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October 17, 2003

Open thread 8
Posted by Teresa at 05:06 PM *

The dogs bark, but the conversation moves on.

Comments on Open thread 8:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 05:30 PM:

"The Tard Blog" is excruciating, and excruciatingly funny. An elementary school version of the Arcata Eye Police Blotter.

Augusta. Ohhh, man. I can picture him growing up and going to conventions, probably dressed in a hermetically sealed furry costume.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 05:44 PM:

Augusta's young. I suspect his weird neurochemistry is going to either get better or a lot worse.

The Tard Blog shocked me for a while, but then I started laughing. Even if I hadn't started laughing, I don't have the street credibility to call down a Special Ed. teacher, especially when so many of the positive responses in her lettercol are from other Special Ed. teachers. I just know which end of the gun the bullets come out of. Those guys are combat veterans.

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 05:58 PM:

If Augusta doesn't end up sorting recyclables for $.50 an hour and annoying people at bus stops, he could end up inventing the hyperdrive (and annoying physicists by stealing lunches from the fridge at the Brookhaven employee break room).

Combat veterans indeed, of many campaigns. The sheer variety of screw-uppedness amoungst those kids is intriguing and harrowing.

#4 ::: catie murphy ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 07:13 PM:

The Tard Blog is really sort of extremely startling. I did the same thing you did, Teresa; I sort of cringed in shock and then began laughing. The story that really undid me was the suicidal mother.

I've got a girlfriend who's a special ed teacher and I just sent her to go look at the blog. I'll be interested to see what she has to say about it.

On a completely different note, there's a cute picture (although low quality; my camera battery was dying) of you and Patrick at Writer's Weekend over here and if you positively loathe having pictures of yourself posted on the net, let me know and I'll take 'em down. :)


#5 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 07:23 PM:

I suspect J. Daniel Scruggs' teachers would find the Tard Blog extremely funny.

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 07:55 PM:

The Compleat Diagram of Strange Persons seems a cross between a relationship diagram of fetishes I saw earlier in the year (perhaps on bOING-bOING?) and Jore Sjoberg's snarky but insightful Geek Hierarchy:

#7 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 08:03 PM:

A sig line sent to me from COPYEDITING-L:

First they came for the verbs, and I said nothing because verbing weirds language.
Then they arrival for the nouns, and I speech nothing because I no verbs.

#8 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 08:29 PM:

The Observer's list of best 100 novels is even more eccentric than the Modern Library's marketing department's list. I've read 34 of them in their entirety, substantial portions of 6 others, but very few of the recent ones. In fact, this is the first I've heard of a number of them--whereas I'd at least heard of all the ML list. Who came up with this one?

#9 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 08:38 PM:

Dunno--but I had several reactions.

Not Moby-Dick, but The Confidence Man.
Not On the Road, but Visions of Cody.
Not The Big Sleep, but The Long Goodbye. (I'd argue this any time, any place.)
Not The Executioner's Song (which is not even a novel), but Harlot's Ghost.


WTF (W for Where, as in "W was W when wingmen were waiting? aWol?) were Thomas Pynchon and my pick for best 20th century novel in English, Ken Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion?

#10 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 09:13 PM:

So, do you suppose Friberg looked at Frazetta or was it the other way around. I kept being struck by the Frazetta like poses and mighty thews.


#11 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 09:18 PM:

You know what? I'm an il-frickin-literate. It's The Confidence-Man. More fully, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade. It was looking over my shoulder as I wrote that, too.

#12 ::: Paul Hoffman ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 10:03 PM:

Being mostly a magazine-reader, I can't talk about the 100-best-novels or the Man Booker prize (why does everyone drop the "Man" part?) or the Nobels. Now, when they have "the best magazine articles of the year" prizes, I often look to see if I read any of them, or if I have any of them laying around unread.

#13 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 10:48 PM:

The Compleat Diagram of Strange Persons is not really Compleat. It does not include people who are into cryonics.

#14 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 10:49 PM:

I found myself really embarrassed at how few of those I had read up to about number 20 or so; then then got much more familiar, then unfamiliar again with some exceptions.

So I find that I'm relatively well-read in the literature of about 1830 to 1950, and ignorant about everything else. I have no idea why that is. (My personal list would be extremely science-fiction-heavy.)

(There were several authors of whom I had only read, or better liked, other works; I'd have picked different ones for Roth, Calvino and Rushdie.)

#15 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 11:15 PM:

So did anyone else take the Alchemists' Challenge? I got 80%; kicking myself for a few of "that's too much ]common wisdom[ to be right"
(I got several that were often missed and missed a few that were above-average gotten); I doubt their claim to a guaranteed correct answer on one and am sure of a typo in another. (Why yes, I'm good at lame excuses....) But there were some fascinating tidbits to learn from my misses. I expect some people on this list will do better; I did well on the synonym/antonym list T found a year ago, but I was brought up by language people -- this test rewards serious omnivoracity.

#16 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2003, 11:46 PM:

To add to The Compleat Diagram of Strange Persons: the persons who responded to The Compleat Diagram of Strange Persons by correcting what they perceived as the mis-spelling of "Complete".

Or, at least they should go on The Compleat Diagram of Persons Who Should Not Be Copy-Editors.

#17 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 12:18 AM:

Following CHip's suggestion, I took the Alchemist's Challenge. A good quiz, mostly; damnably hard to guess on. You either know the things or you don't. Fortunately I knew most.

