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January 14, 2004

Open thread 16
Posted by Teresa at 05:59 AM *

It’s that time.

Comments on Open thread 16:
#1 ::: Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 10:22 AM:

I enjoyed the story about the bankruptcy trustee getting back the preferential payments. I've actually worked on a case where that happened (I'm a legal secretary). Most people are shocked about the law until you explain the situation it's mean to prevent--owners of a business paying themselves for a "loan," or paying Uncle Bill who sold them some inventory, instead of paying creditors on a pro-rata basis.

#2 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 10:38 AM:

I like how the mighty tea kettle wielder refers to a 5'8" guy as "this tall man."

Everything's relative, I guess.

#3 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 11:07 AM:

The trouble with the Internet is how it makes you aware of all the things you didn't know you needed.

I went to the page for Sabbatum, and it took about fifteen seconds of the sound clip for "Magus" before the "It must be mine!" impulse kicked in.

#4 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 01:55 PM:


Was it about a year ago that you posted your recipe for Bacon & Egg soup?

Looks to me like this weather's a great time to dig that recipe out again. :D

#5 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 03:17 PM:

Apropos of nothing, an article with this headline-- First Lion Mummy Found in Egyptian Tomb turned up on Yahoo just now. Nifty, definitely. My favorite bit is this:

"This is not any old lion. It's an important lion," said Emily Teeter, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago.

But really, aren't all lions important?

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Bush just announced that the shuttle replacement will be called the "Crew Exploration Vehicle."

Who names these things?

That label suggests that the *crew* will be explored.

Is this a clue that the craft will be used to send brave astronauts up to where they can be ignominomously "probed" by alien Greys?

#7 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 04:47 PM:

Of course, if they called it the "Crewed Exploration Vehicle" they'd have to stop and spell it each time. ("No, not C-R-U-D-E, C-R-E-W-E-D.")

#8 ::: Taper ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 06:56 PM:

For some reason I feel compelled to sing "Any old lion / Any old lion / Any any any old lion?"

#9 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 07:04 PM:

I greatly enjoyed the Periodic Table of Mathematicians, but have to ask: Where's Hypatia?

#10 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 08:30 PM:

I enjoyed the dictionary of Japanese perversions, but really, the guy's got no sense of history. Shokku-shu kei (or 'naughty tentacles') go back at least as far as Hokusai's 'Dream of the Fisherman's Wife' (1814 or thereabouts).

#12 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 09:50 PM:

Oops. Sorry for screwing up those links. I think I forgot the quote marks. Here they are:

Internet Wayback Machine

Seagal's page

The review of Seagal's page

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2004, 11:28 PM:

Kris, I understand the situation. It's the same reason that the clauses in publishing contracts that say the authors get their books back if the publisher goes out of business are at best the expression of a kindly and pious wish. Magazines and publishing houses have secured creditors, on the one hand, and on the other hand there's everyone else to whom they owe money. They can't pay off unsecured creditors before they pay secured creditors. Among other things, allowing that would give aid and comfort to "bust out" frauds.

What struck me about the situation -- aside from the deep unfairness of it -- was the imagined spectacle of someone trying to extort large sums of money from freelance writers. Yeah, that'll work; they'll just pay it back out of the large heaps of unused money they have lying around.

My second thought was that if there are any people who know in detail the ways businesses can drag their feet when it comes to paying invoices, it's freelancers.

For the first six months to a year, you send notices saying you can't find their invoice, they've submitted the forms improperly, you need their Social Security Number, and could they please provide more documentation on this supposed conversation they had on thus-and-such date about how they'd improperly submitted their forms and failed to provide a Social Security Number. Starting about a year after the original invoice, you simultaneously ask for increasingly personal and arcane financial information, and all the while explain the bizarre departmental rules that in theory allow them to cut checks on any day in the year as long as it's not the day when you're talking to them. Eighteen months in, you initiate deployment of that oldie but goodie, "The check is in the mail." If your creditor still insists that they haven't been paid, refer them to some clever entry-level employee who'll explain that your company can't find their invoice, they've submitted the forms improperly, you need their Social Security Number, and the whole damned dance is about to start all over again...

#14 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 03:27 AM:

I know this is not a science blog, but this is just so cool:

Glimpse of a new type of matter

Frozen helium has been turned into a solid that behaves like a superfluid.

15 January 2004

Not the first new state of matter announced this week. There's also the "color glass condensate" reported in the NY Times, from gold ions bombarded with relativistic deuterons, at 50 to 100 times normal nuclear density, with the protons and quarks dissolving into a jello of gluons.

There's a recipe joke in here somewhere.

I've also completed my Periodic Table of the Mystery Authors--

click through to 100+ small pages...

More states of matter exist anyway, beyond solid , liquid, gas. You've got plasma, ambiplasma, superfluid, bose einstein condensate of atoms, bose einstein condensate of molecules, two-dimensional crystals, 1-dimensional crystals, quantum dots, photon crystals, may more... and there's ahardly a science fiction story each. C'mon, Niven wrote quickly about neutron stars, there was Slow Glass... lots of ideas to play with, and fiction is a good way to explore them in human context...

