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May 11, 2010

Open thread 140
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 11:18 AM *

RT @Shakspere RT @Polonius since brevity is the soul of wit & tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief #selfcontraction

Comments on Open thread 140:
#1 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:29 AM:

RT @mercutio: Ouch, dammit.

#2 ::: Steven Gould ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:44 AM:

RT @hamlet I'm confused.

#3 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:49 AM:

rt @ophelia tweets for the tweet farewell

#4 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:53 AM:

rt @Hamlet: wind northerly, now which was handsaw?

#5 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:54 AM:

RT @banquo: This Abi hath a pleasant tweet.

#6 ::: Vef ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:54 AM:

@TexAnne You know about Such Tweet Sorrow right?

#7 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:56 AM:

RT @Rosencrantz I'M ON A BOAT!

#9 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:02 PM:

@guildenstern heads!

#10 ::: Darice Moore ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:03 PM:

Horatio: Weird, thought that acct was expired RT @HamletSr Remember me...

#11 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:08 PM:

RT @ Hamlet: damn, Yorick. Dude looks like ass.

#12 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:12 PM:

@damnedspot out!

#13 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:18 PM:

@Romeo: where the heck are you? Waiting patiently! #elope #verona

#14 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:25 PM:

Continuing from previous open thread, Graydon #934:

The question is, does it make sense to assume that the difference in loss of inclusive fitness from being gay will be offset by either having more surviving nephews/cousins, or by having kids who themselves tend to survive longer or have more kids? Neither of these is obvious at all, to me.

I mean, it's easy enough to spin out a just-so story in which this could be so, in one particular place and time. But how do we get from that to the widespread existence of homosexuality all over the world, among humans of every racial/ethnic group? (Are there large racial/ethnic groups with no homosexuality at all? I've never heard of any such, but maybe this is just my ignorance.)

#15 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:28 PM:

@sea break, break #coldgreystones

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:31 PM:

Reminds me it's time to watch "The 15-minute Hamlet" again.

#17 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:39 PM:

reminds me, why do we call a hatch mark a hash mark? We don't speak of bash processing or pattern mashing, do we?

#18 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:44 PM:

Considering the existence of homosexuality in birds and lizards, there really has to be some kind of benefit from it.
I'd go for 'more genetic relatives', except that doesn't explain the lizards.... (Or the dinosaurs and sodomy, but that's a different story.)

#19 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:45 PM:

albatross @14 -- We don't have to know the mechanism of how it works. We have the observation that homosexuality does seem to occur across human history; we know that there are genetic mechanisms that can explain similar survival of supposedly non-advantageous traits. Yes, it's not clear *why* it works in this case -- but then, the reason HbS was common in some populations wasn't clear for a very long time either. I could come up with a dozen possibilities, but solid research on human subjects is problematic. Even statistical research has its difficulties, and that almost never leads to a "why" answer. The "just-so" stories you refer to don't have to be culturally limited (if, for example, nurturance were to be found to correlate with homosexuality, to point to one cliche, it could be a survival trait across large swathes of human situations).

#20 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 12:55 PM:

albatross @14 --

Why are you assuming a loss of inclusive fitness from being gay?

Human fitness in adulthood (which is where breeding matters) derives, first and last and always, from ability to gang up on problems. How does being gay affect your ability to gang up on problems?

More generally, humans form reproductively significant social bonds through sexual interaction. But the way sexuality develops in humans is strongly analogous to the way language develops; the brain involves programming to build a machine to learn language, it's not hard-wired to learn a particular language. There's a bunch of neurological developmental stages that have to happen around the right time and in the right order.

Because this is important, everyone's got it. Because it's complex, it's variable; not everyone has the same ability with language, and "language ability" is not a single variable in any case; function in your mother-tongue and your ability to learn other languages don't appear to correlate closely, for example.

Sexuality is much the same; it's complex, it develops as a machine for developing a sexuality (because having the wrong one for your local social conditions is not a good thing for the whole gang-up-on-problems meta-constraint), and there's variability. (Ahem. Natural selection is an explanation for variety, not optimization.)

It's completely plausible to suppose that the general human mechanism for developing a sexuality isn't all that specific about "opposite gender" and some percentage of the population comes out gay as a result, and that the cost to remove this imprecision from the mechanism is much higher than the cost of having it present. (Appendixes; generally about as small as they can be without starting to guarantee that you'll get appendicitis. There could be an analogy to this kind of local selective stability even if -- as there is no evidence is the case -- being gay was totally counter-selective.)

Humans are undergoing accelerated (and accelerating) genetic selection; not only is agriculture an environment, cities are an environment, too. So one of the side effects of general mobility and urbanization is that people move to locations where their relative, gang-up-on-problems fitness is increased.

One of the reasons anti-gay folks are trying so hard to keep being gay from being mentioned as a normal aspect of human variation (such as in primary school "people are diverse" curricula) is that knowing you're gay leads to moving to cohesive politically active gay communities in cites. Those same communities have managed to crush a major social taboo in a generation or so. From the point of view of someone who believes all change is evil, having a group of people who aren't supposed to exist be politically effective is frightening.

#21 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 01:11 PM:

I have moved.

Also, on the city/country divide, anyone have a factory lying around? Because my hometown needs one. Has for about as long as I can remember. Then it can go back to being as good as it once was, maybe.

#22 ::: Dave Lucas ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 01:29 PM:

I recently posted an article on my blog about the global economy. Then, I began to wonder: are there others out there like me who believe the entire financial structure needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch in order to get back to "stability" (whatever THAT is!)?

#23 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 01:33 PM:

RT @Cymbeline Laud which gods? Why crooked smoke?

#24 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 01:36 PM:

RT @Othello In Aleppo u used longer knife.

#25 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 01:48 PM:

PJ Evans @ #18, I caution you against attributing evolutionary benefit to a trait simply because it exists and/or is widespread among genera. Cf albinism, for example.

#26 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 02:08 PM:

I don't know what, if any, advantage there might be, but if it's widespread, I have to assume it's good for something. (Or was, at some time.)

#27 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 02:18 PM:

PJ Evans @26 --

No, no, no, no, Papa Darwin's Ghost, no.

Natural selection is all about relative fitness; it does not, and can not, optimize.

What you can assume if something is widespread is that the cost of getting rid of it is greater than the cost of having it.

That cost differential might be because it provides a selective advantage, or it might be because there isn't a pathway to get rid of it that doesn't involve also getting rid of something essential to life. You can't tell which it is by looking at how frequent something is.

Consider melanin in humans; an advantage everywhere you're not trying to live on oats in the rain. But now the no-or-low melanin oats-in-the-rain colouring is blessed everywhere for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the relative adaptive fitness of the lack of melanin.

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 02:23 PM:

Attendant lords check out the easy meat,
look out and see what girls and lads are there
ready and hopeful, thinking life is fair,
and o so eager for the hearty beat
of rhyme and rhythm that now seem so sweet
almost divine; and so the ones who dare
can sweep them up almost without a care
and leave them go done wholly to a treat.
The play's the thing to catch not just the eye
but also that most fickle gland the heart,
and waken into being so much more
that would not be there under open sky
but ripens swiftly if one knows the art
of how to open and to seal the door.

#29 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 02:26 PM:

I guess we finally ran out of pizza.

#30 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 02:29 PM:

@26 and prior:

Existence of a trait in a population does not necessarily imply that the trait is beneficial. Other possible implications are: 1) the trait is neutral or detrimental, but is associated with other traits which provide an aggregate benefit; 2) insufficient generations have passed to drive the trait to exist in either 100% or 0% of population; 3) the trait is a possible expression of a beneficial trait.

For an example of 3), consider sickle-cell anemia. Sickle-cell anemia is the phenotypic expression of a genotype which is homozygous for the sickle-cell allele. This phenotype is maladaptive and generally does not reproduce effectively; an individual with sickle-cell anemia is handily outcompeted by others of the same species. The heterozygous genotype does not express sickle-cell anemia and provides limited protection against malaria, which is endemic in Africa. African populations in high-malaria environments frequently sustain the sickle-cell allele because the heterozygous genotype provides environmental protection outweighing the maladaptiveness of the homozygous genotype.

Making no claims regarding genetic vs. environmental factors in determining human sexuality, just illustrating one way in which detrimental traits can persist in a population.

#31 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 02:34 PM:

rt @Jaques Babe, Boy, Bawdy, Bravo, Bench, Banterer, Babe.

#32 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 02:48 PM:

RT @Stefan plenty o pizza here! Eat up.

#33 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 02:51 PM:


if one mere character could mark a beat,
then fourteen tens would make a sonnet-tweet.

#34 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 02:53 PM:


Don't Touch My Gems

#35 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 03:03 PM:

924, last thread:
Speaking of rope, Cyril Kornbluth ends "The Rocket of 1955" with "Here they come, with an insulting thick rope." Googling doesn't show much other apparent source for the phrase. I never understood what it meant. I thought when I first read it that it was a reference to something I didn't know; but Google doesn't seem to know it either, decades later. So, What's going on with this phrase? Does it come from somewhere? What does it mean?

[combined into one paragraph to avoid breaking italics ]

I read it-many, many years ago- and the phrase caught my attention. (I recognized it instantly.) My reasoning, such as it was, was that lynching was a crude and messy and public way to be killed. And the thick rope makes it seem, somehow, even more improvised and less elegant.

I don't know any context outside the story itself.

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 03:08 PM:

That doesn't count as being good for something, at some time?

#37 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 03:14 PM:

I think the ML community will enjoy the first image in this post.

#38 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 03:27 PM:

Okay, everybody, the influx of mojo worked! I've been officially invited to visit the potential new job on Friday. So I'll need your best efforts starting Thursday night.

#39 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 03:34 PM:

P J Evans @36 --


Let me try to explain why.

Being demelinated in a foggy environment where your diet is heavily based on cereal grains isn't good; it's just less bad than vitamin D deficiency is. Being demelinated still has all the sunburn-and-skin-cancer disadvantages it always does.

Demelinated people have proportionately greater reproductive success than melinated people under those conditions; variation leading to demelination tends to be conserved.

That doesn't mean "demelination was good"; it means it was less bad. Natural selection has no way to detect good; all it can detect is relative rates of death before successful reproduction. Getting the concept of "good" into it tends to become unhelpful.

So, not the best example; the sickle-cell examples are better ones. Many of the human sexual selection ones are better still; these only matters because other people care about it.
(eg., are your earlobes directly attached to your head or not? Makes no never-mind so far as anyone has ever determined in terms of fitness, except when there's a strong local aesthetic preference.)

#40 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 04:01 PM:

#38: Congrats and good luck.

#39: I read that as "delaminated" which doesn't sound good when talking about people.

#41 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 04:08 PM:

That Shakespeare bit always reminds me of my favourite Simpsons joke:

"Brevity is ... wit"

#42 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 04:17 PM:

I could also use a bit of mojo.

I have this kind of job which makes me remind myself "I am grateful to *have* a job" on a regular basis, or else I'd just walk out and never come back.

Suddenly, I have one really good job prospect (city library assistant at a local branch) one ok job prospect (asst manager of a local art supply store...though I don't look forward to retail) and one very exciting maybe a job prospect soon (my old, beloved NPO job may be coming back available in some form, budget-willing). It's as though a ray of sunshine were breaking through the clouds.

#43 ::: giltay ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 04:18 PM:

RT @Oberon: accept Titania

#44 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 04:35 PM:

Anyone have a good idea of the average running time of A Midsummer Night's Dream?

#45 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 04:37 PM:

Some people here might be interested in some of the items in this charity auction, which is in aid of getting Deb Mensinger a liver transplant.

I have put up four lots containing gaming items designed or inspired by John M. Ford, and there are plenty of other things. Elise Matthesen has posted some jewelry-related lots. Terri Windling has posted some art and books. There is original Thomas Canty art available. Etc.

#46 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 04:39 PM:

Graydon 20: (Appendixes; generally about as small as they can be without starting to guarantee that you'll get appendicitis. There could be an analogy to this kind of local selective stability even if -- as there is no evidence is the case -- being gay was totally counter-selective.)

There's apparently some evidence that the appendix, that icon of useless vestigiality, actually serves the purpose of being a hiding place for commensal bacteria when they'd otherwise be lost (by diarrhea, for example). I'm actually dubious that anything we have biologically will prove to be truly useless.

You* may not see any use for gay people, but just wait until the aliens come down and threaten to destroy our species for just not having anyone really fabulous. What'll you show them? Well, Fred & Ginger, Gene & Cyd, but will they be enough?!?! Are you willing to take that risk?!?!?!

Ibid. 39: OK, seriously, I think demelination has more to do with living far from the equator than in foggy environments. Solar radiation effects in Scandanavia aren't that much of an issue; the sun's rays pass through too much atmosphere (even in the summer the sun is never directly overhead (i.e. passing through the least atmosphere) as it is from time to time in the tropics). Also, blue eyes (i.e. very limited black pigment, just enough to cause refraction) are much more sensitive to light. Down near the equator this is a serious problem; in the Arctic gloom it's a real advantage.

#47 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 04:48 PM:

Graydon at 39, dammit -- I'm going to spend the next 24 hours peering surreptitiously at people's earlobes! Aargh!

#48 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 04:53 PM:

To Kayjayoh @42: I hope some of my good job-hunting luck may rub off on you: please accept this mojo.

I'm going to be starting a new job in two weeks - it's an exciting opportunity for me with a smallish startup in the telecomm/networking space, at a nice little bump in salary!

#49 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 05:03 PM:

Graydon @39: the earlobe question was one of the characteristics used in my daughter's 6th grade science class when they were studying genetics. Everyone got a list of traits and they went around the class noting who had which trait--attached or detached ear lobes, tongue rolling ability, widow's peak, and I forget what else. Then they were supposed to go home and do the same with their parents. I have a lot of recessives but my kid has mostly dominants so it was an interesting thing for her.

#50 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 05:15 PM:

Xopher #46:

I believe the appendix and the tonsils both have a big role in immune surveillance. I guess this is a kind of spandrel--it was lying around, and so evolutionary hill-climbing could attach some function to it, and eventually did.

Graydon #39:

You seem to just be saying that genes' fitness effect is dependent on the environment, and can often be the sum of many different effects positive and negative. Am I missing some deeper meaning, here?

Fitness is always a function of environment. This leads to the best explanation I've seen of aging: lots of genes have different effects on you at different ages. Some of those benefit you at 20 but hurt you at 40. Lots more people lived to 20 than to 40 over most of human history, so evolution weighed that effect at 20 way more heavily than the effect at 40. A gene that gave an early benefit and screwed you over royally at 60 probably had no measurable fitness cost, because so few people lived to 60 in any shape to have any useful impact at all on their own inclusive fitness, whether by sex or by caring for grandkids.

#51 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 05:37 PM:

Academic fluorospherians! Fluorospherian academics! I just released my first CFP, and as anyone could have guessed, it is about cartoons!


RT @Hamlet: 40kbros ♥ != my sum. #suckitlaertes

#52 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 06:03 PM:

A general problem with the "homophobia confers some sort of survival benefit in agricultural settings" theory is that homophobia as we know it is an essentially modern invention, along with most of modern sexuality. If it confers some advantage, it's an advantage conferred in industrialized/urbanized societies. (In my humble, it's part and parcel of the larger societal trend towards regularization and standardization that characterized industrialization--we must all fit into neat, interchangeable boxes.)

#53 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 06:39 PM:

generalizing @52: when a group of males is able to ostracize another group of males in the community, members of the former group benefit from decreased competition for mates, and average increased availability thereof. when the latter are homosexual, and effectively out of the mating pool anyway, the ostracism does not effect mate competition in terms of absolute numbers of competitors, but may nonetheless affect mate choice.

homosexuality in such a context becomes a classification standard; are you in the other gang, or in my gang? can I exert dominance over you with regard to mate selection, and thereby impress potential mates? or will you instead assist me in dominating others, to our mutual benefit in impressing potential mates?

the sociologists among us may have opinions on whether groups that start by ostracizing homosexuals form cohesive group bonds that then enable them to ostracize other groups as well, which may have more substantive effects on removing competition from the mate selection process.

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 06:45 PM:

TexAnne @ 38...

I knew that our influx of banjo woulr work.
("It's 'mojo', Serge, not 'banjo'.")
Best wishes.
I'll see if I can borrow Bill Higgins's ukulele.

#55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 07:11 PM:

Serge #54:

I'm reminded of some lines by Derek Walcott's less-known twin Roderick:

Nom mwen c'est Estefan,
Estefan de banjo-man;
tout nomnes twavaillon,
Estefan ka joue cuatro!

#56 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 07:17 PM:

Mattathias@30, there is another option: the trait has drifted to fixation. This can happen even to detrimental traits, and it is not rare: the vast majority of fixation that occurs in wild populations is fixation by drift, and it happens even in populations experiencing considerable amounts of gene flow with populations in which the trait is not (yet) fixed.

(apologies for evo-bio geekiness)

#57 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 07:25 PM:

albatross W 50:
genes' fitness effect is dependent on the environment

Disclaimer: I am not a profession population ecologist or evolutionary theorist. I have been reading about these subjects at a fairly technical level for a long time (which also means that I may not be completely up on the latest research), and I think I have a reasonably good understanding of the issues.

I think the term "gene fitness" is misleading. Despite what Richard Dawkins may say, genes per se don't have a fitness; nor are they the unit of selection, whatever that may mean. In fact they're not selected at all; the phenotypes they (help to) generate are selected.

A great deal of misunderstanding of evolution has been promulgated by not realizing just how wide the spectrum of reproductive strategies is for different biological organisms, and how different the organisms that are easy to study are from, for instance, human beings. Ecologists rather crudely divide reproductive strategies into two classes: r-selection, which emphasizes number of offspring over parental investment in each offspring (examples are squid and dandelions), and K-selection, which emphasizes parental investment in offspring over numbers (examples are humans and mammals in general).

Now r-selection is easy to study in situ, especially with organisms with short generations (squid typically have lifespans of less than 3 years, for instance), since you only have to keep track of population size and distribution of phenotypical attributes, but don't have to track which parents raised which offspring with what techniques. Consequently, most people come to think of differential reproduction in terms of r-selection, not realizing that many organisms have evolved to actually limit or minimize the number of offspring so as to maximize the investment that can be made in each offspring.

Reproductive strategies that involve investing individual resources in the offspring of other individuals are very common. For instance, in a wolf pack, only the alpha female has offspring; the other females assist in their care and raising. In such strategies the sexual proclivities of the non-bearing individuals are irrelevant to their reproductive success because they don't get to reproduce directly anyhow.

The ultimate expression of this sort of strategy can be seen in the eusocial insects such as bees, ants, and termites. The large majority of the individuals in a hive are sterile, and can't reproduce, but the queen and the fertile males require the sterile workers and other castes both to survive and to reproduce. In these cases biologists often speak of the hive as a "superorganism" which is the unit of reproduction. It may be controversial, but I think there's some justification in extending that usage to cases like the wolf pack, and talking about the reproduction of the pack as opposed to the reproduction of the individual.

I think term "fitness" has been horribly abused in discussions of evolution, but that's another discussion (see my blog posting for Darwin Day in 2009 on the subject of fitness).
I would argue that "genes per se" don't really exist, that selection takes place on what some have called a "constellation of genes" which today we would have to take as including both genes which code for protein structure and genes which code for genetic control of other genes. But that's also another discussion.
The terms come from the standard notation of the Verhulst equation of population dynamics: dNdt = rN(1 - Nk)

#58 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 07:30 PM:

Akk, as soon as I hit post I saw that it should have been "albatross @ 50:" Finger on the wrong row. Let's hear a chorus of "Hard-Loving Loser" by Judy Collins just for my benefit:

He's the kind of person
Goes to drive a Maserati
Puts his key inside
The wrong little hole

#59 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 08:17 PM:

RT @Antony I'm at a funeral #Caesar

#60 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 08:18 PM:

Bruce @ #58, Ah, this song! (Judy & The Smothers Brothers on Youtube.)

Written by Richard Farina.

#61 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 08:25 PM:

Heresiarch @ 52:

... and if that is correct, which it might be, then there really haven't been enough human generations since industrialization for any significant evolution to take place yet on that or similar traits. Humans take a lot longer to reach reproductive maturity than moths or bacteria.

Nix @ 56:

Thank you so much for expressing in correct evolutionary bio terminology what I was nerving myself to fumble my way through.

One could say that sometimes the "Just-So Stories" are just not so, but humans remain insistently story-telling creatures.

#62 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 08:30 PM:

RT @Hamlet Rats behind arras. Need to call exterminator.

#63 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 08:34 PM:

RT @puck That Bottom, what an asshat!

#64 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 08:42 PM:

Linkmeister @ 60:

I always attributed that song to Farina (I first heard it on his record); but when I searched for the lyrics just now they were attributed to Collins. I'll accept a tiebreaker to settle the question.

#65 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 08:46 PM:

Witch1 when we 3 can meet again? weather no prob #witching
Witch2 @Witch1 u free after hurleyburley? #witching
Witch3 @Witch1 early pm good for me #witching

#66 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 09:11 PM:

In re aging and traits, I've read some persuasive arguments (in Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's _Mother Nature_, inter alia) that the purpose of menopause -- which, among primates, only humans have -- is to minmax the benefit/cost ratio between caring for neonates of one's own and helping care for the neonates of your daughters. Because not only is childbirth increasingly perilous, but in a situation where the kid's major provider and primary source of food is the mother for nearly five years, losing the mother to age or mischance partway through that is a death sentence for the kid, and a wasted effort for the mother's genes. Better if Grandma goes infertile shortly after her potential oldest children start breeding.

Of course, then you have the ultimate artificiality of modern human reproduction -- early menarches + late menopauses + controlled fertility == over 400 periods in a lifetime, instead of the estimated historic average 100. Which leads to way more reproductive cancers ...

The extended menstruation window is caused by good nutrition and other things we don't want to get rid of, but the extra periods when not pregnant is really the fault of how the birth control pill was designed (see Malcolm Gladwell on the subject). Nowadays there are new pills on the market with a fully-approved (as opposed to off-label but still done) aim of continuous intake to limit periods-per-year to 4 or so, to reduce wear and tear on the innards. Some knuckleheaded 'conservatives' are objecting on the grounds that it's abnormal for wimmenfolk to do anything but bleed every 28 days like clockwork their whole lives. Sigh.

#67 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 09:22 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 64: My memory, the lyrical style, and allmusic all point to Fariña as the author.

#68 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 09:38 PM:

Some knuckleheaded 'conservatives' are objecting on the grounds that it's abnormal for wimmenfolk to do anything but bleed every 28 days like clockwork their whole lives.

Why do I have the feeling that most of them are never going to menstruate themselves? /s

On teh gay as a genetic thing: I suspect it's not the primary result of whatever gene or complex of genes is involved, but rather a side-effect which can be useful at times, and is otherwise fairly neutral at the level of the species.

#69 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 10:01 PM:


that youtube of judy collins w/ tommy and dick brings back a lot of memories.

just as i had recalled--judy collins is *unable* to bend a note. she just has no conception of how a blues phrase is shaped--it's the whitest thing ever. the brothers do better--but then i think they were better musicians all around.

separate question--how long did it take you to realize that abi based this open thread on twitter, because it's #140, and that's the character limit?

(took me a good long while, have to admit).

#70 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 10:11 PM:

kid bitzer @69, immediately upon seeing the RT in the body of the post. But I'm well accustomed to Twitter.

#71 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 10:25 PM:

P J Evans #68: Why do I have the feeling that most of them are never going to menstruate themselves? /s

Actually, that could theoretically be arranged through a futuristic, Y chromosome mutating bio-weapon which spreads urinary schistosomiasis; one of its regularly repeating symptoms is apparently very similar.

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 10:58 PM:

Unfortunately the correct evo-bio terminology made the whole explanation turn to grey stuff in front of my eyes. I'm too stupid to understand it, I'm afraid.

OK, I just read it again and did a little better. r-selection is the "cheap baby" strategy, right? And K-selection is the "expensive baby" strategy?

At any rate, one theory that explains why younger brothers are more likely to be gay is that it has to do with the mother's immune system attacking the second-through-nth male children in utero, and "feminizing" them. This is a pretty strange use of the word 'feminizing' IMO.

But all the evo-bio stuff, interesting as I'm sure it would be if I could understand a word of it, is really irrelevant to my point: modern rural people have no more excuse for homophobia than urban people.

Just because that was my point doesn't mean we can't have an evo-bio discussion of homosexuality. Personally I think the whole human community benefits from gay people. I don't think it was his homosexuality as such that made Alan Turing a genius, but there may have been related factors.

As Vernor Vinge as reminded us, human society has always depended in part on people who have no life. He's talking about zipheads, but it's also partially dependent on people who for whatever reason put their energies into things other than raising (their own) children. People way out on the skinny end of the sexuality bell curve like me (whose sexual thoughts about women were rare, fleeting, and completely over by age 23 or so) were much less likely to have children of our own before the invention of the turkey baster!

OTOH, I suspect that homosexuality as we know it is a social construct as well. While there are going to be people like me in any society, there are lots of societies where the "contamination theory" of homosexuality is not the governing assumption, where the rigid categories of 'gay' and 'straight' aren't enforced even by some members of the gay community as they are in America (you should hear the people who say that bisexuals are just "liars," "confused," or "hedging their bets," even now, in the 21st Century! It's appalling). There are gay porn stars in the Czech Republic who have girlfriends and even wives; they're not gay-for-pay, they just comfortably swing both ways.

Perhaps homosexuality is evolved for a social paradigm more like that. The advantage would be that it keeps adolescent boys from murdering each other (sex is a MUCH more pleasant outlet for all that testosterone) and keeps both sexes from having children they're too young to care for.

This is wild speculation on my part. Just so you know I know that.

#73 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:11 PM:

Xopher, an interesting contribution as always.

The proclamation of being bi or being homosexual is a puzzle posited by a dear friend of mine. She was well-loved by another friend of mine, but he came out as totally gay even though he still had sexual feelings toward her. But he held to his gayness to the nth degree.

Her observation was that younger people appear to be more flexible and go, "whatever, bi, gay, whatever. i want to love who I love when I do." And that the older people want to say, "I'm homosexual no matter what." without really thinking through the fact that they love the opposite sex too.

i don't know that this is a paradigm, it is just an individual, personal observation.

#74 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:16 PM:

My little guy got his new prosthetic arm today, and wore it for a whole hour, YAY. This comes after months of him refusing to wear the old one, probably because he outgrew it faster than expected so they couldn't get it to fit right in the interim. The new one is very cool, and has a reasonably comfortable harness that makes me wonder if I could mod it to look like Doc Ock's rig. Um, without all the extra arms, at first anyway.

#75 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:19 PM:

Mary Dell -- Wow!!!

#76 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:28 PM:

RT @HenryV Tennis? No thx, archery #France

#77 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:34 PM:

Cool Mary Dell! I bet it's the dinosaurs, though.

#78 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:49 PM:

Laura Runkle, if possible, listen to Richard Thompson's Henry V song.

I'm not finding it on YouTube, which is not a surprise.

It is educational. The King of France did not consider Henry V a peer, he considered him an immature competitor, which was a severe underestimation. to his failure.

King Phillip caused one of the largest destruction of the French peerage that could have been imagined....

#79 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2010, 11:55 PM:

Mary Dell #74: The new one is very cool, and has a reasonably comfortable harness that makes me wonder if I could mod it to look like Doc Ock's rig. Um, without all the extra arms, at first anyway.

As a comic book fan, I think that would be extremely cool.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 12:27 AM:

Mary Dell @ 74...

"What? No adamantium claws?"

#81 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 12:55 AM:

Xopher, #72: Try this piece of mnemonic filk (imagine it being sung in a country-western twang):

"Now, an R-selected critter is like a rabbit or a squirrel;
They'll have a zillion babies and just loose them on the world!
Most of them will get knocked off, but a few will make it through,
And that's what R-selected critters do.

But a K-selected critter is like an elephant, you see --
They'll have just one infant, and raise it carefully.
They'll give it all the best in life, and spring for college too,
And that's what K-selected critters do."

I've heard speculation to the effect that in a less gender-rigid culture, the majority of people would be bisexual -- that monosexuality, whether hetero or homo, would be relatively rare. This would not surprise me at all.

#82 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:01 AM:

For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!'

These are the prophecies to inspire dread
Speaking to yesterdays and tomorrows
One generation to blessed are the dead,
Blessed are the ones not born to sorrows.

Blessed are the ones who have no need
to watch the ones they cherish torn away.
Better to not have that pain.
better to

In the old myths,
the tales of yesterdays and tomorrows,
it is always the woman
who is the agent of chaos. The man is steadfast
and somehow, the woman bumbles in
and screws it all up. Eve
precipitates the Fall.

How could she not? it is women
who bring change into the world,
one child at a time. That is chaos
when perfection is found in stagnation.

Perfection, spinning in an empty mirrored hall.

Barren is a state of mind, not of body.
The agents of stagnation,
who abhor any hint of change
in the yesterdays and tomorrows
dismiss children, the idea of children,
ideas, the children of the mind.
Blessed are the barren, whose minds have never born fruit.

One cannot get far in life
without loss. A friend
cut down by cancer,
losing the long battle.
The suddenness of the car accident,
the shock of sudden violence.

Fear of loss, of no more sharing
of yesterdays and tomorrows,
drives too many to mourn prematurely,
to shun change

"With the world as it is,
how can you bear to have children?"
"I could never bring a child into this world."
The agents of stagnation
and fear
speaking to yesterdays
and tomorrows
say, "Blessed are the barren."
I say, blessed are the ones
who understand
Pandora's gift
(that agent of chaos)
the small, the quiet, the last light.

#83 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:01 AM:

Judy Collins testifies that Richard Fariña wrote "Hard Lovin' Loser."

The tendency of people on the Web (and perhaps in the rest of the world) to attribute song lyrics to the singer who performs them is deplorable, but, I suppose, understandable.

#84 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:10 AM:

Graydon #39, albatross #50, Tom Whitmore #19.

Sickle cell is a better analogy than skin color for any homosexuality-related genes for another reason: frequency-dependent fitness.

If there is any meaningful genetic component to the variation between people that expresses itself in modern times as varied sexual orientation (which I propose to abbreviate as 'gay genes' to avoid sounding like Polonius), then it clearly is stable at prevalences well away from 0 and 100%.

In contrast, melanin production (along with the ability to digest lactose as an adult, and overproduction of alcohol dehydrogenase) are regionally varying but didn't vary from person to person within a population. In the days before travel, basically everyone in Sweden or Switzerland had pale skin and could digest milk; everyone in Tasmania or Tanzania had dark skin and adults couldn't digest milk.

Sickle-cell trait was stable at frequencies well below 100% because it has frequency-dependent fitness: carrying the sickle-cell variant benefits your children only as long as your mate doesn't carry it, so there is an optimal frequency for the variant that depends on the prevalence of malaria. A lot of immune-response variants have frequency-dependent fitness for a different reason: diseases adapt to the most common variants and give the rare variants an advantage.

Frequency-dependent fitness of 'gay genes' requires that (from the genes' viewpoint, not the individual's or the fluorosphere's) being gay is beneficial as long as not too many other people are gay. This could be a recessive/dominant thing, where carriers of one copy gene have more kids and carriers of two copies are gay. It could be a benefit to children of members of the extended family, that reaches diminishing returns fairly quickly. Or whatever.

So, it's not just that there must be some benefit to gay genes. There must be a frequency-dependent benefit, one that reaches diminishing returns fairly fast.

#85 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:28 AM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey@ 83:

Thanks, I'm glad I could have my faith in Fariña restored. I've loved that song for 40 years now and I was very bummed out to think, however briefly, that I'd had the attribution wrong all that time.

#86 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:53 AM:

Bill Higgins @ #83, without a shred of evidence, I suspect that attribution of songwriting credit to singers is partly due to the switch to CDs from vinyl albums, with the attendant loss or reduction of liner notes (and cover art, sob). Said attribution failure got even worse when downloading became possible.

One of the joys of buying albums was taking it out of the wrapper (much easier than unwrapping a jewel case), putting the record on the turntable, and then reading the album's back cover while listening to it for the first time. Most song lists that I recall had the writers' names included, or a line like "All songs written by [Joni Mitchell] except X, written by [Mitchell and Tom Scott]." (Not that I remember whether Scott and his LA Express actually co-wrote anything with her, but they surely did back her up on some wonderful music.)

#87 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:35 AM:

Given the prevalence of "homosexual" behavior throughout several classes of vertebrate, I'd say it's incredibly unlikely to be a "trait" in itself, rather than the incidental result of slack in the developmental program. As noted previously, the idea of a "homosexual" is certainly a modern cultural construct.❣

When looked at in those terms, the question isn't "what is it for", but "what is is good for?" That is, any given species, or even smaller groups, is free to make whatever use of it comes to hand. In Mammalia, that seems to be mostly social uses -- dominance and/or bonding. In Aves, there are some celebrated examples of "gay adoptions" as well. (I'm not sure how common that is in non-human mammals.) We humans have the unique ability to reflect on the questions and decide how we want to make use of such behavior. Note that "anti-gay prejudice" falls squarely under dominance behavior, but I'd say it's (at least) remarkably wasteful of human capacity.

❣ Not that there weren't people in ancient Greece of Rome who only fooled around with the same sex -- we have surviving texts complaining or teasing people about their "narrow-mindedness" in that regard... or for the reverse! I've seen one humorous piece arguing the relative benefits....

#88 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:46 AM:

You* may not see any use for gay people, but just wait until the aliens come down and threaten to destroy our species for just not having anyone really fabulous.

Xopher, Russell T Davies called. He wants his script back for the remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still".

#89 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 06:04 AM:

May I respectfully suggest a thread for UK politics. We managed OK during the election, but now we might need the troll-bait...

#90 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:01 AM:

Mary Dell, is it my imagination, or did Charlie's hair also get a lot thicker since the last batch of pictures?

Glad he didn't refuse the new arm, and hope all continues well with it.

#91 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:25 AM:

Mary Dell @74 Wow, that's great.

B. Durbin @82, good stuff. I especially liked the twist that led to Blessed are the barren, whose minds have never born fruit.

#92 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:38 AM:

Lee @81 Yay for open thread serendipity! I've been trying to track down that song for ages. I thought it was Dr. Jane Robinson, but it isn't on either of the cassettes I have. Do you happen to know if it's been released on a cassette or CD, or at the very least where I could find a complete set of lyrics?

#93 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:49 AM:

#44: Midsummer runs about two and a half hours.

#63: *Groan* That may be the best pun I've heard all week.

#94 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 09:26 AM:

albatross @50 --

The first thing I'm saying is that there is no "good". Once you stick "good" into an explanation of evolutionary processes, you've dived off into the weeds at best and maybe into the rosa multiflora thicket, from which you will have a mighty struggle to extract yourself.

Many more are born than can possibly survive.

Natural selection works by differential rates of death and failure; the question of success does not ever enter into it, only failing less badly.

Aging is actively selected *for*; there are tetrapods (some fish and some lizards) that do not age, aging is not required by age-dependent gene expression. It's been proven (by a bunch of clever experiments with fruit flies) to depend on age of first reproduction and age of last reproduction (the older the age range, start and stop, at which your population has kids is, the longer your population will tend to live), and by using artificial selection the researcher was able to quadruple the life span of the fruit flies. (Someone else has apparently been doing this with mice, too.) It's apparently got a lot to do with mitochondria, which have been under heavy selection in humans for quite awhile.

Humans are not even close to homogeneous for aging rates, either.

heresiarch @52 --

I think it's much less neat boxes -- it's not obviously more difficult to generate gay stereotypes than any other kind -- as wretched insecurity management around general loss of male power, or, at least, the general, forced, and implacable suppression of primate dominance behaviors. Lots of resulting male sexual insecurity, and *poof*, homophobia. (And never mind noticing that everyone is better off for the suppression of those behaviors.)

Bruce @57 --

Genes sure are selected. There's an entire thriving set of science about detected and tracking genetic-level evidence of selection. Genes may have an environment of phenotypes which in turn have a larger world as their selective environment, but that doesn't mean the genes themselves are not selected.

Xopher @72 --

Homophobia is a cultural response to perceived loss of male authority. Since the social importance of rural cultures have cratered in the last two generations, this is amplified. It's not a *good* reason, in the sense of "does not provide long-term benefit to the people doing it", but it's the basic primate chase-relative-status-before-absolute-status wetware bug, which is to say it's an inherently generational problem. (Even without various forms of cynical exploitation playing thereupon.)

#95 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:00 AM:

Open-threadiness, re intellectual property:

On a model railroading list, someone sent a pointer to a "layout design contest." All designs become their sole property, they don't say whether you even get credit for them, and they sell you, at a discount, two copies of any books in which they might be published.

In the words of Jubal Harshaw, "I admire a whole-hearted thief."

Suffice it to say, nobody on that list is planning to submit a design.

#96 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:12 AM:

I don't know if anyone else has mentioned this yet, and I forget which thread it originally came up in even, but the story about the six-foot rabbit and the girl babies is "Childs Play" which was in the January 1970 Worlds Of If, aka "Uncle Sam's Children" collected in The Best Laid Schemes by Larry Eisenberg, published circa 1971 by Collier Books (paperback) or Macmillan (hardcover).

Rereading it today, as opposed to the early 80s when I first read it, I can only imagine the Defense Department official saying "Boys, girls, whatever! We'll take them! An army's an army!" which says a lot about how society has changed in the past 40 years.

#97 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:17 AM:

#77: Cool Mary Dell! I bet it's the dinosaurs, though.

I read that and I had to click BACK to the picture to verify that the dinos in question were age-appropriate.

Damn you, Making Light, for your burned-in associations!

#98 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:38 AM:

Mary Dell (74): That's great! Those look like the same dinosaurs as on the old arm; I take it they were able to reuse the fabric?

#99 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:40 AM:

Lee 81" What's the tune there? Not being a country-music fan, I'm not placing it.

I've heard speculation to the effect that in a less gender-rigid culture, the majority of people would be bisexual -- that monosexuality, whether hetero or homo, would be relatively rare.

I think that's probably what's going on under the surface even in our society, but it's distorted and obscured by the terrorist regime of gender roles, and the homophobic idea of "contamination"—that is, a person, especially if male, who has had even one homosexual experience is irretrievably queer—which helps enforce the prohibition against doing so, because guys who might otherwise at least do some messing around in high school and college are afraid of being tagged as "queer" if they do. The gay community helps enforce this too.

I'm hoping that this will change as homophobia fades, and that "the gay community," so crucial now to the safety of gay people, especially those just coming out, will cease to be necessary, and the cultural labeling picked up by socializing in that community will likewise fade.

David 87: Not that there weren't people in ancient Greece of Rome who only fooled around with the same sex -- we have surviving texts complaining or teasing people about their "narrow-mindedness" in that regard... or for the reverse!

I remember Mary Renault (in the voice of her narrator Alexias in The Last of the Wine) saying that one never saw Xenophon paying court to a boy, or Plato to a woman. She remarked that it was no wonder two such "extreme natures" didn't get along. She's notorious for idealizing ancient Greece, and imbuing her ancient characters with 20th Century English virtues (and even looks), so take that with a few grains of salt.

ajay 88: You've called my attention to the fact that I left out a footnote there. It was going to specify that that 'You' was general, not as addressing Graydon specifically, but I think people assumed that.

Graydon 94: Homophobia is a cultural response to perceived loss of male authority.

Could you support that assertion a little, please? It sounds like nonsense to me. Homophobia is clearly part of the enforcement mechanism of dominator culture, in which a few men dominate all the other men and all women, but unless you think that perceptions of male authority have been declining continuously for the past 2000 years (or more), I don't see homophobia as a reaction to such a loss.

#100 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:41 AM:


Darn you to heck, Lee. There's a link half way down that page that leads to [REDACTED]*

And I had stuff to do today, too :(

*This link replaced with the appropriate xkcd reference for your safety and sanity. You're welcome.

#101 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:50 AM:

Apropos #89, making lemonade from the UK election outcome ... I am now looking forward to explaining to non-internationalist Americans just what a "Liberal-Democrat Conservative government" is and does.

(And to pointing out that the head of the conservatives in the UK brackets a socialist healthcare system with mom and apple pie.)

/me likes watching heads explode.

#102 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:52 AM:

Nix #56:

But there's no reason to think the same neutral traits would end up everywhere, yet my understanding is that homosexuality is everywhere, among all racial/ethnic/whatever groups, all over the world. I mean, for neutral traits, I'd think of stuff like red hair or blue eyes. They're not important in terms of fitness (other than maybe in terms of mate preference, but I don't know why we'd expect that to be true over long periods of time), they just arose from random sampling sort of effects in a limited population.

#103 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 11:24 AM:

Serge @#80: His real claws already feel like adamantium to me (he scratches Mommy when thwarted).