But there's one question they're dead wrong on. The origin of O.K. was definitely established a long time ago. Or so says Cecil Adams, and I trust Cecil.

#18 ::: davey ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 12:50 AM:

Teresa, please don't call down the Tard Blog folks; that site's a homecoming to a place I haven't lived in for a couple of decades (but have now bookmarked so I can stop by every now and then). It's just that the blog entries are the redaction: being presented as incidents, stripped of their everyday everyone-back-on-your-hands context, shades them with a callousness that isn't in the classroom. It really is comrade humor, with subtext.

[Relevant background: I have a B.S.Ed from Millersville University, dual-certification Elementary Ed K-6 and Special Ed K-12, SpEd concentration on teaching the emotionally disturbed; and a program focus on educating in inner-city schools. I was a classroom SpEd teacher in residential schools every summer from age 16-20, and my combined majors program meant I was also in a classroom 4-10 hours/week every semester except first freshman (none) and final senior (two 8-week school practicum assignments, no on-campus classes at all). The Tard Blog entries are entirely familiar. That I didn't make my career in classroom teaching was a fall of the job-market dice when I graduated.]

#19 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 02:09 AM:


Help! I've become dependent on as a source of interesting articles (about 40% of what they link to), but I can't read it without grinding my teeth at the remaining 60% - all those endless chip on the shoulder rants about the inferiority of Islam, the French, modern art, and all socialists except George Orwell.

Is there anything out there which is an equally enticing roundup of news and reviews without being quite so constipated?

#20 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 03:03 AM:

Thanks for the link to the roccoco clothing. Gosh those are cool; they just don't make 'em like that any more. And don't you wish men's clothes were that colorful and interesting now?

Oh, and by the way, the first link just links back to Making Light.


#21 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 03:10 AM:

adamsj, with all due respect, you gotta be kidding. I've tried to read The Confidence-Man, and it's not without its amusements. Maybe someday, when I have a lot of free time, I'll try to finish it. I found it extremely difficult and way too mannered for my taste. And as Teresa can tell you, I'm a big fan of Proust, and I thought Nostromo (which is deservedly on their list) pretty easy going, even though I'd often heard how dense it was. To choose TC-M over Moby-Dick, which many regard as the great American novel? I feel similarly, though not so strongly, about Visions of Cody, though of course all of Kerouac is really one giant opus. Somehow, On the Road is a lot more of a coherent narrative. Or maybe you just have a taste for big, rough books?

#22 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 04:58 AM:

The Alchemist's Challenge seems to be an extended session of the Dictionary Game. These are the rules of Dictionary, as taught to me by the formidable Phil Klass (errors are due to brain atrophy on my part):

1. You need paper, pens, and a nice big dictionary.

2. One person in the group (a group of 4-8 people works best) looks through the dictionary for an obscure word that no one in the group recognizes. That person announces the word to the group, and copies the actual dictionary definition (only one, if there are multiple definitions) onto a sheet of paper.

3. All the other players make up false definitions for that word, and write them down. The more plausible-sounding, the better, but they should be false.

4. The word-picker then reads all of the definitions aloud once, then goes back through them, allowing each player to vote for the definition he or she thinks is correct.

5. If you vote for the correct definition, you get a point. If someone votes for your false definition, you get a point. If you picked the word and no one guesses correctly, you get a point.

6. I've always wondered, why is there no rule 6?

7. The game is over when each person has had a turn picking a word. Whoever has the most points wins.

8. Don't play against Phil Klass. He lies more skillfully than you do. So does Fruma Klass.

#23 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 06:19 AM:

My reaction to the tard blog as a parent is that these folks ought to be fired.

Also, it confirms my general feeling that although receiving free services through the school district is nice, private services are preferable, because the providers always know who's paying them.

Why the authors of the blog feel this way is certanly understandable, but think about it: if your doctor had a blog and wrote about you that way, you would feel this was a serious violation of your privacy and want him fired or his license suspended or some such. There is a basic level of human respect missing from the tard blog indicating to me that the authors need to seek another line of work. While I'm willing to entertain the idea that the authors behave much better on the job, I do not just take their word for it.

#24 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 08:19 AM:

> There is a basic level of human respect missing
> from the tard blog indicating to me that the
> authors need to seek another line of work.
> While I'm willing to entertain the idea that the
> authors behave much better on the job, I do not
> just take their word for it.

It puts me very much in mind of nurses humour I've encountered. People in mind wrenchingly stressful jobs end up having very bent senses of humour. I didn't get a bad feeling from what I read.

#25 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 08:33 AM:

Christina: playing against the Klasses sounds like it could be interesting; I used to think of "Dictionary" as mostly a game played at Mensa meetings. (Yes, for a couple of years. I was a classic D&D mage: high test scores, low wisdom and charisma.) RISFA invented a variation in which the object was to come up with the most outrageous plausible definition (ex: bulvalene, "a drink made from ground-up watches, similar to Ovaltine"); you wouldn't believe some of the things people do with mice in their pockets.

"No rule #6" may have a fannish connection; it was well-established at the MITSFS 30 years ago, and I doubt it started there. Somebody should track it down.... (OTOH, somebody at the NESFA table in the Torcon dealers room was looking for the \specific/ Eric Frank Russell story they had been told was the earliest known cite for the alleged Chinese curse. Do I believe that?)