Joy in the math class I teach when 2 more students added in on 2nd day. I'd like to think that word spread of my performance art algebra. Sadness an hour later when my team performing colunteer "Mock Interviews" at the local job center were unable to make 1-hour videotapes of the unemployed professionals along with our written evaluations. Someone stole the camera, and Governor Swartzenegger's budget will not allow replacement.

Bush's Moon/Mars speech drives me nuts. It's the right thing, by the wrong person, for the wrong reason. It's too little too late. It's transparently political. Yet I am impelled to support it. Tonight's Top 10 List on Letterman was on that subject. Very funny stuff! Someone link to it, please?

#15 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 08:27 AM:

From the Letterman web site, it appears to have been:

10. Dick Cheney needs a new undisclosed location

9. It's part of his "No Planet Left Behind" initiative

8. Great deal on the off-season airfare right now at

7. Maybe we'll find some weapons of mass destruction there

6. We've run out of places on Earth to drill for oil

5. Hoping to get Mork's autograph

4. We cannot back down until the people of Mars hold free elections

3. Dude, free Mars bars

2. Why not? It's not like we have an enormous debt or failing economy

1. Pete Rose bet him we wouldn't do it

#16 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 09:03 AM:

JVP, just thought you might be interested to know that your identity and the validity of your credentials are being questioned on /.

#17 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 11:04 AM:


Thanks. I really do have an account on slashdot, and keep forgetting my password. My comments often get modded up to "5: interesting" so I have credibility there as me. But posting without password makes you show as "anonymous coward" and, as that, I'm dubious to some.

I also misspelled "Color Glass Condensate" as "color gass condensate" and that didn't show up in searches.

/. passwording may prevent DOS spam, but does indeed make me look like an absent-minded professor.

Good catch on your part, Skwid. If that's who you heally are, heh heh heh...

#18 ::: Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 11:31 AM:

Teresa, I understand the hilarity of trying to reclaim payments from writers, and the irony that because they were last paid (through policy!) they are most likely to be attached. I think it's a good example of unintended consequences when passing laws that delegate broad power with no limit on discretion.

#19 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 03:18 PM:

The Argyria thing...the last photo on the photos page:

To my eye, this image just didn't look right. I'll take a closer look at it later, but I can tell from the comment in the file itself that it was modified in Adobe at some point. That's not conclusive of anything, of course, but it's not what I'd use just to resize an image...

#20 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 08:03 PM:

I'm not sure if this has been a Particle or not--if not, it should be.

#21 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 08:13 PM:


Well, the obvious weirdness is that she looks like an extra from an early skiffy TV show, but besides that there's nothing in the picture itself that leaps out as a fakery. Argyria certainly seems to be a real disease, that from the written descriptions seems like it would make a person look like this....

As to using Photoshop, that's what I use for a variety of mundane image work. I use it professionally, but its easy interface would reward the amateur, I think. And it has a handy batch processing command that makes it useful for, um, processing batches of pictures. Say, for consistent cropping or resizing for a website.

#22 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2004, 09:33 PM:

NPR This afternoon had a story about Mormon Movie Makers -- there I was, innocently going to get my new glasses (which are great, my left eye had gotten significantly worse), listening to NPR and they bring up Sundance. Then, (this is lead, published on the NPR Web site)

"The Sundance Film Festival opens Thursday in Park City, Utah. But so far, festival organizers have largely ignored an independent film genre thriving right in their backyard -- Mormon cinema."

They are all about the culture and sort of jokes about85 green jello and85funeral potatoes and too many dishes at the potluck85 there's not a lot of discussion about what it really means to be a Mormon."

I've had my best education about the Latter Day Saints at your knee, Teresa. And the links you've provided, a whole new world of beliefs, practices, etc. (not one I'm likely to convert to.... hell, I'm not even a Christian, I'm Wiccan) even odder than I'd been exposed in my Southern Baptist (bab-tist) upbringing.

#23 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 01:04 AM:

NelC, on my work monitor the skin tone on the Argyria victim looked much too flat on brief examination, which I thought might be an artifact of manipulation. On my properly calibrated monitor at home, I see the normal variations I would expect.

My concern was that whomever submitted the picture to the site's author was deceiving them for some seems like they've suffered quite enough.

#24 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 03:31 PM:

"Unskilled and Unaware of It" is one of those studies I constantly refer to in conversation. It's the it-takes-a-clue-to-get-a-clue syndrome and gives it numbers. You have no idea how useful it's been to have that at hand.


#25 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 04:27 PM:

I have a strange question, but this seemed a good place to ask it.

Does anyone have an easy way to remember the difference between affect and effect? I always used the correct word when I was younger, but then I heard someone complain about how easy the two are to confuse, and I thought about it some, and now I can never keep straight which is word is primarily used as a verb.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I've reached the point where I have thought about it so much that neither word ever looks correct to me.

#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 04:40 PM:

Affect comes first, effect follows after. You affect something, and your action produces an effect.

Causality can seldom be counted on to follow alphabetical order, but in this case it does.