Rikibeth @#90: His hair has finally started to catch up with the rest of his growth, although it's still a bit laggard in places.

Sandy B @#97: These dinosaurs appear to be pure of heart, but you never know, with dinosaurs.

Mary Aileen @98: It's more of the same fabric. They laminate it under the top layer of fiberglass. It has to be a stretch fabric, and strangely it's very hard to find stretch fabric with cute designs on it, although it's ubiquitous in children's clothing. I guess the clothing manufacturers make their own fabric and don't license it to fabric stores. So I got some big-kid Gymboree pajamas that we've been cannibalizing. They should last for another year or two (at the rate of 1 arm per year) and then we'll pick a new design/pajama.

#104 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 11:46 AM:

Off any current topic: two t-shirts I want.

1) One that quotes Lee from a previous thread, but somewhat adjusted for dramatic effect: i cant brain today (newline) i have the dumb (I've quoted that to selected people and they've all laughed. I think it's even funnier in writing.)

2) One that says, in huge letters, CTHULHU HATES FAGS and then below that in much, much smaller letters, the rest of you...*slurrrrrp*

#106 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 12:04 PM:

Xopher, the first one is an Internet tradition.

#107 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 12:53 PM:

Xopher, #99: I think it was an original melody in the C&W style. Use anything you can find that fits, or feel free to come up with your own!

Russ, #100: Oops, sorry! I didn't scroll down that far, or I would have included a warning.

Xopher, #104: I can't claim originality on that line, because I know I heard it somewhere else. However, I've passed your suggestions along to my partner for evaluation.

#108 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 12:57 PM:

Lee, TexAnne identified one source from a couple of years ago at 106. I still wannit. Preferably without the cat.

#109 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:08 PM:

albatross @ 102: You're making it more complicated than it needs to be. Graydon is saying exactly what I have said before, and quite well.

Homosexuality simply exists in the mammalian population -- and possibly in the entire vertebrate population (I won't try for all chordates) -- simply because it (1) arose early enough in evolution that all vertebrates have "the genes" and (2) there is no selective pressure against it.

We don't need positive selection for a trait to persist. It simply does not have to be a bad enough trait. There are many examples of bad traits that persist, even lethal ones, because they either (a) aren't bad enough until later in life, when the next generation is already born or (b) confer some other advantage in the heterozygous mode -- this would be the sickle cell trait example. The only lethal traits that are immediately eliminated from the population are the ones that cause embryonic, fetal, or neonatal death (or post-natal early death). All others will persist in the population for some time.

Selection is not an active process. You are correct in that it depends on the environment in which those genes are expressed; however, as long as that environment does not actively kill the person carrying that genome, it will persist in the population. Any set of genes that may potentially confer any slight advantage, given a specific or non-specific environment, will be "rewarded" with increased incidence, depending on the environment. Blue eyes are an example; in the equatorial regions, pale skin and blue eyes are not helpful -- but they are not lethal. Further away from the equator, and that pale skin becomes advantageous.

Nature works with the cards she's dealt, and evolution is the trend over time of what she's done with all the combinations available.

Finally, sexuality, like all other human behavior, is truly not a discrete phenomenon within a population. It's a continuous phenomenon -- a population of a given size will always have at least this percentage of gay/lesbian, this percentage of bisexual, and this percentage of hetero -- and all the percentages will describe overlapping sections of the population.

Population biology is a bit different. Evolution works on populations, not individuals.

#110 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:25 PM:

Greater NYC area folk . . . especially those who knit / mold / hammer / saw & Etcetera:

There's going to be a Maker Faire at the Hall of Science in Queens, September 25 & 26.

Which sounds like an awful long time to wait, but they're starting to look for exhibitors:

#111 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:27 PM:

Paula #78

grooveshark is a nice site for finding lots of songs...

#112 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:28 PM:

re109: Actually there's another class of traits that persist: those that have a high spontaneous occurrence rate. Classic hemophilia is an example: 30% of cases show no family history and appear to come from mutation.

#113 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:39 PM:

Xopher #46 - the sesamoid bone in the hand is pretty useless. It's so-called because it's about the size of a sesame seed. It's in just the right place to be the evolutionary remnant of the meta-carpal that the thumb doesn't have.

Bruce #57 - wolf packs have some turnover. Not every female will get to be alpha, though - There's a detailed account of turnover in a study pack at

#114 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:45 PM:

Graydon @ 94: "Lots of resulting male sexual insecurity, and *poof*, homophobia."

Yes, that's another important factor--homophobia (and misogyny) are both dissipation mechanisms for impotent rage. However the source of that impotent rage was, I think, the enormous and destructive changes that industrial capitalism brought on. The particular way it developed into mutually exclusive categories of homosexuality* and heterosexuality was primarily determined, I think, but the larger social project of naming and categorizing everything.

* Categories which, as Xopher has mentioned, have survived the demonization of homophobia--plenty of proudly self-identifying homosexuals still buy into the homo/hetero binary whole-heartedly. The real question for me isn't "why do some people prefer having sex with the same gender†?" but "why do people treat who you have sex with as a super-important definitional aspect of your identity?" It seems quite weird to me.

† Really, some people fall in love with buildings, and I challenge anyone to explain that by reference to genetic selection. Obviously the structures that determine sexual preference are complex and environmentally influenced.

#115 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:52 PM:

Lee @81 --

"behold the careful Kangaroo, which does not breed like Roaches do".

("this one went like a lamb to slaughter,
put the acid in the water;
this one's life was long, and placid;
put the water in the acid.")

#116 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 01:53 PM:

re:112: Spontaneous mutations are not selected for. We're talking about selective pressure on a population. If a spontaneous mutation confers some advantage, then it is more likely to persist in the population, becoming fixed. If it confers a disadvantage, then you find it only at the rate of spontaneous mutations, which depends on a set of other factors unrelated to the population genetics that we've been discussing.

Spontaneous mutation is spontaneous.

#117 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:10 PM:

It's never been really obvious to me why putting the water in the acid is safer. I accept that it is (and did my bio and chem classes and a science fair project without any acid burns, by doing things in the proper order), this seems to be something that's been adequately studied; I'm just interested in the mechanisms behind various failure modes and why they're less of a problem when adding water to acid. I often remember things better with basic principles than with rules.

I see three areas of difference:

The total amount of each available (starting with a beaker of acid, there's more acid to do bad things!)

Which is being added (Various mechanisms probably have a preference for ejecting more of what was being added, or more of what was already there).

The acid concentration of the immediate mixture (if heat of reaction is a factor? I'm guessing that's part of what's going on).

And one and three look, immediately, as if they might favor the other order; so either they don't work like that, or effects in #2 dominate (and favor ejecting what's being added), or other factors I haven't listed are actually the important ones.

Anybody know? (I should remember to ask my friendly local chemist's daughter.)

#118 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:17 PM:

Higgledy Piggledy,
nat'ral selection *is*
higgles and piggles--no
positive plan.

Such spontaneity
works advantageously
towards more variety.
Darwin's my man!

#119 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:22 PM:

ddb @117

Yes, you should ask her.

She might have a solution.

#120 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:22 PM:

Photo of the Rocket Park at the NY Hall of Science (which is about 20 minutes from where I live):

This was one of my favorite places to visit as a child; at one point they had a nuclear reactor demo (you could pretend to add and remove coolant rods and watch what happened to the chain reaction) and a really cool space shuttle exhibit which was part film and part moving models where the shuttle (yellow and triangular) launched, docked with a space station, and then came back to earth. You watched in reclining seats as in a planetarium.

There's a wonderful playground there as well (this needs more pictures but is a start: Apparently there's minigolf in/near the rocket park, which I didn't know about and now will have to check out.

Caveat is that this is a better place for younger children--10 and under--than teens and adults. Which is too bad.

#121 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:24 PM:

Douchenozzles! Douchenozzles!1
Facebook executives
Live in a dream world where
"Privacy sucks!"2

Mining our data-poo
Grossly rewards them with
Billions of bucks.3

1 This is a term some of us are using over on Facebook in the context of their recent and ubiquitous privacyfail behavior.
2 Paraphrases a recent Facebook policy speech.
3 Facebook secondary market valuation USD$14 billion.

#122 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:24 PM:

Sarah@119: Well, I don't want to be precipitate about it.

#123 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:27 PM:

ddb @122

Puns are, of course, base. And yet I make them acid-uously.

#124 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:30 PM:

Sarah@124: I find myself salting my conversation with them.

#125 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:31 PM:

heresiarch @114 --

While aspects of the industrialization process were certainly destructive, I think it's more effective when looking at this sort of question to view industrialization as a change in the default social group size.

Village agricultural organization is quite small; you get a reasonably integral hierarchy with between one and two thousand people in it. This provides a pretty normative distribution of alpha-male and paterfamilias social slots, and the enforcement mechanisms are mostly informal, easily understood, and kin-group mediated. (They're also pretty brutal mechanisms; imagine living in a Jane Austen novel and then consider that those depict the moneyed leisure class!)

With industrialization, the minimum useful co-operating group size went up, kept going up, and now it's enormous. (Single clever individuals can do really cool things in their garages, yes, but that's because they're embedded in a regulated global commercial culture. Before that was true, the lone inventor didn't happen.)

Raise the minimum useful co-operating group size and a bunch of things happen. There are many fewer dominant male slots in the social structure; kin-mediation breaks down, and gets replaced by law and bureaucracy; the basic dominant male primate virtues of being tough and loud and belligerent go from being net positives to net negatives to (in the last generation or so in urban Anglo NorAm) disastrous for your reproductive fitness. Co-operation, husbandry, self-rule, and forethought, the basic civilized male virtues, go from being a narrow professional class aspirational set to being widely mandated and enforced by a powerful legal system.

So the way you get male status has changed, and because of the minimum useful co-operating group size increase, there are many fewer social positions that really count as high status. These are obviously unobtainable for almost anyone; no amount of work and luck will do it from where they are currently starting, and this is obvious.

So we're in the tail end of a major social selective event; the construction of masculinity is up for grabs (and mostly being grabbed at by advertisers...), the expectations of the remaining mythology are totally at odds with the expectations of society, and we're seeing everything you'd expect to see as the old value dies and there's no widespread replacement; fake versions (Chuck Norris as a meme, sports celebrity, "professional wrestling"), exaggerated social signaling, including out-group violence, for status confirmation, and the collapse of the interim authority preservation mechanism, the strict nuclear family in which Dad wears the pants and Mom handles emotional issues.

So people treat who you have sex with as definitional because most of the substantial things for creating identity have collapsed, they're scared of winding up in a worse category than they are in now, and most people aren't possessed of the cognitive tools to ask questions about "how is my identity constructed?" (And as the experience of second wave feminism shows, trying to promulgate those tools gets immediate harsh responses.)

Lots of other things -- misogyny, racism, the artificial labour surplus policies of most US industrial interests, the requirement for education to get a good job -- muddle this, but the core thing is that the social definition of "man" has collapsed, and no one is quite sure what to replace it with; "person" is getting nowhere as a marketing category, and while things like the general assumption of infant child care roles by fathers are massively significant, the mythology is still back in the late 19th century somewhere. (Take a look at movies; strong male roles are inevitably implausibly violent.)

Given the degree of improvement in material conditions, and the reasonable possibility of maintaining this, I suspect we're eventually going to see some new art on the subject, but it's probably even tougher than effective rationalist mythology.

#126 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:34 PM:

Oops, I left this in preview all night.

B.Durbin @ 82:

Wow. I"ve got to come up with some other word to use when I read your poetry; it's getting monotonous. How about: "that's great"?

Lee @ 81:

Nice one. Much easier to understand than what I wrote.

Mary Dell @ 74:

Now that's just as cool as anything!

Xopher @ 72:

Sorry if I turned you off with technical jargon. One of my hot buttons is how the subtlety of evolution is caricatured by popular misunderstanding, even by people who don't have religious objections to the concepts of evolution. When I hear those caricatures I tend to pull out the big guns to blast them to smithereens; it's overkill in most situations.

Personally, I think a lot of the homophobia in Western society is part and parcel of the general disparaging of women, and "female values". Anything that makes a man less than the gynophobic ideal is dangerous; anything that makes a man more like a woman (like being sexually attracted to a man) is downright subversive, and needs to be suppressed.

#127 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 02:38 PM:

ddb @124

They're a crucial element of good conversation.

Where's Serge? Isn't he usually the catalyst for this sort of thing?

#128 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:08 PM:

Xopher @72: Personally I think the whole human community benefits from gay people.

Well, if I may be so bold as to put my foot right in the middle of it, my experience is that gay people (of whatever gender or sex) tend to be more well-rounded people than straights.

I speculate the following:

1. Gay people have more of the [genetics/cultural gender-identified behavior/twitchy dumaflitchies/whatever] that makes the other sex. So if males are "blue" and women are "red," then gay people tend to be more "purple," and therefore more "balanced" psychically.

2. Gay (and other kinds of non-straight-genetically-and-culturally-het) people have to work harder and face more adversity in daily social negotiations, and as a consequence have a more conscious and clearer understanding of the mechanics of how to function in society.

And are perforce clearer about who they are as individuals.

Gross overgeneralizations and wild speculations aside, I find most of the gay folks I know to be terribly interesting people. They generally have an angle on life that I don't see in the straights I know.

People way out on the skinny end of the sexuality bell curve like me (whose sexual thoughts about women were rare, fleeting, and completely over by age 23 or so)

<ears perk up>

were much less likely to have children of our own before the invention of the turkey baster!

Uh, yes. Ahem! <cough> <cough>

there are lots of societies ... where the rigid categories of 'gay' and 'straight' aren't enforced

I would probably be inclined to call myself "bi" if I wasn't so hopelessly squicked by female anatomy. Ahem.


Xopher, I have to say. I'm becoming a fan.

#129 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:14 PM:

Graydon @ 115:

Are you sure you got the water/acid, acid/water order correct?

As I recall, you add the (concentrated, strong) acid to the water in small quantities so you don't get a nice, large, exothermic reaction going. If you drop water into the acid, it could boil and spit and do nasty things to you.

This is why I don't actually like that family of little rhymes: I remember the general feel of them, but always get the water/acid order mixed up and leave more confused than I started.

On evolution and such:

Looking for any evolutionary advantage to being gay is rooting (sorry) around for the wrong thing, in my opinion. As many people have already mentioned, a trait doesn't have to be advantageous to survive, merely not too disadvantageous.

This is also why I find the temptation to hang stories and explanations on how being gay could be selected for to be well into the just-so category. Until they have actual evidence, they often strike me as stories that straight people tell to try to figure out this whole gay thing, instead of accepting that there's a great deal of human experience and variation.

It also could well be the case that strong desire one way or another (once you take away cultural influences) is a product of development in utero and not genetics as such.

#130 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:15 PM:

Graydon, apropos @125: that's a compelling and very neat argument. I'd like to consider how it applies to other, parallel cultures, though. And to dissimilar ones.

Why, for example, are we seeing the current upswing in violent homophobia in Africa? (I'll buy "meddling American evangelists" only up to a point. Africa clearly isn't a post-agricultural continent, much less post-industrial.)

Again, how does the collapse of the cultural construction of masculinity play out in, say, the Netherlands (homosexuality decriminalised in, oh, 1812 if I remember correctly) or the UK (did the industrialization thing two or three generations before the USA) or Japan (a post-malthusian, largely urban nation since the 16th-17th century, that has radically different determinants of status than anything we see in North America/Western Europe)?

I'll buy your theory as a good first take at the problem, but I think you underestimate the effect of religious sanctions variation and also possibly overestimate the importance of the shift from village-based agricultural hierarchies to bigger, more complex societies.

(But I'm not sure.)

#131 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:16 PM:

Sarah@127: Frequently he has, yes. He's probably hanging back to see how we do. Testing our metal, as it were.

#132 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:29 PM:

Graydon@115: Online sources seem to prefer adding the acid to the water -- AND explain some of the reasons why, which mostly satisfies my #117.

#133 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:31 PM:

Sarah @ 127: Periodically, he relaxes, just to see what kind of reaction people have.

#134 ::: Ruth Temple ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:37 PM:

RT @RealAHuxley : RT @Miranda : O Brave New World, that—

#135 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:39 PM:

Open-threadiness which has nothing to do with social constructions of gender or Twitter!

One of my friends said in chat: "if middle earth doesn't have its own set of cheeses I'll be surprised."

The discussion immediately got silly(-ier):

> is there Bree brie?

> Taste not of the black Manchego of Mirkwood, for it is bitter cold

> "Muensthril... 'true-bleu'. The Dwarves loved it dearly. Deep they delved, and awoke an ancient evil."

Other suggestions?

#136 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:45 PM:

Andrew@135: Oh, dear. This looks dangerous.

#137 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:49 PM:

Graydon's rhyme in 115, as KeithS points out in 129 without saying so, is rather like some of Aleister Crowley's instructions on performing rituals -- a dangerous mindworm mnemonic designed to confuse those who use mnemonics mindlessly. If you don't understand the reason why the mnemonic works (which, again, Keith explains quite well), the mnemonic isn't very useful in the less-common situations. There's a similar one on whether drinking beer after whiskey is safer than drinking whiskey after beer: I can never remember whether "beer on whiskey" goes with "mighty risky" or "feeling frisky".

#138 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:49 PM:

KeithS @129 --

No, I'm not sure I have that the right way around at all. Chemistry was some time ago, and my brain will insist on editing poetry without bothering to tell me, too.

Charlie @130 --

Well, let's see.

I don't know much about Africa, but am pretty sure that there's a lot of urbanization going on. Combine that with a non-rational world view, lack of a common religious background or universal ethnic bogyman, and what's left to dump the hostility at?

And no, they're not post-agriculture, but they're also not doing things the traditional, village way anymore, either; they're getting some side effects (transport, comms) of the industrial world, and this is moving the basis of social success. So I'd expect that they're an increase in the minimum useful co-operating group size, it's just not as far along. But it doesn't have to be all the way along to introduce substantial social insecurity.

Japan... Japan is tough to describe, I think, because they have gone through two conscious redefinitions of status in the past two centuries (post-Perry, and post-Great Pacific War; I can't offhand think of another industrial culture that has lost a war that completely) but will note that there's some evidence that one of the causes of their low fertility rate is an increasing refusal of Japanese women to tolerate marriage to Japanese men.

So I think the Japanese came up with a conscious re-definition of male status, post-Great-Pacific-War, and blew it; they've either got to change it or accept the influence of contingency on whatever cultural continuity they're going to have. But I think the response to the minimum-useful-group-size-increase pattern was different, much more consciously undertaken post-Perry, and lead to the serious contradictions that were Imperial Japan. (Quite possibly *because* it was conscious and fast; the habits of civilization were outrun by the capacities of industrialization.)

I'd say the Netherlands, and parts of Scandinavia, are making good tries at "person" as a real marketing category; they're all small, sophisticated (in a bunch of senses) and aware their entire cultures are too small to be a single minimum sized co-operating group in a post-industrial economy. So... be good at what you're good at, and be really, really civilized because you can't, culturally, expect to survive a collapse of civilization's rules.

The UK industrialized sooner, but it also -- in part from the founder affect associated with going first -- did it with less geographical dislocation and on a smaller total scale, and, arguably, with less deployed organizational machinery to support larger scales. I'd suggest that this combined with a much stronger and much more successful labour movement to change the rate of UK male status collapse during the minimum-useful-size-goes-up transition.

Religious sanction variation change who the hostility is pointed at, but, really, religion has no material basis. Unless and until a religious organization has a primary economic role (such as the monopoly on the recording of contracts held by the church in Western Europe up until 1350 or so) a religion isn't going to cause anything. (See also abolitionist rhetoric leading up to the Slaveholder's Revolt in the US; intensely religious language in a lot of it, but the religiosity wasn't what made it a viable cause.)

#139 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:54 PM:

Minas Tilsit
Shelob-burn Cheddar
Shop-Shire Cheddar
Baggins Laonnaise
Meriadoc Blue

(Of course Aragorn really is a cheese. Close enough, anyway.)

#140 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:56 PM:

Andrew Plotkin @135 --

It's hard to imagine that the hobbits don't have some equivalent of cheddar.

It'd deciding whether the men of Gondor go for the classical hard goat's cheeses from the high dales of the White Mountains, or the feta-ish sheep's cheeses from the coast, that's the difficult thing.

#141 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 03:57 PM:

Ginger @133 and dbb @131

He does keep up an impressively titrate of puns when he's around, so I can see how he might decide to step back for a while rather than maintaining a constant presence.

#142 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:02 PM:

Wasn't Gandalf imprisoned on the top of the Liptauer?

Or do I have that not quite right...

#143 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:09 PM:

In considering the hypothetical genetics of homosexuality, I often see a bit of a blind spot regarding the variety of cultural expressions of homosexual attraction and how those expressions potentially affect genetic transmission.

Consider: In a culture where a personal affective bond is not considered a prerequisite for creating a contracting a social procreative relationship, there is no reason to suppose that people with homosexual preferences would reproduce at any lower rates than anyone else. That is, for example, if your culture says "love is irrelevant to marriage -- your family will arrange a suitable partner for you and the both of you are expected to do your duty" then the person who isn't attracted to their partner's gender in general is in the same position as the person who isn't attracted to their partner in the particular.

The notion that homosexual attraction will invariably lead to exclusively homosexual social behavior seems to be an extremely recent phenomenon (and quite possibly a peculiarly Western one). I'm not thinking solely about being "in the closet" but more of the general phenomenon that most people will perform in the manner that their society expects them to, even when it goes against their own personal preferences, in a wide variety of things.

Historically, the circumstances in which people with homosexual preferences were free to restrict their social and sexual bonds to same-sex relationships were fairly rare. It doesn't even take active prejudice against homosexual behavior -- in only takes a pervasive social template that says, "whatever else you do in your life, you will get married and have children."

Coming up with evolutionary mechanisms for either the propagation or suppression of "gay genes" strikes me as about as useful as coming up with evolutionary mechanisms for the expression of any strongly cultural behavior. Compare, for example, the arguments made for the evolutionary adaptation of culturally gender-specific behaviors ... especially when those behaviors are associated with entirely different genders in different cultures. (For example, the assignment of "more talkative" variously to either men or women in different cultures.) The noise of the cultural effects overwhelms even our ability to detect any genetic signal that might underlie it.

I am, as far as I can tell, exclusively homosexually oriented. And in the late-20th/early-21st century I'm not only reasonably free to express that in the form of exclusively forming same-sex relationships[1], but I have many available cultural models offering this as a viable option. If I had been born, for example, in the early 20th century -- and had the same basic personality that I currently have -- I consider it highly likely that I would have ended up in a heterosexual marriage with children, simply because I wouldn't have had a strong enough reason to resist the cultural template. There are a lot of things I've done in my life that I didn't particularly care for but that were necessary to get things I did want. [2]

The last half-century or so is a very minor blip on the evolutionary timeline. When making evolutionary arguments, we need to make sure that the behaviors we're positing are, in fact, necessary concommitants of the genes we're positing, or are a very superficial cultural manifestation.

[1] Leaving aside, of course, my lack of success in exploiting that freedom.

[2] For example, I regularly make enormous compromises between "the type of social events that I enjoy" and "the type of social events that the people I like enjoy". If I restricted myself to attending social events that I actively enjoy for their own sake, I would be very very lonely.

#144 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:13 PM:

Sarah@141: Yes, giving us a chance to get salted through experience.

#145 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:16 PM:

Sarah @ 141: We are all in awe of his caustic wit.

Heather @ 143: Well said!

#146 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:19 PM:

Graydon @125: For the benefit of those of us who have been hiding under a rock for the last twenty years, please say more about this "second wave of feminism" you mention.

I haven't heard this term, and I'm curious to know more.

#147 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:21 PM:

Jackque@146: On a quick scan this describes roughly what I understand "second-wave feminism" to mean.

#148 ::: Shay ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:25 PM:

Cheese, Twitter, and chemistry would make an interesting flashfic prompt.

Long-time lurker and (very) occasional poster dropping in to add a signal boost for a Kickstarter project that may be of interest to many Making Light readers: AE - The Canadian Science Fiction Review have only three days left to meet their goal of launching a Canadian, SFWA-qualified market.

As a fledgling science fiction author (and lucky enough to be a runner-up in their Micro fiction contest!), I'm really hopeful, but it's looking like a longshot at this point.

#149 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:31 PM:

Teh Fluorosphere @genetics of homosexuality: <happy wiggle> This is what I come here for!

#150 ::: Semperfiona ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:38 PM:

Re Acid & Water

My inorganic chemist mother has a very short version of the acid-water mnemonic:

Do as you oughter, add the acid to the water.

(To be generally pronounced with intrusive r's in both oughter and water, for extra emphasis.)

(It should be noted that I do not come from a dialect area where either of those words are pronounced with intrusive r's.)

#151 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:49 PM:

Graydon @ 125: Without really disagreeing with most of what you're arguing,* the shift to industrial production truly was enormously destructive and traumatic. For a large class of men it meant going from being a fairly secure farmer or craftsmen to being a wage laborer with no job security whatsoever. It meant going from being able to predict with confidence what your grandchildren would do for a living to not knowing how you would feed yourself tomorrow. The psychological trauma of that, especially given a masculinity built around providing for and protecting your family, is enormous--it's still echoing through society.

The structural problems caused by trying to apply a pre-modern masculinity to a modern society that you've outlined are exacerbated by the underlying impossibility of protecting anyone, providing any kind of security in an industrialized, capitalized, constantly mutating world.

* With one exception: "there are many fewer social positions that really count as high status."

I think that's a difference without much effect--high status positions have always been out of reach of the majority of men. Thinking "I'll never be CEO of Microsoft" isn't so different than "I'll never be village headman." Humans are very bad at differentiating between low probability events and really, really low probability events. Insofar as the realization that you'll never be the big boss is a crisis of masculinity, it's one that's been around for a long time.

#152 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 04:49 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 137 makes me feel all intelligent instead of confused, which is nice.

Heather Rose Jones @ 143 talks about marriage for love/non-duty as being a fairly modern construct. I promise I've thought about this, but I completely and utterly spaced on it this time.

#153 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 05:01 PM:

Graydon @ 138: In the past few years the Single Mothers by Choice group has seen an uptick in inquiries from Japanese women, both in Japan and in the US. Some interest from the Japanese press too.

#154 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 05:16 PM:

Graydon, #138: Googling on "added water to the acid" brings up the following:

"May her rest be long and placid,
She added water to the acid.
The other girl did what we taught her,
And added acid to the water."

and several similar variations, as well as some lab horror stories about adding water to acid.* I think your poetry-editing function has indeed betrayed you this time.

* One of which included the information that it's much better to wear cotton clothing than synthetics when working with acids. A group of people got splashed when a beaker fell over; the ones wearing cotton just had holes in their clothes, while the ones wearing synthetics had burns -- the synthetics soaked and/or melted, leaving the acid in contact with the skin for much longer periods.

#155 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 05:31 PM:

Unmitigated open-thready weirdness:

Bronte Sisters Power Dolls

#156 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 05:33 PM:

Tom Whitmore: I've heard the mnemonic as "Beer before liquor, never sicker. Liquor before beer, never fear." I've had it explained to me that the carbs in the beer coat your stomach, slowing alcohol absorption, and when that coating wears off all of the alcohol in your stomach hits your system at once.

As I don't care for beer, or for the taste of alcohol in general*, this remains academic to me.

*This makes me the automatic driver designate.

#157 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 05:47 PM:

Arizona's legislative sinkhole: deeper and wider.

#158 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 05:49 PM:

i can think of reasonable explanations for either direction, b. Durbin @156; the carbonation relaxing the pyloric valve so the alcohol passes through the stomach and into the intestine could either mean that adding beer to an alcohol-saturated stomach sends excessive amounts into the intestine where it can be absorbed more rapidly could make "beer on liquor" more dangerous to someone who wasn't used to that rush, just for one fairly simple mechanism that would produce the opposite effect from your version. I'm pretty good at coming up with explanations, though.

#159 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 07:07 PM:

B. Durbin, #156: SEEBLING! I can't stand the taste of alcohol either, and I don't mind at all being the default designated driver. Especially at places where the designated driver gets free sodas or juices. :-)

#160 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 07:14 PM:

My own thoughts on the EU bailout of Greece...

Greece is no longer an independent nation state.

Oh, it still has the trappings of one. It still has a national flag, an army, a navy and an air force and all the other symbols.

But it really isn’t one anymore.

It is the first example of Euro-neo-colonialism.

In exchange for the bailout, Greece had to give up its national sovereignty. It is required to reduce its massive public deficit but has to adopt, by June, no less than 17 specific legal and budget changes. The government *has* to reduce the Easter, summer and Christmas bonuses of civil servants and pensioners, increase taxes on fuel, tobacco and alcohol, and pass a law to simplify the rules for new business start-ups.

Once they do that, the Greeks *have* to fulfill nine other requirements, such as pension reform that raises the retirement age to 65 from the current average of 61. By December, the government has to adopt 12 additional measures, among them mandating the use of generic drugs in the state health care system. Then there are further deadlines in March, June and September of 2011.

Nobody, especially the Greeks, believed that the EU has so much power over its member states.

Some Greeks are calling the EU demands the equivalent of foreign occupation (references to the Ottoman Turks and the Nazis are popular) and urging resistance. Rioting is the normal form of protest in Athens and its environs, but it could take more subtle forms. Athens is where 364 people tell the tax authorities that they own swimming pools - and satellite photos show 16,974.

This shows that if you play by the rules, you are part of the world’s largest and most prosperous economy. But if you don’t, you risk coming under foreign economic occupation.

#161 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 07:30 PM:

Jacque 128: Xopher, I have to say. I'm becoming a fan.

Thank you! Um. *many blushes*

#162 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 07:33 PM:

Earl Cooley III (157)
in re. Arizona and their new "educational" reform.

What are they going to do about all the slant in the social studies books that implies that Hispanics, Asians and other People of Color are targeting the White Folks and want to take away all the money and stuph?

Or alternatly, the constructions that imply that the non-whites have *already* taken all the good stuph away, and the whites are an oppressed minority?

Because you will surely find those constructions in the "history" texts if the trends in Texas specifications for curriculum continue to their (ill)logical conclusions

#163 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 07:57 PM:

My own thought on the "Beer before liquor, never been sicker" mnemonic is that one who has been drinking beer all evening is probably drunker than she realizes, and if she switches at the end of the night to hard liquor, she's suddenly increased her alcohol-per-volume consumption at a point when her judgement is already impaired, and is thereby more likely to end up dancing on the furniture / declaring undying love to a stranger's kneecap / face down in the commode wasting good booze / etc.

Not that I have ever tested this experimentally, natch.

#164 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:03 PM:

Linkmeister writes in #86:

Bill Higgins @ #83, without a shred of evidence, I suspect that attribution of songwriting credit to singers is partly due to the switch to CDs from vinyl albums, with the attendant loss or reduction of liner notes (and cover art, sob). Said attribution failure got even worse when downloading became possible.

In the same without-a-shred-of-evidence spirit, allow me to disagree.

A singer has a face. A songwriter is just a name in tiny print on the record label.

So to many-- I daresay most-- people, "Over the Rainbow" becomes a Judy Garland song, not a Yip Harburg & Harold Arlen song.

Now, I am the sort of person who tends to read record labels. And prefaces to books. Even, often, the acknowledgements. I sit through the credits at the end of the movie. Thus I construct for myself the hidden network of people who bring us the arts.

The Fluorosphere is filled with people like me. Perhaps we can lose sight of the teeming hordes who are not Lingering Credits-Readers.

The introduction of CDs may well have made things somewhat worse, but there are plenty of music lovers who never paid any attention to the songwriter's names on the big old LP covers, either.

#165 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:20 PM:

Bill @ #164, Some of us would argue that "Over the Rainbow" is actually an Israel Kamakawiwo'ole' song, but I take your point.

I'm a label reader too. It helped that some of my favorite artists were interpreters of song, not writers themselves (Sinatra, Collins, Baez, Ronstadt). It's because of the latter that I learned about people like Warren Zevon, Eric Kaz and Karla Bonoff.

#166 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:23 PM:

Graydon: Back at 94, you made this assertion: Homophobia is a cultural response to perceived loss of male authority.

At 99, I asked if you could support that, since it seemed like nonsense.

I don't know if you just consider me not worth responding to, or if you just missed me asking. You seem to know a lot about a lot of topics, but the issue of where homophobia comes from is complex—a lot more complex, I think, than your assertion would suggest.

#167 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:24 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 164: I mostly agree, with the caveat that I don't think this applies to the pre-rock era, when it was common for more than one singer to have a hit with the same song (often in rapid succession), and songwriters like Cole Porter, Stephen Foster, and Irving Berlin were celebrities in their own right.

#168 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:30 PM:

Mary Dell, #74, Very cool indeed!

When origami meets rocket science with a gorgeous photo gallery (and an 11-second Amway commercial).

#169 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:32 PM:

KeithS at # 129 and Tom at # 137: I hear you about those mnemonics that don't actually help you remember anything. My most unfavorite was from a local TV station long ago. As best as I can recall it, it goes like this:

Weather beacon green, some kind of weather foreseen.
Weather beacon red, some kind of weather ahead.
Weather beacon white, some kind of weather in sight.
Weather beacon flashing, night or day, some kind of weather is on the way.

#170 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 08:43 PM:

Tim @ #167, not to mention all the singers in every Rodgers & Hart/Rodgers & Hammerstein musical. I don't think of "Oklahoma" as a Gordon MacRae song.

#171 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 09:34 PM:

heresiarch @151 --

For primate purposes, high male status is "I can hit who I want; I can fuck who I want". This has been -- for good and excellent reason, and as a direct consequence of the societal-level competition as effective concentrators of material power systematically removed from the formerly much more privileged male heads of families, landed men, etc.

Even with the village headman example, there's been 2 CEOs of Microsoft so far; there was one village headman for every couple thousand people.

Industrialization and perceived security trauma are big deals, yes. But material condition for pretty much everybody (in the "First World") is much better now than it was then; the floor has come up. The basic "give up direct benefit for greater indirect good" civilization trade off. (One major issue in the US is that there are strong political forces against being civilized, because the increased group size co-operation requirements will do in their preferred culture.)

Xopher @156 --

At comment 72, you said unfortunately the correct evo-bio terminology made the whole explanation turn to grey stuff in front of my eyes. I'm too stupid to understand it, I'm afraid.

Took you at your word.

Lee @154 --


(and Urk! bad internal poetry editing function; no biscuit!)

Jacque @146 --

I think you must have been under that rock for 40 years or more. The link DD-B provided seems good; the thing I was specifically thinking of was "consciousness raising", specifically trying to get women to think about why their social role was the way it was. There was, by all reports, a remarkably hostile reaction to that.

Melisa Singer @153 --

The report I remember was one that correlated experience of Western (mostly Anglo) culture to willingness to marry Japanese men on the part of marriage-age Japanese women; substantial exposure reduced it, having lived outside of Japan killed it. So I am not at all surprised. Be very interesting to see what results in a couple of generations.

#172 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 09:57 PM:

Graydon, I really respected you. Until now.

#173 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 09:59 PM:

And "Homophobia is a cultural response to perceived loss of male authority" has jack shit to do with evo-bio, and you know it.

Wow. You're really not a nice person at all, are you? It's good to know.

#174 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:07 PM:

Stefan Jones@34: You just ate two whole days of my time.

#175 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:23 PM:

Allan Beatty @169, I don't know your local weather beacon, but I do know the mnemonic for the one on the top of the old John Hancock tower (not the glass-faced one) in Boston:

Steady blue, clear view; Flashing blue, clouds due; Steady red, rain ahead; Flashing red, snow instead.

And, if it's flashing red in the summer, the Sox game is cancelled.

#176 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 10:37 PM:

re 170: This may have been a hit, but it's still just wrong.

#177 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2010, 11:16 PM:

Wow, that IS wrong. Take a work song and turn it into swing-dance...actually the actual burlaks might have liked it. Hard to know.

#178 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 12:37 AM:

With regards to CDs and liner notes, I found liner notes disappeared in the later editions of vinyl, were pretty well non-existent with cassettes, but have come back full roar with CDs.

My collection is not extensive, so YMMV.

My wonderful collections of Smithsonian piano jazz has a many page booklet at the front. My Kingston Trio "reprints" have not only the liner notes from the original albums (I know, because I also have those in vinyl), but additional notes as well. Other remastered/"reprinted" vinyl collection have wonderful liner notes.

Those albums that had liner art rather than notes in their vinyl versions don't often have much in the way of liner notes in their CD versions. There are some delightful exceptions, none of which I can remember at the moment. The newer albums that have only been produced in a CD version seem to have discovered the joys of self-ego-boo and liner notes. I enjoy reading them.

#179 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 01:07 AM:

And in this corner we discover that Waldteufel doesn't syncopate. Listen particularly to the passage that starts around 3:54, where if you're not totally aghast you might notice that he had to stick an empty measure in just to make things fit.

#180 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 02:07 AM:

Sarah S... I wish I could say I was away relaxing as Ginger suggested. To me, coming here is relaxation, but I've been kept away by a work situation that makes me feel like B'Lanna Torres in the engine room of a starship crewed by Keystone Kops.

#181 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 03:04 AM:

#171 Graydon
Huh? "I can hit who I want, I can fuck who I want" -- er, that is NOT limited to males and applies NOT to all primates (see "bonobo" which are at least as closely related to homo sapiens as chimpanzees are related to homo sapiens)but does apply to some other non-hominids--and doesn't even apply generally to human males! I remember watching then-Brigidier General Forrest G. McCartney turn a Watkins-Johnson executive into a virtual mass of shredded bloody meat on the carpet speaking quietly and intently, not yelling, not ranting, not raising his voice, not using any intemperate words, saying, "I don't think the taxpayers are getting their money's worth from you. We've been giving you funding, and what have you delivered to the government in return?" and such wordings. It was one of the most devastating verbal shreddings I've ever witnessed--and did NOT involve any hitting, or "fucking." It was very clear who the Authority and highest status person in that room was, and he was polite, he spoke quietly, and he shredded the contractor executive....

Harvard's President is female. Her predecessor was male and someone whom most of the faculty revolted against...theyre not revolting against the current President, though. "I can hit who I want, I can fuck who I want" didn't seem to work

#160 Robert

Have the Greeks been protesting Google, which is the publisher and datastore access provider of the imagery showing all those unreported swimming pools?

#151 heresiarch
Um. Since I'm commenting in reverse chrono order, I don't know Graydon in 125 wrote, however....
Historically women in most societies worked -- in medieval France (source, Medieval Households I think), married male farms were taxed double what unmarried ones were taxed, the assumption/basis being that the wife contributed an additional 100% production increase in the farm production....

Social status can be slippery--consider this forum, where "status" involves variable wich include "quality" and frequency of commentary....

#147 ddb

Hmm. I closed the browser window and so don't have the URL up, but there is a new abomination happening against women--putzes who yank out barrier method contraceptive devices from inside women, remove condoms surreptiously, put holes in condoms, deliberately.... the Wikipedia entry reads like Palin partisan/apologist content....

#126 Bruce

Personally, I think a lot of the homophobia in Western society is part and parcel of the general disparaging of women, and "female values". Anything that makes a man less than the gynophobic ideal is dangerous; anything that makes a man more like a woman (like being sexually attracted to a man) is downright subversive, and needs to be suppressed.


#125 Graydon
Um. The most hierarchical societies which have ever existed have been agricultural ones, where the god-king was at the top, and the peasants/serfs/slaves were at the bottom. Hunter gatherer societies in non-marginal lands (see anthropology and archeology intro classes, turns out that hunter-gatherer societies on non-marginal land spend less that four hours per day on food gathering and such--manual agricultural societies spend a LOT more time than that growing crops and taking care of food animals....)have high degrees of equality and low levels of hierarchy.

Alpha male assholes are NOT beneficial to have in hunter-gatherer groups. Cooperation works a lot better than the Persian-Greco-Roman model of Pater Familias with absolute authority over family/clan/gens/nation--the agricultural societies required things like water distribution systems, orderly planting, tax collection, national granaries, forcing labor to do the unpleasant tedious laborious work of planting, weeding, irrigating, cleaning the silt out of the ditches, plowing, reaping, milling, controlling distribution of food, etc. The hierarchical structure reflects social rigidity to enforce agricultural production...

Industrializing with its mechanization, CUT dramatically the levels of human labor required to produce food and clothing. The mechanization came first--water and especially steam power in large quantity for running milling, and steel plows and mechanical harvesters, reduced human labor and labor time for production. Before the industrial revolution something over 90% of the population was needed for agriculture... Steel plows and devices for automatically dropping seed while plowing fields and mechanicaly harvesters, changed that. Some countries actually tried to outlaw some type of handmills to prevent families from doing their own milling instead of having to go to a paying-taxes-to-the-state commercial miller....

