish): I’m talking about the only partners I ever needed - Smith and Crisco.

ANNAN: “Crisco?”

BUSH: Uh, “Wesson.” Smith and Wesson.

ANNAN: Don’t make me ask for your badge, Bush.

BUSH: You don’t have the balls, Annan. This is between me and Hussein now. Me and the man who killed my father.

ANNAN: Bush, he didn’t kill your father!

BUSH: Yeah, that’s what Dad says, too, but he’s just trying to protect me. Listen Chief, you get the word out to Mr. Hussein that he’s got 48 hours to turn himself in. After that, tell ‘im I’m coming for him. And he’s going to have to face some… [turns to camera] Rough Justice.
Normally I’m put off by self-described comedians, but Adam Felber meets the basic criterion: He’s funny.

Harry Warner Jr.
Posted by Teresa at 05:58 PM *

From the Hagerstown Herald-Mail Online:

Harry B. Warner Jr.

Harry B. Warner Jr., 80, of 423 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, died Monday, Feb. 17, 2003, at his home.

Graveside services will be Friday at 10 a.m. at Rose Hill Cemetery, Hagerstown. The Rev. David B. Kaplan will officiate.

Arrangements are by Andrew K. Coffman Funeral Home, Hagerstown.
I’m sorry, I don’t feel up to explaining right now. If someone else wants to explain, please feel free.

This is a bad day.

March 17, 2003
PayPal scam
Posted by Teresa at 03:50 PM *

Kent Brewster, proprietor of Speculations, has flagged a well-constructed scam letter that claims to be from PayPal. It says PayPal is doing maintenance on their security measures, in pursuit of which they want you to send them your e-mail address and password, the location and account number of your bank account, and your credit card’s number and expiration date. Needless to say, this is A Bad Idea

It’s a plausible-sounding little letter. It uses PayPal code and graphic images, and links to PayPal’s own front page. The boilerplate at the bottom of the letter about how you can unsubscribe from PayPal or from Providian’s mailing list also links to those real pages. (via Jim Macdonald)

Speculations is an online magazine and bulletin board for aspiring writers, so it seems appropriate that what first tipped Kent off about the letter was that its subject line didn’t sound quite like PayPal’s usual style. (via Jim Macdonald)

March 16, 2003
Found art
Posted by Teresa at 01:11 AM *

Erik Olson writes to say he likes that poem I’ve been running in the left-hand column of my weblog, the one that reads (in part):

Back up: Dean Allen,
Does media violence cause crime?
Daniel Davies
You think I’m grumpy
Michael Lind
And another thing you won’t read in the US press.
I’ve finally…

March 15, 2003
Back up
Posted by Teresa at 11:23 PM *

Sorry about being down for a while. Hosting Matters, a provider upstream of us, was messed up for some hours. Obviously, they’ve fixed the problem now.

March 14, 2003
Newspaper iconography
Posted by Teresa at 08:55 PM *

How is it that newspapers whose editorial pages are taking cheap shots at the French feel no constraint about running editorial cartoons in which the Statue of Liberty is used as an emblem of America?

I suppose that if you can’t be bothered to remember which country is our oldest ally, or keep track of the fact that France is a power and a presence in world affairs that cannot be lightly dismissed, you can’t be expected to remember who gave us the statue, either.

Me, I remember very well. Bonjour, y’all.

Karl’s Roy Orbison In Clingfilm Website
Posted by Teresa at 06:00 PM *

It begins:

Hello, and welcome to my homepage. My name is Karl Haarbfcrste and I like to write stories about Roy Orbison being wrapped up in cling-film. If you have written any stories about Roy being completely wrapped in clingfilm please send them to me and I may put them up on the site.
He’s posted three stories about Roy Orbison getting wrapped in cling-film (Saran Wrap, if you’re an American). There’s not a lot of variation in them; but really, how much can you do, given that set of constraints? Update: I knew these stories reminded me of something else, and I’ve just realized what it is: Edward Gorey.
It always starts the same way. I am in the garden airing my terrapin Jetta when he walks past my gate, that mysterious man in black.

‘Hello Roy,’ I say. ‘What are you doing in Dusseldorf?’

‘Attending to certain matters,’ he replies.

‘Ah,’ I say.

He apprises Jetta’s lines with a keen eye. ‘That is a well-groomed terrapin,’ he says.

‘Her name is Jetta.’ I say. ‘Perhaps you would like to come inside?’

‘Very well.’ He says.

Roy Orbison walks inside my house and sits down on my couch. We talk urbanely of various issues of the day. Presently I say, ‘Perhaps you would like to see my cling-film?’