#26 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 09:47 AM:

Monty Python! It's from the Australian Philosophy Department sketch. All the odd-numbered rules are "No poofters!" or however you spell that in Oz...obviously written by people who've never been to Sydney (from what I hear).

The absense of Rule 6 is funny in itself, but also a device to get in two more shouts of "No poofters!"

If there's a "There is no Rule 6" that predates that sketch, I'd be very interested to hear it.

#27 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 09:51 AM:

There's a published game, obviously derived, where the Reader gives the beginning of a strange proverb, and the writers complete it. It's called "Wise and Otherwise."

Example, pulling one at random out of the box: Old Korean saying, "A monk cannot..."

I was going to give the answer, but I want to see what people come up with.

#28 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 09:52 AM:

Hi, Robert,

Maybe I do have that sort of taste.

I go around and around with Kerouac. In a heads-up comparison, I go with Visions over Road for just the reason you give: Visions is not a coherent narrative, but a big splash of Kerouac's brain. It's a rewrite of Road as Kerouac got full control (in an esthetic that denigrated control) of his style. A truer vision, for better or worse.

Other days, I'll tell you that Maggie Cassidy or Doctor Sax is his best--they are certainly his sweetest (except Pic, which is a little too sweet). Maybe it's Big Sur--I say that because I've never been able to finish that little book. The pain which wafts off it is just too much--strong stuff. Lonesome Traveler is not a novel, or even fiction, so.

But I go back to Visions for a variety of reasons.

Perhaps it's the conditions under which I read it, hitchhiking to my rendezvous with a schoolbus full of crazy political hippies that I'd hopped on in Kansas City on my way to San Fran. (I dreamed about some of that crowd last night, one of them telling another that I was still trustworthy.) I finished it in Boulder, as the 25th anniversary party for Road was on at Naropa.

I'd just written my first piece of paid writing, a long, text-heavy review of King Crimson's Beat, and was crazy for that period of literature. I was living in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and was yet to meet (but had read!) John Clellon Holmes, who became one of my two great teachers there. His influence on me was decisive; from him I received this opinion, later.

It's John who made us study the forebears of the Beats, which to his mind were Blake and Baudelaire and Rimbaud, yes, but Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Dickinson, Whitman, Twain, James, Pound, and Lawrence--American writers all (if in Lawrence's case by choice and circumstance), and mostly writers who struggled in their idea of the American character.

The Melville which the Beats (the New York Beats--a different breed of cat than the San Fran Beats) particularly loved was that of Pierre and poetry. (To this day, I repeat as my own John's opinion that the best poetry about the Civil War was Melville's and that the best prose was Whitman's Specimen Days--it makes such a tidy balance!)

Pierre was too dark even for me (and I read it under even odder circumstances--when I finished it, the best reading at hand was a David Morrell action-thriller)--thus The Confidence-Man. I read it twice, but years ago--I believe I read it and Moby-Dick once in the same week back in San Fran (those damned hippies again). I made my opinion then--perhaps I should revisit it.

A long answer--perhaps, as you suggested, I have a taste for big, rough writing.

#29 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 10:54 AM:

> There is a basic level of human respect missing
> from the tard blog indicating to me that the
> authors need to seek another line of work.

I found the reference to "a couple of homos" in the "Augusta" story just, well, utterly charming.

"No poofters!"

#30 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 11:03 AM:

Don't take the picture down, Catie. That is cute. Especially Patrick.

Jon Meltzer, I suspect that J. Daniel Scruggs would have done a lot better if he'd had teachers as mindful, caring, observant, and committed to his well-being as Sarah Hammon -- or, even more so, Riti Sped.

Check out how closely Riti monitors her students, and knows each one in detail on a minute-by-minute basis. She doesn't just cope with their weirder behaviors; she understands them, and gets in as much teaching as they'll hold still for. She sees past the gaudy behavior to the kid inside. See Guest Contributor: What it's like in RIti's class, or Sub is not welcomed for particularly clear examples.

Notice also how many of the stories about Tyler and Tyrell are about Riti being there for the kids during non-school hours.

I suspect that what shocks a lot of people about RIti's accounts of her days is that not just her humorous treatment of the subject. It's also that she doesn't like all her students equally, and occasionally retaliates for particularly bad behavior, or takes sides in fights, or privately applauds what she sees as the operations of justice. She makes judgements. She has preferences.

I like her for that. It means she's reacting to these kids like a human being dealing with human beings.

Which would you rather have happen when you're not around: Your family and friends occasionally making jokes at your expense, as families and friends will do? Or, when someone starts to make such a joke, to have all the others shush them in that sweet, mournful, over-serious way and say "Oh, no -- you mustn't make fun of him."

Robert, I don't know who came up with the Observer's list. Perhaps it was Robert McCrum, who's linked-to at the end. I think it has to be the work of a small number of people, or possibly only one, because it has remarks in it like "wrongly overlooked".

I thought some of its choices were seriously weird, and many of its descriptions were flippant and shallow. (I was nonplussed by its citation of James Ellroy's La Confidential, but that might have been a typo.) It gestures vaguely in the direction of SF by including 1984, justly, and Brave New World, which hasn't held up nearly as well -- but mentions nothing else in the genre.