Water and steam power for factories, make mass production possible, and production of much larger amounts of products such as textiles. Textile factories didn't drive farmers out of business, they drove weavers using human-powered looms out of business.... That did NOT cause a dislocation in the USA, because the USA did NOT have much in the way of "cottage" industry textile production. It caused massive dislocations in e.g. France and on Great Britain, however. It created enormous wealth for owners and investors of mass production businesses mkig manufactured products, as opposed to low production rate custom production "master" crafters (contrary to all those non-industrial era fantasy novels, women could and did own craft businesses... typically they married a craftmaster and when he died, the wife inherited the business during the Guilds eras...).

The workers got wages which exceeded what farmwork supplied, and at the same time there was the dislocation off the farms. In Europe and sch where the feudal system had been around, this was changing the economy from being based on agriculture and with manufactured goods scarce, to one where manufactured goods were becoming the commodities and the mainstay basis of the economy, and agriculture much less profitable (and much less providing a livelihood for people). The USA did not have Europe's population density and social hierarchical hereditary entrenched infrastructure and institutions.

The patriarchal perceptions were crap--the favored employees in the USA early-on in Waltham and Lowell and Lawrence and Manchester (Amoskeag), etc., were girls straight off the farm, coming to the mill cities to earn dowry money....

Go all the way back to the Tanakh and "King David not being allowed to build the Temple because he was a man of war" while the very -name- Solomon denotes "peace."

Solomon's masculinity was that of the wise man of peace, NOT the hotheaded wife-stealing warrior David....

#182 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 03:45 AM:

#94 Graydon
How does homosexual activity in prisons reconcile with your assertions regarding homophobia?! "Perceived loss of male authority" when homosexual rape is one of the ways of asserting dominance in such situations, seems completely disingenuous to me....

#53 Mattathias

Researcher biases prevented researchers from noticing that "alpha males" were not necessarily the biological fathers of the alpha males' harem members in the animal world... the females often makes choices of their own of -other- males....

#39 Graydon
I have one of each....

#183 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:17 AM:

Tom Whitmore and others:

Beer on cider, good rider.
Cider on beer, makes you feel queer.


Here down North Somerset way
We all know what makes a man gay.
They say cider on beer
Do make ’un quite queer.
John Barrowman, what do you say?


In West Country folklore it’s clear
That cider on beer makes you queer.
But my taste for male pork, sir,
Was formed in South Yorkshire.
John Barrowman? Really, my dear!

#184 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 05:27 AM:

There is of course, the possibility that homosexuality is not genetic. One might speculate that if
a) sexuality is determined by hormonal influences on the brain of the unborn child.
b) This mechanism is inherently "faulty" - that is, there is no genetic method of "improving" it.

then the incidence of homosexuality in a population will reflect the probability of the "fault" - and this will remain constant across all populations and all times.

I've quoted "fault" because I don't want to appear to be making a value judgement - I'm merely postulating that natural selection "wants" heterosexuality but is constrained by the physical nature of the mechanisms it works with, in the same way as congenital deafness. Deafness is not (mostly) a genetic trait to be selected for or against - it's just that building a working hearing system is difficult and stuff can go wrong.

This seems to me at least as likely as any postulated evolutionary explanation.

#185 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 06:44 AM:

139 Xopher

The link you gave seems to have been taken over by Cornish nationalists.

#186 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 08:22 AM:

Serge @#180

I'm very sorry to hear that. Have you tried distracting the Keystone Kops with a lengthy chase scene, or perhaps sending them all up a ladder leading to nowhere? It might let you get a little bit of work done...

#187 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 08:58 AM:

@176, 177--

years ago i saw a war-time loonie-tunes cartoon in which the song of the volga boatmen was given lyrics along the lines of:

"we're gremlins gremlins gremlins
we're from the russian kremlin
we're here, we're there we're everywhere
we're in the nazis' hair."

this sung by small creatures who were busy destroying german aircraft--"gremlin" as i recall being a rather recent coinage for whatever it is that makes your pitot tube freeze up at 30,000 feet or your landing gear not come down at 1000 feet or your wings fall off just when you need them.

i'll be damned--here it is:

in any case--rather as with the glenn miller cover, it reflects a war-time rapprochement btw. usa and ussr.

#188 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 09:32 AM:

I'm leaving for the airport soon. Please keep wishing me luck!

#189 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 09:44 AM:

Andy Brazil @ 184: It's certainly a theory; I've seen research proposals that indicated the possibility of a link between being left-handed, being gay, and something else which escapes my memory. At the time, I pointed out that I was ambidextrous but not bisexual; the two left-handed straight women in the office also indicated their lack of acceptance for this hypothesis.

The basis of this hypothesis was some sort of hormonal influence during embryonic/fetal development. I strongly doubt it's that easy. There are too many hormones and too many genes -- and if you look at twin studies, you can see the genetic influences (one twin gay, one twin bisexual or straight) and if there were hormonal influences, both twins would be more similar in sexuality.

Ultimately, it does not matter why -- human behavior is always a continuum of possibilities. As long as we understand that one possibility is not better or worse than another, then we can act in a civilized manner towards everyone.

#190 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 10:24 AM:

Allan@169: Weatherball black, nuclear attack!

#191 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 10:32 AM:

This is the tale of the Gremlins
As told by the PRU
At Benson and Wick and St Eval-
And believe me, you slobs, it's true.

When you're seven miles up in the heavens,
(That's a hell of a lonely spot)
And it's fifty degrees below zero,
Which isn't exactly hot.

When you're frozen blue like your Spitfire,
And your scared a Mosquito pink.
When you're thousands of miles from nowhere,
And there's nothing below but the drink.

It's then that you'll see the Gremlins,
Green and gamboge and gold,
Male and female and neuter,
Gremlins both young and old.

It's no good trying to dodge them,
The lessons you learnt on the Link
Won't help you evade a Gremlin,
Though you boost and you dive and you jink.

White ones will wiggle your wing tips,
Male ones will muddle your maps,
Green ones will guzzle your glycol,
Females will flutter your flaps.

Pink ones will perch on your perspex,
And dance pirouettes on your prop,
There's a spherical middle-aged Gremlin,
Who'll spin on your stick like a top.

They'll freeze up your camera shutters,
They'll bite through your aileron wires,
They'll bend and they'll break and they'll batter,
They'll insert toasting forks into your tyres.

And that is the tale of the Gremlins,
As told by the PRU,
(P)retty (R)uddy (U)nlikely to many,
But a fact, none the less, to the few.

RAF song, circa 1942, Anon. NOT MINE.

#192 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 10:51 AM:

TexAnne @ 188... Mes meilleux voeux de succès!

#193 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 10:56 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 181... Have the Greeks been protesting Google

"Mr Google?"
"Yes, Miss Hathaway?"
"There' a Mister Pericles who wants to talk to you."

#194 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 11:29 AM:

#47 ::: Lizzy L:

R.A. Lafferty's Fourth Mansions won't just have you looking at people's ears, it'll give you itching between your fingers!

#52 ::: heresiarch:

For what it's worth, I heard an interview with a man who'd looked into homosexuality across the US, and he found that there wasn't homophobia in rural areas-- the only important question was whether someone was a good neighbor. Homophobia happened in small towns.

#68 ::: P J Evans:

"Some knuckleheaded 'conservatives' are objecting on the grounds that it's abnormal for wimmenfolk to do anything but bleed every 28 days like clockwork their whole lives.

Why do I have the feeling that most of them are never going to menstruate themselves? /s

I can see being cautious about that sort of tweak-- hormone replacement turned out to be not quite as simply a good idea as it appeared at the beginning. This doesn't mean it should be illegal, but the motives of people who don't think it's obviously wonderful are necessarily suspect.

#195 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 11:30 AM:

Greek stuff:
Are you really saying, #160, that the Greeks are not registering their swimming pools as a form of social protest?

I'm pretty sure they're not registering their swimming pools because they're tax cheats who don't want to pay. Yeah, they have a corrupt government [and have had, under every administration at least since the war] but it's not about social protest. It's about the money. (This opinion is based on listening to my Greek inlaws complain about various things, including both the Greek government and other Greeks, for the last 20 years or so. Very scientific. )

We are talking about a country where it's a common election tactic for the party in power to go easy on tax cheating in election years. It's pretty institutionalized.

Beer then liquor- I tend to agree with Thena@163. It's easy to pour extra scotch in the glass after six beers, and then you might as well drink it.

My personal demon is about 12:30 AM on New Year's Eve, after already drinking for a few hours and making French 75's. Caught me about four years in a row before I learned. (The way I learned to make a French 75 was champagne and cognac, period. The theory being that you're not "mixing" because cognac is made from champagne grapes. There are a lot of opinions on the internet about what a French 75 really is. )

Homosexuality and surrounding issues- Nothing much to add, but I'm enjoying and learning. Peripheral point raised earlier (#109): do blue-eyed people tend to have better night vision than brown-eyed people?

#196 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 11:52 AM:

Paula @181 --

The primates it doesn't apply to (and it does apply to bonobos, just with rather more emphasis on "fuck" than "hit") appear to be derived with respect to the conserved condition for the clade.

Note that I did not describe this as universal in humans, specifically contrasting it to the different kids of behavior necessary to create and maintain larger co-operating groups; your example is of someone rather further up the cultural development progression. (As he would have to be; the US military, any individual branch of the US military, is required by its sheer size to be an intensely civilized organization in order to be functional at all.)

The fate of Larry Summers is a good example -- of course raw primate behavior doesn't work beyond basic band sizes of under 500 people or so. Lots that is wrong with various things, including Wall St. and the neocon movement, can be attributed to trying to game things to get the benefits of civilization and basic primate hard-wiring gratification. Does not, and cannot, work in any stable way.

Further down...

I'm postulating that male insecurity derived from a loss of locally high-status positions as the minimum useful co-operating group size increases, reducing the absolute and relative number of such positions, is a major driver for things like mysogyny and gay-bashing. This isn't really a function of economics; economically, industrialization has been an unambiguous culture-scale net win. That doesn't mean it's been a generally perceived social net win, or that various persons' sense of entitlement is kept from being aggrieved by their material prosperity.

Paula @182 --

Prisons where prisoner/prisoner rape is commonly taking place aren't -- and this is a bad thing -- a civilized context. It's not a set of conditions where there's an ongoing pattern of perceived loss of authority being protested via violent or threats of violent means, it's a set of conditions where things can and do revert to basic primate band-size social structures and behaviors. (And aren't hugely different from the way a Dark Ages warband would act, either.)

Take a look at the historical distribution and prevalence of gay-bashing; it doesn't much happen in the upper classes, it happens less in circumstances of general prosperity, and it gets much more official sanction when the power structure feels threatened. (Eg., Iran at the present time.)

Andy @184 --

Embryonic developmental processes are not outside the scope of natural selection!

Human sexuality is really complex as a development process, and pretty clearly starts neurologically well before puberty hits with the hormonal changes. Postulating that it's fixed by embryonic development issues strikes me as a very strong claim, especially in the face of the kind of evidence Ginger notes.

#197 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 12:01 PM:

Nancy #194:

Yeah, I think this is one of the basic problems of social/technological conservatism in general. It's very hard to distinguish:

a. This problem you're trying to solve isn't really a problem, it's the way things should be. (Shading up into "I like things the way they are w.r.t. this problem.")

b. I oppose or worry about the means you plan to use to address this problem. This seems subject to abuse or misuse or disaster.

You can see this across the political spectrum (which has little to do with the underlying meaning of "conservative" or "liberal").

For example, think about abstinence education as a proposed solution to problems of (depending on your take on things) teenage sex, premarital sex, or unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

Some people who oppose abstinence education may do so because they think some of those things (premarital or teenage sex, say) aren't really problems that need solving. Others will do so because they are skeptical of the ability of abstinence education to actually change much of the level of unwanted pregnancies or STDs or teenage sex or whatever.

Alternatively, some people who oppose hate speech laws oppose them because they like the hate speech potentially subject to prosecution; others don't trust the government with the power to regulate even speech they really don't like.

#198 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 01:11 PM:

C. Wingate, #176: Not nearly as wrong as this. It's like a train-wreck, so bad you just can't look away.

and @179: Oy. That's certainly a very... German... arrangement, isn't it?

Paula, #182: First off, most of the men who participate in homosexual rape (inside or outside of prison) DO NOT self-identify as homosexuals. This is also true of pederasts who sexually abuse boys. Secondly, how is prison rape not an expression of "I can fuck who I want"?

Nancy, #194: At risk of TMI, I haven't had a period since my mid-30s when I got my first implant, and it's never caused me any problems. I don't think it can be argued that there's something inherently wrong with not having a period every month, except from the level of "it's against God's will" -- which is not a medical argument.

albatross, #197: "Abstinence-only" sex ed is a poor example here, because there are multiple studies demonstrating that it doesn't work as a means of reducing either teen sexual activity or teen pregnancy, and actually increases the risk for contracting STDs. There's no need to be skeptical -- it's a matter of established fact.

#199 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 02:18 PM:

re 198: Well, C&W is a lot closer to blues than some of the others, so it doesn't jar me as much as the others. But yeah, it's not really the same.

As far as abstinence-only is concerned, there was a study released back in February that seems to show that, if done "properly", it seems to delay onset of sexual relations. They also found no increase in STDs. Personally, given my immediate experience of teenage irresponsibility, it's hard for me to believe that behavior relying on precautions is going to be more successful, on the average, than avoidance.

#200 ::: Earl Cooley IIi ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 02:19 PM:

Queue Emily Littela Rant on "Absinthe-only" sex education....

#201 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 02:29 PM:

C. Wingate @ 199: Do you have a cite for that study? I'll be very interested in what they worked out as a "proper" or effective way to do it, since I had thought almost every study to date has shown the reverse - teens exposed primarily to abstinence-only sex education were on average likely to have sex earlier. (I think your argument about typical teenage irresponsibility is true, but applies on both the abstinence side and the taking-precautions side.)

#202 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 02:35 PM:

Earl @ 200: Absinthe makes the heart go wander. Other bits may follow.

#203 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 02:41 PM:

Today in Typography Humor:

I Shot the Serif

#204 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 02:42 PM:

C. Wingate @199, I believe I saw that study as well, and while they found a delay in sexual debut, it was generally on the order of six months to a year, and while there might not have been a spike in STDs (because inexperienced people won't have had as much chance to acquire any) they DID notice that there was a negative correlation with the use of contraception.

I'm in favor of comprehensive education, rather than abstinence-based, with full discussion of available precautions both against disease and against pregnancy. And I say this as a parent of a teen.

#205 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 02:53 PM:

Linkmeister @165: Kamakawiwo'ole Rainbow

Thank you! I've been curious about that version since the first time I heard it. Makes me weep every time I encounter it.

Graydon @171: I think you must have been under that rock for 40 years or more.

Actually, I wasn't as out of touch as I'd thought. Just hadn't heard the term "second-wave feminism" before.

#207 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 03:16 PM:

re: the abstinence-only education abstract linked from #206 by C. Wingate

"Fewer abstinence-only intervention participants (20.6%) than control participants (29.0%) reported having coitus in the previous 3 months during the follow-up period (RR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.90-0.99)."

So, we can confidently say that students who have been exposed to abstinence-only education are less likely to REPORT having intercourse than other students are.

I'm not sure that's an assessment I'd try to hang a lot of other hats on.

#208 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 03:37 PM:

Earl Cooley III @200: Ow. Nasal emission of tiramisu not to be recommended.

#209 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:05 PM:

I wish to mourn the demise of all my mesclun lettuces, which have been stripped to the stems by some horrid and nasty-minded veganivorous creature that left many little black grains of creature castings in exchange (not a fair one, IMHO). They were bolting already, but it's the principle of the thing.

The other annoying part is that we were looking for more seeds over the weekend, and the mesclun were all sold out; I suspect it's too late to replant anyway.

#210 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:15 PM:

On the other hand because the weather has been so cold here (and because of a lucky find at a garden shop) I should be getting iceberg lettuce from my garden in the upcoming week-- unheard of here in Maryland. My kohlrabi, on the other hand, is pathetic.

#211 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:17 PM:

Sarah S @207 So, we can confidently say that students who have been exposed to abstinence-only education are less likely to REPORT having intercourse than other students are.

(Putting on my Social Scientist hat). Well, yeah ... but can you think of any other way of measuring this that isn't hideously, laughably intrusive? I haven't looked at that specific study, so can't evaluate what they did, but it's possible to set these things up so that responses are truly anonymous (to reduce the pressure to give the "right" answer), and in general human subjects review committees are pretty protective of minors being asked questions about sensitive issues.

#212 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:18 PM:

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.

#213 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:21 PM:

re 207: That's something you can say about any behavioral study that doesn't actually involve people watching the activity, so it's a criticism of these studies in general, not of this one in particular.

#214 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:23 PM:

OtterB @211

I can't think of a better way, wish I could.

Self-reporting always just makes me *nervous.* But, like democracy, it's the worst thing there is, except for all the others.

#215 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:56 PM:

joann: Your lettuce was bolting? *jealous* Here in Boulder, the lettuce is still only "squish your head!" tiny. And it snowed yesterday. Will someone please tell the sky that mid-May is really a good time for, you know, summerish weather?

TexAnne, many good wishes (and many good stitches)!

#216 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 04:56 PM:

Sarah S, OtterB

Fred Clark at Slacktivist writes about a dramatic recent example of reporting bias, which I used in class today.

In a recent telephone survey, 28% of respondents said the current oil pipeline spill made them more likely to support off-shore drilling. (!)

#217 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 05:02 PM:

In case people are interested, there will be a Gathering of Light in Oakland, on July 16. Among those who will attend are yours truly and, straight from Amsterdam, Abi Sutherland.

#218 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 05:02 PM:

In case people are interested, there will be a Gathering of Light in Oakland, on July 16. Among those who will attend are yours truly and, straight from Amsterdam, Abi Sutherland.

#219 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 05:02 PM:

In case people are interested, there will be a Gathering of Light in Oakland, on July 16. Among those who will attend are yours truly and, straight from Amsterdam, Abi Sutherland.

#220 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 05:07 PM:

Nancy 194: For what it's worth, I heard an interview with a man who'd looked into homosexuality across the US,

That sure sounds like a great job!

and he found that there wasn't homophobia in rural areas-- the only important question was whether someone was a good neighbor. Homophobia happened in small towns.

Fascinating information. Wish I could find out more about that. The temptation to make some kind of joke about "East Bumfuck" is almost overwhelming.

Jacque 205: Actually, I wasn't as out of touch as I'd thought. Just hadn't heard the term "second-wave feminism" before.

Don't pay it any mind. Graydon is just an abusive prick.

#221 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 05:32 PM:

Argh. Dropped some italics there. Para beginning "...and he found..." is Nancy's, not mine.

#222 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 05:43 PM:

Harking back to previous open-threadiness, there was a brief discussion of Portal (in the context of the truthiness of the cake) sometime ago. For those who haven't played it, you might be interested to know that Valve Software, the maker of the Steam game client, is celebrating the introduction of Steam to the Mac platform by offering Portal as a free download until May 24th.

I just installed the Steam client on my Mac (quick and easy), then downloaded Portal (takes awhile; that's a 5+ gig download) and played for half an hour or so, long enough to get ahold of the portal gun. It's fun, but I'm glad I turned on the closed captioning; the computer's voice is very hard for me to understand.

#223 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 05:45 PM:

And several regulars from here are planning to be at 4th Street Fantasy at the end of June in Minneapolis. Rates go up soon!

#224 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 07:31 PM:

WCVB ( is the TV station's website) ha been showing ads the past couple days that it's going to do a segment on tonight's 11 (EDT) PM news regarding a high rate of cancer of the mouth in men caused by HPV.... I wonder just how explicit/specific they're going to get about the transmission mode....

#225 ::: dlbowman76 ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 07:34 PM:

Paula @ 224: If so, it will surely be tongue-in-cheek.

#226 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 08:38 PM:

C. Wingate, 179: I'm not that bothered by it, but Chabrier was a genius and Waldteufel wrote some decent waltzes.

Lee, 198: Re: Waldteufel - to nitpick, it's an Alsatian-French (and Jewish to boot) arrangement.

Re: your link - Oh Faith Hill No!

I didn't think it possible to leach every trace of soul from that number, yet there it is.

What's the word for the equivalent of a miracle, but in a bad way?

#227 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 08:54 PM:

Lee @ 198: Wow, I thought "this is just a beer commercial they're playing first, right?"

My favorite music genre fail is Cathy Berberian singing the Beatles. Must be heard to be believed. Actually kinda goes through fail and back into win.

#228 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 09:10 PM:

Tim Walters 227: Picture her doing "Bad Romance"

#229 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 09:27 PM:

Serge #180: I found myself creatively misreading the word "crewed" with an s in front.

#230 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 09:30 PM:

OK, bits of fury: Pixels.

#231 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 09:52 PM:

Xopher 230: Very pixillated.

#232 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 10:57 PM:

Graydon @ 171: "For primate purposes, high male status is "I can hit who I want; I can fuck who I want"."

Again, without disagreeing, that kind of status has been beyond the reach of the vast majority (>99%) of men since forever. Whether that percentage is 99.9% or 99.99999999% doesn't significantly affect the experience of that vast majority.

This has one really important exception, which is within the family.

"But material condition for pretty much everybody (in the "First World") is much better now than it was then; the floor has come up."

That's really a quite recent trend: post-World War Two, in Britain and the US. During the time that I am talking about, the birthing of industry, social stability and welfare experienced a couple centuries of steady collapse. It was really quite incomprehensibly awful--we're talking pitched political battles fought over limiting the working day to fourteen hours.

So you have a huge amount of trauma and loss of actual* security at the same time as a loss of access to many of the traditional measures of masculinity--a lot of reasons to feel bad just as ways to feel good are vanishing. This makes the remaining measures even more important, including the traditional but now much more central "lording it over their wives and children" technique. Your livelihood may be at the mercy of some factory boss, but you're still able to beat or rape your wife if you want. As has been noted, a lot of homophobia is a result of misogyny; furthermore, people under stress are looking for scapegoats.** Without getting into causation, society transitioned from a livelihood-based identity system to a gender-based one around the time of the industrial revolution: people who didn't fit to newly important gender identities stuck out. All of this made homosexuality an easy target.

By the way, are you planning on apologizing to Xopher?


*A peasant family with a plot of land is far more secure than a laborer's family--in the worst case, they can eat their product.

**There's a strong correlation between social disruptions and increased misogyny. Foot-binding became a really pervasive practice in Han Chinese society after the establishment of a foreign (Manchu) emperor, experienced by the Chinese as an affront to their culture.

Nancy Lebovitz @ 194: "For what it's worth, I heard an interview with a man who'd looked into homosexuality across the US, and he found that there wasn't homophobia in rural areas-- the only important question was whether someone was a good neighbor. Homophobia happened in small towns."

That's very interesting! I think in small social networks there's a lot more room for case-by-case judgments--I don't need any opinion about [category_x] in general, only about the particular people I'm dealing with. When the number of people you're dealing with goes up that categories become more important. When it goes up another couple orders of magnitude, the importance of not picking pointless fights predominates.

#233 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 11:34 PM:

Are there plans for a Making Light thing at Wiscon? I'm going to be there, at least.

#234 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 11:35 PM:

Graydon @ 171: For primate purposes, high male status is "I can hit who I want; I can fuck who I want".

Well I don't want to hit anyone and I am in a happily and healthily monogamous relationship. I must be king of the world (for primate purposes).

#235 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 11:38 PM:

heresiarch 232: By the way, are you planning on apologizing to Xopher?

Definitely not inclined to speak for Graydon (in any sense), but I feel certain I know the answer to this question.

Thank you, though. It's nice that someone else gives a damn here.

That's very interesting! I think in small social networks there's a lot more room for case-by-case judgments--I don't need any opinion about [category_x] in general, only about the particular people I'm dealing with. When the number of people you're dealing with goes up that categories become more important. When it goes up another couple orders of magnitude, the importance of not picking pointless fights predominates.

Now that makes a lot of sense. It explains the social perniciousness peak.

#236 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 11:44 PM:

Erik Nelson @ 229... That too.

#237 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: May 13, 2010, 11:53 PM:

Graydon at #94 writes:

> Lots of resulting male sexual insecurity, and *poof*, homophobia.

Graydon - was that deliberate?

#238 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 12:03 AM:

187,191 gremlins:

The original title of that cartoon was "Gremlins from the Kremlin", but Disney pressured them to take the word gremlin out of the title because they wanted to make their gremlin movie.

Disney's movie was never made, but Roald Dahl wrote for it, and writes about that in his memoirs.

#239 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 12:21 AM:

191 Dave Luckett:
Is there a tune for that?

One book I found in a used bookstore and regret not buying is a book of RAF training cartoons starring a character named Pilot Officer Pip.

#240 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 12:28 AM:

#200 etc

I wouldn't drink absinthe. But maybe a worm would.

#241 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:08 AM:

#239, Erik: There probably is, and it would fit the tune of "My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean", but there's no chorus. I don't know if that's right, though.

#242 ::: Dave Howell ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:17 AM:

Xopher@99: "I'm hoping that this will change as homophobia fades, and that "the gay community," so crucial now to the safety of gay people, especially those just coming out, will cease to be necessary."

Already happening. A few years ago, I started singing with the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus, a very inclusive group. The music itself wasn't quite challenging enough for me, but the joie de vivre of the group was incredible. After a couple years, I joined the board . . . and was thus one of the board members who got to disband the group. We simply couldn't muster enough members to maintain the chorus. I realized it's because the GLBT singers in the community no longer felt like they needed their own choir in order to sing. They could be themselves in the Seattle Choral Company (with whom I'd been singing before moving to SLGC), or the Seattle Symphony Chorale, or wherever.

#243 ::: Dave Howell ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:17 AM:

Xopher@99: "I'm hoping that this will change as homophobia fades, and that "the gay community," so crucial now to the safety of gay people, especially those just coming out, will cease to be necessary."

Already happening. A few years ago, I started singing with the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus, a very inclusive group. The music itself wasn't quite challenging enough for me, but the joie de vivre of the group was incredible. After a couple years, I joined the board . . . and was thus one of the board members who got to disband the group. We simply couldn't muster enough members to maintain the chorus. I realized it's because the GLBT singers in the community no longer felt like they needed their own choir in order to sing. They could be themselves in the Seattle Choral Company (with whom I'd been singing before moving to SLGC), or the Seattle Symphony Chorale, or wherever.

#244 ::: Dave Howell ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:37 AM:

Jaque@128: "Well, if I may be so bold as to put my foot right in the middle of it, my experience is that gay people (of whatever gender or sex) tend to be more well-rounded people than straights."

Correlation is not causation. I think you'll find people YOU can identify as 'gay' _will_ tend to be more interesting people, for the same reason that pagans, West Coast Jews (maybe east ones too, not sure), Buddhists, and such are more interesting than Christians, in the aggregate.

Because to be gay, or non-Christian, in contemporary American society, means to have Experiences. Choosing a non-default religion means you must have thought about it. Thinkers tend to be more interesting. Some people are gay because they can't help it. I, personally, am only 'gay' because when I found myself falling in love with another guy, I let myself. I could have said "Oh, god, no, I can't be gay," and waited around until I fell in love with a woman.

Further, if one is GLBT, either because you cannot possibly hide that fact, or because you've chosen not to hide it, one is likely to live a more challenging and interesting live (like it or not) than somebody who fits into the 'hetero' box. These experiences (I think) tend to make people either broken, or more interesting.

In short, I expect somebody who's publicly gay to be more interesting, simply because that's one way of being 'non-normal' in this society, and being atypical means having more than one's fair share of 'learning experiences.'

#245 ::: Dave Howell ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 03:04 AM:

Me@i, which is to say, 'apropos of nothing,' I just wanted to announce that I bought a restaurant on eBay last week, and it's all Teresa's fault!

Well, OK, that's not entirely truthful. I bought the contents of a restaurant on eBay last week, and it's only mostly Teresa's fault.

If you're consumed with curiosity, you can still the the auction listing. I'll just add (for now) that the "4 Bin Bel-Air Cooling and Salad Station" turns out to retail for $1400.

#246 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 03:33 AM:

Dave @ #245, The fridges alone make your winning bid look like a bargain, but CD & DVD & VHS players, a bunch of CDs, and all that flatware and glassware too? Wow.

I'm entirely too polite to ask what the heck you're going to do with all of that stuff.

No I'm not. Are you planning to open a restaurant?

#247 ::: chris y ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 03:39 AM:

I have been told from many sources that the word 'gremlin' was formed (c. 1940) from an amalgamation of 'goblin' and 'Fremlins' (a popular brand of beer at the time). It's primary meaning was therefore the beasties you see out of the corner of your eye when you're rolling drunk, and then these were secondarily invoked as doing all the damage referred to in the song. RAF pilots were very big drinkers during the war, especially Fighter Command. Wouldn't you be?

#248 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 04:24 AM:

Dave @245:

I have a friend who bought the china from a hotel that was closing down. He used to throw fantastic Near New Year's parties, with scores of people and multiple courses of food, all on matching plates.

#249 ::: coffeedryad ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 04:42 AM:

C. Wingate@179: I must thank you for that link! Out of idle curiosity I followed a link from it to Franz von Suppe's "Light Cavalry Overture" and thereby learned the name of a piece of music that frequently gets stuck in my head, and which I had never before been able to identify.

#250 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 06:56 AM:

Xopher, Jacques, I'm kind of startled you don't seem to be familiar with the term second wave feminism.

(FWIW, I think Graydon called it right on the backlash that SWF generated. It's all around us today, and it's much bigger than most male persons realize.)

#251 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 07:24 AM:

Dave Howell #245: For $102.50 !?!?!?!

Yeeks, just glancing down the list, you've got that value at least half-a-dozen times over, if not a dozen! On the other hand, shipping will probably double or triple the price....

#252 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 07:50 AM:

Charlie @250

When I saw the term, I did think it meant something different, something subsequent to the period it refers to.

I don't think that's enough reason to call it a misleading label, but I would have recognised "women's lib" without any confusion of dates. And that term does make clear the backlash--it's part of the backlash.

#253 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 08:31 AM:

Dave Howell @244

Thank you for that. I've been trying to come up with a measured and sensible response to that post since it went up, and have failed every single time because my irritation always shone through. It's very nice of you to have found the words I was looking for.

Now, if you *also* have the third stanza of that poem I'm working on about childbirth, lemme have it!

#254 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 08:33 AM:

<rant mood=balistic>


Will somebody please tell the freakin' BBC to JOIN THE BLOODY TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY ALREADY!!!

<pant> <pant> <puff> <puff> *WHEEZE*

Criminey!! I've got perfectly good money right here, sitting in my bank account, ready to shove into their grubby little patty paws. But because I'm in the US, they WON'T SELL ME THE BLEEDING AUDIOBOOK I want. They say I have to go through their US branch. But as far as I can tell, the US branch doesn't HAVE the audiobook. Except as a special offer. Which I apparently can't use, because I've already "used" a special offer when I signed up for the "gold" membership (which I don't want). Which I did in order to buy the audiobook, except that I didn't GET the audiobook, just a lame "first listen" which I have NO INTEREST IN!!!


GAAAAH! Excuse me. I think I need to go punch a wall now.


#255 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 08:39 AM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @215: Will someone please tell the sky that mid-May is really a good time for, you know, summerish weather?

What, you didn't like Monday? We had to turn on the AC at work. And anyway, wait your turn! It'll be hot soon enough.

#256 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:10 AM:

Dave Howell @244:

In short, I expect somebody who's publicly gay to be more interesting, simply because that's one way of being 'non-normal' in this society, and being atypical means having more than one's fair share of 'learning experiences.'

Yes, you paraphrased my point #2 very nicely. Thank you!

Charlie Stross @250: Actually, as previously mentioned, I am, in fact, familiar with second wave feminism, which I realized immediately when ddb pointed me at that page. I just hadn't heard the term before. In other words: what Dave Bell @252 said.

(I was actually somewhat chagrined: in the spirit of "every generation invents sex," I had forgotten that there were decades of effort in the cause of women's rights that had preceeded the women's lib movement in the 60s and 70s.)

#257 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:42 AM:

Dave Howell@245: Yikes! Sounds like quite a haul there. You're going to do a lot of moving and sorting, and need some storage space!

(Friends of mine started a restaurant that didn't make it some years back; I'm a little sad when I think of it from the seller's point of view.)

Jacque@254: Remember, publishing rights, including audio books, have traditionally been geographically divided. That may be part of the problem; even if it's not an issue for that particular item, it's an issue in general for most books they deal with. We're in the uncomfortable middle period when the old system is making less and less sense, and the new system isn't at all clear. 20 years ago it made pretty good sense.

#258 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 10:46 AM:

Paul Duncanson @234 --

Or, just possibly, you are not conducting your affairs on the basis of primate band status mechanisms, having noticed that, hey look, I'm part of a civilized culture and have much better options.

One might wish that everybody did that.

Steve Taylor @237 --

The use of "poof" was strictly onomatopoeia for an abrupt transformation. The slang use as a derogatory label for a gay person isn't current in any of my social circles, so I had to think about this for a minute. (Or is that not what you meant?)

heresiarch @232 --

The 2,000 people in the hypothetical village means about 950 male people, of whom about a third are of status-competitive breeding age; in that 300-odd, there are 20 or so heads of substantial households, four or five persons of status (the miller, the blacksmith...) and a couple overseer sorts of roles (the bailiff, the priest); it's about 1% of the total population, but it's perceptually much more than that of the status-concerned breeding-age male population. That "people I'm not competing with are invisible" effect has a lot to do with why the present-day in-family alternation of authority is taken so badly, or why the expectations of historical propriety advanced by various neocons are so completely at odds with quantitative analysis of the period; the opinions are formed by ignoring whole swathes of the population present at the time.

That's really a quite recent trend: post-World War Two, in Britain and the US. During the time that I am talking about, the birthing of industry, social stability and welfare experienced a couple centuries of steady collapse. It was really quite incomprehensibly awful--we're talking pitched political battles fought over limiting the working day to fourteen hours.

Social stability, certainly; economic welfare's average improved pretty steadily. Not quickly, but steadily, from about 1776 or so.

Limiting the working day to 14 hours, well, that's a short day for a farm in summer even today. All of these changes are relative, and pleased as I am not to be working like that anymore, I don't imagine a 14 hour day as such was substantially worse than the farm work was.

Even the stuff in the middle of the prosperity curve that looks horrible to us from here was progress from the point of view of the folks coming towards it from the start of the prosperity curve.

A peasant family with a plot of land is far more secure than a laborer's family--in the worst case, they can eat their product.

Depends on the nutritional completeness of the product, and what they need to be able to buy to sow and harvest it and use it. If you grow wheat, for instance, you're dependent on a bunch of services to be able to make any food use of it.

(The extreme example is the fate of the Irish peasantry during the Potato Famine.)

More generally, the relatively self-sufficient manorial form of agricultural organization was gone by 1500 or so; by 1800, there was a lot of dependency on specialized manufactures of things like scythe blades.

By the way, are you planning on apologizing to Xopher?

Mr. Hatton's claim of insult for being taken at his word is what, precisely?

More generally, while Mr. Hatton is certainly entitled to elect to cute himself out of the substantive discussion, or to make a demand of countenance, I am not obliged to regard the first as specific to Mr. Hatton's convenience nor bound to grant the second.

#259 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 11:04 AM:

Xopher: Thank you, though. It's nice that someone else gives a damn here.

Ouch. Was that supposed to sting as much as it did? I'm sure the great majority of the regulars here do give a damn. Did you mean to accuse us of not?

Speaking only for myself: I had been pretty much skimming that subthread in the first place, especially since it started in the previous open thread and I missed it there. So when hostilities erupted I wasn't sure how usefully to approach the situation, nor that I understood it entirely. I think heresiarch was in a much better position to say something because of already being involved in that conversation.

On the other hand, your aside to Jacque about Graydon in what looked like a separate conversation you hadn't been involved in up til then (though of course I could be wrong) made me feel distinctly uncomfortable. It reminded me of a few people I've known who, once they decided person X was bad news, made friendship with person X a sort of negative loyalty test: "If you really care about me, you'll agree that X isn't worth talking to. So stop talking to them already." If an interaction looks to be going that way, I get nervous and try not to get involved.

Nevertheless, you were obviously in distress, so I should at least have jumped in to say, {{{{{Xopher!}}}}} And I didn't, and I'm sorry.

#260 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 11:04 AM:

Graydon @ 258: I found your responses to Xopher to be less than polite, particularly your post at 171. He'd asked you for a cite, because he didn't agree with your statement; I didn't see any response to his request.

You've been responding politely to everyone else in this conversation, thus making your interactions with him rather egregious and unnecessarily obnoxious.

You might want to rethink your refusal here.

#261 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 11:05 AM:

GRaydon #248 - actually the farm work was easier in the winter, when there was less to do and it snowed and stuff. IN the medieval period, and by extension well into the industrial evolution period, farm work tended to follow the hours of daylight, so during winter you did 4 or 6 hours or such, and summer could do 14. And you usually had saints days and easter and suchlike off.

Whereas 14 hour factory work was 5 or 6 days a week, all year round. At the speed of the machine, not the job or the man.

#262 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 11:15 AM:

Oh, for crying out loud--

While I was busy trying to give benefit of the doubt, Graydon was busy proving it was unwarranted.

Mr. Hatton's claim of insult for being taken at his word is what, precisely?

More generally, while Mr. Hatton is certainly entitled to elect to cute himself out of the substantive discussion, or to make a demand of countenance, I am not obliged to regard the first as specific to Mr. Hatton's convenience nor bound to grant the second.

I'm not sure where you were when the rest of us were getting Socialization 101, but when someone says, "I'm too stupid to understand it, I'm afraid," in a context that makes it clear that they are genuinely trying to understand and would like more explanation please (which, if you'd truly "taken him at his word," you would have acknowledged, as he had a LOT MORE FREAKIN' WORDS TO SAY in that post) and instead of offering further explanation you ignore them, and when they ask why you're ignoring them, your response is, "What? You said you were too stupid, so took that as a go-ahead to treat you like a stupid person"--

--how is that not insulting, disingenuous, rude, and just plain mean?

Plus all that "Mr. Hatton" stuff reeks of smarm and contempt, with an extra despicable deniability layer of "what? I'm just being respectful!" It's not an uncommon tactic, and it's not fooling anyone.

#263 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 11:31 AM:

Bronte Sisters Power Dolls

Awesome! both in concept and execution.

#264 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 12:14 PM:

Jacque, does your last name begin with P, and did you live in Littleton last year? If so, we met at a sewing association meeting.

I tried the email [that Jacque] wrote in my address book then, but it's no longer working.

#265 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 12:38 PM:

Guthrie@261: Any info on what the seasonal round of farm work in England was like then? Or in various parts of Europe? I'm pretty sure it was different from what I think of here in Minnesota; we have a much worse winter than most of that area, and the farmers I went to school with were modern mechanized farmers. (People raising animals in the mountain valleys would be yet another different pattern.)

Were most farms mixed farms then? If you have animals, there's a fair amount of work each and every day, including saint's feast days, that simply has to be done regardless.

Just getting curious about the overall patterns; not anything specific to the exact conversation.

On the exact conversation, people moving to the city to better their lives with an industrial job are a very different thing from people displaced from previous employment, desperate, congregating in the city in hopes of something. And both were going on quite a lot in the first 50 or 100 years of industrialization, weren't they? People who thought they were improving their lives must generally be presumed to have been right -- they get to use their own definitions of "improve".

#266 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 12:44 PM:

Graydon@258: I'm not fully conversant with the history between you and Xopher, but generally speaking, referring to somebody by (what appears to be) a real-world name in an online location where they consistently go by a "handle" is a particularly unfriendly act. I do not think that he's done anything to remotely justify the level of unfriendly I perceive that to be.

(However, possibly the real name is well-known to everybody except me, and it's known he doesn't mind them being linked, in which case never mind.)

#267 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 12:47 PM:

Xopher @235: Thank you, though. It's nice that someone else gives a damn here.

Well I, for one, give plenty big damn. I didn't comment because, frankly, the whole contratempts just sailed right over my head. Breeze didn't even ruffle my hair.

Now that I've been paffed in the face enough times to notice, I believe "Mr. Hatton's" assessment back at 220 was, in essence, correct.

Which puzzles me, because I don't see what provoked Graydon's behavior. Or maybe that's the point.

I second Nicole's hug, if it helps any.

(Oh yeah. Remind me not to get on Nicole's bad side. She wields a sharp keyboard.)

I am otherwise keeping my mouth shut because, thanks, but I had foot for lunch.

ddb @257: Remember, publishing rights, including audio books, have traditionally been geographically divided.