#27 ::: Cheshire ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 05:55 PM:

Effect can also be used as a verb, meaning to put something into effect (n) -- e.g., "effect change." That's a somewhat rarer usage, though.

Try this: to remember affect as a verb, connect the a in affect to the a in action.

It's the same method I use to remember the difference between stalactite and stalagmite. The c in stalactite stands for ceiling, meaning they come down from the ceiling of a cave, and the g in stalagmite stands for ground, meaning it comes up from the ground.

Hope that helps!

#28 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 06:04 PM:

For some reason, it tickles me that effect is usually a noun, and affect is usually a verb, but effect can be a verb as Cheshire points out, and affect is used as a noun in psychological jargon.

Affect the noun means roughly the appearance of emotion, usually referring to facial expression, behavior, or vocal tone; psychologists describe someone who seems emotionally numb as having "flat affect" or being "affectless". I don't know if it's etymologically related to affected or affection, but it seems like it should be.

#29 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 06:39 PM:


the mnemonic I learned from my parents, and heard again when I took geology courses in college, is:

stalactite holds TIGHT to the ceiling;

stalagmite: be careful, you MIGHT accidently sit on one (ouch)

The mnemonic that I taught to the most students in college is:


and its more recent update


who's the first to spell that one out?

#30 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2004, 08:55 PM:

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I remember things in the strangest ways, like the number of days in a year I remember from a song in an Alice in Wonderland record I had when I was young. I start to sing (to myself) "You have 364 Un-Birthdays, Un-birthdays! Un-birthdays!" and then just add one.

#31 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 12:25 AM:

JvP: I do! I do! (jumps up and down waving hand.) "Oh, be a fine girl, kiss me right now, smack." (well, I \mostly/ know it; learned it from a history-of-science book pre-S, and am sufficiently uncurrent not to have heard of W.)

That's the rankings of stars by ]intensity[. Does anyone know a polite acronym for BBROYGBVGW, the color-coding on resistors? (Less necessary as they're mostly in spectrum order, but helps with the add-ons needed to get to 10 digits.)

#32 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 11:12 AM:

Speaking of mnemonics, I still remember "kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species" to the tune of the Beatles' "With Love From Me to You" (draw out "faamily", end with "and species too," and it fits the song's melody, rhythm, and rhyme). Guess when I took that science class!

#33 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 12:05 PM:

JVP --

Okay, I'll bite: OBAFGKMRN is (commonly) "Oh, be a fine guy/girl, kiss me right now." Don't know how I'd extend it for WOBAFGKMRNS. Maybe "WOah, be a fine girl/guy, kiss me right now, sweetly"?

Do I get a prize?


The middle part of BBROYGBVGW is the colours of the rainbow, so I guess you could use your standard colours of the rainbow mnemonic, adding a bit to front and back.

Like "Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain" plus, I don't know, "Brave and Bold...", and "...Gaily Waving"?

#34 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 12:06 PM:


Not bad! In my classroom, you'd get a half-credit on this as an exam question. Yes on "Stars", no on "intensity" (except maybe okay if you add "relative to other colors).

To pick a reference at random:

"... usage of Roman letters for classifying stars according to their heat. The Roman letter system to develop this naming aspect was the one introduced in 1890 by the American astronomer Edward C. Pickering, director of the Harvard College Observatory, hence the system’s original name (Harvard System). The current version of this heat classification system requires a mnemonic to memorise the sequence. The one normally used by astronomers is: Wow! Oh Be A Fine Girl/Guy Kiss Me Right Now, Sweetie/Smack. This produces the sequence WOBAFGKMRNS. Stars in the W category (rarest) have surface temperatures up to 80,00000C whilst S stars are around 2,6000C. The system is now known as the Yerkes System."

excerpted from

In the most recent Astronomy courses I taught, I was required by the Administration to preface this with a remark that I was not making any sexually suggestive remark or contributing to a hostile workplace.

"Heat" is not the word I'd use in the above excerpt. I'd say "temperature" and launch into an explanation of Black Body radiation and how the different colors are mixed in starlight, with a peak in intensity of one specific temeperature indicative of the star's "surface" temperature, meaning Chromosphere. And on we'd go... Then, if this was a night class, I'd lead the class outside and hand out binoculars, directing students to look at specific bright stars and discuss what we each saw the color to be.

And now, for your question, and even less politically correct answer, edited for the modern classroom:

Suggestion for resistor color code: BBROYGBVGW
From: Aimee Norton

As an alternative to the use of:

"Bad Boys Rape Our Young Girls But Violet Gives Willingly"

in order to learn the resistor color code of
Black Brown Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Violet Gray White, I propose the following -

"Big Baboons Riot Over Yellow Green Bananas; Village Girls Watch"

[I have corrected some spelling and punctuation in the above -- JVP]

Faren Miller:

As to your mnemonic, how about:

King Phillip came over for good sex.

Kingfish, Pickerel, Catfish Over Flowed God's Seas.
Same as above, from Joe Creighton, who adds that this apparently comes from the late 19th and early 20th Century Eastern Canada (the Maritimes).