It seemed to me that a lot of its choices were deliberately contrarian, like citing Hemingway's Men Without Women -- which isn't even a novel. And if he's going to throw in thrillers, where for pete's sake is Dashiell Hammett? I'll stack up Red Harvest against any other detective novel you could name.

I think the compiler must be male. Otherwise he'd have listed Cold Comfort Farm or I Capture the Castle, possibly both.

Adamsj, I'll agree with you on The Long Goodbye vs. The Big Sleep. And stop flagellating yourself for leaving the hyphen and subtitle out of The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade. The Observer's list mangled a lot more titles than that.

Mary Kay, I don't know the dates, but I remember looking at the Friberg illustrations in the Book of Mormon when I was a little kid suffering through long church meetings. What's going on is that he and Frazetta were both working out of the same narrative tradition in art. That sort of thing fell thoroughly out of fashion in the Twentieth Century, so unless you go looking, you only see examples when it's pertinent to a particular subject. For example, you only see Jacques-Louis David's drawings and paintings of contemporary subjects if they're being used to illustrate some point about the French Revolution or the Napoleonic era. They're not looked at for their own sake. It's a pity; for several centuries there, artists produced a lot of cool narrative art.

#31 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 12:16 PM:

Mmm...The Long Goodbye versus Red Harvest. The betrayal of something humane and decent versus the absence of anything humane and decent. That's a hard one.

About that damned hyphen--I used to be the best proofreader in the county. It was a small county.

#32 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 12:41 PM:

Back again. My computer's being a little tetchy, so I thought I'd get that one safely posted and continue on in a separate message.

Erik Nelson, where do people who are into cryonics fit into that chart?

Chip, I took the Alchemist's Challenge. I think I should have gotten credit on "OK"; which is to say, I disagree with his answer. I was embarrassed to have missed the one about the Fuller Building, aka the Flatiron Building. My first impulse was to answer that it's the oldest surviving skyscraper in NYC, but then I talked myself into a different answer. Shouldn't have done that.

I love that test, and have mentioned it before in my weblog, a long while back. It's a work of art. Look at the first question:

Dido is:

A machine used to cut ornate moldings in wood.

An extinct flightless bird once living on the island of Mauritius.

A sex toy.

The queen of Carthage and the spurned lover of Aeneas.

A group of early twentieth-century artists who used accidental and incongruous elements in their work.

An accomplished female classical singer.

The correct answer is that Dido was the Queen of Carthage; but the things described in the wrong answers are dado, dodo, dildo, Dada, and diva. The selection of possible answers for question #14, about the meaning of antidisestablishmentarianism, is simply beautiful.

Davey, I wouldn't call it down in any event. I have a great many teachers in my family, at least one of whom taught Special Ed. The rant of hers that comes to mind was on that perennial subject, parents who have unreasonable expectations regarding the curriculum -- in this case, parents who thought the Special Ed. program should be doing more to teach their children how to clean themselves properly after using the bathroom. The rant ended: "There's a lot I'm willing to do, but if these people can't teach their own children how to wipe their butts, I'm not going to do it for them."

I have great respect for Special Ed. teachers. I could never do their job.

Steve, what's enticing to one person is dreary to another, so I'm not sure I can help you there. If anyone else has a suggestion, they should speak up.

Mary Kay, thanks for the heads-up on the Rokoko link. Its date had gotten mis-set as well, so now I've fixed both problems. Did you notice that they also have pages on other periods? They list as Mittelalter, Renaissance, Barock, Rokoko, Empire, Biedermeier, Grfcnderzeit, and Bellea0Epoque what we would call Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Regency, Romantic or Early Victorian, Later Victorian, and finally either Edwardian, Belle Epoque, or (lately) "like Titanic".

I liked that blue riding habit, myself. What a great period for cross-dressing that must have been.

Kathryn, I don't think the Tard Blog is nearly as disrespectful as you do. And I strongly disagree about private services being preferable. What we need are better public services. Did you notice how many of those students' families couldn't afford a thing, and how many of them were sufficiently dysfunctional that without the day-in-day-out program at school, the kids would never have gotten the consistent attention to their problems that they so desperately need?

Funding public schools is always a good idea.

Christopher; A monk cannot give the bride away?

Adamsj, I'd know you for a proofreader anywhere. Who else would wail that they were semi-literate because they'd left a hyphen out of a book title?

#33 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 12:50 PM:

of the barking dogs, only one in three?

#34 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 02:03 PM:

"A monk cannot."

Seems like a complete statement to me.

#35 ::: Tom Becker ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 02:41 PM:

"The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on." An old Arabic or Turkish saying. Google has 1,170 references to it.

Tom Russell used this line in the chorus of one of his recent songs. If you're not familiar with him, he's one of the finest literary singer-songwriters out there.

Tom Russell is a man who attracts coincidences. I think it's because he's never done one thing or been in one place for very long. The big break that got him back into songwriting was when he was driving cab in New York, picked up Robert Hunter as a passenger, sang Gallo del Cielo, and got a gig opening for him the next night. This is the song he wrote in the garage of his house in Mountain View, a few blocks away from me. For that coincidence to happen, Tom had to have his marriage end, leave his family, move to New York, drive cab, and not sell any novels. So I'm really not recommending this as a career approach that anyone should attempt to follow. Just listen to his songs.

#36 ::: Isabeau ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 02:48 PM:

The question is not whether the writers of Tard Blog are good teachers, but whether they should be telling tales out of school.