‘By all means.’ I cannot see his eyes through his trademark dark glasses and I have no idea if he is merely being polite or if he genuinely has an interest in cling-film.

I bring it from the kitchen, all the rolls of it. ‘I have a surprising amount of clingfilm,’ I say with a nervous laugh. …
See also The Curious Terrapin, Mr. Earbrass Wraps Roy Orbison in Clingfilm, and La Roy Dore9e.

Stupid security
Posted by Teresa at 05:06 PM *

Tomorrow’s your last day to send in entries to Privacy International’s Stupid Security Competition :

We’ve all been there. Standing for ages in a security line at an inconsequential office building only to be given a security pass that a high school student could have faked. Or being forced to take off our shoes at an airport that can’t even screen its luggage.

If you thought the accounting profession was bad news, just wait till you hear how stupid the security industry has become. Even before 9/11 a whole army of bumbling amateurs has taken it upon themselves to figure out pointless, annoying, intrusive, illusory and just plain stupid measures to “protect” our security.

It’s become a global menace. From the nightclub in Berlin that demands the home address of its patrons, to the phone company in Britain that won’t let anyone pay more than fifty pounds a month from a bank account, the world has become infested with bumptious administrators competing to hinder or harass you. And often for no good reason whatever.

The sensitive and sensible folk at Privacy International have endured enough of this treatment. So until March 15th 2003 we are running an international competition to discover the world’s most pointless, intrusive, stupid and self-serving security measures. … Nomination should be sent to stupidsecurity@privacy.orgby March 15.
Nominations must be submitted to stupidsecurity@privacy.org by March 15th, 2003. My entry was so obvious that someone else must have already submitted it before me; but as I said in my letter to Privacy International, “…when it comes to security measures that combine officiousness, overreaction to a non-threat, gross insensitivity to First Amendment rights, and complete irrelevance to any actual security issues, I really can’t top the story Reuters ran on 04 March of this year.”:
Lawyer Arrested for Wearing a ‘Peace’ T-Shirt Tue March 4, 2003 07:55 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A lawyer was arrested late Monday and charged with trespassing at a public mall in the state of New York after refusing to take off a T-shirt advocating peace that he had just purchased at the mall.

According to the criminal complaint filed on Monday, Stephen Downs was wearing a T-shirt bearing the words “Give Peace A Chance” that he had just purchased from a vendor inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland, New York, near Albany.

“I was in the food court with my son when I was confronted by two security guards and ordered to either take off the T-shirt or leave the mall,” said Downs.

When Downs refused the security officers’ orders, police from the town of Guilderland were called and he was arrested and taken away in handcuffs, charged with trespassing “in that he knowingly enter(ed) or remain(ed) unlawfully upon premises,” the complaint read.

Downs said police tried to convince him he was wrong in his actions by refusing to remove the T-shirt because the mall “was like a private house and that I was acting poorly.

“I told them the analogy was not good and I was then hauled off to night court where I was arraigned after pleading not guilty and released on my own recognizance,” Downs told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Downs is the director of the Albany Office of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates complaints of misconduct against judges and can admonish, censure or remove judges found to have engaged in misconduct.

Calls to the Guilderland police and district attorney, Anthony Cardona and to officials at the mall were not returned for comment.

Downs is due back in court for a hearing on March 17. He could face up to a year in prison if convicted.
It’s one of those stories that leaves you poised between speechlessness and a 5,000-word rant. Folly is fractal. (via The Register and Pigs and Fishes)

March 13, 2003
Michael Portillo/Jeremy Paxman
Posted by Teresa at 10:53 PM *

Fanfiction. A story called Don’t Watch Newsnight, by someone writing as “Darth Ewok”. Sample:

“Oh, come now, Mr. Portillo” — Jeremy shifted slightly, showing off the nipple rings again and allowing the trouser leg to ride higher — “You can’t expect to be let off the hook for this one. Just answer yes or no… did you lie to the British public?”

Michael drew breath raggedly to answer — and choked, as Jeremy calmly picked up his pen and began playing with it, sliding those long fingers languorously along it from base to tip and back.

“I’m waiting, Mr. Portillo….”

Jeremy raised the pen to his mouth and tapped it against his teeth before licking it long and lovingly, secure in the knowledge that all the cameras were turned on the by now flushed and sweating Minister. In the silence that followed, the producer gave the signal to cut back to Jeremy…

“No answer there from a somewhat disturbed and evasive Michael Portillo, then. In other news today……”

March 12, 2003
Oddmusic
Posted by Teresa at 09:40 AM *

Lo here, the Oddmusic gallery of “unique, unusual, ethnic, or experimental” musical instruments, with pictures and, in most cases, sound bites. They’re fascinating, though many of them should be strictly reserved for use in cheesy skiffy movies.