<sulk> Not my problem. <scowl> <pout>

Can you tell I don't handle frustration well? :)

Carol Kimball @264: My last name starts with an M. (And I'm terribly offended that other people are stealing MY spelling! MINE, I tell you!) I am jacquem AT panix DOT com. Also, for future reference, it's listed on my website, which links off my name here.

#268 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:02 PM:

Jacque@267: Yeah, I get the frustration thing. So many things are so much easier to get quickly now than they used to be, too; we're getting less practice at delayed gratification.

Veering for a moment into "serious response to humorous comment" territory, the publishers and the authors both profit from selling the work; they don't agree to invent rules that mostly HURT that goal (though sometimes rules that benefit them overall hurt in specific cases). And authors making enough money to keep writing is a key good in my universe -- while I enjoy reading a FEW bestselling authors who make tons of money, most of the people I like best aren't full-time, or just barely make a living at it. (Well; or are dead, but let's leave those out of this part of the discussion.)

#269 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:08 PM:

#182: DNA analysis and changing human social mores have led to a more nuanced understanding of the actual breeding patterns in populations having alpha male/subordinate male social structures. Among other things, this has led to the use of "sneaky fucker" as a serious biological term. Not sure what the relevance to prior discussion is, though.

#270 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:14 PM:

Jacque - duh, should have noticed your name is in the "link" color. Particularly as mine is, too.

If I ever run across the other Jacque, I'll let her know she should contact and apologize to you. Or maybe this should happen at your mothers' level?

#271 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:34 PM:

Matthias@269: Ook ook! Which doesn't seem to be current here, but thanks for pointing out the wonderful new technical term!

#272 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:36 PM:

Re: Xopher vs. Graydon: I'm pretty much dittoing Nicole at #259 -- I haven't been following the sub thread closely. That said, Graydon at #171 was obnoxious, and in #258 he's really started digging himself into a hole.

And Now For Something Completely Different (both mellower and yellower):

I always thought peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches seemed pretty awkward, what with the round pieces and all. Well, today I found that my bananas have become... spreadable. One guess what I had for lunch....

#273 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:41 PM:

No, no, bananas that have become spreadable go in banana bread. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches get made with bananas sliced lengthwise so there aren't any little round pieces to fall off.

#274 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:42 PM:

Open thready badness:

This BBC article and this Atlantic article strongly suggest that we are still torturing at least some prisoners at at least one black site.

Many years ago, I remember arguing with some non-US friends that the US didn't need to accept ICJ jurisdiction, as we would always police ourselves much more tightly than the world would police us. Of course, I was wrong--we didn't want to accept ICJ jurisdiction because we intended to violate human rights whenever we wished, and we didn't want to be called on it. The actions we were taking then were a good guide to our intentions as a nation, and the intentions of the people in power in our country at that time.

When the Obama administration rapidly backed off on prosecuting torture or releasing any embarrassing information about it, it was possible to argue, in a more-or-less parallel way to the argument a happier-but-dumber me made years ago , that Obama was simply trying to move us away from a particularly dark and horrible time in our history with a minimum of damage. But it sure looks to me like his actions w.r.t. releasing information about and prosecuting torture, like the previous administration's determination not to be bound by ICJ rulings, told us something about his intentions. He presumably didn't intend to stop using torture, and so he couldn't afford to prosecute or out the torturers, lest he find it difficult to recruit new ones.

Am I misunderstanding the situation here? Is there some kind of explanation for this that doesn't leave Obama responsible, by commission or omission, for continuing our use of torture on prisoners?

#275 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:46 PM:

Individuals who are enamored of that chimera popularly designated 'alpha male,' among other things have confused their fantasy with 'hero.'*

There are many, many, many paths that lead to the condition of hero. But all communities need the heroes, those who have the abilitities needed at the time and are willing to spend those abilities and their lives to help, to protect, to preserve their families and communities. More often than we can count the hero is, well, female.

Notice, none of these qualities include getting to hit and fuck "whoever I want when I feel like it." Communities call people like that sociopaths, and they are shunned.


Love, C.

*Hero here is not to be confused with the male protagonist of a novel or a movie. We're speaking of the hero as when Beowulf, old and ailing, goes out to fight the dragon on the behalf of his kingdom and people, as an example. Nor is there any hint in the lore that Beowulf went around hitting and fucking any old time any old body any old whatever.

#276 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:53 PM:

Lee #198:

I wasn't assuming that the doubts about the effectiveness or advisability of the proposed means couldn't be based on evidence....

#277 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 01:59 PM:

ddb @ #265

*general applause from over here in support of your point about people getting to use their own definitions of "improve"*

#278 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:10 PM:

Dave Howell @ 244: "In short, I expect somebody who's publicly gay to be more interesting, simply because that's one way of being 'non-normal' in this society, and being atypical means having more than one's fair share of 'learning experiences.'"

I believe that having said "no" to one really important and fundamental social expectation, it's a lot easier to look critically at the rest of them and ask "is this behavior really something that I want to do, or that I just feel I have to do?" I think that a cheerful disregard for social expectation tends to make people a lot more interesting, and anyone who's gay has by definition had a strong push in that direction.

Charlie Stross @ 250: "(FWIW, I think Graydon called it right on the backlash that SWF generated. It's all around us today, and it's much bigger than most male persons realize.)"

I'd agree, and add that in the last sixty, seventy years it's hard to find any kind of critical social theory that hasn't caught an enormous backlash--though nowhere has it been as vicious as in the US.

Graydon @ 258: "in that 300-odd, there are 20 or so heads of substantial households, four or five persons of status (the miller, the blacksmith...) and a couple overseer sorts of roles (the bailiff, the priest); it's about 1% of the total population, but it's perceptually much more than that of the status-concerned breeding-age male population."

You're assuming a one-hundred percent social mobility, which strikes me as incredibly unlikely. Far more probable is that the large households maintain their preeminence, their second sons become the bailiffs and the priests, and the chance of any lower-status male making their way to the top of the hierarchy remains and is perceived as nil. Life, then, is a negotiation over relative beta male statuses.

"All of these changes are relative, and pleased as I am not to be working like that anymore, I don't imagine a 14 hour day as such was substantially worse than the farm work was."

The first Statute of Labourers (Edward III, 1349) specified that a day of labor ran from 5 am to 7-8 pm (or until dark in the winter), with an hour for breakfast, a half hour for 'noonmeate,' and an hour and a half for dinner--this comes to a maximum of 13 hours of labor a day. Under Elizabeth (1562), the breaks were limited to only an hour for dinner and a lunch only during the summer. In practice however laborers worked less--William Petty wrote that laborers "work ten hours per diem." In 1770, one person proposed a "House of Terror" in which to throw paupers, where they would be worked "14 hours a day, allowing proper time for meals, in such a manner that there shall remain 12 hours of neat labour." Compare the "House of Terror" of 1770 with the fights in the nineteenth century over limiting the working day to 14 hours--a law mightily resisted and regularly violated.*

I have not touched on the issue of child labor, which was also transformed during this period. The fact is, the amount of labor extracted from laborers, and the horror of conditions under which it was extracted both intensified during the period of industrialization. It is not, as you would have it, a steady upward curve.

"Mr. Hatton's claim of insult for being taken at his word is what, precisely?"

This is willfully foolish--confessing lack of understanding of a particular jargon is not equivalent to excusing oneself from the conversation; had you been honestly mistaken about his intentions I think Xopher's "can you please explain what you mean" comment would have clarified that. Saying "I really don't get orbital mechanics" is not the same as saying "I have no interest in discussing astronomy."

Your behavior regarding this issue has quite disappointed me. You've spoken so clearly on the inappropriateness of primate dominance-seeking behaviors in civilized contexts, I had assumed you'd made the natural connection to the undesirability of parallel verbal dominance-seeking behaviors. Yet here, as Nicole notes, you have employed them extensively.

*All quotes from Capital, p. 383-388.

#279 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:13 PM:

I thought the PB was there to hold the sandwich together.

#280 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:20 PM:

279 Yes, the proper technique is peanut butter on BOTH slices of bread to glue the banana in place. (Alas, the amount of carbs in something like that means I shall just have to imagine the taste....)

#281 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:25 PM:

re 278: Well, violating social norms is interesting in the way that news is interesting. It certainly doesn't mean that I want to be around it when it happens.

The corollary is that Graydon gets to be the interesting one here, because he's the one that is violating social norms. The wrongness of that assessment testifies, I think, to predominance of counterculture as a factor in this. I don't get points for my numerous social heresies because they don't fit into any subcultural pattern, taken together. But it's easy to make points by violating some other subculture's norms.

#282 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:28 PM:

#220 ::: Xopher:

That looking into gay experience across the US was in a book-- presumably a self-chosen project, not a job. I heard a radio interview with the author at least 10 years ago, and it might have been 20. I *think* the word "heart" was in the title.

#283 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:52 PM:

C. Wingate @ 281: "Well, violating social norms is interesting in the way that news is interesting. It certainly doesn't mean that I want to be around it when it happens."

You're missing my point: it isn't that violating social norms for the sake of violating social norms is interesting, it's that people who are critically evaluating social norms and picking the ones they want and the ones they will ignore are more interesting that people who uncritically follow (or, for that matter, violate) social norms. The interestingness comes from the critical engagement with the unconscious underpinnings of our society, and a willingness to follow their passions wherever they lead. Breaking the first norm is the hardest, and gay people have all already done that.

#284 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 02:57 PM:

Paula @ 181

Industrializing with its mechanization, CUT dramatically the levels of human labor required to produce food and clothing. The mechanization came first--water and especially steam power in large quantity for running milling, and steel plows and mechanical harvesters, reduced human labor and labor time for production. Before the industrial revolution something over 90% of the population was needed for agriculture... Steel plows and devices for automatically dropping seed while plowing fields and mechanicaly harvesters, changed that. Some countries actually tried to outlaw some type of handmills to prevent families from doing their own milling instead of having to go to a paying-taxes-to-the-state commercial miller....

(Sorry this is a bit delayed in the conversation but I'm whooping it up at the Kalamazoo medieval studies conference at the moment.)

That last bit about prohibitions on handmills long predates the industrial revolution. In the medieval period, mills were an important "franchise" (in the modern sense of the word) and money-maker. The people officially licensed to operate a mill were very jealous of their percentage. Home handmills were viewed as the economic equivalent of moonshining, if you will.

#285 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 03:00 PM:

Charlie 250: Xopher, Jacques, I'm kind of startled you don't seem to be familiar with the term second wave feminism.

Sorry, but you're confused. I never said I wasn't familiar with second wave feminism. I sympathized with Jacque because Graydon was being a jerk to him* on that topic; Graydon's jerkiness to me was about something else entirely.

Nicole 259: Ouch. Was that supposed to sting as much as it did?

It was, but I'm sorry. That was mean, and I regret it and beg the group's collective pardon.

I did feel that Graydon jumped on my head with hobnailed boots on, and that no one other than me appeared to notice. This was clearly an error on my part.

Graydon 258: Mr. Hatton's claim of insult for being taken at his word is what, precisely?

I wrote a response to this, but rather than post it I will direct your attention to Nicole 262 and heresiarch 278. They have it right.

Ginger 260: Thanks.

Nicole 262: Thanks. Just so.

ddb 266: Actually that doesn't bother me very much, though it seems clear Graydon intended it to.

Jacque 267: Thanks, and see my apology above.

David 272: Thank you.

heresiarch 278: Thank you again. I don't think I could have said it better myself; besides, it's possible he might listen to you.

*I think. ISTM that a heterosexual woman wouldn't describe her lack of sexual interest in women as being "squicked by female anatomy," since after all she'd have her own. But I could be wrong.

#286 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 03:12 PM:

ddb @265 people moving to the city to better their lives with an industrial job are a very different thing from people displaced from previous employment, desperate, congregating in the city in hopes of something. And both were going on quite a lot in the first 50 or 100 years of industrialization, weren't they? People who thought they were improving their lives must generally be presumed to have been right -- they get to use their own definitions of "improve".

Two interesting pieces of reading on this. One I read last year some time, a book on Factory Girls: From village to city in a changing China, by Chang. Interesting view of girls (late teens, mostly) moving to the city to take jobs that might seem like exploitation - long hours, low pay, crowded living conditions, far from home and family - but to them provided wonderful opportunities far beyond what they could expect if they stayed home. A simple "good" or "bad" judgment didn't seem to work.

And currently reading "The Science of Liberty" by Timothy Ferris. (Interesting book, BTW, discussing the ways in which science is good for liberty - better technology, health, living standards, plus a general standard for evidence-based decisions - and liberty is good for science - a society in which change is viewed as acceptable and sometimes desirable, plus the creative mixing that occurs with the opportunity to relocate and associate freely.) Anyway, in a chapter on "Progress" he discusses rural migrants to urban areas, now as in the early parts of the Industrial Revolution. He asserts that much of what is viewed as the downside of industriablization - e.g. squalid Dickensian slums in London - is actually a result of overcrowding because the population grew at a rate that exceeded the infrastructure. And that, on balance, the migrants found it worthwhile.

But, as you say, there are different levels of choice involved, from genuine choice to coerced choice to move-or-starve "choice."

#287 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 03:13 PM:

OtterB #273: Mmm, banana bread. Pity I've only got one of the spreadable bananas left. If it hasn't moved on to "self-spreading" by tomorrow, I might just mix it into a loaf and see how it comes out.

#288 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 03:14 PM:

#280 ::: Janet Brennan Croft

279 Yes, the proper technique is peanut butter on BOTH slices of bread to glue the banana in place...

Read this too fast as "BOTH sides", i.e. the sandwich inside-out with bread in the center. Even with lengthwise slices of banana (brilliant), it seemed awfully sticky to appeal to anyone over roughly three.

#289 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 03:29 PM:

My main problem with bananas (when I didn't live by myself) was that the other people in the house thought they were edible well before I did.

#290 ::: Mattathias ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 03:37 PM:

Constance @275: We don't write stories about people who do it as crassly as "hit what I want, fuck what I want". In discussion, however, people do use a bit of shorthand, such as "hit what I want, fuck what I want," in order to avoid rewriting Beowulf in the little comment box.

I don't doubt that the archetypical Beowulf could hit whatever he wanted. His discretion in what he chose to hit is part of his appeal as a story hero. The same is likely true of his fucking. However, while that discretion makes his story more enjoyable, such storybook discretion isn't a necessary component of an unforgiving natural selection process that does favor nasty and brutish methods.

#291 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 04:02 PM:

Keith #289:
Or, to put it another way (after all, I am one of those people for whom bananas are barely edible at any time--nasty smell), those people thought bananas would get inedible before you did.

#292 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 04:15 PM:

I have a solution for Arizona's continuing sociopathic lack of ability to govern itself under the reasonable restrictions of Constitutionality: punitive loss of Statehood, enacted by Congress, which would return Arizona to the status of a federally-governed Territory. To lessen the impact on fifty-star flag consumers, we could simultaneously fast-track the Statehood referendum for Puerto Rico (or the District of Columbia, whichever of the two seems more quickly viable).

#293 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 04:18 PM:

Carol Kimball #288: Read this too fast as "BOTH sides", i.e. the sandwich inside-out with bread in the center. Even with lengthwise slices of banana (brilliant), it seemed awfully sticky to appeal to anyone over roughly three.

The solution for this technical issue is to deep-fry the inside-out peanut butter and banana sandwich.

#294 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 04:21 PM:

re 283: I personally wouldn't have equated "a cheerful disregard" with "critical [evaluation]". In fact, I personally would see them as more or less opposed. After all, there are plenty of people (generally condemned as conservatives or traditionalists) who step up to that evaluation and reaffirm those norms.

Leaving one subculture for another may be a hard thing; staying in a disapproving subculture is, I think, generally harder. Conforming oneself against one's own urges is hardest of all.

#295 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 04:28 PM:

heresiarch, #278: I think that a cheerful disregard for social expectation tends to make people a lot more interesting, and anyone who's gay has by definition had a strong push in that direction.

So has anyone who's pagan or atheist, or childfree women, or men who choose to be primary caregivers for their children while their wives are the wage-earners. And I suspect (on the basis of a relatively small sample size) that for a lot of us, the first push in that direction may come from being a school outcast, and therefore learning by force not to care so much about social expectations, whether cheerfully or not.

Not to say that you aren't also aware of all this, but I wanted to get it set out explicitly.

KeithS, #289: Ah yes, the age-old argument between "still a bit green at the stem end" and "completely yellow with a few black spots". I come down rather firmly on the former side of that one, and my partner considers them generally inedible due to over-exposure at an impressionable age. So bananas are not a household purchase here; I'll buy one with my breakfast or lunch if I can choose my own and see one that's to my taste.

Xopher, I was staying out of it because after #171 I couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't lose its vowels. This may have been a side-effect of being in a near-constant state of irritation about political issues lately.

#296 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 04:40 PM:

On Hall & Oates video in Particles, there's interesting info in an interview Oates did last year at It seems H&O didn't really want to do the lipsync video (for a teenage TV dance show), so they camped it up. Oates says,

They actually didn’t air it; they wouldn’t air it. But we had it this whole time, and eventually I leaked it out to the internet, ’cause I just thought the world should see it.
It made my day. I especially like the disappearing, reappearing hookah on the table. At first I thought the device at 2:03 was another pipe, but apparently it's a musical instrument.

#297 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 04:51 PM:

Lee 295: I had a similar experience. But I was a little stunned, since I tend to assume I'm more or less among friends here, at least wrt regular commenters.

#298 ::: LDR ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 05:23 PM:

De-lurking to say that I've never seen a spat like that on ML.

#299 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 05:46 PM:

Dan @ #296, man, I'm glad to have read the backstory at that interview link. That's even funnier than the video itself.

#300 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 06:15 PM:

I'm afraid I must confess to having discounted Graydon's comments under the fallacy of the Known Asshole Defense -- that is, I remembered disliking the tone of a sufficient volume of his posts generally that it didn't register that he was being rude in particular to Xopher. This was especially negligent of me because Xopher came immediately to my defense in a different instance of rudeness directed at me.

I'm sorry, Xopher.

#301 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 06:23 PM:


Actually, I thought your post at 72 was at least in part addressed to me, and I tried to apologize for dragging the thread off-topic. After that I left for awhile, and was far enough out of phase with the discussion when I came back that I really didn't understand what the hostilities were about, and didn't want to risk enflaming them with a comment.

But as far as I can tell now, Graydon took something you said the wrong way and out of context, and responded with an inappropriate amount of incivility, followed by explicit hostility. I hope that, given a sincere apology, that you would be able to forgive Graydon for those words.

#302 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 06:25 PM:

ddb #265 I recall reading that in France in the middle ages the peasantry basically hibernated. They went to bed in November and surfaced again in March. This was, I think, wine growers where there wasn't anything to do and food was scarce.

English peasants certainly had considerable free time due to feasts and saint's days. So industrialisation resulted in considerable more labour. The move to the cities was much more a result of enclosure (the loss of common land that traditionally supplemented food supplies) and improvements in agriculture that reduced labour requirements. The move to sheep occured earlier in England than in Scotland, but the resultant clearances were similar.

People came to the cities because they were starving in the countryside. Having said that, those dickensian slums were not a lot worse than the hovels they'd left - a wattle and daub thatched cottage is basically a posh mud hut after all.

Rural poverty hung on a lot longer - my father (in a small village in Scotland) remembers children with no shoes and catching pigeons with birdlime to stave off hunger - while my mother (same age, but in an English town) remembers cheap sweets and new dresses.

#303 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 07:03 PM:

Xopher @ 285: "Thank you again. I don't think I could have said it better myself; besides, it's possible he might listen to you."

Of course! I initially interpreted Graydon as having fallen into a typical Aspie-spectrum social misunderstanding, which is why I asked if he was going to apologize: I thought he might not even realize how rude he was being. Further developments suggest otherwise, unfortunately.

(Based on comments from a previous open thread, I'm pretty sure Jacque is a she, btw--the "a female wouldn't be squicked by lady bits" theory is intuitive, but in my experience not accurate.)

joann @ 291: "I am one of those people for whom bananas are barely edible at any time--nasty smell"

Seconded. And I'm far more sensitive to bananas than people who like them; I can't count the times someone has offered me some food item saying "No, there aren't any bananas in it!" when I can smell the banana in it from five feet away.

Earl Cooley @ 293: "The solution for this technical issue is to deep-fry the inside-out peanut butter and banana sandwich."

Earl, I never knew you were Scottish.

C. Wingate @ 294: A "cheerful disregard" for social expectation is, to my mind, very compatible with critical evaluation of society. Indeed, unless you are willing to disregard the norms of society you cannot begin to critique them objectively--that the social norms that we have are the ones that ought to be is the most fundamental norm of all.

Lee @ 295: "So has anyone who's pagan or atheist, or childfree women, or men who choose to be primary caregivers for their children while their wives are the wage-earners."

Yes! That is exactly what I meant.

#304 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 08:13 PM:

heresiarch #303:

Elvis is Scottish?!

#305 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 08:29 PM:

Open threadiness: Ocoee Middle School says "Gotta Keep Reading" (and some of them are even reading SF/F...).

#306 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:10 PM:

Graydon @140 - Hobbit cheddar? Helm's Dip.

Skwid @203 - A few years ago in typography humor, "I sought sans-serif / But I did not choose Helvetica." (quoting myself)

#307 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:11 PM:

Rikibeth 300: That's OK. Not sure what incident you're talking about...unless it was that time that...hmm. There's no way to talk about that without implying things I don't want to bring here.

Bruce 301: I hope that, given a sincere apology, that you would be able to forgive Graydon for those words.

Yes, and given the Iron Crown of Lombardy, I would be able to pretend to be Queen Theodelinda.

Btw, 72 wasn't in any way intended to be resentful toward you or imply that you shouldn't have posted as you did. Threads drift; topic isn't so completely fixed here, especially in an open thread. I should have made that clear; I'm sorry.

heresiarch 303: Of course! I initially interpreted Graydon as having fallen into a typical Aspie-spectrum social misunderstanding, which is why I asked if he was going to apologize: I thought he might not even realize how rude he was being. Further developments suggest otherwise, unfortunately.

That all makes sense. Graydon definitely seems to be on the spectrum...and while he may not have understood at the beginning, he's dug in now.

(Based on comments from a previous open thread, I'm pretty sure Jacque is a she, btw--the "a female wouldn't be squicked by lady bits" theory is intuitive, but in my experience not accurate.)

Oh. Sorry, Jacque. I wonder if Graydon thought what I did; if he thought Jacques (as Charlie called Jacque at 250) was a gay man, it might explain why he was rude to the two of us and polite to everyone else.

As for the more general statement about women...that's really sad.

#308 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:11 PM:

And now for the weather.

Earl Cooley III @157 - Arizona here is apparently in accord with an employer of mine who was heard to mutter, "It wouldn't be so cold if they didn't talk about it." Ex-employer, I should say.

Allan Beatty @169 - The NW Bank in Omaha had weather balls circa 1970, and what I remember hearing people say on my visit there was "Weather ball is blinking green / Weather's going to be obscene." Green = same same, blinking = precip. The whole time I was visiting, every time, I never saw them do anything but blink green, though I expect they'd have blunk white in the winter (white=cold).

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @215 - We had snow during one of the summer months in Fort Collins one time about 40 years ago. Mind you, it was seen as unusual and it didn't stick.

#309 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:16 PM:

As someone told me a few years ago (sorry, no cite), banana smell is one that people are extremely sensitive to, so artificial banana smell gets used for testing how well gas masks seal to people's faces. If you can smell it, it's not working.

Xopher: letting you know that I care too.

#310 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:19 PM:

Kip 308: I never saw them do anything but blink green, though I expect they'd have blunk white in the winter (white=cold).

Two thoughts about that.

1. 'Blunk' is an absolutely wonderful example of what I learned to call a "musclebound verb." Isn't it remarkable that we know just how to create the strong version of a weak verb? Though I might have used "have blonken" just for the extra irregularity.

2. Isn't Blunk & White the style manual for weather reporting?

3. There is no third thing. I said two thoughts, and I meant it. Stop reading this, you!

#311 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:26 PM:

KeithS 309: Thanks.

#312 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:28 PM:

I thought that 'blunked' was the proper form for that. (Frex: the blunked-out eyeballs in 'Little Orphan Annie'.) But thinking about it, 'blunked' is obvious the one that goes with 'blank'.

But 'have blunken' sounds about right ....

#313 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:47 PM:

In local news, I am not Jacque and cannot speak for her, but I have met her guinea pigs. They are cuuuuuuuute.

Kip, I've been here almost 11 years now, and I've heard that midsummer snows are known to happen. I've even adapted the saying "What's this 'normal' weather you speak of? This is the front range you're talking about." But these past couple years I've been heavy into back porch gardening and volunteering up at a CSA farm (Abbondanza, for y'all what're local and want to know; not to be confused with the Longmont pizzaria), and all I can think is "Please, won't someone think of the squash 'n basil 'n tomato seedlings?"

Xopher, glad to know we're OK. I find it's usually the case that in an open thread where subthreads go bifurcating all over the place, it's safe to assume no one is reading all of them. I visualize a big party where conversations are going on in all corners; no one can be everywhere at once. But I also know how it can hurt when you feel like someone attacked you among a group of friends and no one said a word in your defense. I have absolutely been there in meatspace and it sucked. So. More hugs for you.

Also hugs for Jacque. I don't know what flavor of foot you were munching on at lunch, but that can't have been munch fun.

(This is what we call a preemptive typo.)

#314 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 09:59 PM:

Actually I think Kip was right: blink, blank, blunk but blank, blonk, blunken. So 'All the information I wanted in my FBI file was blunken out by the redactors.'

#315 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 10:15 PM:

Xopher, if it helps to place it, it was the instance where, during a discussion of community standards on the use of profane language tangential to the initial subject of discussion, someone directed a very rude epithet at me.

(Is that neutral enough?)

#316 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 10:20 PM:

Rikibeth, yes, that was the one I thought you were talking about.

#317 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 10:27 PM:

Xopher @310 - Good heavens! A style manual for weather reporting? This may account for the remarkable sameness one often sees in weathermen. (Often, but not always. I treasure the report that David Letterman, as a local weatherman in Indiana, told viewers to expect "hailstones the size of canned hams.") I expect I read 'blunk' somewhere, though perhaps I formed it on the model of "thunk" and (from an H. Allen Smith story) "wunk."

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @313 - I was always so proud of weather in northern Colorado. It was, at one and the same time, the most normal, with four seasons, each neatly in their place, and yet the most changeable and variable. Since then, I've lived in SE Georgia, Houston, Hampton Roads, Western Massachusetts, and now Western New York, and darned if they don't all seem to work the same way. Winter was shorter in the southern states, but in the deeply southern ones, it made up for it by feeling even colder and nastier, because of the damp. I'm not sure any place has normal weather now.

#318 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 10:55 PM:

KeithS, #309: Interesting! That in turn reminds me (going off on a slight tangent) that artificial banana flavoring is one of those things that I actually like even though I keep thinking I shouldn't. It doesn't taste anything like a real banana, but that doesn't bug me the way a lot of artificial fruit flavors do. One of the things I sorely miss from my childhood is Banana Bomb Pops from the ice-cream truck, which don't seem to be made any more. You can still occasionally get something that's called a Banana Bomb, but it's a real banana frozen on a stick and dipped in chocolate -- not the same thing at all.

Kip, #317: I second Xopher -- "blunk" is a wonderful back-formation! My other current favorite, which I think I picked up from TexAnne, is "knat" as the past tense of "knit".

#319 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 11:30 PM:

317,310 etc.

A cautious look around he stole
His bags of chink he chunk
And many a wicked smile he smole
And many a wink he wunk.

(Anonymous, I think I read it in A Nonsense Anthology by Carolyn Wells.)

#320 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2010, 11:51 PM:

All knowledge is contained in the Fluorosphere... I need the assistance of our resident historians. I'm reading Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ, by Henri Daniel-Rops, translated by Patrick O'Brian (yes, that Patrick O'Brian). I'm enjoying it immensely. It was originally published in French in 1959. How accurate is it? I know its author's reputation and have no reason to assume it isn't trustworthy, but there was a time when I thought Robert Graves' mythology could be trusted, so I thought I'd ask. Responses much appreciated.

#321 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 12:03 AM:

...wherein, Jacque has clearly been cooped up all day:

Carol Kimball @270: Actually, since I chose that spelling for the diminutive (my parents would be the ones to see about "Jacqueline"), I think any redress should come to me. A licensing fee would, of course, obviate the need for apology.

ddb: Ook ook! We could make it current.

David Harmon @272: spreadable bananas: Um, ew?

Besides, if you just eat your peanut butter out of a spoon, there's no need for all that superfluous bread. Hm. <trots off to kitchen>

Xopher @285: Firstly, you are a dear and you make me smile. (And I would *sparkle* my eyes at you, but I gather it would be a somewhat intellectual exercise.)

Secondly: ISTM that a heterosexual woman wouldn't describe her lack of sexual interest in women as being "squicked by female anatomy," since after all she'd have her own.

It is because I have my own that I am squicked. I Know What Goes On Down There. If things are going to drip, I prefer they do it on command. And not in Technicolor.

Oh, and: what are you apologizing for? If the Graydon comment, I took that to mean you were sticking up for me. If the gender thing: the only reason I go by "she" is that I have the appropriate naughty bits. I have no issue at all with being regarded as "he." After all, many of my best friends are "he"s. <gd&r>

Earl Cooley III @292: Oh, I don't know. I just heard yesterday that the City of Boulder has passed a resolution to boycott Arizona. I wonder if we're shaping up to a 21st Century Civil War, here. This could get, um, interesting.

Lee @295: bananas: Solely and only yellow. No green. No brown. (Which means I have about a three-hour window in which to eat them.)

Xopher @297: All things considered, I thought you were being remarkably polite.

heresiarch @303: the "a female wouldn't be squicked by lady bits" theory is intuitive, but in my experience not accurate.

This now has me speculating wildly about your experience! 8)

Tom @305: Squee!!

Xopher @307: Oh. Sorry, Jacque.

Will you STOP that!! :)

I wonder if Graydon thought what I did; if he thought Jacques (as Charlie called Jacque at 250) was a gay man, it might explain why he was rude to the two of us and polite to everyone else.

Heh. He can't claim credit for being rude to me, since "counting coup doesn't count if your enemy doesn't notice." Contrariwise, if Graydon is putting me in the same category as Xopher, I can only be flattered.

But this does raise a sad and disturbing question: Is Graydon homophobic? Hm. Hadn't noticed the tendancy, but then, I'm (demonstrably) oblivious about such things. He does seem to display an odd assortment of moods, ranging from fascinatingly erudite and pedantic to sadly cross and antagonistic. Can you be in fandom and be homophobic? I wouldn't have thought it possible.

As for the more general statement about women...that's really sad.

Nah. Just disgusting. Other than the engineering, I find women to be lovely people, most of the time. Some of them are entirely worthy of a second Look, even.

Nicole @313: munch Ahem. I look over my glasses at you, in Jon Singer–like fashion.

I have met her guinea pigs. They are cuuuuuuuute.

Professionally. One might say, premeditatedly. And while we're at it, why the hell have they been trying to convince me all day that they're starving?

And, reciprocally, I have been mooched at by Uno and Null, the owners of Chez LeBoeuf-Little.

Erik Nelson @319: Wheee!! I yuvs da Fluorosphere!

#322 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 12:19 AM:

I took advantage of a beautiful warm sunny day by taking off from work and . . . shampooing the carpets. Part of this involved moving a heavily laden file cabinet. I decided to weed out old stuff. Like a folder full of instructions pamphlets for 1988 vintage hard drive controllers, and a technical manual for a full-height 5.25" floppy drive.

Also: A receipt for a hard disk drive I bought by mail order in 1989.

65 megabytes.


A drive with about TEN THOUSAND times that capacity now goes for about 20% of the 1989 price.

#323 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 05:00 AM:

Constance @275: please note the Graydon's definition, "hit who I like, fuck who I like", is asserted as being the default alpha-male behaviour for primates.

Humans are primates, true -- but so are chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans, australopithecines, and homo erectus.

Humans are the most socialized primates (by a very long way), and therefore the least likely to exhibit the unmodified default behaviour.

Graydon's thesis is that it's still there, under layers and layers of controls and social programming that restrains it; it comes out occasionally in sociopaths and edge conditions (unintelligent and violent men with poor impulse control who are placed in situations that enable such behaviour), but is usually absent from our societies. However, certain kinds of social change weaken the restraints, and make the sewer run closer to the surface.

(Oversimplified, but.)

My point is, his point isn't a Hobbesian argument about the foundation of society being in violence, but something else instead.

#324 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 05:15 AM:

Graydon: congratulations on your classic alpha male primate status display in Xopher's direction -- but isn't it about time you reassured us that you're only doing it to demonstrate your theory?

Otherwise we might have to conclude that you're simply being a dick.

#325 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 07:27 AM:

Right, that's quite enough dogpiling on Graydon, thank you very much indeed.

I don't know what caused Xopher to take Graydon's failure to provide a cite quite so personally at 166. And that was no excuse for Graydon's dismissiveness at 171. But that was also no excuse for Xopher's broadening of the conflict in 220 (the characterization in 173, while also over the line, was at least a comprehensible reaction). By the time Graydon is referring to Xopher in the third person* at 258, I'm about ready to wash my hands of the pair of you.

Xopher: you've now got enough social support to prove that you are not isolated in this thread or on this site. Let this incident go. That includes, by the way, not starting any future interactions at this level of hostility. If you don't want to engage in future, don't.

Graydon: you do owe Xopher an apology, not for ignoring his request for a cite when he made one at 99, but for how you've behaved since that point. Neither 171 nor 258 was appropriate or productive behavior in a community that values good conversation.

Everyone: I'm not exactly delighted to see that this has turned into quite such a polarized discussion. I appreciate some of the backseat moderation, including but not limited to Nicole J LeBoef-Little @259 and 262, and the ever-sensible heresiarch @278. And I am grateful for the fact that I don't have to take any vowels; I know there were probably some fairly stinging comments abandoned at preview. But this has gone on far longer and more personally than is really necessary; can anyone really picture it resolving itself by these means?

I apologize for the late arrival of a moderator here; this has simply been one of those weeks where we've all had various flavors of that "life" thing that all the cool kids go on about. On the other hand, you guys are not teenagers; we should be able to go away for a couple of days without coming back to find that people have been throwing crockery at one another.

* Xopher's surname is well-known and attested on; Graydon's use of it is rudeness but not outing.

#326 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 07:45 AM:

Thanks, Abi.

On an entirely different note, some of you may be momentarily amused by the results of throwing "Clegg Cameron slash fic" into Google ...

(Nine days on from the election and we're still going WTF?!? over the outcome.)

#327 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 07:48 AM:

Lee @198:
I don't think it can be argued that there's something inherently wrong with not having a period every month, except from the level of "it's against God's will" -- which is not a medical argument.

I think you elide a lot there, including (ironically, in this thread) possible side effects of disruption of evolutionarily balanced systems by human intervention†. There's a whole world of difference between "it's against God's will" and "we don't understand the process we're meddling in".

Speaking as someone who prefers, when there's a choice, minimal medical intervention*, I'd prefer not to be called superstitious because I think we don't always know what we're doing. We're not so very far from the Thalidomide disaster, to pick a fairly easy example.

At risk of TMI, I haven't had a period since my mid-30s when I got my first implant, and it's never caused me any problems.

"It works for me" is not a medical argument either. Anecdote != data.

If I sound vexed, it's because I am. This is a pretty dismissive line of argument you and Nancy @194 are using, and I for one am going from "unconvinced" to "unconvinced and annoyed" by its deployment.

† I am aware, of course, that having fewer or no children via artificial contraception is also a disruption of evolutionarily balanced systems, but doing it once doesn't mean that doing it twice is better.
* a mix of "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and "prefer limited to systemic solutions", before anyone goes haring off thinking I don't take or believe in medicine when it's necessary.

#328 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 07:52 AM:

Also, does anyone find the crossover between Robert Glaub @160 and Earl Cooley @292 as interesting and thought-provoking as I do?

#329 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 07:55 AM:

Typography question for the open thread:

I was just reading a book printed (in 1989) by Mosaic Press of Oakville, Ontario; the copyright page says typography was done by Bambam Type & Graphics. The book contains a lot of Spanish proper names and book titles; but the people at Bambam appear not to have had access to, or not to have wanted to use, any diacritical marks in their typefaces. So there aren't any accents -- but somewhere in the printing process, somebody went through and added tildes where needed by hand. How would this work in a printing plant? At first I was thinking of a photocopier, where if you pencil a tilde in on the original it will show up on the copies; but I did not think books were printed that way. Would that change of penciling in tildes have to be done on something like a photographic negative? Seems like a huge amount of trouble to go to (a) as opposed to using a typeface with tildes and (b) if you were going to that kind of trouble, why not do the accent marks as well?

#330 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 07:56 AM:

Charlie @ 325

I don't like the outcome any more than you do. But I'm surprised that you're surprised by it. Once a substantial element of the Labour party had made it clear that they weren't interested in a coalition, what other outcome could there have been? (I'm not just being wise with hindsight here: a week before the election I predicted that there'd be enough high-ups in the Labour Party whose memories stretched back to 1981 to undermine any possibility of a progressive coalition

#331 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 08:17 AM:

† I am aware, of course, that having fewer or no children via artificial contraception is also a disruption of evolutionarily balanced systems, but doing it once doesn't mean that doing it twice is better.

I don't quite belong in this conversation (although I find myself caught up in versions of it from time to time when as occasionally happens I end up teaching 'science-and-gender' related stuff); but I'm wondering whether it's obvious that 'contraception which prevents both pregnancy and menstruation' counts as two interventions and 'contraception which prevents pregnancy but leads to an unnaturally high number of menstruations' counts as just one.

You might regard them as both involving two interventions.

#332 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 08:27 AM:

Stefan Jones #322: Yeah... I once was sysadmin for a timesharing system with two 1.2-Gig hard drives, the size of small washing machines. Just now, I had to rummage through the clutter on my desk to find my 4Gig thumbdrive (which I bought for $20).

#333 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 08:33 AM:

praisegod barebones @331:

We have a long history of how people react to simply not having children, which effects you also get from non-systemic forms of contraception (including various forms of not having vaginal sex* and barrier methods). Nuns, to pick one example, have been having an unnaturally high number of menstruations for millennia.

We have a shorter history of systemic intervention (50 years, just about exactly, but the means we've used have changed over that time, so the baseline is...complicated.) I'd classify that as a different form of reduction of lifetime pregnancies/increase in menstrual periods than is produced by barriers/celibacy/etc, because we're messing with the system in question.

We have an even shorter baseline for systemic intervention that reduces the number of menstrual cycles. Perhaps it is one intervention rather than two. But it's certainly a step further than the first change, and may or may not be a step further than the second.

In any case, I don't see caution in taking such steps as solely based on religion, superstition, or any conflation of the two.

* There are a lot of practices that get grouped in there; I'm aware of them, but they're irrelevant for what I'm talking about

#334 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 10:22 AM:

There's also a qualitative difference between birth control pills and condoms, as many people who have been on the former can attest. (You're messing with your hormones, and that has side effects.)

One interesting study that came out recently noted that women are attracted to different types when they're fertile than when they're not. It speculated that the widespread use of various pills may partially account for the change in which men are popular— Clark Gable vs. Orlando Bloom, etc.

It also mentioned that the men to whom women are attracted when not fertile are slightly more genetically similar, and that this might have a correlation to difficulties in getting pregnant. Which is a bit worrisome to those folks who want kids but who are in the dating scene while on various forms of the Pill.

#335 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 11:21 AM:

Modesto Kid 329:
When I first worked for a newspaper, (in the eighties and in the nineties) standard procedure was to make a paste-up, i e build something out of paper stuck together with glue or wax that was destined to eventually stand in front of a plate camera. So you get paper output from your phototypesetter or your desktop publishing system and glue it on to paper. Adding the tildes can be done at that stage.

(Later on, the company eliminated plate cameras and started outputting computer files straight-to-negative, and at a later stage of its evolution eliminating the negative and outputting straight-to-plate.)

#336 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 11:29 AM:

Thanks, Erik.

#337 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 12:21 PM:

Abi #327

I read Nancy @194 as making exactly your point: that it's perfectly reasonable not to want to meddle with complex systems.

Now, there is some safety data both on return of normal menstrual cycle after stopping treatment, and on changes in the endometrium with treatment, showing that there isn't any sign of cancer. (I searched PubMed on "continuous levonorgestrel safety"). On the other hand there clearly isn't any long-term safety data since the treatment hasn't been around long enough.

Unfortunately there is no proposal as far as I know to collect any good long-term safety data. And we know from the Women's Health Initiative that the results can be surprising. This sort of thing doesn't just happen with women's health -- there is a movement in the US to give testosterone 'supplementation' to older men, with essentially no evaluation of whether it works.