#37 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 02:53 PM:

I love recasts of old sayings, and here's one of my favorites:

"The gypsy's on the move, but the caravan remains."

"Pretty Thing", from Smile, by The Jayhawks. A lot of their fans don't like Smile; I like it a lot.

#38 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 03:15 PM:

Tard Blog reminds me a bit of the best and most disturbing aspects of M*A*S*H, and other stories in which people use gallows humor to deflect the severe stress of their jobs.

I have a friend who was an EMT, a friend who worked with OxFAM (an NGO that provides food assistance in the 3rd World), and an ex-BOL who was a cop, and some of their jokes were pretty dark stuff. It goes with the territory.

I find context is critically important. I give people in the trenches, dealing daily with others' suffering, a lot more leeway than people on the sidelines who would make such jokes.

Whether it's wise for them to put it on the web is a whole nother story, because the kids' parents may well be offended, and they could lose their jobs over it. Speaking of which, it'd make a great book or movie.


#39 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 03:18 PM:

I'm assuming they go to some trouble not to make the students individually identifiable. Given that assumption, I'm not seeing how the privacy issue is all that different from writing up a case study.

#40 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 05:15 PM:

Isabeau, it hadn't occurred to me that they might be using their students' real names. I hope they know better than that.

#41 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 06:55 PM:

And I strongly disagree about private services being preferable. What we need are better public services

I was speaking from a personal rather than policy perspective. Of course we need better public services. But I suspect the quality of services is higher (a) if I pay, and (b) if I watch. This is not a hypothetical preference, but one drawn from experience.

On the other hand, I have just dropped all private services in favor of public ones. The drain on both our finances and my time was substantial.

#42 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 10:05 PM:

Holy cow, davey.

I grew up across the street (almost literally) from Millersville University. (It was Millersville State College then. My dad was a sociology professor there.)

Random comment. Small world. You probably won't see this, but I had to post.


#43 ::: davey ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2003, 11:41 PM:

Small world indeed, Sarah! It was MSC when I graduated, too. I still skim the Review every quarter, but my professors have all retired and I haven't much in common with my former classmates; I've only been back once since I left and even that was forever ago. I have a memory box in the basement somewhere, though...

#44 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 01:57 AM:

I scored 78% on the Alchemist's Challenge...

I agree with Teresa completely: it's a work of art. I used to do the daily quizzes at, and I tried my hand at writing some. Coming up with decent trivia questions is fairly easy, but coming up with three plausible wrong answers for each one is hard!

The one I think I'm proudest of was on a quiz about Robert Heinlein:

This non-SF book about a round-the-world trip was not published until after Heinlein's death.

a) Stranger in a Strange Land
b) Tramp Royale
c) Glory Road
d) To Sail Beyond the Sunset

,,,but I digress. My point is that the wrong answers on the Alchemist's Challenge quiz are really nicely done.

#45 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 02:39 AM:

But David, that's just too obvious an answer on the Heinlein -- only one is posthumous....

You beat me out. I got 74%, from too many wrong guesses on a 50% chance. It's a lovely, lovely quiz.

And for all who pointed out the actual reference to the header on this thread, I still like the Thurber offshoot. Not that many of us wear velvet gowns (tho TNH would be seriously fetching in same!). ((And yes, I do believe it's important to compliment the host betimes, especially when one can do so without stretching the truth.))


#46 ::: Anonymous ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 06:09 AM:

My son was designated a special ed student last June. He has some vaguely defined (and I hope) minor neurological issue which causes motor skill problems and some problems also with impulse control. The behavioral issue seems to respond beautifully to medication he was put on last summer. The motor issues are a longer term thing.

He is a very bright little boy and is nothing like the kids in the Tard blog. But I have met and deal with a lot of special ed folk. As of September, I dropped his private occupational therapy, physical therapy, and Jungian sand tray psychotherapy (cool stuff; every time I went into that woman's office, I wanted to be the patient), and am letting the school take over that end of things, but I am keeping close tabs on them. So far, it's working wonderfully. He's off to a great start in 1st grade.

Instead, I'm replacing the services with strategically selected fun activities. Interestingly, I have found the yoga teacher for my son that is the one all the really hardcore special ed people use. She teaches a Special Needs yoga class for kids. This is the non-special needs class. The kids in the class mostly have some issue but are relatively normal, but several have siblings who are severely disabled or retarded. (One has an older sibling who died of her disability; another has a severely retarded twin brother who waits with the parents and the babies in the waiting room.) The waiting room functions as a kind of ad hoc Special Ed parents support group. One of the dads, the one whose daughter died, is also a Special Ed teacher and is very eager to give helpful advice.

While I have seen the Clinical Detachment model of coping with Special Needs kids deployed (a couple of faces immediately come to mind), there seem to be other responses. It is not like surgery. Cutting into someone to help them is inherently an unnatural psychological situation. Relating to Special Needs kids need not be. There are other ways.

Parents of Special Needs kids frequently encounter people of the Clinical Detachment persuasion, people who cause a lot of unnecessary grief because maintaining their detachment is so important to them.

#47 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 10:19 AM:

I completely sympathize. But it doesn't seem to me that the kind of discourse found in the Tard Blog is about "clinical detachment" at all.

Quite the contrary, I've known several people in high-stress, emotionally-exhausting jobs like this, and the ones who talk like this when they're away from the people they provide help to are the ones who are least detached from their jobs, their obligations, the full emotional gravity of it.