A few of the experiments are more successful. The cymbalom turns out to be the weird hammered dulcimer plus fingertip “bowhammers” some guy (if it’s the same one, his name is Michael Masley) was playing one afternoon on the sidewalk opposite the convention center during the San Jose worldcon. I was there, and it sounded pretty good.

The prize of the lot is the extraordinarily resonant bazantar, invented by Mark Deutsch. It’s
… a five-string acoustic bass, fitted with an additional twenty-nine sympathetic strings and four drone strings. The instrument possesses a melodic range of over five octaves, while its sympathetic range spans four octaves.
That five-octave melodic range takes it well up into ‘cello territory, and it’s as playable as any other acoustic bass—a real instrument, not just a noisemaker. Here are some longer samples from Deutsch’s composition for unaccompanied bazantar, The Painted Bird.

But overall, I liked the rarities and historical oddities better. Stroviols and Swagerty ukeleles (including the kook-a-le-le and the treholipee)—who knew? Also the very cool contrabass saxophone in E-flat, which is what they send out to rough you up if they hear you’ve been abusing piccolos. The monster sax can be heard on the soundtrack of How the Grinch Stole Christmas; there’s a sample of it onsite. The gallery’s notes say “Its power and presence of sound is indescribable.” I’ll bet. (Thank you, Andrew Phillips.)

March 11, 2003
Snapshot
Posted by Teresa at 01:59 AM *

I was walking up Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn yesterday morning, and paused to let a woman and her son come out the door of the 24-hour bagel place and cross the sidewalk in front of me.

The kid was darned cute, maybe six or seven, and obviously in an ebullient mood. He grinned up at me, in my long red overcoat and broad-brimmed black felt fedora, and said “Hello, witch!”

What else could I do? I gave him a grin in return and a conspiratorial wink, as if to say “Fair cop; but don’t tell anyone else.”

March 10, 2003
Many moons
Posted by Teresa at 09:53 PM *

A dozen more moons have been found orbiting Jupiter, all of them small, with distant retrograde orbits. This brings Jupiter’s total up to 52 and counting.

This latest batch hasn’t yet been named, but I expect they’ll stick to the convention of naming them after Jove’s amours. How providential that that happens to be one of the most densely populated categories in Greek mythology.

What a friend we have in cheeses
Posted by Teresa at 09:29 PM *

Some while back, I remarked on the availability of Bible stories reenacted by Legos, Pokemon critters, 3-D pictures, excessively cute stuffies, fish puppets, about a zillion different felt-board figures, dancing born-agains, amusing comics, creepy comics, two dozen full-length videos featuring animated vegetables, and Bart Simpson.

To these I must now add The Bible According to Cheese; or, A Brie History of Time, wherein Bible stories are reenacted by cheeses. The puns are wretched: Edam and Eve, David and Asiagoliath, Parmesan the Baptist. They’re currently soliciting further puns and threatening to bring it back for another season, if only so they can work in the Book of Cheeziekiel. (via Barbara Nielsen, who got it from Debi Crandall)

March 08, 2003
The page of generators
Posted by Teresa at 01:17 PM *

Steven Savage has the turn of mind that plays with permutations, and has come up with an entire page of generators. Mostly they’re just for fun, or as an aid to imagination for gamers; but a couple of them generated material that would catch my eye in a slush ms. One is the Academic SF Generator (inexplicably filed under character-related generators), which generates fields of study:

Alien Pharmacology Business Artificial Intelligence
Ethical Industrial Computing
Theoretical Communications
Inter-System Statistics
Modern Interdimensional Zoology
Remedial Terraforming
Nanotechnological Economics
Common Computing
Relativistic Computing
Clinical Robotics
Virtual Science
Even better is the Action Film Trailer Generator. It’s meant to generate parodic action-movie trailer voiceovers. I looked at the first one it generated:
In a city of fear, four actors and a bounty hunter oppose crime.
Sounded interesting.
In a galaxy of computerization, an astronomer tries to participate in the greatest fighting tournament of history.
Cool. (Later on, I also got In a dark universe, two supercomputers hope to participate in the greatest fighting tournament of history. I liked that one, too.)
In a corrupt world, in a time of conspiracy and illusions, a grave robber and a conjurer seek vengance.
That had possibilities.
In a forgotten world of magic, in a time of confusion and prophecy, three computer programmers search for a mystic artifact.
So did that one.
In a hellish empire, two colonists and a prospector battle crime.