Incidentally, if you want a scary example, thalidomide isn't such a good one -- something like that would be noticed fast. A better example is diethylsilbestrol (DES), which was unsuccessfully used to prevent miscarriage, but which turned out to cause uterine cancer in some of the daughters who had been exposed as fetuses.

#338 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 12:23 PM:

having fewer or no children via artificial contraception is also a disruption of evolutionarily balanced systems

So are the glasses that mean I can see danger coming at me.

#339 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 12:38 PM:

David Harmon@332, et al: I remember the heady days where members of a local bulletin board system conspired (with the approval of the sysop) to fill up his 10 megabyte hard drive. We were surprised how it turned out to be. This was in '85.

Nowadays I'm annoyed because my work email account is limited to 50 meg.

#340 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 12:41 PM:

On British politics - am I (American) totally off-base when I think that the Conservative Party is doomed? Their bare plurality puts them at the mercy of the Lib Dems who have every reason to want to see the Conservatives fail discredited. They'll withdraw from the coalition at the most embarrassing time possible (provided they can look good doing it), triggering elections at the Conservative's weakest moment. How can the Conservatives get anything accomplished, knowing that their allies have excellent reason to put a dagger in their spine?

#341 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 12:42 PM:

Thomas #337: Also, IIRC Thalidomide was a case of really bad luck in testing -- it was tested and cleared in three different species of lab animal, with no problems found... the fourth would have revealed the birth-defect issue.

#342 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 01:01 PM:

And even without the cancer, there are other kinds of (permanent) effects caused by DES exposure, for all of the children exposed. (There's also some evidence of effects in the mothers, too.)

One doctor said that at the time they were trying everything but the kitchen sink to prevent miscarriages. (Now at least they understand that that's not such a good idea.)

#343 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 01:26 PM:

Serge 338:
In 1999, a TV interviewer went around asking people what the greatest inventions of the millennium were. One person said "reading glasses, because without them the world would be run by young people."

#344 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 01:31 PM:

What I learned about "alpha male primate behaviour" at the age of 14 was that men who engage in displays of, shall we say, aggressive potential, are liable to end up dead. As they say in Jamaica, dead bad.

A hero, to back up C., is not someone who can fight whom he likes and fuck whom he likes, it is someone who, when everything is going to shit around her or him, continues to do their job. It is someone who manages, in spite of every challenge, to extend decency and hope to their fellow humans. I am lucky enough to have encountered a few people in that category, and to be awed by them.

#345 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 01:49 PM:

#275 Constance:

I think there's a third archetype besides hero and Graydon's alpha male-- the good administrator.

I'm also not sure how much the "fights who he wants, fucks who he wants" is the state of nature-- even very dangerous leaders can get ganged up on.

Lee @198: The thing is, the more likely dangers might be a few percent added risk of cancer or heart problems-- the kind of thing it makes sense to risk if you hate your periods, but not a risk everyone wants to take.

#346 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 02:45 PM:

Heresiarch @340: we are really off the political map over here right now.

The Conservative party is nothing if it isn't a finely-tuned election winning machine. That's what it's always been, for the past 200-odd years. But they've just done something unprecedented: lost three elections running, and fallen short of a majority on the fourth attempt. In the previous (losing) three, their response to failure was to lurch further to the right. But by the time Cameron took over, it was becoming obvious that this was alienating the electorate.

Cameron clearly wants to drag the conservatives back towards the centre-right of British politics, but he's handicapped because the Conservative constituency parties are a virtual anarchy -- they select their candidates for parliament and central office has no control over them. A top-led coup in Labour allows whoever controls the National Executive to parachute ideologically-vetted candidates into every constituency. But the Conservative party is a bottom-up grass-roots entity. Average age of members is somewhere north of 65, and there are a lot of unregenerate Thatcher-worshippers there who think if only they could dig up the bones of the blessed St Maggie the public would rally to the flag. Faint hope, but it gives Slick Dave a real problem -- how to square the divergent interests of the general voting public with the neanderthal monetarist europhobes the conservative constituencies keep sending to Westminster?

And so, to the coalition.

The LibDems and the Conservatives have signed onto an unprecedented agreement that the next election will be held on May 17th, 2015, and not a minute beforehand ... unless 55% of the Commons pass a motion of no confidence in the government. Which means that neither the Liberal Democrats, nor the Conservatives, nor a hypothetical "rainbow coalition" of everyone except the Conservatives, can trigger an early election -- it actually requires wide cross-party support.

This is unprecedented and amounts to a change in the British constitution (along with the legislative changes they're promising to bring in fixed term parliaments, an elected upper house, and a referendum on AV to replace FPtP in general elections).

As to why ...

In 1995-6, Tony Blair -- a member of one faction within the Labour Party -- whacked his Old Labour internal opposition by rallying support for the repeal of Clause Four of the Labour Party Constitution (the bit that mentioned the "s" word -- socialism). The Old Labour socialist types were effectively silenced, because they had nowhere else to go in British politics, and Blair redefined the party's position on the map in his own image.

There was the most significant political event in British politics in the past 20 years, and it would be astonishing if Cameron didn't understand it instinctively. I suspect that this explains the coalition, too. What this is actually about is Cameron using the Liberal Democrats as a weapon against his own turbulent right-wing back-benchers -- "we are going to modernize this party and swing back to the centre ground we used to occupy, and if you don't tow the party line, who cares? Nick Clegg is happy to help." Hence the storm of unhappy rumblings from old Tory grandees when the coalition negotiations reached an advanced stage -- they can see the writing on the wall. The residual rump of Thatcherites have nowhere else to go: they could quit the party and join UKIP, then lose their seat at the next election to a new Conservative candidate, picked after Dave leans on the grass roots. But that's not exactly a good way to build a career in government. And meanwhile, the centrist/modernizers have five years in which to restructure the Conservative party in their own image.

So we're now heading into utterly uncharted waters, involving constitutional reform and a possible putsch to drag the Conservatives kicking and screaming back leftwards to their historical pre-1979 niche.

It appears to be nothing less than the final demise of Thatcherism (an ideology whose best practitioners are now, ironically, in the Labour party).

#347 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 02:47 PM:

Erik Nelson @ 343... Ooooh.. I like that.

#348 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 02:51 PM:


We're getting a strict-PR party list system for electing whatever replaces the House of Lords, unless I mis-read things drastically.

This means there will need to be changes made to the constitutions of all the parties, to handle appointments to the PR party list.

Which gives the central party controllers -- the Labour National Executive, and the Conservative Party Central Office -- a moment of opportunity to extend their leverage over the constituencies, or to by-pass them.

(The smoking gun for the theory that the Coalition is David Cameron's Clause Four moment would of course be the Conservatives changing their constitution to allow the CO to dabble in the Commons candidate selection process, but I suspect a sufficiently smart reformer will leave that for last.)

#349 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 03:02 PM:


Thanks for the analysis. Fun stuff. I haven't been this excited about British politics since Portillo lost his seat.

#350 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 03:10 PM:

A word of caution: I'm just speculating wildly here. I don't think anybody -- except possibly David Cameron (and maybe Nick Clegg) know what the real plot is. For all I know, maybe the Liberal Democrats have collectively sold their soul to the Conservatives for a taste of power, even though it would be electoral suicide. Or maybe someone spiked the table water with MDMA. Or something.

All we can be sure of is that British politics is undergoing an epochal upset right now, and it's anybody's guess where things are going to end up.

#351 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 03:12 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 346, 348: Fascinating. But what are the Lib Dems getting out of it?

#352 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 03:15 PM:

Also, does the LibDem-Conservative agreement have legal force?

#353 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 03:22 PM:

heresiarch @351:
But what are the Lib Dems getting out of it?

The little thing is being in government. This is a third party that's earned a seat at the table in a two-party system.

The big thing is the referendum on electoral reform. The first past the post system has kept the Westminster Parliament a two-party game for plenty long.

#354 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 03:22 PM:

@351: The LibDems are basically getting almost their entire civil liberties agenda handed to them on a silver plate, with Conservative backing, and the national referendum on replacing first past the post with AV that they've been after for 50 years, and a bunch of ministerial seats in the cabinet.

If they get AV through, they stand a chance of starting the next parliament with 150-200 MPs on the same share of the vote they got this time round (50-odd MPs).

At that point we're into coalition politics a la the rest of Europe for the forseeable future -- but the only people who seem to have a problem with that are Labour (so, tough).

@352: the 55%-for-no-confidence rule will have legal force once they pass the enabling legislation to install it as part of the British constitution (which exists, it just isn't all written down on a single sheet of paper).

#355 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 03:32 PM:

Peter-Paul Koch of Quirksmode (whom I follow for Dutch politics) has a posted a very interesting analysis of the British situation.

#356 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 03:44 PM:

Charlie, #346: Thank you -- that's a really good, clear analysis of what's going on. I wish there were some way to make a similar process practical on this side of the Atlantic; both of our major parties are sorely in need of it at the moment.

#357 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 04:03 PM:

Charlie Stross #346: For "for the past 200-odd years" read "since 1833" (the Great Reform Act of 1832 is what created the modern system of inter-party competition for votes, before that the parties, Whig and Tory were factions in Parliament).

#358 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 04:13 PM:

#345 ::: Nancy Lebovitz

[ #275 Constance:

I think there's a third archetype besides hero and Graydon's alpha male-- the good administrator.]

I never intended saying the binary alpha / hero is the division of ruling elite, and I don't think I wrote that either.

I was describing what a lot of men seem to think a hero is, this fantasy idea of alpha male getting to act out any old time any old way with any old body or thing. You know, like toddlers having temper tantrums and determined to destroy everything they can reach. You see many a male attempting that behavior pattern because it supposedly indicates being on the top, i.e. Hollywood studio execs and then all the way down, because they believe emulating the behavior of the ruling elite will help them become the ruling elite. Or, for another instance, certain kinds of men insisting that men and women are fundamentally different sexual beings -- men are PROGRAMMED to show their alpha-ness by f&cking and impregnating as many women as possible, while women just want to stay at home with one fellow to bring home the bacon to the children. Whereas we know women's sexual behaviors are far more complex than than that, and far more varied than that.

Whereas to me a hero is a complex of behaviors an skills that tend to be just the opposite of that kind of behavior and thinking. For one thing it uses too much energy and destroys too many resources, including manpower, not to mention womenpower. But those enamored with the faux alpha human male theory of history and behavior tend to see 'hero' = baddest dude in town with the most muscles / weapons / money.

['m also not sure how much the "fights who he wants, fucks who he wants" is the state of nature-- even very dangerous leaders can get ganged up on.]

I never said that either. Because, for one thing I know that even in primate groups, if the leader is sociopathic and unfair to too many too much of the time, the rest gang up on him and either throw him out or kill him. In fact coups happen for other reasons in primate groups too.

So the problem with what I said on all you all's parts is unclear, at least over here. Or maybe I'm grading to many papers. Sigh.

Love, C.

#359 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 04:37 PM:

Sacrificing self for the sake of the group's survival*, looms large in defininng heroic actions across any time and any place. This is why we are currently calling the U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan heroes, right?

That description of alpha maleness was definitely that of a sociopath; sociopaths do not sacrifice anything for anybody.

Love, C.

*Where this veers into martyrdom, unless religion must be a component, that is for others to figure out. But then, the heroic Romance figure of El Cid is about religion too, supposedly dying while battling the incursion of Almoravids. In history, Rodrigo Díaz, the historical El Cid, fought for both Muslim taifa rulers and Christian rulers, fought against them both, and died peacefully in his bed of old age in his own taifa statelet.

#360 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 06:02 PM:

#358 ::: Constance:

My apologies for misreading you.

I think I was being associational rather than reading carefully.

Individuals who are enamored of that chimera popularly designated 'alpha male,' among other things have confused their fantasy with 'hero.'*

You may be giving them too much credit. I suspect they just want to be able to do whatever they please, without consequences.

This being said, "hero" is probably a more ambiguous item than you're saying. If a man is seen as useful in a high status sort of way, he can get away with a lot.

Arguably, though, the SWAT teams are free-riding on actual heroism.

I don't know about apes, but it recently turned out that what was thought of as an alpha wolf isn't the normal leader of a pack. Researchers were seeing a lot of dominance fights because wolves who didn't know each other were being thrown together in zoos. Wild wolf packs are pretty peaceful because the wolves in charge are the parents of the rest of the pack. (I don't know how succession is handled.)

I don't think movie directors and their subordinates behave badly just because they think it signals being in charge. I think behaving badly has short term rewards, and people in charge are more likely to get away with it.

On this bit (['m also not sure how much the "fights who he wants, fucks who he wants" is the state of nature-- even very dangerous leaders can get ganged up on.]), I was arguing with Graydon, not you. Again, apologies for being unclear.

#361 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 06:48 PM:

Charlie Stross #346

I agree that Cameron is using the Libs as cover to swing the Tories left, but I think the main lesson I'm taking from the negotiations is to never play poker with Nick Clegg. I suspect that it was some hint by him to Labour that prompted Brown's resignation (as a prerequisite to a liblab coalition), which was what panicked the Tories into the referendum offer.

Having said that, Cameron will grant the referendum but then campaign against it. Now the libs have to get voting reform. Going into a first-past-the-post election after supporting the tories would be electoral suicide. Traditionally the libs have won by convincing labour supporters to vote liberal "to keep the tories out" - that won't play anymore. So Clegg is risking everything on winning that referendum. Either he turns the libs into perminent coalition partners in a new politics, or they vanish. I suspect the rest of his party hven't cottoned on yet.

Personally, I'm just over-joyed to have a green mp in parliament at last.

#362 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 08:45 PM:

Charlie, do you really think you're getting an elected upper House to replace Lords? And one with proportional representation fully implemented, yet?

If that's actually part of the referendum...and if it passes, over the howling screaming objection of the Tories who'll fight like hell against their own proposal...that would be a truly phenomenal change and a huge coup for the LibDems. According to the BBC here, the gain they'd have from going to straight AV would be small, but PR would roughly triple their seats.

#363 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 09:32 PM:

Hilary Hertzoff @ 92 re: Lee @ 81: The song is "The Ethology Song" by Robin Nakkula. It's on the OVFF Beat cassette.

#364 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2010, 10:08 PM:

David Harmon @ 341: That's not quite right. Thalidomide was not properly tested, and that was caught by an astute Federal employee, Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey. Her previous work had demonstrated that quinine had adverse effects on fetal stages in various lab animal species, so when she saw the preliminary submission from the German company, she rejected their submission for lack of information. They kept resubmitting, and she kept denying their application -- and in the meantime, European doctors had started reporting neurotoxicity in their patients. This was followed by the birth of severely affected babies, and the drug was then withdrawn from the approval process.

If Dr. Kelsey had not been a trained scientist and a dedicated physician, she would not have caught the lack of important safety data. All new drugs must be tested in several generations of lab animals -- this is one of the legacies of Thalidomide.

It's actually not nearly as awful a teratogen as some other drugs commonly used. Thalidomide's teratogenic effect is limited to a very specific time span in the pregnancy: 20-36 days. Even one tablet of thalidomide in this 16 day span will cause phocomelia and other damage. In later years, thalidomide was shown to be effective against the wasting syndrome of AIDS, and against multiple myeloma. It turned out to be incredibly effective in the treatment of leprosy, and is being investigated for other diseases.

We almost had a study investigating thalidomide in some eye diseases, but it ended up being cancelled due to technical reasons. We had made it all the way through the safety briefings for the staff, which is why I know so much about it. It's a really cool drug, when it's not being misused.

#366 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 05:50 AM:

Mark @362: the elected upper house isn't part of the referendum. Rather, they're going to establish a joint committee to draft legislation providing for a fully-elected upper chamber. It's expected that PR will be used, and the members will be elected for long single terms (15 years was mooted, with an election for a third of the chamber's seats every 5 years). As it'll take a while to provide for this, new Lords will continue to be appointed in the meantime, with a view to phasing the new system in (i.e. incumbent appointees will be grandfathered in as if elected, and step down in due course when their seats come up for election, so that the introduction of the new system doesn't abruptly sweep away the revising house and replace it with a room full of newbies).

#367 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 07:29 AM:

As far as AV is concerned, I guess the party that stands most to gain from should be Labour- assuming that most Lib Dem voters would have Labour candidates as their second preference or at least their first preference after the smaller parties, and assuming that in many Labour/Tory marginals and perhaps even some relatively safe Tory seats, Labour and the Lib Dems combined have a majority.

Charlie Stross @346, "Faint hope, but it gives Slick Dave a real problem -- how to square the divergent interests of the general voting public with the neanderthal monetarist europhobes the conservative constituencies keep sending to Westminster?"

Sorry, couldn't help grinning a bit at the idea that someone who's on the record as saying that democratic feedback stops working once you get above five millions of people would still use "europhobe" as a slur. Political polarisation can do amazing things.

#368 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 08:36 AM:

Charlie @366: It's an interesting proposal, but it does away with the one aspect of the current House of Lords that was, in my opinion, worthwhile: lifetime appointments, hence the ability to take unpopular but necessary actions. My favoured reform was simply to replace the appointment system with open elections, which would obviously have to be conducted under a non-proportional system (maybe AV).

#369 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 08:46 AM:

Raphael @367: Under projections I've seen, Lib Dems would gain by far the most from introducing AV. The suggestion was that their performance in the election prior to the most recent one would have improved from 60-odd seats to somewhere in the region of 130.

I don't think the Tory alliance will affect them in future polls quite as badly as some commentators have been suggesting. The simple fact is that an alliance of some form had to be made, and a labour alliance would not have been able to control the commons long-term simply because it would rely on the regional special-interest parties to get a majority. How long before one of SNP, Plaid Cymru or SDLP get annoyed enough to leave the table? It might have been a better option for most traditional liberal voters, but I'm sure most will understand that the tory alliance is better long term.

And even if they lose 10% of their voters, assuming they get their electoral reform through, they'll still get more seats than they have for the last 60+ years.

#370 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 09:52 AM:

Jules, where have you seen that 130-some estimate under AV? By the BBC's projections here, simple AV would still leave the LibDems under 80 seats. If the Beeb's estimates are correct, the choices that could put the LibDems over 100 all involve abandoning the constituency system to some extent.

#371 ::: Dave Howell ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 10:07 AM:

Linkmeister@246: The main purpose of the purchase was for the small fridges to be used for pharmaceutical storage at my husband's medicinal supply company. Some of the stainless steel kitchen objects are going there as well, and some of the stereo gear and place settings (the latter for a lunchroom they hope to have after moving to a larger facility). Most of the table settings went directly to a yard sale the following morning which was raising money for Foolscap to buy some more programming space for our convention this coming September. A lot of the baking-related gear went to a friend that has a start-up specialty cake baking company ( There was a lot of seriously groovy paper stuff for printing menus and invitations, including lots of great envelopes. I'm keeping those. Ditto stand mixer, food processor, stick mixer (Yay! Mine broke last year), and vacuum cleaner (ours died a few years back). Most of the bulk spices will end up with another friend who's a hard-core amateur cook ("Why, yes, I can definitely use a couple cups of Hungarian paprika. Yes, and cayenne, too." A couple of cups???)

Harmon@251: Shipping? The auction stipulated that everything had to be picked up on site, and removed within three days of the close of the auction.

Actually, we got an unexpected bonus. The head chef had miscalculated, and thought the auction would be ending Friday night, not Thursday night. He actually had reservations for Friday at 5pm, so asked us to not come before 8 to get stuff for the yard sale the following morning. When I and some friends arrived around 8:15, there were still four diners there. The chef asked us if we were hungry? Well, er, yes . . . so he quickly set a table and served us some of the food still in back. I had a great chunk of tender marinated beef with potatoes and polenta. So a really yummy dinner for four was thrown in as a bonus.

ddb@257: Need storage space? Oh, no, that was part of my Cunning Plan That Did Not Fail, specifically the Direct-to-Yard-Sale part. Currently, there's a modest pile of Stuff in the basement waiting to be delivered to Heron Botanicals*, and the rest of the remainder is mostly stacked in our music room. Maybe six or seven boxes of stuff if we were to stuff it back into boxes.

*Normally, it wouldn't even occur to me to post this disclaimer, but, given the audience . . . Heron Botanicals (at the obvious URL) manufactures herbal medicines that are of unusually high quality. Since I suspect that some of y'all might have gone there anyway, I'll just tell you now that their products are available by prescription only.

#372 ::: Dave Howell ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 10:10 AM:

Stefan@322: {snort} I was putting some hard drives into storage, and discovered I still OWN a 40 megabyte hard drive. I'm keeping it because it amuses me. Along with my Challenger 1P personal computer, featuring 8 kilobytes of ram plus 1k of video ram, which I purchased with money from my paper route, June 1980, for about what you paid for that hard drive.

#373 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 11:09 AM:

re: adding water to acid, or vice versa...

If the reaction isn't particularly exothermic, it doesn't matter much. For example, in combining concentrated hydrochloric acid and water, there's not much heat evolved (the acid is already a water solution), so it doesn't matter a great deal which gets added to which.

If the reaction is exothermic, there are three factors: specific heat capacity (amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of a given amount of substance by a degree), boiling point, and corrosiveness. In the case of water and concentrated sulfuric acid, the boiling point of water is much lower than that of the acid. If a few drops of water are added to a quantity of acid without good mixing, the heat evolved is likely to make some of the water boil, spattering (mostly) acid all over the place. If a few drops of concentrated acid are, instead, added to a quantity of water, the higher boiling point of the acid means it's less likely to boil, and any spattering will be mostly water.

The same logic applies to combining water and a strong base, such as solid lye. Water added to lye sprays corrosive fumes all over the place. Lye added to water, with stirring, is much less nasty. Unfortunately, a number of soap-making instructions get this exactly wrong.

#374 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 11:13 AM:

Raphael @367: I'm not using "europhobe" as a slur, but as a description. Regardless of the extent of the deficit in democratic accountability facing the EU, there's a very nasty xenophobic streak in the conservative party that mimics the English prejudice that "the wogs begin at Calais". The result is that the Conservatives left the core centre-right grouping in the European Parliament to join the European Conservatives and Reformists, a hard-right group that includes the Latvian "For Fatherland and Freedom" party (Waffen SS apologists) and the Polish Law and Justice Party (violent homophobes). As such, they've marginalized themselves and will have an uphill struggle in representing the UKs interests given that they've effectively walked out on Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy (both centre-right politicians, you will recall).

I think there are real problems with the lack of accountability in the EU -- just as there are real benefits with having a talking shop to settle disputes, instead of the marching armies that preceded it. I'd like my government to be able to work from within to fix what's wrong, rather than sneering from the sidelines. What kind of problem do you have with that?

#375 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 12:49 PM:

Lee @ 318 -- At the last meeting of the Ottawa SF Society, we thought that we didn't have any snacks in the kit for our break, so our secretary went out to one of the local stores to pick something up. Since our meeting space is in Ottawa's "Chinatown", one of the things he came back with was a packet of wafer cookies, artificially durian-flavoured. I don't think he knew what it was, and I'm not sure if anyone else at the meeting did either -- the name seemed vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn't place it.

I'm quite sure that nobody took more than one of the cookies from the packet. There were a lot left over. I took a bite of one, didn't think much of it, but figured that I should avoid wasting the food and continued; it got worse with each of the remaining two bites. I don't know how artificial durian flavour compares with the real thing, but I'm not going to investigate.

#376 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 12:57 PM:

Jacque @ 321: Can you be in fandom and be homophobic?

Oh, gods, yes. One can be in fandom, seriously into BDSM and poly, and still publicly and loudly homophobic. *ndr* L**v*n comes to mind, unfortunately.

#377 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 01:20 PM:

Joel Polowin #375: Durian (aka jackfruit) is known for a sweet and mild flavor, creamy texture... and utterly horrific odor. They sell the "melons" packed in ice to reduce the smell.

#378 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 01:42 PM:

Charlie Stross @374, Regardless of the extent of the deficit in democratic accountability facing the EU, there's a very nasty xenophobic streak in the conservative party that mimics the English prejudice that "the wogs begin at Calais".

Sure; I just have the impression that the British left's attitudes towards the EU are often more based on reacting to that streak than on thinking about the EU itself. In those member countries where the local conservatives are mostly moderate christian democrats who more or less support the EU, there's usually a much wider range of opinions about the EU on the left. I don't have any problem with wanting a pan-European organisation to improve relations.

#379 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 02:01 PM:

Hah! BBC is thwarted! Found the book I want at Books on Board. They have no silly compunctions about the location of the purchaser. Hah!, say I.

Though it has to be said that Audible UK (the folks peddling the book on behalf of the Beeb) were prompt getting back to me when I emailed them. (They blame it on the publisher.)

So I got my book. I, at least, am firmly ensconced in 2.1K, thankyouverymuch.

#380 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 02:37 PM:

Actually, the durian is a completely different entity from the jackfruit.

The jackfruit has a very sweet (some would say sickly) smell and the flesh seems to be on the crunchy side.

The durian has a creamy texture when ripe, is mostly sweet (but Singaporeans and Malaysians prize the varieties that have a bitter component as well) and yes, has an extremely pungent odour that takes quite a while to go away.

#381 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 02:53 PM:

Well, I already BoingBoinged this, so I doubt I can cause her website any more trouble by posting it here. For fans of Jane Siberry, she's giving her entire back catalog of music away for free. 16 albums available here:

Her latest note says: "hey - something’s going on with the files. ignore that nasty ‘forbidden’ message. we’re sorting it out. bye nice people."
(I emailed her to suggest she take some of her fans up on the suggestion to create a torrent image of it, to relieve the stress on her wbserver.)

#382 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 04:03 PM:

mcz, David Harmon, I was under the impression that "jackfruit" was the flavor that Juicy Fruit gum was intending to convey. In which case, I do NOT want any, thanks!

#383 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 04:52 PM:

Rikibeth, I had stewed (canned) jackfruit in an Indonesian restaurant. It had nothing to do with Juicy Fruit! Of course, the incendiary nature of the chilis it had been cooked with might have distracted me. It was also a surprisingly pretty purple color. I don't know why, and the waiter had too recently arrived from Indonesia to tell me. He did say that canned and fresh weren't anything alike, and that it was all but impossible to find fresh jackfruit, even in NYC.

Shorter me: it was yummy and I'd happily eat it again.

#384 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 05:48 PM:

Clifton @381 -- that looks very promising. I have never heard her music, with what shall I start?

#385 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 06:21 PM:

TexAnne #383: I've seen fresh jackfruit being sold at the fruit stands on Flushing Main Street (Queens' Chinatown). Look for big corrugated-looking "melons" with ice on them. If cut, the flesh will be a cream/pale yellow color.

#386 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 06:29 PM:

Joel Polowin @363 Of course that cassette has been sitting on one of the shelves of my desk waiting for me to rip it to mp3. This is not as bad as it sounds as there are at least 50 filk cassettes in the same state.

Thanks. It's always weird when a quest like that ends so easily.

#387 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 06:29 PM:

I've had durian, and liked it a lot. The smell is certainly pungent, and I won't be buying durian-scented candles any time soon, but it didn't bother me as much as it did everyone else at the party. The flavor is sort of like a creamy, slightly oniony nectarine... sort of. I can't really describe it.

#388 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 06:34 PM:

When I lived in Massachusetts and could go to Boskone, I brought Durian wafers along for the Tor party, along with Durian candies. Oddly enough, there were some left over when the party broke up. I was taking them to the snack tables in the main room, but shared some with guys who were headed to another party from there. I put the candies in a bowl with the package next to it. Some compulsive soul kept taking the package away, leaving the unlabeled candies, which offended me. What was the point of eating durian candy and not knowing it?

The next time there was a Tor party, I brought something even more chock full of durian goodness -- jars of durian chips. Duricious!

#389 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 06:35 PM:

The fruits, incidentally, have a sort of eldritch, Cthulhoid appearance to them.

#390 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 06:52 PM:

"One interesting study that came out recently noted that women are attracted to different types when they're fertile than when they're not. It speculated that the widespread use of various pills may partially account for the change in which men are popular— Clark Gable vs. Orlando Bloom, etc."

I'm spluttering inside. On the internet, this comes across as "rewriting the post about six times"- sorry if I've self-edited to the point of incomprehensibility.

I think the shortest version is this: Most of the women I know have a favorite member of the Fellowship of the Ring- sort of like the "favorite Beatle" of yesteryear- and there's plenty of Aragorn fans. We don't have uniformly Orlando-Bloom-like sex symbols- even in the one movie.

Even if we say that the "Average taste of women" can be calculated, and can move towards smoother men, or craggier ones, what does this say about Valentino? Errol Flynn? Daniel Craig? (typo of the day: Valention. It's gotta mean SOMETHING.)

Am I even accurate in my guesses about what an "Orlando Bloom Type" means to you, and what it correlates with in 1920's manliness?

#391 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 07:49 PM:

Clifton @381 -- thank you!

The Modesto Kid @384 -- I've only had one of her albums, Bound by the Beauty, and found that quite accessible. I'd particularly recommend the cut "The Life Is the Red Wagon". It's one that comes to mind when I haven't had the album to listen to for years. I'm planning to download them all a little later. Slightly rough-voiced singer-songwriter with a nice turn of phrase would be my elevator pitch for her.

#393 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 08:55 PM:

I just downloaded The Speckled Sky and am listening to "One More Colour" right now. I'm having trouble finding an artist who's similar. There seems to be some synth on "Seven Steps to the Wall," which is the second cut. iTunes classifies it as Pop/Folk, which for once seems accurate.

#394 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 09:04 PM:

"Vladimir Vladimir" off the same album sounds like the Moody Blues might have sounded if they'd had a woman singing lead.

#395 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 09:23 PM:

Apropos of nothing, I've just lost all my bookmarks (the current ones, I haven't tried my backups from last month yet - boo, hiss, firefox weave addon!).

So I'm googling to find sites again, and the first result for Making Light has this description above the link: "A liberal to libertarian weblog on issues of interest to a full-time science fiction editor and part-time musician in New York."

This text doesn't appear to come from your source code, and I wondered if it was the description you'd use.

#396 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 09:59 PM:

spray-on clothing is here...

#397 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 10:18 PM:

I went looking for a new copy of Stranger in a Strange Land, and lo and behold, they cannot be found. All I see are the "uncut" version, which is not the book I'm used to.

That book was a great read, told its story tightly, characters said their piece and moved on.

The "new" version drags. Brief, witty exchanges become long overdrawn exercises in almost Fanthorpean quota-filling.

An example:

talking about the mail, from the old version, via Google Books:

...peddle 'Official Man-from-Mars' junk - one character asked for a five-year royalty-free monopoly -- and wants Mike to finance it, too."
. "I admire a whole-hearted thief. Tell him that Mike needs tax losses, so how much guarantee would he like?"
. "Are you serious, Boss?"
. "No, the gonif would show up with his family. But you've given me an idea for a story. Front!"

And the "modern" version:

. ["Sissy. You might enjoy his ideas- Anything startling in the mail otherwise?"
. "No. The usual crop of people who want Mike to endorse this and that, or] peddle 'Official Man-from-Mars this's and that's-one character had the nerve to ask for a five-year monopoly royalty free, on the name, but wants Mike to finance it as well."
. "I admire that sort of whole-hearted thief. Encourage him. Tell him that Mike is so rich that he makes crepes suzettes with Napoleon brandy and needs some tax losses-so how much guarantee would he like?"
. "Are YOU serious, Boss? I'll have to dig it out of the group already sacked for Mr. Douglas."
. "Of course I'm not serious. The gonif would show up here tomorrow, with his family. But you've given me a fine Idea for a story, so run along. Front!"

63 words vs. 111. Almost twice as long. And not as clear.

The moral?

Hooray for editors!

#398 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 10:56 PM:

Jacque @ 321, and partly following up on my own comment @ 376... For the record, Graydon and I have known each other for something like 18 years. We've had our differences, and have had very little contact for about the last ten years, but before that we were part of the same SCA group, gamed together, and had other social groups in common. I've never seen any indication of homophobia in him. (And at least one other member of those intersecting social groups was openly gay, for what it's worth.) When I pointed out that it was certainly possible to be involved in fandom and yet homophobic, I was NOT intending to suggest that that might be true of Graydon.

#399 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 11:46 PM:

Jon Baker @397 -- if you can't find it new, buy it used. And write to the publisher. Remember, they brought old Coke back!

#400 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 16, 2010, 11:49 PM:

#390: I'd originally put Leonardo DiCaprio, but mostly I'm dating myself. I don't have any "boy band" referents here, which is more what the study implied. And as for "1920s manliness"— hell if I know. I've no doubt misconstrued what they said through my own bad examples. Things get into my head and rattle around until the best I can say is "I read it somewhere" and I read a LOT. Makes it very hard to track down source material sometimes to see what it actually said.

Incidentally, when Fellowship (the movie) came out, I had a coworker who was asking customers "Aragorn or Legolas?" He seemed surprised when somebody came back with "Boromir." I thought about it, realized I was more towards Boromir, which is hardly surprising given that Evil Rob most closely resembles that one. I tend to describe him as "a Viking" (Danish heritage throwback) and when people see him, they say, Yes, exactly.

#401 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 12:05 AM:

In the realm of open thread randomness... I have not had as enjoyable an entirely solitary weekend in several months. This is related to having spent six days in Florida at a conference (lots of good research, and rather more partying than I usually engage in - tiring).

What made the weekend enjoyable? Getting one recipe to Really Work, and beating my speed record on another.

Almost every weekend, I play with one of a few bread recipes (Nashville being depressingly deficient in decent bakeries where the product on offer is worth what is being asked). I have been on a challah kick for a while now, using a recipe adapted from the Culinary Institute of America's book - and this week's version, tweaked within the bounds of available materials for maximum gluten development, makes me happy. So, I have tasty, tasty challah to eat over the next few days, which can only be a good thing.

The speed record was established on a tart that I bake at least a couple times a month (more if I am entertaining); I got the recipe from my mother back when I was in undergrad and I have modified it to suit my own tastes and the fruit I can get. It started life as a frangipane tart with pears... I have taken to subbing out a third to half the almonds for hazelnuts, which add additional complexity (and go amazingly well with plums, even cheap grocery store plums that could be fired from a cannon without ill effect).

I have been claiming for a while that I could toss one of these together while my oven heated to 425F... and this evening's timed preparation proved that I was not lying to myself (22 minutes total prep time, which I am inordinately happy about). The tart should improve the lengthy post-conference recap meeting that starts 12 hours from now...

#402 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 02:18 AM:

Benjamin Wolfe @ 401: Dough mixed and rolled, fruit poached, frangipane mixed and in the oven in 22 minutes? I bow to you, sir! I don't make pies often enough to make me comfortable with dough. Must remedy that, as Portland's Second Annual Pie Off is coming up in August.

#403 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 02:35 AM:

Hilary, #386: Only 50? Either your collection is a lot smaller than mine, or you're a lot further along in the tape-to-mp3 process. I have a good dozen tape boxes, each of which holds 42 tapes, for the filk cassettes alone. Then about the same for the non-filk cassettes. I've gotten most of the way thru the first box of filk stuff.

Sandy, #390: My completely non-scientific speculation is that maybe more women are being attracted to less traditionally-"manly" men because they've had a few too many unpleasant experiences with the other sort. IOW, a conditioned reflex, coupled with a wider range of choices.

B. Durbin, #400: For the eye-candy factor, Frodo. For which one I'd settle down with, Faramir in a heartbeat.

#404 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 02:49 AM:

Erik @396,

I was looking up body-paint with a "furry" theme--tiger-stripes like a real tiger rather than an old cammo outfit, and my searches kept straying into porno territory. The sort of paint job that makes a girl look fully-dressed, from a distance, when she very much isn't.

I also found a site by a German-speaking photographer--Austrian, I think--with some remarkable work, but I backed out hastily when I realised that some of the models looked a bit young. There are some big cultural differences in the attitude to nudity, and lawful pictures in Austria could get you into big trouble in the UK.

I emphasise that I didn't see anything I'd consider evidence of an abusive situation, but I wouldn't want to argue the case in court.

Anyway, the porno I came across showed the painting methods, in, er, extreme close-up detail. And I did come across a clip from a gay porno movie, which had the performers in furry-style body paint--not very realistic leopard-spots, actually. But, and I confess a slight disappointment, no sign of overt straight porn in that style.

The Austrian photographs could be honestly called artistic, I think. And, tempting though the opportunity might be, smudging the body-paint would feel rather disrespectful to the artist.

#405 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:02 AM:

Dave Bell @ #404, Sports Illustrated has had several models in body paint contained within its annual Swimsuit Edition for the past four or five years. Here's this year's page (nothing untoward -- painted-on swimwear without closeups).

#406 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:17 AM:

A handmade Bag End dollhouse, with removable roof.

The artist is a gamer and model-painter. The level of detail is absolutely amazing.

#407 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:58 AM:

Sandy @390

Visually, Orlando Bloom does seem to be in the same territory as Valentino.

The movie-Boromir has quite a bit added, partly to make a story which works as a movie. We're encouraged to like the guy. Which makes his fall all the more emotional. And, oh, if only he and Faramir had been reunited in Gondor.

But I remember looking through the extras on one of the Kill Bill DVDs. Uma Thurman doesn't really do glamourous: her nose becomes a little too obvious. But in costume, in character, you can imagine her as really walking past you on the street, the ordinary masking the extraordinary.

#408 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 05:32 AM:

Good site for discussion of electoral systems is with the UK situation being a favourite topic of late.

#409 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 05:43 AM:

Erik @396: what bugs me about the idea of spray-on clothing is, how well does it play with those of us who are, ahem, endowed with more than minimal body hair that doesn't lie flat?

Full-body waxing as a prerequisite being able to pull on a tee-shirt more conveniently does not strike me as being an improvement ....

#410 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 09:13 AM:

Lee @403 That was an estimate and a bad one at that. Looking at the shelves and doing some math shows I have close to 100 and filk makes up the majority of it. Mostly because I never liked cassettes and jumped directly from records to CDs where I could (not an option for filk) or replaced cassettes with CDs.

BUT, about 15 years ago I moved to the East Coast and dropped out of collecting filk tapes. I only got back into it about a year or two ago, so there is a large gap that I've been filling with CDs rather than cassettes, for obvious reasons. I still feel like I've missed a lot, but there's only so much the budget can stand at one time.

#411 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 09:22 AM:

janet1 @ 402 : It helps that I do not blanch the fruit that I am using - if I want to peel it, I have a ceramic peeler that works wonders (but I usually cannot be bothered).

#412 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 10:04 AM:

I had a thought on spray-on clothing and other wear-once items:

I read an article, can't easily find it, about high-end clothing that had been designed without cleanability (word?) in mind. It was multi-thousand-dollar disposable clothing. Sounds like a really bad idea- or SF arriving early.

It occurs to me that as our standard of living continues to rise, and various items become disposable, ordinary clothing may someday join this list. (Try explaining a disposable camera to a time-traveller from the 1940's.) At $8 for a T-shirt and $8 for lunch at a diner, we're pretty close now.

Spray-on clothing has a number of other obvious difficulties than body hair, which are probably easy to solve; "that spot in the middle of your back" is one (with my bathroom mirror setup, I can see it, but I don't think I can reach it), "underarms and crotches" is another.

B.Durbin, Lee (403) -I think "a wider range of choices" just about covers it. You have options- Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman as The Boy From Oz. Orlando Bloom, Vin Diesel.

Peripherally, is it me, or are guys being offered FEWER body types by the media these days? I'm probably just not paying as much attention.

#413 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 10:37 AM:

Joel Polowin @398: Thank you for the clarification, and apologies to Graydon for impugning his character. My only defense is that I was so simultaneously bemused by concept that (a) I might be taken to be a homosexual man (which is a persona I could actually feature adopting, given the right context), (b) the idea of someone with a long history in fandom actually managing to sustain homophobia, and (c) the flattery implied by being (hypothetically) lumped into the same category as Xopher, that my manners were momentarily overcome by concept-squee. Again, Graydon, I'm sorry.

#414 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 10:46 AM:

Patrick@339: My first hard drive, a 20MB ST225 (in 1985), would hold one photo from my current camera (in RAW format; more in jpeg).

#415 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 11:01 AM:

Ran across this on Netflix. Watched it over the weekend. Neil Gaiman comes across as a really nice guy.

#416 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 11:18 AM:

Charlie #409:

This is part of the business model. The spray-on clothes are $5. The spray-on clothing remover (so you don't have to peel it off along with all your bodily hair to remove it) is $50.

#417 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 11:56 AM:

FWIW, Jacque, you and Xopher are and have been lumped in a common category in my mind as well, to wit: people I would happily welcome in my home if they showed up in my vicinity, regardless of circumstances.

There are actually a good few Fluorospherians in that category.

Shorter me: I love this place.

#418 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 12:01 PM:

The fruits, incidentally, have a sort of eldritch, Cthulhoid appearance to them.