I think some folks keep seeing the Tard Blog's tone as evidence that its authors are cynical, walled-off, and uncaring. I see it as exactly the opposite. The EMTs I've known all talk like this about their jobs, if you give them half a chance. But they wouldn't talk like this to the people whose lives they're trying to save, or to their friends or relatives.

There are indeed "care providers" who are way to "clinically detached" to do a good and humane job. I really believe that's a different set of people. (I'm willing to believe that there's some small overlap between the sets.)

#48 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 02:05 PM:

>>Tom Russell is a man who attracts coincidences. ... Just listen to his songs.

And if you begin to suspect you're a character in one, try and get the hell out before the first chorus. The situation will not improve. :)

#49 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 09:29 PM:

RE the Tapir camera

If the picture is zappenduster, it's night and the tapir is sleeping.

What does "Zappenduster mean?' I tried Babelfishing and that didn't help me but it did tell me the following. (But Babelfish is quirky; I tried translating Poe's Raven, and it turned a volume of forgotten lore into a forgotten truck-pond.)

"If this picture is more zappenduster, it is much because of the fact that night is and the TAP Irish sleeps.

Two T/plate rack TAP Irish the Aria and Jinak are patent from Christine and Goetz. Even if they have trouble still thereby to "aunt" and "uncle" to say, then they are the none ones it so far nevertheless created durable members of the group house to become."

#50 ::: Isabeau ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 09:35 PM:

Teresa, even if they did change the names, how could you disguise someone as distinctive as Augusta?

#51 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 10:13 PM:

Hm. You have a point. There are other kids with sufficiently similar disorders that a description of his symptoms wouldn't be enough to identify him, but there can't be a lot of them whose parents are German immigrants.

I don't know. Maybe she did, maybe she didn't. Maybe she's fibbing about the German immigrant parents (a circumstance which doesn't affect the story either way). Maybe she's being irresponsible. I can't tell from here.

#52 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 10:15 PM:

Isabeau -- I bet there are at least 6 people in the country who would fit Augusta's profile, from the information contained in that blog. I'd bet that, and back it with money.

If you can determine exactly who s/he is, from the information given, I'll pay you $100. And I'm glad to have THN, or PNH, or any reliable third party (agreed on by both of us) adjudicate whether you've actually determined his/her identity. And I'll bet another $25 that someone with more money than I have would cover that bet, and give you a higher stake.

Going from case history to person is very difficult.


#53 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2003, 10:20 PM:

Erik, I have no idea what a zappenduster is, and the rest of that fishmeal is as incoherent a translation as I've ever seen from Babelfish, but I assure you that watching the mother tapir and her offspring this morning was extremely cool.

#54 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 01:29 AM:

Zappenduster. I thought I'd try to sneak up on the meaning via Google and then Translate This Page. So far I've found out:

1. It is definitely a German word (3,170 hits), and Translate has no clue what it means, so it's likely slang.

2. It appears most often in association with reports of soccer games, most often only in the headline.

3. Whatever it is, it's not glorious news; it's associated with computer failures, power outages, and Nostradamus prophecies.

4. On the other hand, it can't be all that bad, since it's the name of a daylily cultivar, someone's net handle, and what appears to be a rock group.

5. Ah. Finally, what looks like a definition.

6. And even a stab at etymology...

more zappenduster
Recently I read an article over the structure of the eye. Therefore there are zapfenfoermige ' sehzellen, those in the eye ' is responsible for the color perception and ' rod-shaped ' sehzellen, which react only to brightness differences. With darkness the quantity of light is enough no longer for the ' taps ', so that one takes no more colors truely, but evenly only different gray tones.
Therefore it could be more zappenduster ' so dark ' that one can recognize only ' grey '.
This is not ' more zappenduster ' however the etymologische explanation for. But it explains, why ' all cats are grey ' at night.
Another explanation could be that it goes on the ' tap caper ' back. That was the impact of an officer on the tapping cock, in order to indicate to the landlord and the soldier the end of the bar. This might probably have happened always to advanced hour, at least it might have been evenly ' more zappenduster ' already darkly. And there it in earlier times fewer lanterns on the roads gave...
In addition, this explanation is probably too far fetched.
Anyhow the intelligent one means that ' more zappenduster ' probably on rotwelsche ' zofon ' = ' midnight ' back goes. I.e. it is simply ' midnight dark '.

Incidentally, that weird "more zappenduster" construction that keeps showing up? It's an artifact of Babelfish, presumably trying to interpret the -er suffix. On the original German pages, it's just 'zappenduster' all by itself between those quotes.

And, that's about as far as I want to travel tonight.

#55 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 05:20 AM:

Tom: If you know which of Heinlein's works are posthumous, then yes, that question is a snap -- and I certainly would never put it in a quiz for SF fans. This, however, was for a quiz about Heinlein on a general-interest trivia site. As such I think it was pretty good; you certainly couldn't tell just from the title which was the travel book!

#56 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 06:52 AM:

Regarding concealment of identity, The Tard Blog FAQ says "Everything on this page is absolutely and completely true."

I don't know if we should take this to mean that no names are changed, but I do take it to mean that no other attempts have been made o conceal identity.

#57 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 07:06 AM:

Also, I note from poking around that "Riti Sped" has quit teaching Special Ed. So partly, I think this blog is about burnout.