On a planet of enchantment, a gigolo searches for a mysterious treasure and battles evil.

In a terrifying city of monsters, four botanists search for fame.

In an empire of blood and warfare, in an era of lies, three queens battle an evil corporation.

In a land of barbarism, a swordsman and an artificial intelligence fight evil.

In a city of demons and wonder, a nun and a gambler attempt to solve the ultimate crime and prevent the apocalypse.

In an empire of dreams and illusion, four psychologists and an exorcist fight a syndicate of aliens.

In a mysterious land of technology, an assassin searches for the ultimate weapon and fights evil.

In a universe of fear and sorcery, seven priests search for love and battle crime.
There’ve been days when I’ve killed slush for hours without running into anything that interesting.

You can configure the generator to give you a bunch of results at once, so I set it for 25 per click and kept reading. Within half a dozen clicks it came up with summaries of the plots of John Brunner’s The Traveller in Black and Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows, and did a near-miss on Jim Macdonald’s The Apocalypse Door. You could be in worse company.

A summary isn’t a plot, a plot isn’t a novel, and having the ingredients isn’t the same thing as knowing how to write fiction; but if that’s what you’re trying to do, you might want to have a look at that generator and see if it shakes anything loose inside your head.

March 07, 2003
Marching Mary Sues
Posted by Teresa at 08:44 PM *

To quote from the site where I found this item:

Have you ever longed to insert yourself into your favorite show? With MaggieFic’s Handy-Dandy Mary Sue Generator, you can! Just click the buttons to create a Mary Sue that anyone would be proud of. You’ll be shagging the main character of your choice, saving the world, dying nobly to save another, or bringing together your favorite pair of star-crossed lovers in no time.
If this power could be used for good, it wouldn’t be this power. (Posted in honor of the Just Checking comment thread.)

Monkfish
Posted by Teresa at 08:22 PM *

Every so often, after I’ve fed Patrick his dinner, he comes back in, grabs me by the shoulders, and says “WRITE THAT ONE DOWN.” Last time he did that was when I came up with bacon and egg soup. Tonight we had fish.

Monkfish with saffron and roe

1-1/2 - 2 lbs. monkfish (2-3 good fillets)
fresh flying fish roe
1 small pinch saffron
1 can Campbell’s chicken broth
1 packet unflavored gelatin
1/2 stick of butter
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch green onions
1 bunch fresh cilentro
1/3 - 1/2 C. finely chopped fresh bell peppers, in colors
1/2 cup or less sour cream, cre8me fraiche, clotted cream, whatever
green olives
black pepper, white pepper, paprika

Wash your fillets and pat them dry. Salt them lightly all over.

Take the pinch of saffron and crumble it between your fingers into half a coffee mug of hot water. Nuke it a bit, give it a stir, and let it sit until the water turns golden-orange and reeks of saffron.

Put one can of chicken broth into a shallow saucepan and get it simmering. Add the saffron and water. Sprinkle in the gelatin and stir until it dissolves. Add the pepper, paprika, and half the butter. Peel and mash the garlic cloves and throw them in too. Let it boil until it starts thickening just a bit, then throw in the other half of the butter. Let that simmer too.

Now lay in the monkfish fillets and let them simmer in the broth. Turn them over every so often. While this is going on, chop up the green onions. Throw the white part into the pan and save the green part for later. Chop up the cilentro and throw it in too, and all but a little of the bell pepper. Keep turning the fish.

Meanwhile, take your clotted/fraiche/sour cream, stir it up so it’s smooth, and gently spoon the roe on top of it. Stir it until the two are marbled together, but not so much that it’s like a homogenous chip dip.

Just before the fish is done, throw in some of the green parts of the chopped green onions plus maybe a quarter-cup or less of lightly chopped green olives.

Gently remove a cooked fillet to a soup plate. Spoon some of the stuff out of the pan on top of it and around it. Now spoon a good wallop of sour cream plus fish roe down the middle. Sprinkle a scant handful of chopped green onions on top of that, plus a light sprinkling of chopped bell pepper, plus another little dollop of fish roe. Serve fast.

This is colorful food.

[Recipe Index]

True tales of combat
Posted by Teresa at 01:30 PM *

Why You Should Fall to Your Knees and Worship a Librarian, from the Librarian Avengers website. See also their Stupid Research Tricks and What They Didn’t Teach Us in Library School sections, which will teach you that (1.) being a librarian is more challenging than you may have imagined; and (2.) it isn’t hard to make them happy, so get with the program already. (via The Shifted Librarian)

March 06, 2003
Just checking
Posted by Teresa at 04:08 PM *

I’m sorry to say that the search string get published now! turns up over 3,000 hits on Google, with or without its exclamation mark.