Kings Play Cards On Fat Girls' Stomachs.
Same as above, from Aviva on Vineyard

Keep People Coming On For Good-Sized Violins.
Same as above, but adds V for Variety.
(This one was contributed by

Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach.
And yet again, this one created by the 7th grade Life Science class at Slauson Middle School in Ann Arbor, MI, USA.

Kings play chess on Fridays, guzzling Schlitz
Another one! And "good for those who remember the King of Beers," according to, who sent this mnemonic to me.

King Philip Called Out Fifty Good Soldiers.
King Philip Came Over From Greece Sailing Vessels.
King Philip Can Only Find his Green Slippers
Yet more!

Kittens Prefer Cream Or Fish, Generally Speaking
Another mnemonic for Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, contributed by

Kings Play Catch Over Farmer Gray's Shed
Yet another mnemonic for Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, contributed by


She was all gal (ALGAL) and he was a fun guy (FUNGI). They took a likin' (LICHEN) to each other.
In order to remember that LICHEN are made up of ALGAE and FUNGI (it's better spoken).
Thanks,, for sending me this one!

Can Intelligent Karen Solve Some Foreign Mafia Operations?
The Krebs Cycle: Citric acid, Isocitric, Ketoglutaric, Succinyl, Succinic, Fumaric, Malic, Oxaloacetic. This was also sent to me by Now all I need to know is what the heck is a Krebs Cycle?

unidentified biology mnemonics above
"All information herein copyrighted by Amanda Hargis, geomanda@frii"

#35 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 12:16 PM:

Stalctites hang tight, stalagmites stand mighty on the ground.

What was the one for the planets? My Very Eager? Earnest? Mother? One of my fourth graders is making the coolest solar system pop-up book using the indicators of depth as if the solar system is a landscape. I could remember the planet order but not the mnemonic, how silly is that? (Scale is, of course, a bit of a problem in his book, but he made a lovely Jupiter!)

#36 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 12:19 PM:

Oh, and one minute after I posted the above, I found an online press relase of yesterday (16 Jan 2004)

"Squirty Star Imitates Black Hole"

and, in this thread, I couldn't help but see "QWERTY" in the "Squirty."

The link is:

and that, itself, is a rewrite of:

Either one would make a great setting for a science fiction story or novel...

#37 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 12:29 PM:

then 30 seconds after posting the 2nd of my above items, I saw Rachel's query.

I'd first heard it as:

MVEMJSUNP = My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles.

Anybody know:

"Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain"?

Here's a good page on mnemonics by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore:

"... In other cases, appropriate words cannot be easily constructed from the first letters of the words to be remembered. For example, if you wished to remember the names of the planets in their order from the sun, the letters would be M-V-E-M-J-S-U-N-P, from which a word cannot be made. In these cases, an acrostic can be created, in which the first letters are reconstructed to represent the words in a sentence. In this case, the sentence could be 'My very educated mother just sent us nine pizzas' (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1994, p. 271). Again, the names of the planets must be sufficiently familiar so that students can retrieve a planet name, given only the first letter. Also, students should be sufficiently familiar with the solar system to know that the first M stands for Mercury, and not Mars."

"For another example, to remember the classification taxonomy of living things, remember the sentence, 'King Philip's class ordered a family of gentle spaniels.' This sentence helps prompt kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species, in order."

I'd add that sometimes Pluto is *closer* to the sun than Neptune, and that there are dozens of "plutinos" or Trans-Neptune Kuiper Belt Objects further away. I'd give good odds that we'll discover one bigger than Pluto, and then have to invent a name and a mnemonic. Let's not go into Quauor for now (once such object, named after the creator who danced the cosmos into being, in the language of the tribe that once inhabited the very place where I now live).

#38 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 02:10 PM:

Actually, I always remebered the difference as stalactites are on the ceiling and stalagmites are the other ones.

#39 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 02:28 PM:


Had you heard about scale models of the Solar System?

I found a second one as well:

#40 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 02:36 PM:


The Planetary Society is headquartered in Pasadena. I interviewed once to be their webmaster, as I know cofounders Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Lou Friedman from decades ago. But there were over 800 applicants for the job.

One of the men behind their scale model of the Solar System was my former manager on the Mission Planning team for the Voyager Uranus Interstellar Mission, but he has retired early to devote himself to The Planetary Society and to his rather stunning computer art of space landcapes.

I have found such scale models VERY useful in teaching Astronomy. Harder to forget where Pluto is if you are holding a pea and made to sprint the length of a football field away from a huge inflated balloon sun.

#41 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 05:43 PM:

Michelle/JvP: I give you a geocentric map of the universe, from the Earth's core to the Big Bang (via).

#42 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 08:00 PM:


Extremely spacey! I first saw a hardcopy of this in the New York Times' Tuesday Science Section, but it is MUCH more fun online.

I have the equivalent for the cosmic future:

I also have an early version of an egocentric diagram of my teachers, their teachers, and their teachers, with some VERY famous names.

#43 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2004, 11:10 PM:

JvP: There's also a stfnal mnemonic for the planets: in Have Spacesuit, Will Travel Kip Russell remembers "Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest" (includes Asteroids, and like a fan uses Terra instead of Earth).