#58 ::: Eloise Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 08:51 AM:

Erik Olson said: The Compleat Diagram of Strange Persons is not really Compleat.

You *do* know that 'compleat' and 'complete' do not have identical meanings, don't you, Erik? :->

#59 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 11:37 AM:

Eloise, I know they're different, but I've never been absolutely clear on the meaning of 'compleat'. I'm far from my dictionary; could you explain?

#60 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 01:17 PM:

adamsj, I see where you're coming from with Melville and Kerouac, and given your background, it makes a lot of sense. It must have been fascinating to have Clellon Holmes as a teacher--I've only read The Horn, which I'm not entirely fond of, but it's quite interesting and often fun when he isn't preaching. It's a more noble attempt to get at the reality of jazz than (though I love that passage) Kerouac's "Sal, God has arrived" bit with George Shearing (which is probably a better protrayal of a jazz fan.)
I think my tastes run more to polished complexity--Nabokov is a fave, as are Proust (who is actually in a weird way an ancestor of beat blather as well), Stendhal, Garceda Me1rquez...
I like Chandler a lot, but I'll take Hammett over him, too.
Teresa, I noticed "La Confidential" (which took a second when i read it; my first reaction was that it should be "La Confidencial")--this was perhaps Word at work. I'm actually a big fan of Ellroy's, goofy as he is, even if he's sometimes a self-parody. And LAC is one of his best, especially all the McCarthyism they didn't include in the movie (which was about 1/3 of the novel).
About that damned hyphen--I used to be the best proofreader in the county. It was a small county.
I like to think I'm at least one of the best in my county (my own writing excepted, of course)--but my county is New York Co., i.e., Manhattan, so there's a lot of competition...

#61 ::: Eloise Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 02:33 PM:

Xopher says, Eloise, I know they're different, but I've never been absolutely clear on the meaning of 'compleat'. I'm far from my dictionary; could you explain?

Dang, I knew someone was going to ask that. Unfortunately, it's been a year or two since I found this out, and I don't remember precisely. I'm absolutely certain someone else who reads Making Light does, though.

(The Great Ghod Ghughle has failed me, his loyal acolyte! He refuses to shine His holy and enlightening gaze down upon me, no matter how carefully I plan my search-term/prayers!)

#62 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 02:55 PM:'s listing for "compleat" reads:

1. Of or characterized by a highly developed or wide-ranging skill or proficiency.
2. Being an outstanding example of a kind; quintessential.

#63 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 03:45 PM:

Okay, what's so amusing and awful about the Roman history artifice?


#64 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 04:31 PM:

Erik Olson said: The Compleat Diagram of Strange Persons is not really Compleat.

Erik Olson said no such thing. Erik Nelson did.

#65 ::: Eloise Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 05:04 PM:

Ack! I'm sorry, Erik, I didn't mean to confuse you with Erik. My head thought there was only one Erik who posts here regularly.

I'd go back and fix it if I could, but I can't, so I won't, as we used to say on the playground.

#66 ::: Niall ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 07:26 PM:

I used to have a guitar *exactly* like the one the slightly less deranged aye aye is playing in "We like the moon!".

Then I bought a twelve-string, and yes, my fingers really did bleed.

Finally, I realized that unlike the semi-non-unhinged aye aye, I don't got rhyth *ploink* mmmmm!

#67 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2003, 10:32 PM:

_A propos de rien_, I'd like to say that I applaud the adding of the "Previous 200 postings" bit -- makes it much easier to see what I'd missed. And the search functions seems like it will be useful sometime, but I haven't used it yet other than for a very quick egoscan....


#68 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2003, 12:42 AM:

Just tried out the Eater of Meaning on my own blog (the mad scientist always tries it out on himself first, right?). I think it has a real future in literature.

Besides morphing the name of my blog to Oneself Pilgrimages's Walnuts: A viewpoints of therapists workers fronts grotto levels and my name to Clanging Munsey (too damm close for comfort) it really did a job on the names from quotes on the right side:

-- Thomas Merton to Thoughtlessness Meritorious
-- Mohandas Gahdhi to Mohammed Gangplank

Besides, any program that can come up with sentences like

Why putter in timber on thimble settlement of pagination?
Thermodynamics havana beehives tyrannosaurus, anders murmuring, andy forest a timmy then canvasser seedling invariantly, buttocks in thermofax endeavors theorize always fairbanks. Thirds of it . . . always.
deserves an audience.

#69 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2003, 06:44 AM:


Thanks for the several recent history Particles. Here are two more for you:

That Wacky Millennium!


That Wacky Century!

And add another vote for wide dissemination of The Eater of Meaning. It's a good thing I work overnights, when the bankers don't come in much, when I first saw and tried it. (Where do you find such wonderful toys?)

#70 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2003, 08:14 AM:

Tom, thank you for suggesting the longer list. I'm finding I really like it -- makes good things better, and bad things easier to track down and kill.

Larry, that was a reference to the famous story about the monarch telling Sir Christopher Wren that the newly completed St. Paul's Cathedral was amusing, awful, and artificial -- words which at that time meant something more like amazing, awe-inspiring, and artful or ingenious.

Robert, my initial reaction was the same as yours: If it's "La Confidential," they've misspelled "confidencial." And I've always thought you were the best proofreader in the county.

Must run off to work now.