Back on 08 June 2001, in my second-ever post to Making Light, I reported that the search string She loved him. She really loved him. would infallibly Google up “between twelve and twenty specimens of online fiction, not one single piece of which will be good.” The only change on that front is that now you’ll get about forty of them, less my post and Mitch Wagner’s post on the subject.

On a more cheerful note, if like my friends Scraps and Martha you collect bad poetry, peom, peotry, poerty, a new star in the, and that fateful day still work just fine.

Received in the mail
Posted by Teresa at 03:29 PM *

From John M. Ford:

A couple of weeks back The Economist took time out from its usual obsessions to report the demise of the advertising jingle (not on the obituary page, but in the conveniently adjacent Books and Arts section). It seems that the jingle has been displaced by pre-existing pop lyrics, hired for the occasion by people in advertising, which for reasons lost to history is known as a creative profession. We were told that Sting, who had once disdained to rent “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” to a deodorant manufacture, was now selling cars, happy as a clam with a royalty agreement.

But one wonders. The jingle, after all, was never about its content, even when it had any. Dr. Pepper arcanely displayed 10, 2, and 4 long after anyone remembered that those were desirable times to consume the product. Having a Break Today is far removed from the actual experience of ordering fast food. And, though it was a wellspring of parody, did anyone ever actually wonder where the damn yellow went?

A jingle was a pop tune in small, a memorable phrase, often rhythmic and sometimes actually sung, a meme by any other name. (Whether they actually sold any soap is beyond our brief here.) The new wave just attempts to eliminate the difficult steps of heating up a meme and serving it to an audience by the usual new-wave process of buying the package ready-made. And, as with the earlier habit of buying small, successful businesses and turning them into failed subsidiaries, context doesn’t matter.

Rocks in a state of nature are coarse, grubby, and difficult to handle when not completely immobile. Comparing your Chevrolet to a rock seems somehow unflattering. As for “Moondance”—well, that’s being used as background, telling us how much fun it is to be with your significant other in a car. In the front seat. With the three-point harnesses on and the air bags ready to fire.

It gets even weirder when one listens to the rest of the lyric attached to the hook. Gary Numan’s “Here in my car I feel safest of all” was, for anyone who missed the nuances, about urban paranoia, not safety, but we are now asked to feel warm and huggy about locking all our doors. And then there’s the USPS’s co-optation of “Fly Like an Eagle,” in which not one word of the remaining lyric can be quoted without blowing the gaff—“Till I’m free”? “House the people/Livin’ in the street”? Had those folks with the deodorant contract listened, even once, through “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”? The Nabokov bits too?

A few years ago, some high-school teachers were troubled by their administration’s attitude that the students might be picking up Bad Ideas from that rock music stuff. The teachers took the unusual step of trying to find out just what, exactly, was taking place. (No points for guessing what the administration wanted to do.) They asked for short essays about various popular lyrics of the moment, including “Born in the USA.” Springsteen’s song, the students said, was about, well … “being born in the USA.

Now, this wasn’t a scientific study, and anyone who has graded essay tests knows that parroting key phrases from the source is a standard tactic. Still, the teachers’ conclusion was that, far from being inculcated with the principles of red revolution, their students weren’t getting anything from pop lyrics except rote memorization.

One wonders how many of those kids wound up in advertising.

Like McGonagall, only without the rhymes
Posted by Teresa at 01:12 PM *

AgriBiz Poetry, Consumer Specialty Produce Marketer, offers a unique service: the composition of what the site calls “relevant poetic materials about the products.” I think this is a case of selling what you already do, because the proprietor, Joseph J. Charles, has an evident passion for his subject. Consider his eponymous poem about the Flame Seedless Grape:

Flame Seedless Grape Oh, such Summer delights we often take for granted!
Only in the Central San Joaquin Valley & Napa Valley, CA
Can one find such a bounty of fruits!
Or is it time to show gratitude
The hands that till the soil and prune the vines
To the man who developed this crisp, red grape
From all the corners of the USA and the world
We, table grape lovers, pay tribute
To late John Weinberger, a U.S. agriculture Department plant Scientist
When we bite into a peach, plum, nectarine, apricots
And grapes, we are the beneficiaries
Of his many hours of research and dedication
For he bred and released 37 varieties of them
No other sentiments are greater than aiming at a bowl
Of the Flame on the table near the swimming pool
The taste of the chlorinated water is soon washed away
Fresh and bright, these berries pop up and dilute in your mouth
Great for snack, they find their way in fruit salads
Oh Flame Seedless Grape, may you continue
To fight for your place in the heart of table grape lovers
May grape growers become wise enough to continue
Planting and nurturing its vines
In my own heart, Thompson Seedless may have to
Watch out because Flame may supplant its position some day

The odd thing is that with his enthusiasm, his cataloguing impulse, and his desire to include as much useful information as possible, J. J. Charles manages to strike once-popular poetic notes not often heard this side of the Eighteenth Century, unless you count later anomalies like James McIntyre’s cheese poems and the works of McGonagall.