The Krebs cycle, also the citric acid cycle or tricarboxylic acid cycle, is the biological process for getting aerobic energy out of carbon chains: hook two carbons (broken off a fat or cut down from a sugar) onto the first member of the cycle, supply oxygen, and several steps later you've got the compound you started with \plus/ two carbon dioxide and lots of energy. Very elegant, and got Krebs a Nobel for figuring it out. This is what animals do \after/ imitating everything down through yeast in anaerobic processing: take sugar (6 carbons in a row), break in half, square up the ends, reshuffle the oxygen, release carbon dioxide, and get ]ethanol[ and some energy. At this point you can feed the Krebs cycle, build up fats, or do a more complex build that ends up as cholesterol and all the other steroids.

Note that this is recalled from 30 years back, which is why I'm using very informal language; I couldn't have told you the acids in the Krebs cycle (although I might have recognized them out of context), and I'm not going to try to name the other stages.

#44 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 01:40 AM:

CHip: or is that Carbon Hydrogen Iodine Phosphorus?

I tried posting you a reply 12 hours ago, and got weird error messages (mid MySQL conversion). I can only recall part of what I said.

Good catch on the "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" mnemonic. I recall reading that as a kid. For that matter, the dad lecturing the kids on how much math they DON'T know, in Rocketship Galileo, motivated me powerfully.

Krebs? I did know that too, from all my biochem in grad school. I'd been quoting a mnemonist who didn't know.

Synchronistically, I just had an abstract accepted 15 Jan 2004 for a biochemistry paper from an unpublished chpater of my 1977 doctoral dissertation, and I'll give the paper at the 5th International Cnference on Complexity Science, in Boston, May 2004.

Good memory by you, for sure!

I gave a link this morning, on the vanished post, about the new gadget by the Japanese company that brought you the dog-to-human translator. It's a dream machine. You look a photo of what you want to dream about, narrate an audio track. The gadget detects when you're in REM sleep, and plays the audio, with music and aroma to stimulate guided dreams.

Hotlink on yesterday's slashdot, on the Guardian or the Independant or some other UK newspaper.

What I know, I learned because I had great teachers. And they had great teachers. See the site I built yesterday:

"My Teachers' Teachers' Teachers"

#45 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 12:44 PM:

I keep stalactites and stalagmites straight by thinking of the T and the M. The T adheres to the ceiling and hangs from its crossbar. The M just naturally sits on the ground. Trust me, it does.

I use a similar mental image to keep straight on Bactrian camels and Dromedaries.

The Radio-Electronics class after mine had a female student. Panic! The teacher taught the resistor color code on a day when she wasn't in class, and she just had to learn the thing on her own (maybe a fellow student hepped her?). One day somebody who was running for one of the student body offices put a homemade poster on the wall with a picture of a pouty model on it, and somebody thoughtfully labeled her "Violet." (And I think Violet Gray White would be a great name for an author. But then, I always wanted to see someone named Elna Necchi Pfaff, too.)

"Richard of York gave battle in vain" is a great way to remember the name of my pal Roy G. Biv. Otherwise, I think of him whenever I see a rainbow. Then my heart leaps up, and I have to go sit down for a while.

#46 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 12:58 PM:

Kip W: You get an A+ in my Roy G. Biv class.

"The M just naturally sits on the ground" -- perhaps in a full lotus position, saying its name: "Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...?"

As to names one wants to see, I used to ride a subway from Brooklyn Heights to Manhattan for Stuyvesant High School. There was a subway line labelled "Utica Ave", which sometimes appeared backwards on the old physically-scrolled in-car identifiers. So I used to daydream about a young lady named Eva Acitu. Before I graduated High School, I wrote my first novel: "The Ten Teeth of Terra", subtitled "The Deca-dents." It had a character named Eva Acitu. I had an offer for the novel from a still-active SF editor, Pay LoBrutto, for $2,500 (this was circa 1968). He later withdrew his offer, for reasons unrelated to the mss. That was a favor to me, in retrospect. Sure, I could have had an SF novel published while I was still 15 (not a record), but it reads rather badly today.

Sometimes there are other names that, on a whim, I concoct and like. Sometimes I use them as pseudonyms. For instance, from back in those High School days, 1964-1968, I had a computer program (Fortran IV on an IBM 1130) write random "poems", some of which were published under a pseudonym. Nobody ever noticed that no human had written them. Maybe a first.

Okay, coffee's ready. Bye for now...

#47 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 01:21 PM:

With all due respect to Jonathan Vos Post, I seriously doubt that "still-active" Pat LoBrutto offered him anything for his novel in 1968. Pat first worked in publishing in 1969--in Ace Books' mail room.

#48 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 02:20 PM:

I don't know if it's a matter of social progress or a regional thing, but I've met people (my age or older) who learned the resistor color code as "Black boys..." instead of "Bad boys...". Definitely less politically correct (even in the mid to late 70s when I learned the latter form), but more mnemonic because it disambiguates black and brown.

The planets I learned as "My Very Earthly Mother Just Sat Under Neath the Porch". "Earthy" probably makes more sense, but for some reason "Earthly" sounds better to my ear, perhaps just because that's the way I first heard it.