#71 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2003, 06:46 PM:

Teresa, that Society for the Practice of Avoidance-Based Time Control particle really hit home... I had been up for 36 hours when I read it. I've saved a copy; if I can remember to re-read it from time to time, it just might keep me from a nervous breakdown. (Hrm. What does one call that, now? There's a distinctly 'fifties' flavour to "nervous breakdown" -- surely the term must be obsolete.)

Anyway. Thank-you. It was helpful.

Go to sleep. I will still love you.
#72 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2003, 01:27 AM:

The tapir is eating breakfast. I'm going to sleep now.

#74 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2003, 04:34 PM:

Re where do the cryonics guys fit on the diagram,
I'd say near where the "elitists" are.

#75 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 11:13 AM:

Another baby tapir website:

(found it on the weblog at )

#76 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2003, 12:46 PM:

T, I merely asked whether such a longer list existed for statistical purposes; you decided that such a longer list had practical applications. Kinda like what happened with Mendel's (statistically known to be flawed) work on genetics....

#77 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2003, 12:01 PM:

Just took a look at the "DORKSTORM: The Annihilation" link on Particles, with the 10 Geekiest hobbies.

Hmmm. I'd say the writer exaggerates the Furries/Plushies', umm, sexual adventurism. Most of the Furry people I've known have been into it because they like comics, and specializing in anthropomorphic comics makes them different (= "better") than the ordinary comics fans.

And whatever happened to Chess as the classic geek activity?

#78 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2003, 01:24 PM:

related to "Brag of the Subgenius",
will give you a random subgenius-brag generator.

Maybe it's a subgenus of subgenius?

#79 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2003, 02:16 PM:

Arggh, I lost track of this thread...

It was "A monk cannot shave his own head." An odd proverb, especially since it's not particularly true (I shave my own head). I think it means something like "no man is an island."

#80 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2003, 02:21 PM:

I think it's a corruption of a reference to communal living: A monk cannot have his own shed.

#81 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2003, 03:32 PM:

Can I just say that, regarding the delightful translations of Baby Got Back that have appeared in Particles, I am baffled by the confusion on what the line immediately following "But that butt you got makes "Me so horny."

A cursory listening to the song shows it to be "Ooo, rump of smooth skin" quite clearly, IMNSHO. "Rumpled smooth skin?" Please.

#82 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2003, 03:35 PM:

Maybe "Rumpled smooth skin" refers to spinning records into gold.

#83 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2003, 03:44 PM:

adamsj, or living in West Hollywood: a hunk cannot shave his own meds.

#84 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2003, 05:31 PM:

Re: "The buck doesn't stop here":

If the Truman Administration's motto was "The buck stops here," that of the Bush White House seems to be "Button move!"

#85 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2003, 08:33 PM:

zappenduster = pitch-dark, according to Langenscheidt Standard Dictionary. It has some words Cassell's doesn't, though the latter seems to have more complete definitions.

#86 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 07:45 PM:

On a tangent here, whilst digging through some boxes of Odd Books from my father's library, I found a small batch of technical reports from the Stanford Research Institute and one from the US Naval Ordnance Test Station. The four from SRI are part of a study on Operations Analysis for Seaborne Deterrent Systems - such titles as "The Law of War and the Development of Future Weapons Systems" and "An Analysis of Soviet Policy in Five Crises". The NOTS paper is volume 12 of the Studies in Deterrence, "Deterrence as an Influence Process" by Ithiel de Sola Pool, with the collaboration of Barton Whaley (a name some of you may remember from the Magic Cellar days).

The largest edition on any of these was 310 copies (the NOTS volume, which also includes its original distribution list). These strike me as being fairly important primary historical documents for someone researching cold war policy. Of course, I can't find a whole lot about them on the Internet.

Anyone know of a library that's trying to build a collection of this sort of information? I'd like to find them a good home. None are marked as classified; the NOTS paper explicitly says it's unclassified.

If "all knowledge is contained in fanzines" and "this conversation is an extension of fanac by other means", then there's at least a chance that the knowledge I seek is available here, right?


#87 ::: Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 02:24 AM:

Completely ignoring the established Open Thread conversation, I post to note that my father sent me an email earlier today containing the command

Type "Speed of sound in smoots per second" into google

which, when fulfilled, generates results quite ticklesome in a "must tell Teresa about" sort of way.

So I post about it in your direction rather than merely noting it down in my journal.

#88 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 06:10 AM:

I thank you, and it is a ticklish factoid.

#89 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 11:57 AM:

Hmm, when I type that in in quotes I get no sites; when out of quotes, 61, the first of which is about drum sequencing. The second generated a kill-Explorer msg when I tried to delete its popups, but looked like it might have been funny. Given the lability of Google, Darkhawk, can you add a direct link to where you were going?


#90 ::: Nao ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 12:09 PM:

Tom, you have to make sure that none of the words are capitalized. (I had the same problem). here's the link anyway.

#91 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 01:01 PM:

Thx, Nao! Silly of me to think that capitals as in the original post might actually be relevant, I suppose, or quotes, or any other sort of marking....


#92 ::: Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 02:38 PM:

I'm sorry about that -- I only noticed the capitals thing a fair bit after I posted. Glad that it was figured out before I re-accomplished useful consciousness.

#93 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2003, 07:54 PM:

Oh, oh, oh! I want that tornado quilt!

MKK--lived through many an Oklahoma Spring

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

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