Terry Eagleton, on fundamentalism and other subjects
Posted by Teresa at 08:15 AM *

I’ve been fond of Terry Eagleton’s writing since my days as a litcrit editor. Somehow I’ve managed to not notice until now that he’s writing occasional pieces, and they’re turning up on the web.

For instance, Pedants and Partisans, in which he has a go at explaining fundamentalism. Not surprisingly, he sees it as a lunacy proceeding from language:
The word “fundamentalism” was first used in the early years of the last century by anti-liberal US Christians, who singled out seven supposed fundamentals of their faith. … The first of the seven fundamentals was a belief in the literal truth of the Bible; and this is probably the best definition of fundamentalism there is. It is basically a textual affair. Fundamentalists are those who believe that our linguistic currency is trustworthy only if it is backed by the gold standard of the Word of Words. They see God as copperfastening human meaning. Fundamentalism means sticking strictly to the script, which in turn means being deeply fearful of the improvised, ambiguous or indeterminate. Fundamentalists, however, fail to realise that the phrase “sacred text” is self-contradictory. Since writing is meaning that can be handled by anybody, any time, it is always profane and promiscuous. Meaning that has been written down is bound to be unhygienic. Words that could only ever mean one thing would not be words.
I first met Eagleton’s work via his Literary Theory, the only major work about Lit. Hist. that’s referred to by reviewers as “racy”. (Alas, I cannot now remember whether it’s Literary Theory or another one of his titles that has the literary critics’ drinking song in the back.) It’s also erudite, useful—and occasionally startling, because Eagleton is perfectly willing to spill the beans about the underlying politics, academic and otherwise, of the litcrit world. Here’s a bit from his recent longish essay about Seamus Heaney’s new translation of Beowulf, Hasped and hooped and hirpling: Heaney conquers Beowulf. At the moment that we join our essay in progress, Eagleton is discussing Oxbridge politics, 1914:
…it helped, in battling the Boche, to know that you hailed from an ancient race with bluff, manly vowels and a handy way with a sword, and this gave the Anglo-Saxonists a belated boost at their most perilous historical hour. Perhaps some of the Germans’ own uncouth virility could be hijacked for the struggle against their dominion. Not long afterwards, by the time an English school at Cambridge was up and running, this view of English and Englishness had evolved into a full-dress cultural ideology in the hands of FR Leavis and his collaborators. Unlike Oxford, Cambridge had sought to solve the Anglo-Saxon problem by ensconcing it in a separate faculty from English. Spiritually, however, what would eventually become known as Cambridge English adopted just the opposite strategy, boldly redefining the essence of English language and literature in vaguely Anglo-Saxonist terms. If the subject itself was academically sequestered, its colonising spirit was everywhere apparent. Authentic English was gnarled, racy, muscular, robust, richly specified and concretely realised, and the literary canon would be drastically reconstructed as one continuous laying bare of its nerve and sinew. In the process, poetry, that most cissy of all activities, would be repossessed for the male species.

Unlike cerebral, anaemic languages such as French, English words had the good fortune sensuously to enact their own meanings, so that the archetypal English poem sounded rather like the rumbling of a sack of potatoes being emptied. Not even the thinnest blade could be slid between signifier and signified. What Freud had seen as a characteristic mark of schizophrenia—the confusion of words and things—was raised to a sign of ethnic distinction. For this quasi-sacramental poetics, ‘Ou sont les neiges d’antan?’ palely alluded to something, whereas ‘mossed cottages trees’ was a matter of real presence. Once again, in the long history of English nationalism, Englishness was everything that the abstract, frivolous, revolutionary French were not.

There is a geographical as well as a theological poetics at work here. Roughly speaking, the nearer you approach the Arctic Circle, the more authentic your language grows. Northern poems—from Beowulf and Ted Hughes’s The Hawk in the Rain to Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist—are craggy and brawny, whereas southern ones are more devious and deliquescent. The Northern Irish poet Tom Paulin, with his penchant for words which sound like the squelching of a leaky boot, raises this doctrine to the point of self-parody. In poetry like Heaney’s, you can hear the pluck and slop of brackish water as the signs button down snugly on their referents, whereas Donald Davie’s words stand at a chaster distance from his meanings.
Such fun.