#49 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 04:00 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden,

You must be correct. It may have been that he read the mss and took it to someone who offered, or that he was the one who told me as late as 1972 that Ace rescinded the offer. I just dug through my enormous Presidential Palace of rejection letters in one wing and nearly a thousand magazines and books and videos with stuff of mine in 'em, in the other wing. I found the original mss. It's worse than I remembred, but chapters that are publishable (if Analog did New Wave). Can't find LoBrutto's letter. But I recall seeing him at a con about a decade ago and thanking him for the reject, and I can't say if he remembered or not, but my impression was that he did.

In the process, I stumbled on my wife's 32,000 word rewrite of my 50,000 word Hard SF "One Hundred Trillion Planets." When she rewrote it below novel length, I regretted her cutting out so much of my good stuff. Having just reread it, she's right, I'm wrong. It moves along very quickly, and all the hard-core astrophysics and bio is still there. Greg Benford vouched for the astro. Now that all prelim nebula ballot Novelettes made the Final Ballot, this may be the sweet spot of marketable length. Anyone doing Ace Double sort of things? I should ask Rob Sawyer, now that he's launched his own imprint. And submit to Analog, where it would meet John Campbell's criterion: the humans, outnumbered and out-hi-teched, nevertheless have an edge over the aliens, and rational means solve problems in very weird environments.

Any suggestions?

#50 ::: eleanor rowe ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 06:14 PM:

Stalagtites/stalagmites. Tights come down.

This is probably not funny (smutty) in the US where tights are nylons, but trust me, when I was 15 it was funny (and dirty) and that's how I know.

#51 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2004, 10:33 PM:

JVP: I'm getting really picky here, but it's The Rolling Stones where Dad gives the lecture on not knowing math. (Is it provincial of Heinlein to dis European history in the process? Yeah, probably so.) In Rocket Ship Galileo, they get advanced math in high school through an experimental acclerated program. In both cases, it inspired me to get busy.

#52 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 03:16 AM:


You are so right!

Robert Anson Heinlein could have made more money writing novels for grownups. But he chose to write what they called "juveniles" and we call "Young Adult" novels precisely to inspire people such as you and I ... and the people who built the actual space program!

I think I've lately been right in sprit on this blog, but askew in details. I really appreciate being steered back into the golden light of truth by keen-eyed and clear-thinking peers.

My parents were not strong in Math and Science. My dad left Harvard to fight World War II, then, on return, they gave him math credit for having taught navigation to pilots whom he also taught to fly, and so, math requirements fulfilled, he graduated Harvard faster than expected.

Heinlein inspired me, and then a succession of fabulous teachers. I've only recently become aware that my teachers' teachers' teachers, unto the 14th generation, put me in a learning geneology descended from Gottfried Leibnitz through students of sublime genius such as Jacob Bernoulli, Johann Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler, Joseph Louis Lagrange, and Simeon Poisson. Boy, do I have some homework yet to do, if I want to honor their glory. Glory Road. Hey, even that defines Magic as Applied Topology. Or am I misremembering again? The hero of Glory Road goes to Caltech for a while. Did that influence me to do the same?

Stephen Hawking also inspired me to get busy, when I met him in 1972. I haven't really slowed down since, though 15 years of litigation cut down my productive efficiency. But that's another, and far more negative story.

Someday students on the Moon will be inspired by Heinlein to go onwards to Mars, the Asteroids, and the eternal stars...

#53 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 08:08 AM:

Not to impute anything wrong with Heinlein's motivations, but I kind of doubt the idea that he "could have made more money writing novels for grownups. But he chose to write what they called 'juveniles' and we call 'Young Adult' novels precisely to inspire people such as you and I...and the people who built the actual space program". Without any privileged knowledge of Heinlein's finances or those of the estate, I suspect that the better-known "Heinlein juveniles" have earned Heinlein and his heirs as much money over the years as all but a very few of his "adult" books.

More to the point, what we now know about Heinlein's biography demonstrates clearly that he was straining at the marketing limitations of the genre from the start. What he and Campbell agreed about was the urgent need to bring slick-magazine standards to the SF pulps--and as soon as the postwar slicks started showing some willingness to publish Heinlein, he was determined to take them up on it. I suspect he saw the "juveniles", correctly, as a big chance to expand his audience beyond simply readers of genre SF magazines and paperbacks.

#54 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 08:27 AM:

I learned it as stalacTites are on, er, Top.

"kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species" to the tune of the Beatles' "With Love From Me to You"

This also works with "The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain"

#55 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 08:51 AM:

Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest.

Earth is Terra, and the Asteroids get a deserved mention.

Version from _Have Spacesuit, Will Travel_, which I read when I was too young to know that "jelly" was US standard for "jam" so I pictured a jelly-mould wobbling between slices of bread.

In my school, among the academic choices children had to make at 13, which closed off all progress in the unchosen direction forever, were Latin OR biology, and French OR chemistry. I cited _Have Spacesuit_ at the headmistress and managed to win on the French/Chemistry argument at least, though we ended up having French taught in the lunch-hour, for which I was thoroughly and loudly blamed every single lesson for the entire two years. Good old Heinlein. He wasn't right about everything, but he was right about that.