They're bigger than your head, dark green, weigh 20 pounds and are covered in very sharp spines. You have to cut them open with a parang. Nature's way of saying "For God's sake, don't eat this, son!"

#419 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 12:25 PM:

I wonder, sometimes, if theatre preferred actresses who were amply endowed, because the whole of the performance had to be clearly visible from the back row of the audience.

And while film has managed to get away from the bold gestures and poses, not so much the rest.

#420 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 12:32 PM:

Re 390:

LOTR films, I prefered Eomer or Aragorn over Legolas. Nothing against Mr. Bloom, just not my cup of tea THEN.

However, by the time we reach the final film sequence of At World's End Mr. Bloom has become well worth a second look. In my opinion, much more handsome than Errol Flynn.

(I also could not figure out why anyone thought Leonardo DiCaprio was attractive in Titanic -- have to say he's another who has improved with age.)

#421 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 12:42 PM:

Dave, I'm sure you didn't mean to say that women act with their boobs! But I'm unable to figure out what you really meant.

#422 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 12:49 PM:

Assuming my general absence has been noted, all is well. School, work, and the other oddments of life have been eating my time.

I am planning a ridiculous summer trip, by motorcycle.

The waypoints/layovers are

SF to Tennessee.

Tennessee to New York

New York to Ottawa

Ottawa to Seattle

Seattle to SF

I have the first leg roughed out.

The second leg is pretty straightforward: I will probably layover in DC.

NY to Ottawa is a one day ride.

Ottawa to Seattle (probably by way of Vancouver) is still nebulous, though present plans are to stay more southern, and cut about two days out of the schedule; which means I'll be in Chicaco/Madison, and then up to Winnipeg.

Visits are planned, and crash space would probably be nice too; should someone have a couch going spare.

#423 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 01:06 PM:

Seattle space is available depending on whether we're in town or not, Terry. You know how to find me? The website referenced here has a mailto.

#424 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 01:09 PM:

Mark @417: Awwww!! :) :) See also: me too.

Lori Coulson @420: DiCaprio ... have to say he's another who has improved with age.

Yeah, men do that. Friend of mine contends that they don't really hit their stride until they're in their 40s. I'm inclined to agree. Certainly a lot easier to draw than teh callow yout's.

Terry @422 The waypoints/layovers are not Colorado. <sulk> <pout>

#425 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 01:20 PM:

Terry @422:

Dates? Even roughly? I'm either blind or you don't have them on your LJ either.

#426 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 01:26 PM:

Sandy B. @ 412 ...
I read an article, can't easily find it, about high-end clothing that had been designed without cleanability (word?) in mind. It was multi-thousand-dollar disposable clothing. Sounds like a really bad idea- or SF arriving early.

That'd certainly be a tiny niche of high-end clothing -- most of it can be cleaned, although there's certainly a segment that presumes a competence well outside of the range of your average dry cleaner...

#427 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 01:28 PM:

Terry @422: Hey, Oklahoma City's on your map! If you want to swing about 25 minutes to the south when you hit OKC, I'm in Norman and have a quite comfy air mattress and a spare bathroom. My email is jbcroft (at) hotmail (dot) com.

#428 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 01:54 PM:

#418, #419, creepy juxtaposition...

#429 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 02:00 PM:



It didn't occur to me to mix those two images together....

#430 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 02:01 PM:

Terry at 422, you said San Francisco, and if indeed you want to stay in the city, I'm sure there will be spare rooms. I live the East Bay, across the bridge, I have a spare room, and you'd be welcome to it, depending on how long you'd need it for and when you plan to travel. You'd need to be able to tolerate cats (2) and a well-mannered, friendly, 60 lb dog.

#431 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 02:12 PM:

Sandy B @412: high-end clothing that had been designed without cleanability (word?) in mind. It was multi-thousand-dollar disposable clothing. Sounds like a really bad idea- or SF arriving early.

I'd think of it more as an old European tradition, actually-- iirc from textile histories, those sumptuous silks, velvets, and gold-embroidered mantles in Renaissance paintings etc. were never washed with soap and water; every so often, they were aired out and brushed off, but that was it. Any non-visible residue would've been less noticeable to people who didn't regularly wash themselves either.

For that matter, this household tip from as recently as 1894 recommends the "Parisian" method of cleaning black dress silk: brush and wipe the surface with a plain (dry?) cloth, spread it on a flat surface to sponge the outer side with hot coffee, then iron the silk fmor the other side after the coffee dries.

#432 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 02:15 PM:

I just got the Bellowhead DVD, and holy moly. I think they're the best thing to happen to British folk music in ages.

#433 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 02:43 PM:

abi, et al: Dates: I will be leaving SF (Lizzy: SF is the first and last as I live in E. Palo Alto) on/about 26 June. I'll be leaving Tenn on about 20 July. I have a place to stay in New Jersey; and figure that to be a somewhere between 5-10 days.

Ottawa to Vancouver is probably on about 20 Aug, and I am aiming to be home between 5-12 Sept.

Jacque: not this time around. There are reasons for me to head that way, but family, sweethearts and time preclude making that angle from here to Tennesse, or from Ottawa to Vancouver. :(

#434 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 02:58 PM:

Terry: I should probably quit nagging you about it, then, huh? :)

#435 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:00 PM:

In the realm of major life changes, I am headed out to Berkeley for graduate school this coming August - I am wondering if the Fluorosphere has any great wisdom about apartment hunting in Berkeley. The last couple of apartments I have had to find have been in a rather less busy housing market (Nashville is a very easy place to find rental housing), and I am somewhat worried by the prospect.

#436 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:08 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 409: Full-body waxing as a prerequisite being able to pull on a tee-shirt more conveniently does not strike me as being an improvement ....

But men aren't supposed to wear tight clothing, and everyone knows that women don't have any body hair...


Singapore subway sign.

#437 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:13 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe @435 -- I found the housing rental services (Homefinders, e.g.) very useful when I was renting in Berkeley. A relatively small investment for a relatively large number of possible rentals.

#438 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:19 PM:

KeithS #436:

Should I find it worrisome that there is no fine for the durians? It is perhaps understood by all that the punishment is execution, or at the very least removal of the hand carrying the offending object?

#439 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:29 PM:

Terry: I'd love to meet you when you're in the NJ/NY area. Email is arohybhfzranpr@lnubb.pbz .

#440 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:29 PM:

joann @ 438:

That worried me too. Perhaps it's a fine by weight?

#441 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 03:59 PM:

My mother, a wise woman, told me about a fruit (later identified as durian) that was not allowed to be opened indoors, and we did see "No Durians" signs in Malaysia and Singapore. Mom and I ate durian slices bought from a street vendor in the Philippines, much to the horror of other American tourists, who were sure we would "get something" from eating them. Fresh and frozen durian can be found in various international markets in Atlanta, but I haven't tried it again.

According to Wikipedia , "A durian falling on a person's head can cause serious injuries because it is heavy, armed with sharp thorns, and can fall from a significant height." (Maybe the penalty for eating durians on Singapore public transit is to have one's head bashed with one.) The same Wikipedia article features a photo of a durian-flavored Yule log.

#442 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 04:58 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe @435: My experience is about seven years out of date at this point, but I lived for two years just south of campus in what seemed like a decent apartment when I moved in; right after that, relations with the landlord deteriorated to just barely good enough that moving was not worth the hassle. Be very cautious. If you do not mind biking or taking BART every day, your options improve a great deal; the districts right next to campus are saturated with undergraduates desperate to get out of the dorms.

#444 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 07:00 PM:

#422 Terry Karny

Writing as one who has driven the route from NYC to Canada crossing, your idea that it is a one day achievement is correct.

However, this can change without notice depending on many factors including weather, weekend traffic, holidays, and so on. Then there are whether or not security alerts are at -- well -- whatever level.

You can get grilled a ridiculous amount of time too, at the border, as to your reasons.

As a motorcyclist you'll have rain-resistant/proof stuff, of course. Nothing more rotten than sitting for hours at the checkpoints in a downpour.

Love, C.

#445 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 07:06 PM:

"Peripherally, is it me, or are guys being offered FEWER body types by the media these days? I'm probably just not paying as much attention."

You're not off the mark. FWIW, average Hollywood BMI is something obscenely low, like 18 or so. Remember how Kate Winslet was picked on for being "fat" in Titanic? She was probably something approximating reasonable to low, yet people were all over her because the expectations in Hollywood are set so thin.

And they're mostly white, too. While there are some non-white actresses of note (Gina Torres leaps to mind), you very rarely see a non-white actress cast as, say, the girl next door. The defaults in the casting departments are very strong, and you end up with "inscrutable Asians" and "poor Mexicans." (grrr.)

Yes, they should know better. But they tend not to cast non-white unless it's to make a point— which sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it? When they get to the colorblind level of, say, the Food Network, then they'll make some progress.

#446 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 07:11 PM:

Kip: I am collapsing, for say of general convenience. I will be staying in Jersey City, and making trip(s) in to see people. I intend to see the Damned Yankees play, as I don't know when I'll next get the chance. If the Dodgers are in town I might try to make it to Shea too.

We must make our pilgrimages.

#447 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 08:57 PM:

Terry, I'm afraid you're too late for a pilgrimage to Shea. It's been demolished. You could visit the old bases and pitcher's mound in the Citi Field parking lot.

#448 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 08:58 PM:

I don't know about the current production, but I was in a local one around 1976, as Applegate, and though it seemed to me then that it was a consciously anti-intellectual play, it's a pretty satisfying show. It has, excuse the expression, heart.

#449 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 09:37 PM:

Kip, I think Terry meant the Yankee referred to in the title of the show, not the show itself.

#450 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 10:32 PM:

Terry, if your wanderings take you through Kansas City, let me know. dragonet (at) kc (dot) rr (dot) com.

We've got a whole guest room, cats, and hospitality as long as it isn't over Memorial Day (our local con, and Margene is chair, so Jim and i will be doing all sorts of stuff not at home).

Then again, this welcome also applies to any of the regulars here if you all are traversing the country. We have a guest room, while we hope to renovate the bathroom on that floor Real Soon Now (tm) there is a better bathroom just one floor below. Amenities include cats, wifi (in some parts of house, we DO have what is probably wire and plaster walls that impedes some reception) but we also have a hardwired Ethernet connection downstairs. We're also centrally located, close to lots of restaurants, entertainment, etc.

#451 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 17, 2010, 10:49 PM:

xopher: Um! He does say so, doesn't he? Heh. I blame the atom bomb.

#452 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 12:14 AM:

Have you seen the Damned Yankees play?
No, but I've seen a horse fly.

#453 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 01:47 AM:

I just finished reading this paper, which analyzes banking as a pollutant (generating risk as a noxious by-product) and considers different regulatory strategies. It's surprisingly readable; while it's unmistakably an economics paper, it contains that precious manna in the desert of academia--a sense of humor. What really caught my eye, though, was this:

Two comprehensive studies in the mid-1990s found that economies of scale in banking are exhausted at relatively modest levels of assets, perhaps between $5-10 billion.33 A more recent 2004 survey of studies in both the US and Europe finds evidence of a similar asset threshold.34 Even once allowance is made for subsequent balance sheet inflation, this evidence implies that economies of scale in banking may cease at double-digit dollar billions of assets.
...Evidence from US bank holding companies suggests that diversification gains from multiple business lines may be more than counter-balanced by heightened exposures to volatile income-generating activities, such as trading. This mirrors the evidence from Charts 4 and 5 and from the Great Depression. Internationally, a recent study of over 800 banks in 43 countries found a conglomerate “discount” in their equity prices. In other words, the market assigned a lower value to the conglomerate than the sum of its parts, echoing Merton’s 1973 insight. This is evidence of diseconomies of scope in banking.
...To sum up, the maximum efficient scale of banking could be relatively modest. Perhaps it lies below $100 billion.

So not only is too-big-to-fail awful for all of the reasons we already knew, it's also just plain inefficient. Which begs the question: if ever larger banks are actually less valuable than smaller banks, then why the relentless drive towards larger and larger banks? My theory, without any evidence whatsoever, is pay as percentage of trades made. If you're a broker who makes a percentage off of every transaction, it's in your best interest for those transactions to be epic in scope. Yet again we find that the financial system is designed for the sole benefit of a tiny elite.

#454 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 02:51 AM:

Got it in one

#455 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 04:08 AM:

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. And Sacred Locomotive Flies.

#456 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 06:16 AM:

Which begs the question: if ever larger banks are actually less valuable than smaller banks, then why the relentless drive towards larger and larger banks?

Well, 80% of corporate mergers destroy shareholder value, but they still go ahead.
Reasons include:

1) the compensation of senior executives is more affected by the size of the company than by its profitability. If you run a company with $1 billion sales and $50 million annual profits, you are doing a better job than the guy who runs a company with $10 billion sales and $20 million annual profits. But I assure you that you will not be getting paid as much as him.

2) There is a very large industry that depends on convincing companies to merge with other companies: the investment banking industry, and the associated law firms and management consultancies. If they persuade you to go through with a merger, which they then work on, they get paid a substantial commission or fee, which often represents the most profitable part of their business. If they don't persuade you, or if they persuade you not to, they don't get paid. Note that none of the money they make depends on the merger being good for your company or its shareholders. Most of the time, it won't be.

3) There are certain other advantages to unwieldy size. One: you will be too big to be allowed to fail. (This is known as the moral hazard play.) Two: you will have considerable political clout (we employ 20,000 people in your state, need I remind you, Senator?) which can be profitable for the company's executives and also for the bank itself.

#457 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 07:52 AM:

Recalling a few stories from business acquaintances who did business in the USA, and one or two of my own experiences, I get the feeling that there was a clumsiness about US banking, and it was the combination of credit cards and the internet that forced a fix of the problem. The stories from the 1970s suggested that US banking was struggling to deal with inter-bank transactions, and if it wasn't US Dollars, you had no chance. Mega-banks were seen as a way of solving the problem of the guy from the next state.

I know people who were dealing in farm machinery who routinely travelled the USA with large quantities of cash money, because the locally-based banks couldn't cope with the stranger.

(If you had a quarter million dollars in cash, now, they'd think you were a drug dealer. That's the rough equivalent, today, of what the guy might need at a machinery auction.)

Get bought by a mega-bank, hook up to their network, and that's no longer a problem. British banking had, in a smaller country, developed other solutions. And the distances were a reason why Western Union worked out an answer to some of the problems.

And, much of the time, being a local bank was good enough for your customers. When the country was so big, mail order was slow anyway, and you didn't notice the sluggish banking.

In Victorian Britain, you could post a letter and get a reply the same day. Not only had the banks to be quicker, they had tools which let them be quicker.

#458 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 08:20 AM:

Terry: I can likely make it up to DC if you're having a meetup there (I'm a couple/few hours away in Charlottesville, but I'm a non-driver, so I'd have to take public transit.)

I'm also making a trip of my own next week, up to Boston environs for my little sister's birthday ("Saturday week"). I'll be up there for Memorial-day weekend and a couple of days before.

#459 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 09:40 AM:

re 456: Well, the #1 reason of course is that empire builders need empires to build. Most everything after that is a rationalization, becoming a reason if things work out. It's interesting to look at railroads, where the forces are understood. On one level bigger is generally better: less handling of goods is almost always cheaper, so the fewer transfer points the better. Cross subsidies of mainlines to branches are crucial too. But the real driver in the first big era of mergers was simple empire building. When the second big wave of mergers came about after WW II, it became clear that it was easy to put together something that was too big to succeed, and that merging a bunch of marginal/failing lines wasn't going to result in a profitable system (see Penn Central and then Conrail). But then CSX was formed as the first "most of a coast" system, and what they found was that they had reached the limit of how big a railroad you could run, at least with what we have now. They tried to consolidate all their dispatching to a huge center in Jacksonville, which in theory should have proven cheaper and also given better service. What they found instead was that it simply couldn't be managed so centrally, so they pretty much went back to the way they had been doing it before the merger. The FTC is unlikely to allow CSX and NS to merge (beside which they have mutually antagonistic corporate cultures), and a truly transcontinental merge is not in the cards now because CSX's experience shows that the result would probably not work.

It seems to me, though, that as far as banks are concerned the real problem is that safe operation is boring; therefore people at banks are always tempted to do non-boring and therefore unsafe things.

#460 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 10:07 AM:

as far as banks are concerned the real problem is that safe operation is boring; therefore people at banks are always tempted to do non-boring and therefore unsafe things.


Especially since banks started hiring so many very smart people. If you put smart people in a confined environment, they may end up inventing ingenious things you didn't expect them to invent. (see Subramanyam Chandrasekhar on the slow boat from India - a benign example - and also Anathem)

#461 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 10:18 AM:

#453 Heresiarch
There is a drive for the creation of monopolies--removal of competition by suing them out of existence or buying them out (Apple is especially fond of dissuading competitors by use of attack lawyers, small companies can't afford the court battles; lot of companies which fought e.g. "patent trolls" won in court and but went bankrupt due to having to spend more money and key employee time on fighting the lawsuit than on productive work to design/manufacture/market/distibute product... Texas Instrument fought Japan Inc. for literally 30 years over some basic microcircuit and microprocessor patents... few companies would have had the resource or will for a 30 year patent war... TI won in the end, but it took 30 years. The rest of the world accepted the patents, Japan Inc fought it for 30 years)...

The difference between a patent troll and a monopolist is that a patent troll is a parasite which demands a portion of the resource, a monopolist is amoeboid scunge out to completely take over everything...

#462 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 10:42 AM:

On the other hand, I know a woman, resident of California, who was setting up a conservatorship for her father (in Arizona). She had to go to Arizona to do it, because BofA's computers in Arizona can't talk to its computers in California (and the humans can't do it any other way). They're part of the same bank.

#463 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 12:17 PM:

#462: That's nothing.

When I was in college in Troy NY back in '70s, I opened a checking account with my local Citibank branch. I went downstate to New York City, and tried to access some cash from a Citibank branch in Manhattan - and they tried to turn me away.

I had to grab a manager and show him that the signage on his building matched the bank name on my checkbook before he grudgingly allowed me access to my money. In the same state, all of 160 miles away.

#464 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 01:31 PM:

You do all know that Joss Whedon directed tonight's episode of Glee, right?

And that Neil Patrick Harris is guest-starring?

#465 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 01:36 PM:

456:Warren Buffet had an interesting idea (recently found by me; not necessarily recently said by him.) Hire two consultants- one for and one against the merger- and only pay the one whose advice you take.

457:"(If you had a quarter million dollars in cash, now, they'd think you were a drug dealer. That's the rough equivalent, today, of what the guy might need at a machinery auction.)"

Is it true that the federal government can take your money -without finding you guilty of anything- and keep it? I don't mean "keep it as evidence", I mean "make it their own." I had the impression that at one point the government got the ability to confiscate cash, but the more I think about it, the less I realize I know.

#466 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 02:30 PM:

IJWTS: ¡Viva El Vética!

That is all.

#467 ::: LDR ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 02:39 PM:

Clifton Royston @381: Thanks for the link to Jane Siberry's music catalog! I'm currently expanding my acquaintance with her work, and I did my part to burn out her server by posting the link on Facebook.

#468 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 02:42 PM:

ajay @ 456: "1) the compensation of senior executives is more affected by the size of the company than by its profitability. If you run a company with $1 billion sales and $50 million annual profits, you are doing a better job than the guy who runs a company with $10 billion sales and $20 million annual profits. But I assure you that you will not be getting paid as much as him."


I'm starting to wonder if we should just put in an absolutely hard cap on income, taxing 100% of income over, I don't know, 10 million dollars. Because beyond that size I really don't see any social benefits to rewarding profit-seeking--not only do the resulting businesses present a constant threat of monopolization and inefficient, septic corporate cultures, but they also lean on our political system and distort its outcomes.

C. Wingate @ 459: "It seems to me, though, that as far as banks are concerned the real problem is that safe operation is boring; therefore people at banks are always tempted to do non-boring and therefore unsafe things."

From the same article:

Tail risk within financial systems is not determined by God but by man; it is not exogenous but endogenous. This has important implications for regulatory control. Finance theory tells us that risk brings return. So there are natural incentives within the financial system to generate tail risk and to avoid regulatory control. In the run-up to this crisis, examples of such risk-hunting and regulatory arbitrage were legion. They included escalating leverage, increased trading portfolios and the design of tail-heavy financial instruments.

The endogeneity of tail risk in banking poses a dilemma for regulation. Putting uncertainties to one side, assume the policymaker could calibrate perfectly tail risk in the system today and the capital necessary to insure against it. In an echo of the 1979 Madness song, banks would then have incentives to position themselves “One Step Beyond” the regulatory buffer to harvest the higher returns that come from assuming tail risk. They do so safe in the knowledge that the state will assume some of this risk if it materialises. Tail risk would expand to exhaust available resources. Countless crises have testified to this dynamic.

#469 ::: LDR ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 02:52 PM:

Sandy B. @465: Is it true that the federal government can take your money-without finding you guilty of anything-and keep it?

As I understand it, police in various states can confiscate money. Don't know about the federal level.

Here's one story: African-American man stopped in Georgia, $3,700 confiscated for no good reason, and I heard about another one involving a Latino man who was traveling to his aunt's funeral, and bringing the money to pay for said funeral in cash.

#470 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 03:07 PM:

It's not just the Federal government:

A two-decade-old state law that grants authorities the power to seize property used in a crime is wielded by some agencies against people who are never charged with, much less convicted, of a crime.
Law enforcement authorities in this East Texas town [Tenaha] of 1,000 people seized property from at least 140 motorists between 2006 and 2008, and, to date, filed criminal charges against fewer than half, according to a San Antonio Express-News review of court documents.
Virtually anything of value was up for grabs: cash, cell phones, personal jewelry, a pair of sneakers, and often, the very car that was being driven through town. Some affidavits filed by officers relied on the presence of seemingly innocuous property as the only evidence that a crime had occurred.
Source. Worth reading in full for the expanded list of police extortion.

#471 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 03:54 PM:

The property seizure laws are children of the war on drugs. Of course, they were only going to be used against high level mafioso / narcotraficante types, in much the same way torture and assassination by killer robots is always justified as being done only to the worst of the worst among hardened terrorists, not (say) frightened child soldiers or nobodies sold to us for a bounty by some afghan warlord.

#472 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 04:15 PM:

Open thready separated by a common language
goodness--this BBC headline means exactly the wrong thing in American English.

#473 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 04:37 PM:

Bob, #463: Even the matching trade dress couldn't convince First American Bank in Knoxville to honor my First American Bank account from Nashville, during roughly the same period. But the solution to that isn't mega-banks, it's the Cirrus network that allows you to access the account at your bank from a branch of a different bank.

Sandy, #465: The Federal government is the least of the problem. It's local and state governments which are resorting to outright theft of cash. It's particularly bad in Texas, and it's been going on for quite a while -- I'm pretty sure it was Texas where a guy who owns a nursery and was heading out to make a purchase of (legal) plant stock had $50,000 in cash stolen some 15 years ago.

The owner of Pegasus Publishing, who is dark enough to look Latino to a bigot, no longer carries large sums of cash when he's returning from a con, for precisely this reason.

Heresiarch, #468: AKA "Republican socialism" -- privatize the profits, socialize the risks. Part of the cure for this is to eliminate the corporate protection from individual liability in cases of malfeasance. When it's their own lifestyle at risk, they'll pay more attention to good business practice.

#474 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 05:08 PM:

albatross @ 472 ...
Open thready separated by a common language goodness--this BBC headline means exactly the wrong thing in American English.

Albatross -- I'm completely missing it. Can you explain without ruining the amusement?

#475 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 05:10 PM:

xeger @474:

"Tabling" a proposal means precisely opposite things on different sides of the Atlantic.

#476 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 05:17 PM:

xeger, "to table" in Britspeak means to place before the discussants. In Amerenglish it means to remove it from discussion.

#477 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 06:23 PM:

ajay @ 460:
If you put smart people in a confined environment, they may end up inventing ingenious things you didn't expect them to invent.

Or invent dangerous (to themselves or to others, or both) games to keep themselves from getting bored. What Enron did wasn't especially ingenious (wasn't anywhere near as fancy as selling default instruments to people who'd lose all their investment money to the organizations that sold them); they just needed to prove to themselves that they were smarter than everyone else by ripping everyone off and getting away with it.

#478 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 06:45 PM:


Last weekend I gave my carpets a thorough shampooing. They look great. But some kind of deep in reddish funk seeped up from down below where the carpet got especially damp and discolored some spots.

So I deployed this powdered cleaner you rub in with a brush, let dry, and then vacuum up.

And it worked great!

Better than the steam-cleaner did.

So now I have patches of exceptionally clean carpet amidst the merely mostly clean carpet.

#479 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 07:44 PM:

Stefan Jones (478): Don't worry, in six months you won't be able to tell the difference. ;)

#480 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 08:08 PM:

No fine posted for eating durian? That because if you have to ask, you can't afford it.

#481 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 08:22 PM:

Alan #480: More likely, they'll just take away the durian....

#482 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 09:07 PM:

Linkmeister @ 476 ...
xeger, "to table" in Britspeak means to place before the discussants. In Amerenglish it means to remove it from discussion.

Huh. That's fascinating. I hadn't realized until now that I use both meanings, and switch transparently, depending on context. No wonder I wasn't correctly confused!

#483 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 09:18 PM:

xeger, @ #482 Correct confusion. Now there's a concept.

#484 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 10:11 PM:

Child ballads online: what am I to make of passages like:

The knight stood in the middle p [REDACTED]
[Click to Shrink]

[REDACTED] they stood the space of an houre,
I know not what they did.

#485 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 10:28 PM:

Erik @ #484, now you've made "Chiron Beta Prime" (the only song I know that actually has the word "redacted" in it) run through my head.

Re the Child Ballads, now I have to go to bed wondering what the hell a "whummil bore" is. (A small hole?)

#486 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 11:25 PM:

Wikipedia knows. You can wonder, or you can look it up.

#487 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 11:41 PM:

I've always associated Jeremy Rifkin with numbskull luddism, but here he lectures on "The Empathic Civilization," illustrated on the fly by an unknown artist:

Fascinating and compelling.

#488 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2010, 11:58 PM:

Hey, Lee? Revision to the second t-shirt suggested here. I think the line under CTHULHU HATES FAGS should be ...the rest of you look delicious.

#489 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 12:19 AM:

#445 B.

There are the zaftig Dancing Ad Males... no zaftig Dancing Women in commercials, and hideous Mr 6 now has a sidekick... not ugly-face wimmyn as advertising stars...

#412 Sandy
It's called "conspicuous consumption" and a hallmark of arrogant robber baron types "we flaunt our wealth, that -you- the peasants don't, won't, and can't have, -we- are Superior and squander is our style of life." "After me, nothing!" -- Louis XIV when asked about the welfare of France post Louis XIV....

#401 Benjamin
If you come to the 2011 Worldcon in Reno, will you bring oome of the tarts you mentioned?

#397 Jon
Yes, hooray for editors--and also, the author can always blame the editor for the published text sins....

#490 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 01:42 AM:

Sestak beat Specter! An interesting change in the political world there....

#491 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 05:19 AM:

Thom: Halter beat Lincoln too.

The times they are a changin'?

#492 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 05:23 AM:

To clarify: Blanche Lincoln did not win the primary, so there is going to be a run-off.

Halter managed to get about half of what Lincoln did, which is pretty impressive, but he overcame the incumbent's advantage, and that without her having made a public switch of parties.

#493 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 06:26 AM:

two narratives:

1) specter was a fake democrat, pa voters wanted a real progressive. lincoln was a dino; halter is a real progressive. murtha's old district went for john mccain in 2008, went for a democrat last night. mitch mcconnell threw the republican machine behind grayson, the voters turned against him. ergo: huge win for progressives, huge black eye for republican leadership.

2) specter worked with obama, he got booted out. lincoln worked with obama, she's fighting for her life. murtha was a democrat, his replacement is a democrat, so what? rand paul shows that the tea party is taking over the country! huge win for the tea-party! time to write obama's obituary!

we'll see this played out in the news coverage over the next few days. i'm pretty sure that the murdoch machine will succeed in pushing #2 to the top of the talking points.

#494 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 09:25 AM:

David Harmon @481 - Durance vile for vile durians?

#495 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 10:24 AM:

Openthreadiness: for those of you who've followed FakeAPStylebook on twitter (and if you haven't, but have ever had to deal with the real one, click through and read their pointed satire *), they have t-shirts now. My favorite, which is somewhat cromulent here: Omt ndlss vwls. Which is also a Strunk & White joke. :->

* A couple of examples for non-clickers:

- Under no circumstances should photos be captioned in "lolcat." Well OK, maybe that one time.
- Only spell ketchup "catsup" if you wish to be murdered.
- "Lowercase" for letters, "the lower case" for where we keep the Scotch we drink when we're "crawling drunk."

You can write in and ask questions via @-twittering, and they reply. :->

#496 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 11:25 AM:

My home page is set to Enormous State U. [*] One of the headlines today reads "Pope named chair of Theatre and Dance". Which gave me pause, just a bit.

[*] Force of habit, spouse who works there, keeps me tied to local traffic patterns, plus it's not got too much Flash/php/constantly updating screen crud.

#497 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 12:29 PM:

joann, #496: My first reaction was, "Somebody actually made up a page for ESU? How cool!" Then I realized that you were just using it as a euphemism. Oh, well.

I guess I don't really have a "home page" any more. Since moving to Firefox, my browser comes up with a series of tabs: ML, my LJ, Facebook, my DW, Weather Underground, my Flickr, Digger (webcomic), LibraryThing, and Twitter. Plus whatever else is currently occupying my attention, but those are the defaults.

#498 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 12:59 PM:

Open Thready goodness: the etymology of "fanboy".

#499 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 01:23 PM:

Lee #497:

It was an article of faith in Austin in the late seventies that ESU referred to That Place Just North of the Capitol, even though Austin's efforts at pro sports teams were at that time non-existent. (Still not really worth beans. I can't ever decide if that's call for an "alas" or not.) Of course, these days UT is 25% bigger, making it overwhelmingly enormous.

Of course I have a ton of tabs: mail, my neighborhood forum, ML ...

#500 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 01:32 PM:

Re: Sestak's win over Specter, none of the pundits and talking heads are pointing out what seems to me to have been an obvious factor, possibly even the most important factor: Arlen Specter is 80 years old. The Democratic voters took a look at this old man and said, Fergodsake, dude, it's time to retire.

#501 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 01:41 PM:

I found Glen Greenwald's take on the election results interesting, though I rather suspect he's seeing what he wants to see as much as what's really there.

#502 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 01:41 PM:

Lee @497, I don't think it's a good idea to have your Facebook page logged in while doing regular web browsing on the side.

#503 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 02:11 PM:

Lee, joann: And across the Brazos, we thought it was us. OTOH, there was never any doubt about the model for Vine-Covered U.

#504 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 02:21 PM:

Earl is right; something nasty on a different webpage you're browsing at the same time can do bad things on the facebook page. I'm pretty sure you can get around this to some extent by having different browsers open--say, Safari for Facebook, Firefox for general web browsing.

#505 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 02:43 PM:

kid bitzer:

Perhaps an alternative take: the combination of obvious ways in which the folks in power have been and continue to be f--king up everything[1], and the rise of the blogosphere as a way to share commentary and information, has left a lot more voters unhappy with the status quo.

[1] The financial crisis in all its ongoing ugly glory and our pointless but apparently endless wars in the middle east are two obvious examples of this.

#506 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 03:09 PM:


in my view, albatross, that's a more plausible account than either of the two narratives i sketched out above.

but it is far too subtle, i think, to ever catch on as the "narrative" in the sense i intended, i.e. a simplified tale that the media will tell itself, and tell its viewership, over and over again, in order to drive the partisan agenda of the people who run the media.

i wasn't really offering analysis of my own--just speculation about the kind of pseudo-analysis that will be featured on meet the press, david brooks' columns, etc.

#507 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 03:24 PM:

joann, #499: Millar says that ESU is an amalgamation of several large state schools. I have absolutely no doubt that UT is one of them. Ohio State was in the mix for a while, too.

Earl, #502: I don't. The Facebook tab stays up all the time, but unless I'm actively doing something with my account, it's logged out. Facebook has enough utility that I don't want to get rid of it completely, but I don't trust the people running it any further than I can drop-kick them, and I think their programmers are incompetent at best.

#508 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 03:47 PM:

Hey, everybody. In spite of your best efforts, I didn't get that job. But thank you for trying.

#509 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 03:52 PM:

TexAnne #508:

So clearly we're all Doing It Wrong. (Rats.)

OK, Fluorospherians, how can we fix our mojo?

#510 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 04:19 PM:

TexAnne @ 508... Sorry to hear our mojo didn't do its thing.

#511 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 04:42 PM:

Lee @ 507... I think their programmers are incompetent at best

I wonder if they're related to the Keystone Kops of Koding that yours truly has to deal with.

#512 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 05:37 PM:

Serge #511:

I think mediocrity in programming, as in most things, is the rule, not the exception. It's just that the more visible the quality of the code, the more obvious it is that these particular programmers might have served the world better as ditch-diggers, broom pushers, or javelin catchers.

See the voting machine fiasco for many painful examples of hideous code used to implement insanely dumb designs, examples of which then served as piñatas for a whole bunch of security researchers.

#513 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 05:59 PM:

Stefan Jones @478: what is the name of the powdered cleaner? i have need of such a thing.

#514 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 06:07 PM:

There's too much interesting infrastructure that's come out of facebook for them to be mediocre programmers. The've got a php compiler, flashcache (hd cache on ssd for linux), and one of the various no-sql variants (I forget which), and that's just what I've been paying attention to. They've got enough machines and data that they have to have some reasonably sharp people working on the infrastructure or they'd implode. They've already reached a critical mass, so there's got to be some outward organizing pressure.

I don't trust them or their privacy related decisions, but that's a far different problem.

#515 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 06:25 PM:

Arizona Official Threatens to Cut Off Los Angeles Power as Payback for Boycott

Almost time for a remake of the Slaveholders' Uprising, to be called the Bigots Bugout.

#516 ::: Rick Owens ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 06:33 PM:

Lee @ 507:

The problem isn't that the FB programmers lack competence (in fact, as eric just pointed out at 514 there's a fair amount of demonstrated talent there) - the problem, as various people have noted, is that Facebook users are the product, not the target market. Therefore, it's not surprising that FB programmers make evil interfaces. This isn't a place for Hanlon's Razor - Fleming's "Three times is enemy action." is the rule to apply.

#517 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 06:37 PM:

In re: banks

I remember having to close an account and open a new one because BofA couldn't figure out how to cross state lines. That later became a problem when somebody cashed a year-old check, and of course BofA slapped me with a number of fines for insufficient funds.

In contrast, I've been having a wonderful time with my credit union account, which just happens to be in another state. Because of the credit union Co-Op Network, they all treat ATM transactions as though they're local (no fees, and instant information-sharing. Which is nice, since my credit union has immediate funds for deposited checks.) I do my bill-paying online, and you'd never know that I haven't lived in that state for a decade...

#518 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 06:40 PM:

eric, #514: I didn't say they were mediocre, I said they were incompetent. The site glitches and you looking at it; service goes up and down like a yo-yo; they can't do a clean page-back that actually returns you to where you were on the previous page; they keep changing the layout without warning; the Logout button is on a friggin' drop-down menu forghodsake! I really feel sorry for anyone who has Facebook as their only (or primary) online social venue.

#519 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 06:44 PM:

Lee @498 - That's Harry McCracken who researched "Fanboy". He also reprinted "The Cad with the Pad" in Technologizer. I'll have to watch that Dragnet episode -- my favorite one, by the way -- and listen for the term.

Alan White wrote in Delineator about a guy who might just as well have been the costume-wearing sleaze in that episode who stole movie posters and stuff (though I don't recall he wore a costume), who never seems to have visited a place without stealing something from it. Robbed the Ackermansion.

TexAnne @508, would that it were otherwise. But you never know. Maybe the one they hired will flame out and you'll get a call.

#520 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 07:00 PM:

albatroiss @ 512... mediocrity in programming, as in most things, is the rule, not the exception

After a few decades of being a programmer, I've come to realize that.

#521 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 07:00 PM:

albatroiss @ 512... mediocrity in programming, as in most things, is the rule, not the exception

After a few decades of being a programmer, I've come to realize that.

#522 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 07:14 PM:

Alan@480, the punishment for taking durian on the subway is that they give you more durians....

If any of you are going to be at Baycon, would you be interested in a durian and durian products party?

On the generally related jackfruit thread, I've had it in three different forms - canned (basic sweet canned fruit), chips (like banana chips, though not as good), and probably fresh or frozen jackfruit cooked in a biryani, in which it was not particularly sweet and had a texture sort of like tough overcooked chicken.

#523 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 07:44 PM:

Benjamin@435, welcome to the Left Coast. My experience with house-hunting in Berkeley is 30 years out of date, so it's pre-Internet and not even entirely post-punchcard :-) In that environment, apartment-finding services were extremely helpful - I assume they've moved onto the net by now, plus there's Craigslist, and I assume the university still has a housing office which may or may not be any help. I was already married by the time I got there, so I was looking for apartments and not shared housing or dorms; if you're single you may have more choices.

As others have said, the market near campus is really tight. (That's exacerbated by the fact that Berkeley enacted rent control just about then, and the authors of the law said that it hadn't occurred to them that inflation might have some effect on how rent control worked... but a lot of it's just the basic geography of sticking a campus between mountains and the bay.) Berkeley BART station is right next to campus, so that expands your possible options for where to live if you don't mind the limitations of extra travel time and midnight shutdown. There are also buses, and Google knows where they go now. Don't expect that having a car will do you much good for commuting to school - parking's a nightmare if you've got a university parking permit, and otherwise it's worse. On the other hand, about 3/4 of Berkeley is easily accessible by bike (the northeast is really steep hills), or much more by scooter/moped/etc. which you should be able to park on campus. The north Berkeley hills have a reasonable number of houses with not-necessarily-official inlaw apartments, which can be good if you can get them - the views are stunning. The farther west side of Berkeley and farther south toward Oakland tend to be slummy. The west and north sides tend to be houses; some may be available as shared housing.

#524 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 08:04 PM:

All Knowledge etc. etc.: What's the name of that blasted rule which says that any post correcting a spelling or grammatical error will itself contain a spelling or grammatical error?

#525 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 08:26 PM:


sometimes called "muphry's law"? (note misspelling).


#526 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 09:28 PM:

kid b @ #525, Ah, thanks. Apparently Wikipedia has decreed that Muphry's Law shall supercede Hartman's Law, which is the one I was grasping for.

#527 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 09:50 PM:


oh. yeah.

well, i meant to write "hartman's", but it came out "muphry's" by mistake.

#528 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 09:58 PM:

kid, the URL still reads Hartman's Law but it disambiguates (man, that's an ugly word. Where did it come from?) to Muphry's Law now. I could look at the history of the page, I guess, but meh.

#529 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 10:05 PM:

The north Berkeley hills have a reasonable number of houses with not-necessarily-official inlaw apartments, which can be good if you can get them - the views are stunning.

I know someone who lives in one - the view from the front is of the Golden Gate, and when it's quiet it's possible to hear (a) BART and (b) foghorns. (Parking, on the other hand, is difficult. It is, in fact, possible to walk from there to UC, although it's a longish walk.)

#530 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 10:14 PM:

Linkmeister, au contraire! 'Disambiguate' is one of my favorite words! It's the sound of that mmmBIG right in the middle.

It's almost as good as 'callipygean' (which wins because its meaning is more fun).

#531 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 10:35 PM:

I come staggering back to this Open Thread from the depths of disappointment: the ancient Greek textbook that I picked up today turns out to be not only a textbook about ancient Greek, but an ancient textbook about (ancient) Greek. Which is to say: typography carefully photocopied from the 1920s edition, an assumption that all students already know Latin, a hideous lack of real exercises, and so forth. (Why they chose to reprint it in a shiny new cover without changing the contents is beyond me; at least Wheelock's updates in its reprints/new editions.)

Can anyone here recommend a good textbook for learning (preferably Attic) Greek? Ideally it'd be 1) in print, 2) updated within at least the last decade, 3) not more than $50 new, and 4) including self-tutorial exercises where the answer's in the book for checking against stuff. But my main quest is for the "good" part of all that.

The layout in this textbook is making my eyes hurt. Not what I look for in a textbook.

#532 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 10:39 PM:


fade, lotta people nowadays like hansen & quinn:

#533 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 10:41 PM:

Xopher @ 530... That last word was recently applied to me - only the word, mind you, but it was fun nonetheless.

#534 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 11:06 PM:

OK, I tried to just let this go, and I can't. I still feel that I owe some apologies.