(John Farrell, you should have a look at his review of Harold Bloom’s How to Read and Why.)

Next, we work on timing
Posted by Teresa at 07:02 AM *

Meetup is a good idea—they provide a mechanism for people with a particular interest to find out about others like themselves in their area, and get together with them—but I think Science Fiction Writer Meetup is close to seventy years late: been there, done that, built a subculture out of it.

March 04, 2003
Nerds
Posted by Teresa at 12:08 AM *

Let me recommend Paul Graham’s essay, Why Nerds Are Unpopular. It’s a very illuminating discussion of a painful subject:

If it’s any consolation to the nerds, it’s nothing personal. The group of kids who band together to pick on you are doing the same thing, and for the same reason, as a bunch of guys who get together to go hunting. They don’t actually hate you. They just need something to chase.
Graham’s basic thesis is that nerds are unpopular because their interest in other subjects makes them unwilling to devote themselves exclusively to the struggle for popularity:
[P]opularity is not something you can do in your spare time, not in the fiercely competitive environment of an American secondary school. … I wonder if anyone in the world works harder at anything than American school kids work at popularity. Navy SEALs and neurosurgery residents seem slackers by comparison. They occasionally take vacations; some even have hobbies. An American teenager may work at being popular every waking hour, 365 days a year.
He goes into some detail about how high-school popularity works, which is extremely interesting if, like me, you’re a nerd who never got the hang of it and always wondered what you were doing wrong. Graham deplores the whole system for its boredom, its arbitrary cruelty, and its wastefulness. He points out that instead of being sequestered with their agemates, teenagers used to be much more integrated into their communities. They worked. They were useful. Adjusting for circumstances, they appear to have been on the whole happier than their modern American counterparts. And he has small use for the convenient modern theory that teenage misery is a function of their rampaging hormones:
I’m suspicious of this theory that thirteen year old kids are intrinsically messed up. If it’s physiological, it should be universal. Are Mongol nomads all nihilists at thirteen? I’ve read a lot of history, and I don’t think I’ve seen a single reference to this supposedly universal fact before the twentieth century. Teenage apprentices in the Renaissance seem to have been cheerful and eager. They got in fights and played tricks on one another of course, but they weren’t crazy. As far as I can tell, the concept of the hormone-crazed teenager is coeval with suburbia. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think teenagers are driven crazy by the life they’re made to lead.
IMO, this does more to explain the Columbine shootings than any amount of nihilist or goth teenage culture.
Where I grew up, it felt as if there was nowhere to go, and nothing to do. This was no accident. Suburbs are deliberately designed to exclude the outside world, because it contains things that could endanger children.

And as for the schools, they were just holding pens within this fake world. Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids all locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done. And I have no problem with this: in a specialized industrial society, it would be a disaster to have kids running around loose.

What bothers me is not that the kids are kept in prisons, but that (a) they aren’t told about it, and (b) the prisons are run mostly by the inmates. Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they’re called misfits.
Yes! The last thing out of the box is hope:
Why is the real world more hospitable to nerds? It might seem that the answer is simply that it’s populated by adults, who are too mature to pick on one another. But I don’t think this is true. Adults in prison certainly pick on one another. And so, apparently, do society wives; in some parts of Manhattan, life for women sounds like a continuation of high school, with all the same petty intrigues.

I think the important thing about the real world is not that it’s populated by adults, but that it’s very large, and the things you do have real effects. That’s what school, prison, and ladies-who-lunch all lack. The inhabitants of all those worlds are trapped in little bubbles where nothing they do can have more than a local effect. Naturally these societies degenerate into savagery. They have no function for their form to follow.

When the things you do have real effects, it’s no longer enough just to be pleasing. It starts to be important to get the right answers, and that’s where nerds show to advantage.
(via Abbi Ball’s Things to Come, where she adds her own reflections on the subject.)

March 02, 2003
Received in the mail
Posted by Teresa at 11:26 PM *

You are a speaker at the 1956 Worldcon Banquet. You rise to display the great Information Utility of the Future. You load a page called

MAC OS X HINTS

The first headline reads

USE SQUID TO PERFORM UPSTREAM
WEB PROXY AUTHENTICATION

(Thanks, Patrick.)

Amusements
Posted by Teresa at 10:13 PM *

Am I being too frivolous? If so, there’s no help for it. Here are two silly quizzes: Which SF Writer Will You Marry? and Which New York City Subway Line Are You?

A third quiz, sent in by Alison Scott: Which London Underground tube line are you?