#56 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 09:52 AM:

Patrick: Heinlein had oddly split loyalties there.

Grumbles from the Grave tells of Heinlein's endless conflicts with Alice Dalgliesh, one of which comes when he suggests Hubert Rogers to do the cover of Space Cadet; Dalgliesh rejects him as being "too closely associated" with Astounding (are you now or have you ever been a pulp illustrator?); Heinlein grumbles about this.

It might have been to his advantage to suggest someone else, if his strategy was to differentiate himself from the pulps. (He defends Rogers as a quality illustrator--and who was John Buchan?)

My suspicion is that the juveniles were the best source of reliable income during the period in which they were written--I'm guessing, but suspect it's a good guess.

Otherwise, it's hard to imagine the relationship with Dalgliesh lasting as long as it did.

(Contrarily, the letter to Blasingame regarding the break with Scribner's indicates both that Dalgliesh had nothing to do with it, and that Heinlein felt personally offended by Scribner.)

#57 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 09:54 AM:

Never mind that question about John Buchan--I googled him and discovered I own one of his books.

#58 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 11:19 AM:

The folding vacation cabin is a nice idea.

Another unusual idea for a vacation cabin is the "Petite Maison de Weekend", which essentially takes a small cabin and turns it (partially) inside out. The kitchen/dining area and the stairs to the upper sleeping loft are all open to the air.

It's also eco-friendly, with a roof that serves as a water-collection device, and a composting toilet.

Longer description, with links to photos, at:

#59 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 11:37 AM:

eleanor, what are tights where you grew up?

Jo, in the US jelly isn't quite the same thing as jam (at least where I grew up). Jelly is usually of perfectly uniform texture, and has no bits, seeds, other words, it's kind of clarified. Jam is usually the whole fruit, or most of it, and is chunkier. (Perhaps in the UK you all have better sense than to eat what we call jelly; I certainly do.) The difference between jam and preserves has always eluded me.

In the UK, is jelly what we'd call gelatin or by the brand name Jello?

#60 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 11:39 AM:

And it looks like the url for "Petite Maison de Weekend" runs off the side of the comments section, unless you maximize the window.

The Particle on Queen Seraphima told me something I hadn't realized before, that "mollys" is a synonym for gay men.

Oddly enough, just last night I ordered several CDs online by a Tucson band called "The Mollys".

Don't know if there's any connection in meaning, but I can say that the band is very, very, very good. Eclectic style, with Celtic mixed with mariachi mixed with blues (and even, I think, a bit of klezmer!).

The Mollys' album I already had is ONLY A STORY, and it would definitely be on my "desert-island" list. The ones I ordered last night were HAT TRICK, and their newest, TROUBLE.

Several of their CDs are available on Amazon, but a better selection (and slightly better prices) can be found on

BD says check 'em out!

#61 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 11:42 AM:

Whoops. Pardon me; that should be "". (They're a non-profit organization that promotes folk music.)

#62 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 12:41 PM:

Bruce, the trouble is that there's no place to break the Petite Maison URL when presented that way.

That design looks neat, but I'd probably want mosquito netting suspended from the perimeter of the roof.

#63 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 01:06 PM:

Xopher-- jelly : jam :: jam : preserves.

#64 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 01:53 PM:

Anne - meaning preserves are even chunkier than jam?

#65 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 03:05 PM:

Patrick and adamsj,

You are both essentially correct, and Patrick knows more about book sales than I.

My source that "Robert Anson Heinlein could have made more money writing novels for grownups" is very circumstantial. Isaac Asimov told me that he knew he could make more money on nonfiction than fiction. His agent [Fred Pohl then?] wrote him a letter on 3 Sep 1951 [the day I was born] to that effect. I think it was Pohl, as I vaguely remember corroborating this with him, too. But Isaac wanted to write SF novels, including his "Lucky Starr" juveniles, a series he projected to include more than he actually started. Isaac told me, in New York, that he and Heinlein had compared notes on what was most profitable. Asimov said that Heinlein said [objection, your honor: double hearsay!] that juveniles had a higher minimum estimated sales figure, but adult fiction [which meant something less sexological then, I presume] had a higher maximum estimated sales figure.

Asimov also gave me his version of a much cited (by people who weren't there) hours-long conversation between Asimov, Heinlein, and L. Ron Hubbard. But that's another, and touchier, subject.

#66 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 03:25 PM:

Preserves have the greatest fruit content, jelly the least. At least that was how my mom explained it as the reason she refused to ever buy anything other than preserves when I was little.

I believe, though I am not certain, that sugar content goes in the reverse order.

I know that when I made rugelach this winter, the receipe specified absolutely do not use jelly.

#67 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 03:30 PM:

Precisely, Xopher. The fruit is very roughly chopped, if at all; IME grapes and strawberries are left whole and plums are cut in half.

#68 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 03:43 PM:

Xopher: (Perhaps in the UK you all have better sense than to eat what we call jelly; I certainly do.)