Graydon, while I don't think I was uncivil at 99, I could have been friendlier. I wish I'd phrased it as "That seems counterintuitive. Could you explain why you think so?" I'm sorry for that. I ought to have been less confrontational (at least out of the box) with a fellow long-time commenter.

My comment at 166 was whiny and self-centered. I'm sorry for that too. Again, I could and should have been friendlier: "At 99 I asked for your reasoning behind your assertion about homophobia. I was really asking for more information, and I'm still interested." Again, I should have given you the benefit of the doubt.

I'm sorry for the judgemental and outright namecalling comments that followed. Those were wrong. I wish I'd just said I wish I'd said "Graydon...that was a pretty rude thing to say. How have I offended you?" That's assuming that you'd've reacted the same way if I'd been friendlier.

I apologize (to everyone) for basically demanding that everyone rally to my cause. I had no right to ask that, and I asked it in a whiny way. I'm sorry for that. (I appreciate the support, don't get me wrong.)

Given all this, and the pileon that ensued, I really don't think Graydon owes me an apology at this point. In fact, as outlined above, I've been feeling the pressure of apologies owed (mostly to Graydon) and not given.

Please don't comment on this (unless you're Graydon). As I said, I tried to let it drop and couldn't; please let it drop now.

#535 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 11:23 PM:

Urban living devotees, as I know some of our hosts and frequent commenters here to be, may find this interview with Andre Duany, the "founder of New Urbanism," of interest. Attention conservation version: "Damn kids!"

#536 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 11:51 PM:

We used Athenaze by Balme and Lawall in my college Greek course. It was Attic Greek, it did not presume any familiarity with Latin (although it did assume a better familiarity with parts of speech than any of the 8 people in my class had), and the little translation exercises were reasonably interesting. I don't remember off the top of my head if there were answers in the back to check your work against, and the books are still packed away from my latest move. There was a fairly useful glossary in the back though.

It should be said, we used the UK version, and I'm not entirely sure why, because it probably messed up our pronunciation significantly, trying to follow the vowel sounds given in the front of the book.

(edited to add: I fixed the link in preview! Thank you, required preview! Whee!)

#537 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2010, 11:56 PM:

Shadowsong @ 513: "Resolve Deep Clean Powder", comes in a chubby red plastic bottle. About $7.00.

#538 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 12:02 AM:

While we're talking about incompetent programming...

I just tried to pay my Verizon bill online, using the same credit card I used with no problem last month. This time I got an error message: "The zip code on your credit card does not match the one on record. If you think you have received this message in error, contact your credit/debit card service provider."

WTF? My zip code hasn't changed, nor has the card. Go back to the Payment Selection page, and hit Edit for the card in question. It comes up with number, expiration date, verification code... and a zip-code field which is all asterisks and can't be edited. I re-enter the verification code (on the off chance that I put it in wrong when I was updating the card), hit Save... and now it shows the whole record, with the zip code pre-filled as 99999! And I can't get to it to change it, and Verizon's support voicemail menu of course doesn't cover this and has no option to speak to a real person.

I did manage to reach their e-mail form, and have sent their support staff an annoyed but polite message detailing the problem and asking them to let me know when THEY have corrected the error; they disabled my card that was working just fine before, they can bloody well fix it.

What I want to know is, who the HELL thought it would be a good idea to add a new required field, pre-fill it with a value that will NEVER be valid, and then make it non-editable? That's a level of stupid I wouldn't have achieved even in my very first programming class.

#539 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 03:24 AM:

I sense a disturbance in the Fluorosphere.

Wasn't able to access this site earlier today. Hope it was something trivial.

#540 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 03:27 AM:

In the "trivial to fix" sense of the word.

In other news, is bat fellatio the new dinosaur sodomy?

#541 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 04:09 AM:

I think I'd try to draw a distinction between bad programming and bad design.

The Second Life website, for instance, manages both, in different ways.

Bad Design: You have to login at the default page with your "game" userID and password, which is fair enough since you can be transferring real-world money to your in-game avatar. But, as you move to different parts of the site, you keep getting hit with fresh login pages, expecting the same ID/password. Nobody should have been surprised by the phishing scam that somebody tried a few weeks back. We're encouraged to use that money-critical ID/password.

Bad Programming (and Bad Design): If you don't have the right browser, some parts of the site don't work, and there's nothing to tell you which browsers are supported. I'll tell you for free, Opera doesn't work, never loading all of the default page. Firefox and Chrome do work.

If you really look hard, you will find a link to the company which supplied some of the web software they use. After much hunting on that site, you might find a list of browsers that they support.

One of the problems for Linden Lab (the company behind Second Life) is that a lot of people sign up, try Second Life, and give up in confusion. I can't really say I am surprised.

(And, when they had a "treasure hunt" for Valentine's Day. the only way of entering for the final "big" prize was to sign up for Facebook.)

#542 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 08:18 AM:

More Tennessee flood news: The Great Escape's store on Charlotte Avenue, which was also the location where they handled their internet business, was badly flooded.

#543 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 08:38 AM:

Lee @#538: I have discovered that if you call Verizon and just don't respond to the auto-answerer, eventually it'll give you to a live person. Takes about 3 minutes of the voice politely saying that she can't understand you, but it works.

#544 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 09:52 AM:

kid bitzer @ 532: I shall see if I can find a local copy to take a look at, since the reviews keep mentioning its unwieldiness. It certainly looks better in content than the tidy little paperback I have right now, though.

EClaire @ 536: That's the second recommendation I've gotten for Athenaze, and the book page for their workbook claims that it offers self-correct exercises along with charts to fill out and such. I'm thinking that unless someone steps in to describe terrible shortcomings with the book, I'll probably go with that one. Thanks!

#545 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 10:34 AM:

Product name that should have been rethought:
Blue Ice Vodka

#546 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 11:07 AM:

The mascots for the 2012 Olympics in London have been announced.

The BBC is running a caption competition.

Polyphemus would be proud of the little blighters.

#547 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 11:20 AM:

PJ @545:

You almost owed me a new monitor -- as it was, it's not fun when coffee goes the wrong way down...

#548 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 12:14 PM:

fidelio, #542: Damn. I bought a lot of comics and used CDs from the Great Escape (at the Broadway location, which I see is undamaged). Hopefully, the fact of having more than one location will prevent them from going under like the comics shop here that got flooded during Allison.

Carrie, #543: Well, I've gotten an auto-response from Verizon stating that they are having "an unusually high volume of e-mail" at the moment. Gee, ya think? That would be... everyone like me who's trying to pay online manually with a credit card, plus probably everyone with an auto-pay setup against a credit card who's had it bounce. If I don't get a live response in a day or two, I'll follow your procedure.

In point of fact, I'll be satisfied if they just tell me that I can now edit the zip code. What I don't want to hear is, "You'll have to delete that card and enter it again." No. YOUR problem, YOU fix.

#549 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 12:34 PM:

Open thready badness:

John Robb discusses the media manipulation done by BP, with help from the Obama administration, to make the damage from the spill seem smaller than it really is.

This echoes some of the discussions that we've had here about both media failures and the way lying/tolerance of lying from the respectable/elite sources of information makes the whole society more susceptible to weird conspiracy theories and such.

FWIW, I'll say that in terms of the long view of the future of the US, John Robb makes me look like an optimist. (To be honest, he makes Nouriel Roubini look like an optimist.)

#550 ::: martyn ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 01:30 PM:

albatross @ 548
In another lifetime, my then wife's uncle was head of accounts for Northern Europe at BP. He told me he had no idea how much money BP was making and, as a rule, did not believe any public announcement from the company. I have found it a useful nostrum to follow about ALL big companies, but especially oil companies. How can you tell they are lying to you? Watch his lips move.

#551 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 02:03 PM:

The United States Coast Guard (a wholly-owned subsidiary of British Petroleum)

#552 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 02:17 PM:

It's BP, not British Petroleum. It hasn't been British Petroleum for a long time. It's interesting that the US media is still referring to it as such - they don't talk about "International Business Machines" instead of IBM. I suppose it's important to make sure everyone knows it's a foreign corporation. (Takes the flak off Halliburton and Transocean, too.)

#553 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 02:38 PM:

Soon Lee 540: I thought for a minute that was a reference to the pornographic parody of Batman somebody's making.

#554 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 02:43 PM:

? Blue Ice

#555 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 02:56 PM:

I found myself thinking that "Bat Fellatio" sounded like a character from a Shakespeare play re-worked as a Western.

Hamlet as filmed by Sergio Leone, perhaps.

#556 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 03:10 PM:

Lee @ 547:

For the types of people who often program business logic and don't know or care enough to do it well, pushing it back on the user is fixing the problem.

Erik Nelson @ 553:

Blue ice.

#557 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 03:15 PM:

Look out for ICBMs!

#558 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 03:29 PM:

Dinos do it, bats do it
Imperial walkers and lolcats do it
Let's do it
Let's fall in love

#559 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 03:43 PM:

KeithS, #555: And we're back around to Facebook again, forcing the user to solve problems that they've created.

#560 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 03:47 PM:

On Facebook, the user is the product, not the customer. This is the price you pay for using something that's free.

#561 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 05:05 PM:

#559: as one of the purveyors of a free product, I must insist that not *all* organizations producing free stuff treat their users the way Facebook does.

#562 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 05:07 PM:

KeithS #555: pushing it back on the user is fixing the problem the same way that hanging up on a customer by phone support improves the calls per hour productivity metric...


#563 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 05:28 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 561:

In Capitalist America, we only care about what we can measure, as long as mine is bigger than everyone else's.

#564 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 05:49 PM:

My cousin and her husband were on the Amtrak train that crashed last Thursday on the way from Raleigh to Charlotte. They were on the way to Atlanta for her seminary graduation; they suffered only minor injuries, and got to Atlanta much later than expected but still in plenty of time for the graduation ceremony (which was Saturday). (They're the ones interviewed in the video at the link.)

According to some of the news stories I read, and to hearsay from my aunt, there have been multiple accidents at the same railroad crossing over the years and perhaps at other railroad crossings in the same area. If I were to take Amtrak from Atlanta to Raleigh for this year's NASFiC (BTW: are any other Fluorospherians going? Shall we meet up?), I'd be riding, if not on that train per se, then on another on the same route, going through the same intersections. This inclines me to fly rather than take the train. What do y'all know about Amtrak's recent safety record, etc., relative to the typical airline?

#565 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 06:03 PM:

I've been keeping on top of my personal settings and using a monitoring program to be sure I wasn't leaking anything, so I was okay on that. I downloaded a Firefox add-on called "Feed Filter" which kept the default set to "Most Recent" instead of the moronic "Top News," and which expanded conversations. This eliminated the two most annoying insistences (order post backwards from apart).

So Facebook sent a Cease & Desist letter to the company making Feed Filter, and they made an upgrade [sic] that removed the features that made the program (and Facebook) worth using.

So I quit this morning.

#566 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 06:36 PM:

Tool here for checking your privacy settings at Facebook:

Drag the thing to your browser and then log into FB; click the link and it gives you a nice report at the top of the page. If you want, it will reset them for maximum privacy.

#567 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 06:43 PM:

re #515, above, Arizona politicians have always tended to be rather on the cranky side, and occasionally act out in disproportionate ways. Like, say, in 1934:

The most controversial action of Governor Moeur’s administration was his calling out the Arizona National Guard to stop the construction of Parker Dam. The dam was to be a diversion point to send water to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Arizona Attorney General Arthur La Prade gave an opinion that the Metropolitan Water District had no right to build on Arizona’s territory without Arizona’s permission.[31] Using that, in March,1934[32] the Governor sent 6 members of the Arizona National Guard to observe the construction.[33] They traveled aboard the “Arizona Navy,” a ferry boat named the Nellie Jo, which was furnished by Yuma county state senator Nellie Bush.[34] Reports of activity on the Arizona side spurred Governor Moeur to issue a proclamation entitled “to Repel an Invasion,” declare martial law[35] and sent 40 riflemen and 20 machine gunners[36] to the dam site to prevent construction on the Arizona side of the Colorado River.[37] The Governor stated Enigmatically, “It’s a showdown this time, we are going to get something or we aren’t. And if we can’t expect anything we want to know it before this project is further advanced.” [38]Seventeen truckloads of troops arrived at the Colorado River, and readied to board the Arizona Navy, augmented by another ferry boat, the Julie B. The troops were recalled when Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes promised that no further construction would take place on Parker dam until Arizona’s protest was settled.[39] This action represents the last time one state took up arms against another.[40]
#568 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 06:45 PM:

Jim Henry@563

Don't know about anyone else, but I'm planning to attend NASFiC. A Fluorosphere meetup sounds fun, if there are enough of us going.

#569 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 07:02 PM:

Has anyone here read Hawke's Harbor by S.E. Hinton? Superficially it's a vampire novel that doesn't work, but I have A Theory.

#570 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 07:22 PM:

Erik, 552: I was considering dropping "same bat time, ..." into the conversation, but I've decided against bothering to mention it. [/preterition]

#571 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 07:46 PM:

(Heh, just heard a train horn)

Jim Henry, #563, that's not Amtrak's fault, it's the fault of the governments that own the crossings. We have commuter rail to/from DC as well as Amtrak and freight so all of our crossings are properly maintained. That doesn't keep idiots from going around the crossing bars, of course, but there's only so much you can do.

So if there's a lot of problems with crossings on that run, maybe you should consider flying. I doubt the appropriate governments will fix the crossings soon enough for NASFIC.

#572 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 07:50 PM:

Jim Henry (563) and following: I'll be at NASFiC, too. In fact, I'm taking the train--from New York, but I'm pretty sure it goes over that same stretch of track. Already bought my tickets, or I might be rethinking that....

#573 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 08:02 PM:

We had had the intention of being at NASFIC this year, but between the slowness of the communication process (we didn't actually get the dealer packet until a few weeks ago), the expense load, and having been told by the dealer-room coordinator that they were seriously overloaded on T-shirt dealers (FIVE counting us)...

We found a startup RenFaire in Springfield, MO instead. Anyone looking for our shirts will still be able to find them at the Pegasus Publishing booth. Sorry to miss a possible Fluorosphere gathering, but the chance of actually making money looks better elsewhere.

#574 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 09:58 PM:

I wouldn't recommend Amtrak from Atlanta to Raleigh. Although both cities are served by Amtrak, there's no direct train there, and the frequency and connections are bad. (Basically, there's only one northbound train from Atlanta per day, coming through at 8pm. You're then stuck with a 6-hour layover in Charlotte in the wee hours of the morning-- assuming the train from Atlanta's on time. Going back, the 6-hour layover's at least earlier in the night, but you're still talking a 15-hour overnight trip.)

I like taking the train when I can; I'm taking it from Philly to Boston next week, and it'll be a nice fast ride along the Northeast corridor. Unfortunately, in the South it's usually better (both in terms of speed *and* expense) to fly, drive, or take a bus. (It looks like the lowest airfares from ATL to RDU around the time of NASFIC are currently less than Amtrak charges round-trip between those cities.)

From New York, it might be better-- there's more than one train per day, and the trip as far as DC is pretty fast (it gets slower further south, and less likely to stay on schedule).

#575 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2010, 11:59 PM:

Open thread interesting: Synthetic life! DNA created by humans inserted into a bacterium, replacing its DNA, results in an entirely new form of life. Powerful tech!

#576 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 03:46 AM:

Oh Fluorosphere, wonderful at Making Light, Merry, Chocolate, and Spondees...
Who amongst us--mostly those living in the Bay Area--might be at the Maker Faire this weekend? Tesla coils, DIY exoskeletons, what's not to like?

I'll be crewing a booth, having done some making this past year.

There are also upcoming Maker Faires in Detroit (July 31-Aug1) and NYC (Sep25-26) this year.

#577 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 10:29 AM:

If I am not at work (which seems sadly likely), I will be there. If not, I have to figure out what to do with my ticket.

#578 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 10:53 AM:

New York to Raleigh, Amtrak looked pretty reasonable. Two direct trains per day, and the times aren't bad. The ticket prices are comparable with flying, but you don't have to pay to check luggage on Amtrak. (Assuming the NASFiC art show gets their act together, I'm going to have lots of luggage.) And getting to the train station is much cheaper than getting to the airport--about $100 difference, total. Plus, I've developed a strong aversion to flying lately. I was originally planning to drive, but it's ten hours, which is a bit much for one person. And I like trains.

#579 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 11:18 AM:

Google's logo has both made me remember my childhood, and gotten me to waste half an hour today....

#580 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 11:39 AM:

albatross @578:

You made me go look, and then run, not walk, to fetch the 9 year old. He hasn't looked this excited since his birthday.

(He's going through a Pac-Man phase right now.)

#581 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 11:40 AM:

Terry- If you do go, I'll be crewing a booth related to my workplace.

One year I was able to go for just a couple of hours- it was still fun. If you can't go at all, remind people that buying your ticket saves them time in line there-- and later in the afternoon the lines get long.

(Note for anyone going by car: read the faq- they've added more parking+shuttles)

#582 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 12:28 PM:

(He's going through a Pac-Man phase right now.)

Munching pills in a darkened room?

#583 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 12:40 PM:

581: like the joke about "It's ridiculous to say Grand Theft Auto makes kids violent. Video games don't have that sort of influence on behaviour. If they did, we'd all have spent the 1990s in darkened rooms eating pills and listening to repetitive electronic music."

#584 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 12:52 PM:

Safety advice for car fires. I don't think it's been covered here.

#585 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 12:53 PM:

582: Yep, I was ripping that one off.

#586 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 01:49 PM:

Google's pac-man tribute: on the one hand, neat. On the other hand, DO NOT WANT EMBEDDED MIDIS

#587 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 01:50 PM:

Hokey smokes. Link going around this morning that I feel compelled to share: a guy knows these two Russian women who have arrived in DC for a "work program." The whole thing stinks to high heaven of human trafficking, but his friends seem determined to walk into the lion's den. Oh, and the guy himself is in a car in Wyoming. What to do? Ask MetaFilter. Over the course of 24 hours, internet people crowdsource an intervention. Gripping reading -- read the whole page to watch the story unfold in real time.

#588 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 01:52 PM:

Does that Google logo take up as much RAM as this comment box? Such is 30-year old tech.

#589 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 02:40 PM:

Verizon update: Got a response, but it was clearly generated by a bot using keywords, as it did not address the actual problem in any way. Then I got a "How did we do?" customer-service feedback survey. I turned my partner loose on both of these, and there was another round of bot-generated boilerplate. Haven't received a response from his response to that one yet, so perhaps it's been kicked up to a real human.

The edit function on the website is still broken, and Verizon has yet to acknowledge that they have a problem.

#590 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 03:50 PM:

Open Thready SFnal computer security links:

Bruce Schneier has a post up about recent research showing vulnerabilities in electronic systems in cars. And this post talks about a related issue, which used intended functionality to shut down a bunch of cars remotely.

I have worked on stuff like this (but not the specific systems discussed above), both on cars and on commercial airplanes[1]. One thing that's happening here is that the systems developed in a low-threat environment--nobody was talking to the car except maybe some manufacturer-designed equipment. Over time, we're moving toward having our cars be not only computerized, but also networked.

If you read the academic paper linked by Bruce's first post, you will see the term "attack surface." That's basically all the parts of your application that are exposed and could be attacked. This is a pattern that repeats pretty commonly in our world:

a. A little island ecosystem of applications and services grows up in some isolated place, interacting only with one another. This software ecosystem grows over time, as physical or dedicated electronic devices are replaced by software that either works better or costs less or both.

b. One day, a land bridge appears between the island ecosystem and the big wide world full of hungry parasites and hostile people. The attack surface of the ecosystem goes from tiny (a very few privileged people could maybe get some bad software into the system with some difficulty) to huge (the system is more-or-less on the internet, perhaps behind some kind of firewall and restricted to a limited set of protocols).

c. A mass die-off occurs, and the ecosystem collapses. Or at least, there's a huge amount of carnage and churn and chaos and lots of stuff that worked fine for years suddenly doesn't work right anymore.

I've watched this pattern happen with applications running on normal computers. Given the way people use the web (and email) now, basically any commonly-used application is part of the attack surface of your computer, even though it never touches the internet. PDF viewers, audio players, everything in Office and Open Office, ZIP decompressors, all of those are available to an attacker who wants to take over your computer. If your lucky, he has to get you to download and open the file; sometimes, the browser helpfully just opens it for you. (PDF files are being used a lot in this kind of attack, I guess partly because a lot of browsers automatically open them if you click on a plausible-looking link.)

Some examples of this: smart phones, implanted medical devices, essentially everything to do with the smart grid, retail stores' cash registers, electronic voting machines, home phones that have switched from dumb devices connected over copper to VOIP phones, etc.

One thing I'm noticing with all this: I've seen a lot of SF in which someone compromises the other side's computer technology, and some (Vinge comes to mind) where it even looks a little like this. But one thing I don't recall seeing much is confusion/surprise being caused by the transition of technology--Alice tries to double-check what's on her computer screen by calling the bank, without realizing that her phone is no longer independent of her home network, but instead is a VOIP phone which may be compromised by the same guy who owns her computer.

It's going to be an interesting next twenty years, I think.

[1] As far as I know, neither system I worked on ever became widespread. And in both cases, these were people spending significant efforts trying to make their code solid (that is, extensive (and expensive) testing and code reviews), for safety and liability reasons, so they're surely in better shape than, say, the average piece of software on your Windows box.

#591 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 04:18 PM:

And a bit more painful open threadiness from Glenn Greenwald:

The Obama administration won an appeals court battle to allow us to kidnap people anywhere and ship them to Bagram without any kind of court review. (The Obama administration appealed a previous court decision which said they couldn't do this, so Obama and his supreme court nominee actively fought for this.)

Of course, I am sure we are carefully respecting the rights of all the people we disappear into a deep dark hole in Afghanistan lock up in our highly-humane civilized gulag detention facilities at Bagram. And I am sure that everyone there is the worst of the worst. I mean, it's simply not conceivable that we'd, say, lock up a child soldier for a decade, and then try him in some kangaroo court where we tried mightily not to allow any discussion of what kind of torture and threats we used to get a confession from him. Because, hey, Obama the liberal constitutional law professor would never let his administration have any part in such stuff, right?

#592 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 04:27 PM:

You have to love their argument: it's not under our control, and it's in a 'theater of war'.
Both of which should lead to far different conclusions, IMO.
(I wonder just how much actual non-control we actually have there, and if that's a 'theater of war', then they should be treated as POWs, by law.)

Add to that the idea that the governmetn can order that anyone it thinks is a terrorist, or supporting terrorists, be killed without any legal proceedings whatsoever, and I see us in the mirror universe with no easy way out, and without our actual consent in going there. (Although there are a lot of people who seem to be fine with all of this stuff, and they're claiming to be liberals.)

#593 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 04:39 PM:

Andrew @ 586

Wow. Just: wow. Glad it turned out so positively.

One of the things about human beings that both inspires and infuriates me is the way that personal connections and the particularization of general problems can drop us into overdrive and result in amazing feats.

"Inspires" because it's always inspiring to know what people are capable of when they put their minds and hearts to it.

"Infuriates" precisely because the respose is most effectively triggered by the whimsical chance of particularization/personalization. Let me unpack that. It's the monkeysphere problem. If an individual with a critical need has been made -- even temporarily -- a part of our individual community-of-concern, we're typically inspired to pull out all the stops and take heroic measures to help that person. Knowing that such people with such needs exist in the abstract doesn't tend to trigger a similar response. (And -- to be practical -- if it did, our lives, finances, and sanity would not long survive.)

And I don't mean this comment to be as negative as it's starting to sound to me. It's an insoluable problem. None of us can address even a miniscule fraction of the wrongs that we objectively know to exist in the world. We have to choose somehow, and choosing based on some sort of chain of personal human contact is surely no worse or better than most other means.

Getting off into even more abstract philosophical territory, I know that for me the "personal contact trigger" is a contributing factor to those times when I "look the other way" or walk right past someone I might technically have the capacity to help. Once I've made direct personal contact, I'm locked into "extrordinary measures" mode. If I drive on past someone stopped by the side of a highway, that's one thing. If I stop to see if they need help and then determine that their needs exceed my immediate resources, it would be much harder to shrug and get back in the car and wave goodbye. Practical specific example (of much less import than the metafilter episode referenced above): I was out to do a little shopping on my lunch break and answered the plea of someone needing a battery jump. In the course of determining that the jump wasn't going to solve her car's problems, she'd mentioned in passing that she was scheduled to teach a class on the other side of town in half an hour. So I tossed her class materials into the car and drove her there. No shopping; no lunch; no big deal. But if I'd been approached directly with the request "my car died and I need to get to location X within half an hour" I would have been: "Sorry, can't help." But as it played out, we'd established a personal relationship. I was invested in her. And especially, having been stymied in the original attempt to help, I felt a compulsion to carry through in some fashion.

I don't feel regret or guilt for all the people in the world I can't help, simply based on the knowledge that I can't help them all. (Repeat as necessary for other species.) So it's fascinating to watch how the circuits rewire themselves instantaneously when I look someone in the eye and learn their name.

#594 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 06:06 PM:

Heather @592, I understand what you're saying. Much as I'm blown away by the story, its shadow has lingered with me all day: how many women have vanished into sexual servitude in my city this week because they didn't have a brigade of internet people who knew who they were and wanted to help them?

#595 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 06:59 PM:

albatross, #589: One of the things I found interesting about C.S. Friedman's This Alien Shore is that it assumes the same kind of net-security warfare we have now, only much more extensive and there's not much ignorance about the need for firewalls, etc. Of course, some people are savvier (or more paranoid) than others, but there seems to be a general base level of awareness.

#596 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 07:42 PM:

albatross @ 590: "Because, hey, Obama the liberal constitutional law professor would never let his administration have any part in such stuff, right?"

It's been incredibly depressing to watch this particular candidate-president transition. In a lot of other cases I haven't been particularly disappointed by Obama because I never expected much--healthcare, FinReg, on these issues I knew Obama was a centrist and wasn't ever going to push things as far enough to make me happy. But I really thought that Obama and I were on the same page when it came to extrajudicial assassinations and torture. Not for no reason either--as Greenwald points out, Obama was loudly and regularly opposed to Bush's policies. What happened? It's conceivable that it was all an act, but I don't think so. I darkly suspect that the intelligence agencies put together a scare show for newly-inaugurated presidents and conclude it all with, "and that's why you need to let us do whatever we want." Or perhaps it's a bone Obama is throwing them to buy their allegiance. Not that it really matters: whatever the reason, it's sickening.

#597 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 08:47 PM:

It's conceivable that it was all an act, but I don't think so.

Some of it seems to have been an act - he talked loudly enough about being opposed to the FISA revisions, but he certainly voted for them.
As for the rest - he was handed a lot of power, and seems to be happy collecting more, possibly with advice to do so from his staff and cabinet.

I'm giving thought to making burqas the official clothing of protest demonstrations, for all genders. Think of one in urban camo....

#598 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 09:15 PM:

Jim Henry, #563, and in last night's paper, pictures of a dump truck that tried to beat a train and yesterday's paper had a ground-level image (which I can't find online) that showed there was a stop sign, not crossing bars.

albatross, #589, my van is too old; no electronics. Well, the CD player.

Andrew Willett, #593, today's Petula Dvorak column in the WashPost is on sex trafficking in DC.

#599 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 09:18 PM:

heresiarch #595: I darkly suspect that the intelligence agencies put together a scare show for newly-inaugurated presidents and conclude it all with, "and that's why you need to let us do whatever we want."

I think that's probably it.

#600 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 09:23 PM:

I was on a train once where someone in either a pickup with a camper shell or an SUV was stopped on the tracks. (They got out, but an innocent bystander in the storage place next to the tracks was hit by debris and died later.) We didn't even feel it - it was just a cloud of dust and small pieces of vehicle as we went through.

#601 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 10:39 PM:

To sit in solemn silence in a dull, dark dock,
In a pestilential prison, with a life-long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block!

Appeals Panel Bars Detainees From Access to U.S. Courts

#602 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 10:47 PM:

P J Evans @ 599:

I was on a pretty-much-stopped stretch of road once, and the cars were shuffling forward when they could. The car in front of me shuffled forward directly onto the railroad tracks. I decided not to enter the newly vacant space in front of me, which turned out to be the right decision.

#603 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 11:05 PM:

Train vs car, even bus or truck, is no contest. Train wins.

We had a guest from the U.K long ago when we lived in a part if town that you pretty much had to either go to a grade crossing or go way out of your way to get to an overpass comment on it. he was appalled that we had to go across train tracks to go here and there.

I said, "you all built your train lines before you built your car roads. Here it was pretty much backwards of that unless you live on the east coast."

#604 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 11:08 PM:

I don't know if any of you remember about my son's kidney disease or the fact that we've been treating it with diet (and yeah, that's sufficiently weird that we suffer significant stress and self-doubt from sticking to this path, but we're convinced we have no real choice; I can write you an entire book about why if you're interested), but I would really like the world to know that for the first time in six years, his serum albumin test results today were normal.

Normal. Even if his values get worse again (and I'm sure they will, next time he has a growth spurt), today, he's basically healthy, his liver is not working too hard, his kidneys are not leaking too fast - for the first time in half his life. I just never really considered the incredible beauty of the word "normal".

It's enough to make a man reconsider atheism, just to have something to thank.

#605 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 11:17 PM:

It gets really interesting in the west half of the San Fernando Valley, because most of the railroad crossing are grade level (I know of only three that aren't), and there are fairly major streets that don't cross the tracks at all. You pretty much have to live in a neighborhood to know which ones are through, and which ones require a detour of, sometimes, a couple of miles.

There was a rather messy accident last week at a grade crossing, which did not involve a train. It did involve late hours, a 'Vette, and four people (two male, two female). They were still cleaning up eighteen hours later. (Briefly, the 'Vette was being driven at high speed, the (female) driver lost control, hit a guardrail on one of the curves at the crossing, the car flipped and skidded upside down a couple of hundred feet, scattering parts as it went. No survivors, and the reports are that it was pretty grisly.)

#606 ::: RoseG ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2010, 11:28 PM:

Fade Manley@544: This may be a bit after the point, but I've used the Hanson & Quinn and yes, the book is a beast, but well organized and fairly clear (even for someone who's never declined a noun before).

I found, though, that it was rather short on the practical exercises, especially in the early chapters (where there's a lot less to remember), and, more frustratingly, without narrative to them at all. So you can translate "The citizens brought the gold to the agora" and "The hoplites fought the barbarians at the agora" and "Diogenes is a twit" in all sorts of tenses and moods, but there's not a sense that the barbarians were trying to steal the gold from the agora, if you catch my meaning. (Although the authors really do seem to have a grudge against Diogenes, poor man.)

It was like having a pebble in your shoe you can't shake out, but in my brain. I was intensely irritated--much to the confusion of the TA of my class, who didn't really seem to grasp that a person learning to read Greek might be interested in reading texts in Greek (other than the dictionary). Grrr. Clearly I still have feelings about it, for whatever that's worth.

#607 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 12:21 AM:

#603: Good to hear!

#608 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 12:29 AM:

I just did something potentially dangerous, and want to describe it here so there is a record in case questions arise over my burned or poisoned corpse.

My apartment has been suffering from a low-level ant infestation. They crawl in through an electrical receptacle, across a yard of baseboard, up the side of a kitchen counter and onto the counter.

I performed the usual measures. Scrubbing the trails that extend from their beachhead to food areas. Laying down dikes of borax powder. Putting out bait traps.

Still, they came. This afternoon I discovered that they breached containment and had made it to a food cabinet.

After cleaning up I got desperate.

I removed the faceplate of the electrical receptacle and rolled three moth balls into the electrical box behind it. My theory is that the fumes will make their entry point into the apartment impassible.

I'm not using either of the sockets, but I half expect a blast of camphorated flammable gas to blow out any minute.

At least the ants will be gone.

#609 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 12:38 AM:

Stefan— we had such a horrendous ant infestation that after a month of failure we had to call in the professionals. Never tried the mothballs but I don't know how effective that would be because I don't know matters of ant aspiration.

Michael Roberts: a) Congratulations! I know how that feels— Evil Rob's niece had life-threatening asthma complications (as in breaking bones and immune system collapse) and it was really good to hear the "normal" milestones. Though we were a bit boggled when her mom told us she'd started producing adrenaline again— "She'd stopped?" She is a healthy adult now, though short.

b) Managing with diet doesn't seem strange to me at all. It's the preferred method when possible, because any drugs have complications (see case of niece, above.) I have a coworker whose husband has kidney issues AND diabetes AND heart issues— you'd better believe that diet is one of the primary things they do. With so many competing needs, the fewer drugs they use, the better.

#610 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 01:08 AM:

#595 ::: heresiarch:

I supported Obama because he was the only candidate at a Democratic convention (2004? 2006?) who mentioned civil liberties, and what's more, his big accomplishment in Illinois was a law requiring the police to videotape interrogations in capital cases. [1]

My current belief is that he's a very practical politician, and if the American public doesn't care about civil liberties, then he's not going to stick his neck out on the issue.

[1] There are no words for how disgusted I am that it was a hard fight.

#611 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 01:22 AM:

KeithS, #601: As in, he had room to back up off the tracks again when the train showed up?

One of the grade crossings I go over every time I have to pick up T-shirt blanks from AllStar is just short of a traffic light, and I see people pulling up onto the tracks to wait for the light all the time. Haven't yet seen one get flattened, but I figure it's just a matter of time. It just flabbergasts me that people actually do that.

Michael, #603: Yay! And I see you're picking back up with the house blog again, too.

#612 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 01:38 AM:

Lee @601 - yeah, and I haven't blogged it yet, but a big, big milestone: I moved my office into the big house. (And I'm sleeping here, too - the carriage house just really isn't enough space for the four of us.) It has really focused my attention on how little I've done over here so far. Just cleaning it is feeling pretty good. Also, to go to the bathroom or get another Coke, I have to go all the way back to the back stairs, out to the carriage house, back up the stairs there, then come back. After a few trips back and forth I actually feel that in my thigh muscles... So it has to be good for me.

Got the gutters on, too! (On the big house, anyway.) It rained today and I was all like: go ahead, rain! Just *try* to get into the basement now!

Progress on the house, progress on the kid - NOTHING CAN STOP ME.

#613 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 02:11 AM:

Go Michael Roberts!

#614 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 08:45 AM:

I'm hoping that the Ask Metafilter rescue will lead to a stable network of resources and volunteers for similar rescues in the future.

#615 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 08:54 AM:

Michael Roberts @ 604- Congratulations! I know it can be a challenge to work around a restricted diet (I've gone low-sodium to help deal with autoimmune liver disease) and it's great to hear that your son's doing so well.

#616 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 11:05 AM:

I don't seem to have anything to say on Obama except "Me too." I _have_ rights, and so do those prisoners, and ignoring them doesn't make them go away. It just makes you, by which I mean Obama, wrong.

#617 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 11:31 AM:

To answer Melissa@615 and B.@609 - this isn't the usual restricted kidney diet (usually management of electrolytes because reduced kidney function means stuff gets leached out where it shouldn't, or not leached out where it should). His kidney isn't scarred, it's minimal change disease: an inflammation. His allergies exacerbate it. After learning a lot about mold and dust management and making some improvement there (including moving to Puerto Rico for sun and better architecture), we realized he had a lot of food allergies - investigating further, we found a lot of questionable information on the Internet about "leaky gut", managed to winnow out the parts that worked, and have been managing his allergies using probiotics and a very low-carb diet.

It "helped" that about two years after the start of the kidney saga, our daughter was hospitalized with Crohn's. A similar amount of research on that turned up the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which given about two years' work, set her straight without medication or surgery (three years symptom-free now) and led us to the discovery that children of Central European immigrants to the United States don't deal well with the standard American diet. My wife is Hungarian - and of Jewish descent, another Crohn's flag.

For a year, we ate *no* complex carbohydrates at all, and it was excruciating. No bread, no potatoes, no corn, no rice, no crackers, no yuca (we were in Puerto Rico), spending about $1500 per month on groceries due to lots of fresh produce, cheese, and meat. We made our own yogurt with medical DSL#3 (makes a yummy yogurt starter).

We saw seven nephrologists in three countries. The Americans thought we were utterly insane, but two attempts at steroid treatment only made him worse. The Hungarians were better up to a point, but after that point they were not willing to listen to us at all, and it didn't help that the summer of 2005 was a cold, rainy one in Hungary, and we believe the mold was responsible for a clear deteriorating trend (which resolved when we returned to Puerto Rico).

Our current nephrologist, in San Juan even though we're in Indiana now, has a more relaxed attitude to the concept that you have to live first, and avert disease second - and last year, finally told us that whatever we were doing with diet was clearly better than anything else he had to offer right now, and we should keep doing it.

We had a crisis this spring - probably due to the fact that he grew half an inch in a month (our son, not the nephrologist) - but that seems to be past for now.

Wow! Anyway, sorry for the soapbox; I really feel vindicated today and wish it could be generalized to others.

#618 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 11:59 AM:

Michael @604/612: Wonderful news! Congratulations!

#619 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 12:07 PM:

Re: the hat in the Particle: It looks like the Sydney Opera House! I am trying to come up with situations where I'd actually wear it, because I'm so delighted by the idea.

#620 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 12:59 PM:

I don't like that hat, and would not pay $750 for it; the damned thing is made out of straw. Anyone rich enough to buy that monstrosity on a whim should instead donate the money to charity (and I don't mean the Rich People For Conspicuous Consumption PAC).

#621 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 01:09 PM:

Sorry, Rikibeth, my microrant @620 was not targeted at you.

#622 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 01:11 PM:

trains and accidents:

There are a lot of level crossings here on Long Island. We average a couple of deaths by train per year, mostly pedestrians walking along the tracks, but occasionally it's someone who gets impatient and drives (or walks) around the lowered crossing-gates. I have more sympathy for people who stop on the tracks unwarily (as KeithS describes in 602) and get unlucky.

I was once on an Amtrak train that hit a pickup truck. No crossing-gate; I think it was technically a long driveway, not a road. We did stop, but without a perceptible jolt. No serious injuries, amazingly. Assuming the vehicle visible beside the tracks when we started up again was the one we hit, we actually hit not the truck but the trailer it was pulling. The truck was fine, but the trailer looked *chewed*.

#623 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 01:18 PM:

No offense taken, Earl; the hat is far outside of my budget, and my contemplation is mere fantasy.

I agree that it's a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a hat, although I believe the price reflects the craftsmanship more than the materials. I'm just charmed by its design, and would like to live in a universe where wearing such a thing would be a regular occurrence for me.

#624 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 02:02 PM:

The last time I spent a significant chunk of change on a hat was back when Texas was bidding to hold the 1997 World SF Convention; some of us went to the legendary Manny Gammage's Texas Hatters to get cowboy hats to wear at bid parties.

#625 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 02:46 PM:

Michael Roberts @604 - Glad to hear it. For something to thank, you can thank the diet, you can thank whoever came up with it, and if you did it yourselves, you can thank yourselves. Good going, I'd say.

#626 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 02:50 PM:

Am I malforming URLs? My comments keep getting held. I was able to copy links to comments and put them in mine for ease and convenience in referring back. Now I'm using Safari because my Firefox wouldn't let me preview a comment a second time -- only showed me the first preview again -- and I'm in comment limbo. The copied URLs show differently than they did in Firefox, but they preview as if they worked.

I will accept assistance, thank you, and correction as needed.

#627 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 03:25 PM:

"A hat iz a badge of honor! A trophy vot must be plucked from off de head of a vorthy enemy!"
"Yah! Vun who happens to gots hyu same head size."
- Jaegers about the Meaning of Hats.

#628 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 04:38 PM:

Kip W, I just let your 625 out of the hoosegow, and your A tag doesn't have an HREF attribute (or any other kind of attribute), so it looks like either you're messing up the URLs, or ML's back end is messing them up for you, or it's the work of a perverse demiurge or something. We're about to head out and see a movie, so I don't have time to investigate.

#629 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 06:29 PM:

Various open threadinesses:

1) The Hair Cuttery is sending their cut hair to help with the Gulf oil spill -- apparently, human hair is useful for soaking up oil! Their little sign said that one pound of hair (a typical shop's daily collection) can rapidly absorb a quart of oil, and be reused some 100 times. FedEx is helping with shipping.

2) Egg weirdness: Last week, I boiled up a few hard-boiled eggs. Of the 4 eggs in the batch, three were perfect -- but one turned out to be visibly undercooked!

3) Train-crossing deaths: From my high-school years on Long Island (NY) I remember the case of Robert Powers -- he was playing "chicken" with a bunch of his friends, and got his foot stuck in the rail. (Thus pointing up two more basic hazards of grade crossings.)

#630 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 06:38 PM:

Also, Dave Malki's (of Wondermark) got an epitaph thread going.