Also, because you never know when you’re going to need a random quote from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I give you the the great and mighty Gibbon-o-Matic. Just now I got: This variety of objects will suspend, for some time, the course of the narrative; but the interruption will be censured only by those readers who are insensible to the importance of laws and manners, while they peruse, with eager curiosity, the transient intrigues of a court, or the accidental event of a battle.

(Haven’t you always wanted a Gibbon?)

Finally, because I don’t see why I should be the only one to suffer, an oddment I received in the mail:
The Chain Letter of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

With Charity all things are possible.

1. This epistle comes to you from Philippi. Grace be to you and peace. Spiritual gifts will be delivered unto you within four days of receiving this letter, provided only that in your turn you send it on.

2. This is no joke. Send copies to whomsoever among the gentiles you would comfort in their tribulation. Do not send material things. Charity vaunteth not itself, and is not puffed up.

3. While visiting the household of Aquila and Priscilla, a Macedonian proconsul received the epistle and was greeted by his brethren by a holy kiss. But he broke the chain, and now he is become as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.

4. Gaius bestowed all his goods to feed the poor, and gave his body to be burned, but it profited him nothing. He failed to circulate the letter. However, before his death, he received the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

5. Do note the following: Silas had the gift of prophecy, and understood all mysteries, and all knowledge, and had all faith, so that he could remove mountains. But he forgot that the epistle had to leave his hands within 96 hours, and now he is nothing.

6. In A.D. 37, the epistle was received by a young Galatian woman who put it aside to copy and send out later. She suffered many tribulations: thrice she was beaten with rods, once she was stoned, and twice suffered shipwreck. On the latter of these occasions, she spent a night and day in the deep. Finally, she copied the letter. A trumpet sounded, and she was raised incorruptible.

7. Remember: Believe all things and hope all things. The chain never faileth.

— Paul

Daedalus and the ant
Posted by Teresa at 09:00 PM *

Everybody knows the story: Daedalus escapes from the labyrinth of King Minos, and holes up with King Cocalus of Syracuse. To track him down, Minos offers a big reward to anyone who can run a thread through the internal spirals of a conch shell. He figures only Daedalus could do that, so whoever brings in a solution will know where to find him.

He’s right. Daedalus, archetypal engineering geek, sees only the problem and its solution, not that it’s a trap.”*”:http://www.sonic.net/~paul/humour/msg00163.html His solution: He drills a small hole into the center of the shell, ties a fine thread to the rear leg of an ant, sets the ant inside the lip of the shell, and smears honey around the edges of the hole he’s drilled. The ant crawls through the shell to reach the honey, carrying the thread with it.

King Cocalus takes the shell to Minos to claim the reward. Minos demands that he turn over the man who threaded the conch. Trouble ensues. Daedalus prevails. End of story.

I woke up this morning with that story in my head, and found it bothered me. Ants locate food by wandering around aimlessly until they stumble over it. They only move purposefully when they already know where the food is. But even if they did move purposefully toward the honey, it seems to me that the increasing friction of the thread as it wrapped around all those successive spirals would eventually be more than the ant could overcome.

Is there a better way to do it? I laid in bed and thought about it. If you’re allowed to modify the shell by drilling a hole in it, you could attach the thread to a small dense weight, put it in at the drilled hole, and tip and shake it until the weighted end emerged at the lip of the shell. Even better, you could make the small weight out of iron, and use a very strong magnet to pull it in the required direction while you slowly rotate the shell. Or you could attach the thread to the center of a small flat lightweight disk, put it in the lip of the shell, and put the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner hose against the drilled hole. (Okay, if you’re Daedalus you don’t use a vacuum cleaner. Probably you rig something clever involving bellows.) Or, if you thought the ants could pull hard enough to overcome the friction of the thread, you could run a single line of honey from one opening to the other, let the ants at it for a while, and only renew the honey at the drilled end. Eventually they’d have cleaned up all the interim honey, and will be doing the whole spiral trip to get to the honey at the other end. Then you tie a thread to one of them.

There is an answer. It is not unique.

Thinking about Daedalus makes me think about mazes and labyrinths. I collect interesting antonyms, like vacuum, plenum and magister, minister (but not herb, forb). Anyway, it seems to me that maze or labyrinth, rather than territory, is the proper antonym for map.

Also, what is it about Daedalus, mazes, and thread? There’s the business with the shell, of course; but he also built the Labyrinth, which Theseus made his way through with the help of a ball of thread. If I were Roberto Calasso, author of the unspeakably brilliant The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, I’m sure I could see what that’s about. Suggestions will as always be appreciated.

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.