So you'd turn up your nose at my cider jelly? You, you, you -- Christian! (Well, if I said "heathen" it wouldn't have the same impact....) Recipe: take cider with no preservatives, boil, filter out pommace, boil some more(*); a gallon of cider makes about a pint of jelly. Good on sturdy toast and roast duck.

(*) to somewhere around the "soft ball" stage, except that you have to test it instead of using a thermometer and even then you won't get precise results, as if the pectin continues setting for some time after the jelly cools.

#69 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 03:58 PM:

Jeremy: that URL won't work. Try this one instead.

Never to leave out the adress scheme in an URL, that is the Law. Are we not men?
#70 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 04:34 PM:

CHip, you cowan troublemaker: I admit it does sound tasty. (Being on Atkins, however, I wouldn't taste it right now.) I had in mind the storebought kind in the unlikely colors.

Again I tar with too broad a brush. I meant "fluffy bunny" jelly, OK? :-)

#71 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 04:35 PM:

And when I did that, it wound up being something I would call apple butter...maybe that's what happens when you don't filter it?

#72 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 05:23 PM:

D'oh, thanks, cd. That's what I get for trying to show off!

#73 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 07:40 PM:

Apropos of the earlier discussion, I learned and still remember "Karl put candy on Fred's green suit". Considering HS biology was > 20 years ago for me, the fact that I remember it is probably good pro-mnemonic testimony.

Now if there were only a mnemonic for mnigiveupontypingit.

(I had to look it up. Sad.)

#74 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 11:40 PM:

I learned Farmer Clark Gets Dinner At Eight Bells. I can't remember the reverse one.

#75 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 11:41 PM:

And what's Mni Give U Ponty Pingit?

#76 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2004, 11:53 PM:

I'd guess it's the spelling of "mnemonic".

#77 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 12:51 AM:

Sorry, late, busy, stuff. Anyway --

On Old Olympus's Towering Tops, A Finn and German Viewed Some Hops.

Which is, being translated, Olfactory, Optic, Occulomotor, Trochlear, Trigeminal, Abducens, Facial, Auditory, Glossopharyngeal, Vagus, Spinal Accessory, Hypoglossal: the twelve cranial nerves in sequence.

I suppose it depends on the crowd you hang out with.

#78 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 01:35 AM:

John M. Ford,

let me doctor that script:

"Oh, Oh, Oh, To Touch And Feel Very Good Velvet, AH!"

The first letters (bold) match up with the first letters of the cranial nerves (for the second phrase use Vestibulocochlear instead of Auditory and plain Accessory instead of Spinal Accessory).

research (not handled by Guild arbitration):

#79 ::: eleanor rowe ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 05:07 AM:

Bruce, tights = pantyhose. I've always wondered why so many of the US/UK problematic words concern clothing (pants, knickers, vest, jumper, sneakers etc.) and also, why the US version of common words are almost always longer: lift/elevator, flat/apartment (I know, it's a big country.....)

Jelly = jello, but also means clear fruit preserves. Preserves are chunky jams, but I think the terms includes pickles, basically any fruit or veg which is 'preserved'.

#80 ::: eleanor rowe ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 05:10 AM:

And when I said Bruce, I did mean Xopher. The poster's names have moved to the top?

#81 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 07:20 AM:

I like the doggie haikus.

Why do you pick up
my turds in a plastic bag?
Here, have a hot one!

#82 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 07:32 AM:

Yes, the posters' names have moved to the top, with a colon to indicate the direction of flow.

#83 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 10:22 AM:

Thank you for moving the posters' names to the top--I find it much easier to approach.

#84 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:23 AM:

Yay! Names on Top!

This makes things *soooo* much easier to read.

Thank you, thank you.

#85 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2004, 11:50 AM:

My Dog Kramer

Take me for a walk?
Over here, tree trunk... sniff, sniff:
Checking my p-mail!

#86 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 06:53 PM:

Hearkening back to a long-ago thread, now closed:

The Library of Congress is helping the Baghdad Library "rebuild and restructure". (Seen on LIS News.)

Just thought a little good news might be nice.

#87 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2004, 10:03 PM:

Xopher -- not filtering the partly-boiled cider would give some strange crossbreed; apple butter is cooked-down mashed apples, which have a lot more solids. (The consistency might also have been caused by preservatives; I've been told they interfere with the gelling.)

On a new sidebar: the "sound cliches" page is interesting but overdone. e.g., from the first few screens:
- when do bombs not whistle? anything falling at speed will make a noise. (High frequencies are directional, so a whistle instead of a whoosh might mean it was coming at you.) I remember on a quiet day hearing a 10-way skydive formation coming from most of two miles up; made me wonder until I figured it out how far some pilot had gone from home.
- screeching jet tires: if you had to accelerate from 0 to ~150mph in no time, you'd screech too -- especially if you lost a layer in the process. Smithsonian a few years ago said the loneliest job at DFW was scraping the rubber buildup off the ends of the runway.
jet tires screeching
bombs whistling

#88 ::: Harry Connolly finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 07:28 AM:


Smaller type (our default)
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