#632 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 07:08 PM:

re: the hat particle.

the only thing that surprises me about the accordion hat is the fact that it surprised tnh.

i should have thought that with her extensive knowledge of middle english literature and semi-precious gemstones, she would already have been familiar with the use of accordion-hats by north-country smugglers.

#633 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 07:25 PM:

Avram: maybe it's not a perverse demiurge. Maybe it's a gremlin(see earlier comments)(or perhaps gremlins ARE perverse demiurges)

I've half a mind to say I don't believe in demiurges.

#634 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 07:32 PM:

what i mean to say is:

surely the extensive historical record on the medieval development of accordion hats is well enough known to readers of this blog that, by pooling our knowledge, we could fill in the details that teresa is apparently unaware of.

the episode of st. bavo's escape from argentoratum (as strasbourg was know at the time), with the use of peacocks as diversionary screen, might make a good starting-place for a fuller accounting.

others than myself will be better placed to tell of bavo's dealings with the beguine-houses of ghent, where accordion-hats attained particular prominence among the noble ladies of unfortunate condition.

not that bavo's very existence has not been disputed by the learned schwunghaüser in his authoritative "über mittelaltlerichen akkordeonshutslehre". typical of the german accordion-hat-debunking school, and some people dismiss it on those grounds, but schwunghaüser is still worth reading, in my opinion.

#635 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 08:03 PM:

I have some good news I'd like to share with you all. I'm going to be rather detailed about it, to give you some flavor of the roller coaster we've been riding the last few weeks. If you don't care about the details, just skip to The Final Result.

A few weeks ago, my wife Eva went in for an overdue mammogram. As we expected, it showed a dark area that was most likely a cyst; the radiologist who read the image ordered an ultrasound as followup. A few days later, Eva had 3 ultrasounds and a couple of additional x-rays, because the results where ambiguous. So the doctor ordered an image-guided biopsy, meaning that a few days later Eva had an MRI, then a radio-tracer image, then a surgeon took a tissue sample from the cyst.

The results came back a couple of days later, positive, with a diagnosis of Stage 0 ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): a noninvasive condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of a breast duct (a tube that carries milk to the nipple). If you have to have a positive diagnosis for breast cancer, this is the kind to have because it's been caught just about as early as possible, and almost certainly before the cancer has had a chance to spread beyond the duct it is in. making it relatively easy to excise with very low risk of missing any cancerous cells.

The recommended treatment is a lumpectomy, which Eva had this last Monday. At the same time a lot of additional tests were run, including a biopsy of the lymph nodes, just to make sure there was no spread of the cancer. The operation went well, and Eva came home and slept for about a day.

The Final Result
On Wednesday the surgeon phoned to tell us that the tests were all negative, and that the pathology of the excised lump showed that all the cancerous cells were removed from the area.

So it's been a grueling few weeks, but the end result is the best we could ask for under the circumstances. There's some possibility that the doctor will recommend a course of radiation as a precaution, but that's hardly a big deal.

The moral of the story is, of course, get your regularly-scheduled mammograms; catching breast cancer early can literally be a life-saving action.

The reason Eva had missed getting a mammogram for several years is that this cyst was detected some time back, and the doctor ordered a biopsy. For some reason we could never get them to explain, the biopsy technician insisted it had to be done without any anesthetic or analgesia. After putting up with intense pain and an unsuccessful biopsy, Eva told them where to put their biopsy equipment and left, vowing never to do that again.

Having decided that the risks of not dealing with the cyst were just too great, Eva got the biopsy this time with a local anesthetic and a great deal of solicitude from the doctors and technicians involved. Either a few years made a big difference in the protocols for the procedure, or she just had extreme bad luck in the people who were doing it the first time.

For the techies among us, my research indicates it was probably a technetium99 tracer, which is a gamma emitter. Eva wasn't interested enough to get the details.

It went well modulo the fact that the hospital insisted on keeping Eva for almost nine hours after the procedure because they weren't satisfied with her resting PO2 readings. They weren't seriously low, just low enough to make the nurses a little uneasy. Eventually they saw that they'd either have to let her go or someone would have to fill out a lot of extra paperwork fo the insurance company, so I took her home. We weren't really that surprised by the readings; Eva has always had idiosyncratic reactions to anesthesia, and her CFS has drastically slowed her recovery from just about everything, including anesthesia.

She probably inherited it from her mother, who once reacted to a dose of Valium by decking the doctor who gave it to her.

#636 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 08:30 PM:

Avram @628 - Okay, now I know what's been going wrong. Thanks for the tip-off. What happens is that I used to Copy Link Location in Firefox (which I stopped using for ML because I could only preview once) to link to a specific comment, writing the href and so on myself. Since I started using Safari, it works differently -- it gives me a hyperlink of the date & time. When I previewed what I was getting, it seemed like I had a good link. Somehow or other, it was not a good link.

So now when I edit the comment in TextEdit (faster than composing it in the window a lot of times), I change to plain text and it spells the URL out and I can wrap it in the appropriate HTML. At least I think I can (chug chug), and this message is the test to see if I'm right. Fxngxrs crxssxd.

Bruce Cohen @635 - Thanks for sharing the good news!

#637 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 09:31 PM:

Erik Nelson @ 633... it's not a perverse demiurge

Do two demiurges add up to one urge? asks Serge.

#638 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 09:59 PM:

And, Serge @ #637, is an urge just a softer erg?

#639 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 10:08 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers #635): Thanks for sharing the good news.

Michael Roberts #604: That's good news.

I've just got home after two days at ImagiCon in Birmingham (Alabama). A moderate amount of fun was had.

I was intrigued to note,on the way back (on the way out it was raining rather heavily) that there's a candidate for State Treasurer of Alabama named Young Boozer. Now, there's a name that inspires confidence.

#640 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 10:11 PM:

Paula Helm Murray, #603, Manassas has a straight line as well as a spur out to the Shenandoah Valley. We have one underpass (which is why I bought this condo -- it's on the "wrong" side of town and without the underpass, the EMTs and firefighters would have to wait for the train to leave before they could cross) and have been promised a second one for many years from the DOT. Who knows, some year we may actually get it.

Michael Roberts, #604, All right! (mine was too low this week, and spilling was high, but both close to my normal -- my diet has only 50gr of protein a day, but I started the BP meds before the first renal failure)

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers), #635, great news!

#641 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 10:43 PM:


Mothballs apparently don't work on ants.

Switching to flamethrower.

#642 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 11:10 PM:

Stefan@641: Flamethrowers. Read the manual.

Or refer to that documentary film from '79 on flamethrower usage in starship air ducts, which holds up surprisingly well.

Isn't there a Jim MacDonald piece somewhere on flamethrower safety?

#643 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 11:40 PM:

Bruce/Speaker @ 635: Very nice!

I'm pulling for a week of good news for everybody.

#644 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 11:56 PM:

Martin Gardner has died.

I remember spending hours reading back copies of Scientific American for his column.

#645 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2010, 11:57 PM:

Rikibeth writes in #619:

I am trying to come up with situations where I'd actually wear it, because I'm so delighted by the idea.

Um, concertina recital?

#646 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 01:11 AM:

Michael Roberts: Congrats on the diet management success. Re: book on how you concluded to go that route: write away; I'd actually be interested, and not for justification reasons.

Also: are you up on the latest re: Vitamin D? Seems most people are deficient, and it's a critical nutrient where autoimune and inflamatory processes are concerned.

#647 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 01:22 AM:

Thomas @644: I think Gardner may have been more responsible for the computer revolution than anyone will ever give him credit for. In the same way that Heinlein inspired the people who made the space program work, Gardner instilled a love of mathematical games into the portion of a generation who went on to become hackers, programmers and those who treated computers as a serious game.

And his researches on Alice and The Hunting of the Snark for the annotated editions were marvelous as well. A major influence on a small group of people.

#648 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 01:27 AM:

P.J.: What was the crossing (I spent a large chunk of my formative years in the The Valley)?

Bruce (StM): Many yays (that it went so well, not; of course, that it happened in the first place).

Michael Roberts: Also many yays.

#649 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 01:27 AM:

Bill Higgins - Beam Jockey @ 645:

*snort* I was taking some pills when I read that. I can now attest that snorting vicodin out your nose is not a good way to ingest a pill.

#650 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 01:48 AM:

Farewell, Mr. Gardner. Dr. Gardner? Anyway, he opened my mind up to a lot of stuff I still don't understand fully but love to hear about. If my calculations and memories are correct, I first read one of his books when he was not much older than I am now.

A first-rate imagination, a questing intellect, and a gentleman skeptic.

#651 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 02:28 AM:

Kip@636: looks like it worked. You do know you don't have to put the full URL, right? The comment number (with a hash mark in front of it) will do, since it's just going to another entry on the same page. (E.g., my tag here was <a href = "#427894">.)

#652 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 02:49 AM:

David Goldfarb: I didn't know that, thanks.

#653 ::: VictorS ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 03:44 AM:

@619,645 --
Some suggestions for places to wear the referenced hat:
* Mime performances, esp. tributes to Marcel Marceau.
* Slinky™ competitions.
* Ascot.

#654 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 03:47 AM:

A toast to Martin Gardner's memory. I think that without his work I would still have done a mathematics degree, but he taught me at a very young age that maths could and should be *fun*.

#655 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 09:46 AM:

Bruce Cohen (635): Hooray! for good results.

#656 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 10:10 AM:

Bruce and Michael: Wonderful news!

#657 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 10:18 AM:

#617 Wow. That's WAY beyond diet restriction. I'm glad it's been helping.

#635 Great news!

#658 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 10:34 AM:

Fragano #639:

Could be worse--your Mr Boozer could be running for Alcohol Control Board.

A perennial candidate for Treasurer of the state of Texas was one Jesse James (no relation to the original, but he had one hell of a name recognition).

#659 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 11:13 AM:

I found a couple of Martin Gardner's collections in my school library when I was young, and they (and his essays in Scientific American) were a big part of what got me into recreational math.

I've still got some cardboard flexagons buried in my desk, and show them off to people occasionally. A few years ago, I made a set of nontransitive dice for a friend's birthday present, based on one of his essays.

IIRC, the set of three pseudo-linked rings that I carry around as a fiddle-toy was also based on one of his essays. Pamela Dean once described it as a "Mike Ford toy", because it looks like a puzzle, but it isn't one -- it simply exists as something elegantly nifty.

#660 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 11:51 AM:

the crossing where the 'Vette flipped? That was Roscoe. (As I said, train not involved - it was midnight, alcohol was possibly a factor, and everyone in the car was under 30, and I think under 25.)

#661 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 01:09 PM:

Bruce, #635: Yay for best of possible results! And boo for MDeities who won't explain things -- that is SO unacceptable.

Thomas, #644: That's sad. But he was 95 years old; he had a good run. Think about the changes he saw in his lifetime!

joann, #657: There was a Tim Curry running for re-election to some local office in Dallas a couple of years ago. I was SO tempted to steal one of his campaign signs!

#662 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 02:37 PM:

Michael I #568: I'll be going to NASFiC.

#663 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 02:44 PM:

RIP Martin Gardner: Your math puzzles and games played a significant role in developing a love for problem-solving in me any many others.

Shortly after I saw the obit, I ran across another end-of-an-era note: Duke University, the birthplace of Usenet, shut down its newsgroups server this past week.

#664 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 02:52 PM:

At #620 ::: Earl Cooley III wrote:

the damned thing is made out of straw

You mean it's not a ninja's emergency liferaft inflator?

For shame!

#665 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 03:47 PM:

Is anyone else having intermittent problems with the Back button not working while reading ML? Sometimes I go to read a thread and then can't back up to the front page; fortunately, the front-page link still works. It's not happening on any of my other websites, so I don't think it's my browser.

#666 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 04:01 PM:

I just had that happen -- I think it's related to the ads that load (or fail to) as my status line on the browser went from "reading" to "stopped" (and once it was on "stopped" the back stopped working).

Snarky comments about stopping reading will be taken as made.

#667 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 04:43 PM:

There was a memorable Car Talk where Tom and Ray were lauding what a great guy Martin Gardner had been. After the break, his son was on the line saying his dad had asked him to call with the news that he wasn't dead yet.

#668 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 07:27 PM:

Michael Roberts: Another voice here suggesting that y'all do write a book, and this is why. There are a lot of people with hard-to-diagnose and/or hard-to-treat conditions, and it's not just "what to do" they need help with. It's "how to research", and "how to evaluate competing sources", and like. A book that focused on how you did your homework, how you considered results, the role of emotion, intuition, and logic in your decision-making, and like that, would be a darned helpful thing in this age of authoritarianism on the one hand and glorifying ignorance on the other.

#669 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 09:45 PM:

re this thread, I've found a new neighbor disturber: the Agincourt Carol, played on the state trumpet of the St. John the Divine organ. Warning: the linked sample isn't the loud part. 2nd warning: the state trumpet is astonishingly loud a distance of city block.

#670 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 11:33 PM:

Carol Kimball: and then his son gave them a wicked little logic puzzle that his dad thought would work well for next week's puzzler. It did.

#671 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2010, 11:39 PM:

David Goldfarb @651 - I'm trying that now. Thanks for the tip! It's simpler, so there's less for me to louse up.

#672 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 12:35 AM:

Bruce @668 - Good Lord, what a book that could be! In point of fact, emotion played and is still playing a huge role in the story, and to be a real reflection of how it went, it would have to be coauthored by my wife and I - and reliving that might bring us to the brink of divorce again. We fight a lot about theory.

Having kids with life-threatening incurable diseases, in an intercultural marriage (me American, she Hungarian) consisting of two people with vastly different approaches to research (I'm a rural Hoosier programmer/translator who reads science fiction, she's an urban European communist theoretical physicist who holds science fiction for bourgeois claptrap and a waste of valuable resources), with a strong component of mutual blame, involving careers in flames and impulsive moves to different countries (Puerto Rico, Hungary, Indiana again, Puerto Rico again), against the backdrop of the Iraq war (one thing we could agree on) and my business failing ... there's a lot of raw emotion there.

I have no doubt a good author could make it the epic of the century. I write well, but I'm not sure I could structure such a book to be at all intelligible.

I'm going to have to give it some thought, though. The idea of sort of a manual for cutting through the bullshit is attractive, except I'm not sure how you could possibly codify what we did, which was basically condensing facts from the vapor of nuance.

#673 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 12:44 AM:

Also Jacque @ 646 re Vitamin D - yeah, I keep reading about that and we pretty much agree that it's a positive help. We aren't good with supplements (fish oil and E are about all we manage to get into him because he still, at 11, refuses to swallow pills and complains about the oily taste of the stuff inside the pill. And once we bought a different formulation of Vitamin E whose name escapes me, but it was absolutely the most horrible thing I ever tasted - he took it, complained that it tasted bad, and my wife said, "Argh, they're the new pills, stop complaining!" So I tried it and immediately spit it into the sink. Good Lord it was horrific. Then I clutched my throat and reeled around the kitchen and managed to get him laughing about it. That was in 2006 and he still mentions it occasionally as a shared misery.)

However, we both think it goes a long way to explaining why he tends to do better in summer and in Puerto Rico. Plenty of sunshine. And yeah, inflammatory disease is somewhat more widespread in African-Americans in the north - more melanin means less Vitamin D. It's pretty compelling.

#674 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 12:53 AM:

A friend just sent me a link to a CBS news story about how copy machines store the images they're copying -- up to 20,000 per machine. This means the machines you copy on at Kinko's. And when government agencies surplus the machines: well, let's just say that the video shows them getting info from machines repurchased after being sold by police and a health insurance company.

Not fun.

#675 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 01:22 AM:

Tom Whitmore @ 674:

That's not really news to most technical people these days; there have been warnings about the need to wipe any device with a hard drive or flash memory in it for some years. This includes copiers, printers, iPods, smart phones, and computers of all types. It's truly amazing the files you find on old laptops, for instance.

Maybe it would help people to think about all the gadgets they enter password or credit card info into. These days just about any electronic device has some nonvolatile storage in it; if you have ever entered any sensitive info into a device then it needs to be wiped if you sell it, give it away, or throw it out.

I suspect that it will soon be possible to store credit card and ez pass codes in your car, so there will be yet another gadget you'll have to wipe clean.

#676 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 01:23 AM:

Tom Whitmore @ 674: I just watched that story about info stored on copiers. Wow.
I can just see the development project, too. The machine is basically a PC, so it's simplest to slap in a small hard drive, and the consequences aren't thought out. Oopsie.

#677 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 06:56 AM:

Michael Roberts @674, I second Bruce that that would make a fascinating book. As parent of a kid with a disability and a non-specific diagnosis, I always like to read about how people make their way through the mass of "do this!" "do that!" information.

#678 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 08:31 AM:

Re Martin Gardner -- I'd forgotten till I hear it on NPR this morning that he spent his last years in a nursing home here in Norman. One of the voices of reason we so sorely need these days.

#679 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 09:11 AM:

The copiers are just another example of that pattern I was talking about above. Stuff gets invisibly changed from dedicated hardware to a general-purpose computer running software, the internal operations change radically while the interface is changed little, and few people really understand what kind of vulnerabilities they are facing.

#680 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 10:06 AM:

Tom Whitmore @674 - Thirty years or so ago, I wanted to start a rumor that there was a strip of film in every photocopier that kept track of everything you did on it. It's not my fault if they're really doing it now, I swear! I just wanted to make people paranoid. I also tried to get a rumor going that Ronald McDonald was an escaped Nazi who never took off his make-up.

#681 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 10:41 AM:

"Ms. Sholto-Douglas, we're concerned that your daughter is only drawing with black crayons."

#682 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 11:09 AM:

Michael Roberts: Bruce Baugh @668: said what I meant to say, only better. To reiterate: I second the recommendation/request.

#683 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 11:38 AM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @675 -- it may not be news to tech people, but it certainly seems to have been news to the cops and the insurance folks -- and several people here. I'm much less concerned about my personal handling of information than about people who have an ostensibly legitimate reason to have my info who aren't treating it well. If someone steals my laptop, they get (basically) one person's info -- if someone buys a copier used by a bank or company with a large payroll, they get much, much more info.

People generally don't think of copiers as having a hard drive.

#684 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 11:55 AM:

Michael Roberts: I'd be less concerned with codifying than simply with describing well - being an example. "This is what we did and what happened. I think this helped, this didn't, and there's honestly no way to tell about this." Like, say, coming-out stories, the well-told example is often actually more useful than any set of generalizations.

#685 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 12:47 PM:

I didn't think of copiers as having a hard drive. But that's largely because I've hardly used one in 20 years -- these days I just print another copy off the computer, rather than fuss around with duplicating stuff on paper. Looking at modern copiers, that have all sorts of editing functions in them, it's immediately apparent to me (certainly not to "everybody") that they've become scanners and printers, with a computer controlling it all. Which very much raises the information security issues.

Kip, back when the "Clipper" chip and key escrow were news, there were jokes about "escrowing shredders" going around, which I liked quite a lot. Useful for sorting people out; see who got the joke.

#686 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 12:47 PM:

Having just had my car window smashed and *everything* stolen out of my backseat (driver's license, passport, checks, credit cards, the whole megillah) all this about the copy machines just furthers my overwhelming desire to hide under my desk and snivel.

#687 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 01:15 PM:

Michael Roberts and Bruce Cohen: Congratulations on the good news.

I also have good news: I spent the weekend with my brother in Phoenix. Last October he ended up in cardiac intensive care with pneumonia on top of dilated cardio-mylopathy -- basically, his heart muscle was so damaged that it barely worked. He got a biventricular pacemaker implanted in his left shoulder. He weighed 104 when he left the hospital; he's now up to 137. He feels good. He is a candidate for a heart transplant, and at some time in the future he may get a new heart, but at the moment, that little machine is keeping him alive and comfortable, and as long as it keeps doing its job, and his kidneys, liver, spleen, etc. remain healthy, he'll be here.

I am grateful.

#688 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 01:55 PM:

Michael Roberts (Argh. I new I should have held off posting @682.) Reading your @672: you have got to write this book. (If you can figure out how to do it without provoking divorce.) The whole panoply of issues sounds like a fascinating story. (Probably all the more so because they're not, like, you know, my issues.*)

Done right, I think it could be used to actually strengthen your relationship with your wife. Frex, if you have concerns, maybe bring a couples-counselor in on the project for to moderate. (I also recommend a perspective I ran across recently.

As to the book itself, from what you've said, just speaking as a potential reader, I'd actually be more interested in the human story, with the BS management manual as sort of the "B story."

I have no doubt a good author could make it the epic of the century. I write well, but I'm not sure I could structure such a book to be at all intelligible.

It seems likely that you could find all the structural wisdom you could ever possibly need Right Here in River City.

As to how to codify it, just tell it like it happened. Let the "code" reveal itself in the course of the story.

* What's that definition of adventure? Some guy you don't know, having a really miserable time, someplace far away?

And @ 673 Have him practice swallowing pills with M&Ms. :) I actually use the little gel-caps for both D and E; no discernible flavor at all.

Sarah S.: By all means, snivel away! I'm a big fan of snivelling, myself, and sounds like you have more than enough grounds. (And, last week, my boss actually came and crawled under my desk. I deduced she was having "a day.")

Lizzy L: Yay, technology! It's so cool, when it works.

#689 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 01:56 PM:

Argh. Muphry's: "I knew I..."

#690 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 02:24 PM:

Kip W wrote: "I also tried to get a rumor going that Ronald McDonald was an escaped Nazi who never took off his make-up."

The real truth is far more horrible.

#691 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 02:52 PM:

Michael Roberts — without wanting to add pressure, may I also say I think this could be a very interesting and useful book? The "how to research" and "how to evaluate sources" that Bruce Baugh suggests would be valuable; I'd also be interested in anything you have to say about how to interact with one's health care providers in situations where they don't know what's wrong, or where you know more about a particular condition than they do.

(This has been on my mind lately for a couple of reasons. For one, my doctor retired and my HMO has assigned me a new one whom I haven't met yet, and I've been thinking about the initial visit. I'm seriously considering saying to her, at some appropriate point in the visit, "So, Doctor, how can I demonstrate to you that I am an intelligent, informed layperson who tries to educate myself about my health and wellbeing and make reasonable health care choices based on both the best information available to me and my own experience, not an oversensitive hypochondriac who comes in clutching reams of printouts from questionable websites about rare and unlikely conditions?" Maybe she'll consider it a good sign that I generally print articles by and cite references to Doctor So-and-So of the Such-and-Such Research Institute of Wherever University, not Wikipedia. I hope so.

Another reason was discovering that I seem to be more current on the research about the link between hormonal contraception and depression than any of the people I've dealt with in my HMO's Psychiatry or OB/GYN departments. Another was having my previous doctor tell me flatly "There's no link between vitamin D and fatigue", instead of anything like "it's too early to judge the research" or "Based on the research I've seen, I'm not convinced there's a link.")

#692 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 03:00 PM:

Lizzy L:

Great news!

Tom Whitmore @ 683 and others:

I've got bad news for you. Copiers are just combinations of scanners and printers. Just about all laser printers have had hard disks in them for the last couple of decades, which is why the copiers do too now. So there's a record of the last N print jobs in every office printer. Like I said, you have to assume that any digital device has non-volatile storage of some sort in it, and if there's sensitive information in the device, it will remain until it's deliberately erased.

Oh, I just thought of another one: phone systems. These days a company PBX is actually a VOIP network, with routers and all that jazz. The message storage systems have hard disks (and the routers might too, in a large system). So the company moves up to a new system and junks the old. Where does the hardware go? Same thing for email (and more and more the voice phone and email systems are running on the same hardware).

#693 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 03:05 PM:

Meant to put this in the previous comment, but my trigger finger twitched.

What I really meant to do when I said that tech people have known about this was to ask the question, "Why haven't IT sysadmins been dealing with this issue all along?" They've known about it, they've known it's a humongous security hole, and yet they've let companies sell off printers and copiers without wiping sensitive info off them.

#694 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 03:25 PM:

Tom @ #674, thank you for that story.

I work in a medical office. Our fax machine has been malfunctioning (it won't print incoming faxes). This actually gives me hope that we can retrieve the missing faxes, as well as warning us not to discard or sell the stupid fax machine without being sure its memory is wiped!

Lexica @ #691, I hear that! I had both a doctor and a pharmacist tell me my birth control pills couldn't possibly have caused the 2 migraines I had, on consecutive months, on the same day of the cycle, shortly after I started using the pill (never having had a migraine before in my life). Interestingly, after I got off the pills I never had another migraine. Only one data point, of course, but as it happens, actual clinical studies support the connection.

#695 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 03:34 PM:

BC(STM) @693 -- And the wiping might be as simple as using a Big Magnet on the machine, depending on how good the Faraday caging is around the hard drives. That's probably pretty easy to test. And the leasing companies could offer the wiping as a service and make a profit off that.

#696 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 03:47 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 693:

A lot of companies, in my experience, either contract out for copiers and similar services, or buy them but as part of some group other than IT. The only thing that corporate IT does with them is make sure they're attached to a print server. And not all tech people necessarily knew about this, either, so they have no reason to even try to stop them from being sold/scrapped.

Maybe I should bring this up at work, just to give the safety guy something to do.

#697 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 04:52 PM:

Lexica @691 - there is a cultural problem in interaction with health care providers. Given that you're here, I'm guessing you're a science fiction reader and an Internet user, and you're accustomed to believing that you can find out whatever you need to know. Given time, practice, and obsession, this is even true.

But a physician is somebody selected over many decades to be able to recite authoritative knowledge, easily and confidently, without questioning it unless there is a huge preponderance of reason to do so. If they tend to question received knowledge, they go into research, or leave med school, or actually never get into med school in the first place, because the competition is utterly brutal. Now comes a person asking scary questions and not prepared to believe that the received wisdom is authoritative. Many physicians are going to react badly, because it's quite possible you're better at research than they are, and they have a sneaking suspicion you might be smarter than they are - and yet everything in their lives, throughout their career, is set up to reassure them that they're on the top of the pyramid.

Not only that, most challenges to the received wisdom are from crackpots. And you can't easily tell the difference between a crackpot and a competent person!

Add to that, in the United States, that they're constantly told by their malpractice insurers that they're at risk of a life-wrecking lawsuit at any time for stepping even an inch over the borderline into the questionable - let alone making an actual mistake. It's along the lines of "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM." Nobody ever got sued for prescribing steroids, either - even though I have two strong data points saying steroids aren't necessarily the holy grail. And if you get to know a doctor or two, whether socially or professionally, they'll agree with you - but they're going to have to build a metric shitload of trust in you, personally, before they will actually work with that hypothesis.

Unfortunately, at ten minutes a pop, they don't have time to get to know you.

Our answer was just to leave the American health care system entirely. In Puerto Rico, a doctor will damn well sit with you as long as it takes - everybody else is late anyway, and time has a different meaning down there. So our nephrologist is in San Juan.

And it took sorting through six other nephrologists before we found him, too. The problem with that, though, is selection bias. If you keep searching until you find somebody that agrees with you, that doesn't necessarily mean you're right. Staying honest with yourself is damn hard.

But even with this guy there was a lot of give and take, and it took years before we really knew each other well enough to build a trusting relationship. After we'd known him for about four years, he finally admitted, "Every nephrology case is a new book." The human body is so immensely complex that for nearly every interesting case, everybody is running on nuance and guesses. Medicine is hard.

And it lends itself to crackpots and nuts. The problem is that even the crackpots and nuts occasionally have decent insights, and sometimes they turn out to be entirely right, although sometimes in unexpected ways.

Lila @694 - we had some "couldn't possiblies" as well.

Jacque, yeah. Adventure we got. Sometimes we look back over our photos (easy, since they're my screensaver) and boggle.

#698 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 05:32 PM:

Sarah S. @686: Ouch. My sympathies. Have you thought of a new name yet?

Stefan Jones @690 - The real truth is far more horrible.
Funny that you'd say that. A friend and I did a one-page comic once where it certainly was. Must have been after Alien came out. Though now that I think about it, it still wasn't as horrible as the first Ronald McDonald ads with Willard Scott (more at YouTube).

#699 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 06:47 PM:

Lexica @691: link between vitamin D and fatigue

Alleviating or exacerbating?

Michael Roberts @697: See? See!? Ya gotta write a book!

#700 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 07:10 PM:

Mods: I posted something with a lot of links on May 21 at 12:45 AM. I thought that raised a flag automagically on the gleaming control panels at the Making Light building (at 1 Making Light Plaza), but I guess not.

It's Hamlet's TBONTB soliloquy with links to all the places I could find where quotes from it have been used as titles for other things. Could someone have a look?

#701 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 07:21 PM:

Jacque # 699: Research seems to be showing a link between low vitamin D and increased fatigue. Here's one article: Vitamin D Deficiency Associated With Chronic Fatigue in Brain Injured Patients. ("Seems to be showing" since y'know, it's research and more information is coming in and all that good stuff. That's why I would have been okay if my doctor had said he didn't agree with the research showing a link to fatigue, or didn't think the data were sufficient — but he seemed to be completely unaware of the recent research.)

Anecdotally, blood tests showed my vitamin D level was low (normal range is 30-100 ng/mL, mine was 16) and my doctor said to start supplementing ("you can get it at any drugstore or Trader Joe's"). Within a week of beginning to take it, my energy level was noticeably higher.

#702 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 07:24 PM:

Go Bagology:

I packed a Go Bag a few years ago. Clothes, food, toiletries.

Prompted by a recent reminder hear I thought I'd repack it, specifically to replace the food items.


I still don't know exactly when I packed it, but it had two packs of Starburst candies with expiration dates of 8/2006. The fact that I included a sample bag of dog food suggests I packed it after I adopted Kira in 2004.

I left the canned food -- sardines -- in there. The cans weren't bulging.

I discovered that really old trail mix isn't worth eating. Except for the M&ms. I'm replacing it with vacuum packed nuts.

I'm going to check out the crackers tonight. Wish me luck.

#703 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 08:06 PM:

Stefan @702 - which makes you wonder how foodlike M&Ms really are...

#704 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 08:45 PM:

The copiers that we got at work last winter explicitly have hard drives - they can scan and e-mail that image, as well as print, copy and fax. Unfortunately, the e-mail part is difficult to use, and their resolution, even for copies, is less than the machines they replaced. Which probably doesn't matter, in most of the departments that got them, but we need that resolution for our plotting and copying.

(ISTR that some of the first computerized copiers, from Xerox, used LSI-11 processors.)

#705 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 09:01 PM:

P J Evans @704: are they treated in the same way as computers for purposes of security?

#706 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 09:15 PM:

Tom, I don't know. I thinkthey're leased.
I hope the IT people have a checklist including cleaning the drives (they do for the outgoing computers), but if they're leased, that might not be under their control.

#707 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 09:20 PM:

You might want to mention it to them -- especially if the copiers are leased.

#708 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 10:58 PM:

Lizzy L, Michael Roberts, and Bruce Cohen (STM): congratulations on the good news!

Open-Threadiness: On the subject of teenagers and computers..I have just relearned never to leave my son unattended with a browser. I've also now reminded myself to check the damned browser history more often. I accidentally discovered that my son was sneaking onto my laptop after midnight -- and his bedtime is 8:30, 9 pm at the latest -- and not only did he sneak onto the laptop, he also (1) generated a new email address for himself so he could (2) generate a new facebook page for himself, and (3) search for porn.

He's 14. It's my work-issued laptop. I left up the history page while he wrote down his passwords for me, and I changed them. If he can show me that he's worthy of being trusted again, I'll let him know the new passwords.

Luckily for me, he'd just done this a day ago. I can clear the browser history and there's no sign of viruses, etc.

I'm more surprised that he was actually up at midnight..and that I didn't even hear him when I'd fallen asleep on the couch not more than 3 feet away from my laptop.

How did humans ever survive this long? I mean, teenagers have been annoying adults since, like, air.

#709 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 11:32 PM:

"Junior! Have you been committing sodomy with your dinosaur classmates?"

#710 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 11:33 PM:

Ginger @ 708... That reminds me of the scene from Casino Royale where M fimds that not only did 007 break into her home, but he also broke into her home's computer. She was not amused.

#711 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2010, 11:47 PM:

Michael Roberts at 697: What You Said.

Vitamin D gelcaps really have no taste. Really.

I'd love to read that book.

#712 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 12:00 AM:

re 708; My daughter gave herself away the morning I couldn't find my laptop-- and she suggested that I look in my room.

#714 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 12:17 AM:

#709: What kind of protection would you need to do that safely?

#715 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 01:25 AM:

Lizzy L, #687, excellent news!

Michael Roberts, #703, actually, I spent six months consulting for Mars, Inc. at the plant that made M&Ms. That was years ago, but it certainly looked like they were made with real food. In fact, when the American peanuts didn't grow well enough, they had to use Chinese peanuts which meant reformulating the rest of the M&Ms to taste good.

Ginger, #708, Aaaaacccccck!

#716 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 07:05 AM:

Lizzy L @ 687... Best wishes to your brother.

#717 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 07:24 AM:

Stefan Jones @713
As someone whose books are always on the verge of self-organizing and taking over the house, I'd like to believe this. I think it's a good thing. But I also think that the point is not necessarily the physical presence of the books, but the fact that having that many books means that the parents (a) have a large enough living space to have a place for 500 books, (b) have sufficient disposable income to buy books, and (b) value books sufficiently to spend disposable income in that way.

#718 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 07:34 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 713... The only books in the home where I grew up fell within two categories: my mechanic dad's how-to books, and those I bought. Also, my wife's family have very few books in their homes, and they have a high level of education. I was shocked when I found John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up in the house of one of them, by the way.

#719 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 07:42 AM:

Is SF losing its memory? This last weekend was the 2nd month in a row that I've come across an SF fan who had never heard of TV series "The Invaders". Sure, she was born the year the series was originally aired, but this is still strange.

#720 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:33 AM:

Serge, 719: I know that show existed, but not much more, because I've heard other people talk about it. If she's new to fandom, or if the fans she knows are book-based, it makes sense that she wouldn't have heard of it.

#721 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:47 AM:

Serge @ 710: Ah, yes. Judi Dench as M is one of the more inspired casting moves of modern film-making. When I grow up, I want to look half as good as she does.

709, 712: If only he'd restricted himself to dinosaur sodomy. At least he was not careful about covering all of his tracks (he's learned to wipe the history on my iPod, but I pointed out to him that just lets me know that he's been surfing sites he doesn't want me to know about..and he hasn't caught on that Google leaves up the last search terms); I discovered his perfidy because his new email address showed up on the Facebook login page, which led me to run a history check on the browser, which, in turn, led me to discover the time stamps on those pages.

This morning, on the way to school (he's with me this week), I told him that I hoped it was one of his friends who had suggested this and not his own idea. He admitted as much, and then I pointed out that good friends don't help him do bad things like sneak around and lie to his mothers. I told him about the time my brother walked home rather than do something he didn't want to do with his friends, because he knew it wasn't right. We'll see if this sinks in.

I'm ticked, but I'm also amused. I'm quite certain that I was just as obvious in my errors at the same stage, and believe me, I made all kinds of egregious errors in 8th grade. Not surprisingly, it also involved friends leading me astray, and it resulted in my parents sending me to private school. (That turned out better than anyone might have expected, although to this day, I still regret the closure of the first school. There was no place like St. Mary's School, in Peekskill NY. )

#722 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:03 AM:

TexAnne @ 720... True. I think she's been a fan of SF for a long time, but that her involvement in fandom is a fairly recent development. That being said, I've been enjoying watching the show, thanks to our NetFlix queueueueueue, and there's something almost refreshing in its assumption that, if the authorities knew what's going on, they wouldn't rush to sell us out to aliens.

#723 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:07 AM:

Ginger @ 721... By the way, if you go to YouTube and type "Judi Densch midsummer night", you'll like what comes up.

#724 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:14 AM:

Serge @ 723: Yes, I think you already showed me that one. Lovely! I'm in awe of her fine Shakespearean talents.

#725 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:37 AM:

Ginger @ 724... I thought I might have, but figured there'd be no harm in making sure. :-)

#726 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:48 AM:

Serge@719: I have a very vague memory that that was one of the horrid "SF"-flavored TV shows of the past sometime, but I don't believe I ever saw a single second of an episode. Media SF is pretty much beyond the pale for me; I've seen so little of any value that I've stopped looking.

#727 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 10:09 AM:

Serge @719

Fandom, or so I gather from hanging out here, seems to be a big place, with many twisty little corridors--none of them quite like any of the others. It's sort of like the kind of stuff I specialize in as an academic: so loaded with delicious goodness that you can't know everything.

For what it's worth, I tend look at that as an opportunity to show people the cool twisty little corridor that I'm currently interested in and to find out what they've been finding out.

#728 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 10:30 AM:

I've never heard of The Invaders either. But then I am a foreigner. Or rather, I'm not a foreigner, Serge is...

#729 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 10:35 AM:

Serge @ 719 -

I remember The Invaders. As I recall, it ran for a couple of seasons only, and I guess it wasn't that attractive to syndicators, who generally wanted at least three seasons of a product, and preferably five.

#730 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 10:52 AM:

I'm not a foreigner, Serge is...

...but I can bend my pinky.

By the way, "The Invaders" had such goodness as Suzanne Pleshette as a stripper in a town near the Mexican border. And Jack Lord as an industrialist who make a Deal with the Devil. Book 'im!

#731 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 11:32 AM:

Stefan #713:

That article had "confounding variable" written all over it, though I'm sure the original research on which it was based broke things out more. But number of books in the house is correlated with income, IQ, education, and interests/culture of the parents, any or all of which could be the relevant variables. (IQ is somewhat heritable, surely correlates with number of books you have in the house, and definitely correlates with success in school. Coming from a family or culture that values education surely correlates with having more books, and also with encouraging your kids to go further in their education. Etc.)

It would be great if buying books and putting them in the homes of poor kids would help, and maybe it will help, but I don't see how you'd know that from what was discussed in that article.

#732 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 11:50 AM:

Lexica @701: So the answer to "link between vitamin D and fatigue:" Alleviating or exacerbating? is "yes?" :)

Michael Roberts @703: makes you wonder how foodlike M&Ms really are... Well, if it makes you feel any better, M&Ms were actually designed as combat rations and therefore need to be, like, durable. Heh.

Ginger @708: I mean, teenagers have been annoying adults since, like, air. And they don't even have the compensating virtue of being cute.

Lizzy L @711: Vitamin D gelcaps really have no taste. Really. Unless you chew them, I suppose.

#733 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 12:03 PM:

Abatross@731: Yeah, I'm reasonably sure sneaking in with a bookcase and a bunch of books and leaving them in the house wouldn't help much.

And there seem to be a lot of smart people who don't read for pleasure, not correlating with their job at all -- doctors, lawyers, and engineers all clearly fall into both camps, none of the groups is uniform on this.

I suspect, going along with your "confounding variable" theory, that it would turn out not to matter much whether the books were fiction or non-fiction, or whether one or both parents were the readers.

#734 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 12:12 PM:

HEY MODS!! We need some new threads! :)

#735 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 12:40 PM:

What, Jacque, the stone soup of the open thread isn't rich enough for you?

If it's a choice among disasters, serious annoyance, our moderators feeling stressed that they have to perform for us, or our own conversations for a few weeks -- I'll take the last of those.

#736 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 12:51 PM:

Abatross@731: Yeah, I'm reasonably sure sneaking in with a bookcase and a bunch of books and leaving them in the house wouldn't help much.


Yeah, I'm reasonably sure sneaking in with a bookcase and a bunch of books and leaving them in the house wouldn't help much.

This sounds a bit like the putative crime, hypothesised by a friend of a friend, of 'breaking and decorating'.

#737 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 01:16 PM:

albatross@731 The article seemed to indicate that the effect of the books was at least somewhat independent of culture (because they found it across many countries) and that it was independent of parents' education level. But it did not indicate independent of family income.

Back when I took research methods classes, the classic example of confounding was a finding that children whose homes included a dishwasher were likely to score better on educational tests. One does not recommend, as an intervention, the purchase of dishwashers for all families...

#738 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 01:17 PM:

re 731: Well, see this statement: "Being a sociologist, Evans was particularly interested to find that children of lesser-educated parents benefit the most from having books in the home." I don't think it is implausible: books + curious child = reading, and surely having them on hand beats out having to go to the library to get them.

#739 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 01:21 PM:

Stefan @713, Albatross @731, dd_b @733, praisegod barebones @736

As far as smuggling books into the home, something like that is being tried in several places.

#740 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 01:29 PM:

Providing books to children who were interested in learning, but lacked access, would probably help, at least unless there was severe parental resistance. Maybe there are more of those than I think.

#741 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 01:35 PM:

Thank you, Tom.

Jacque, I'll do my best to think of something to post when my four solid weeks of having parental house guests ends tomorrow. Sadly, I don't have an estimated end date on the sundry work and interpersonal dramas that have been running concurrently.

Basically, sometimes events in the big room with the blue ceiling kinda sap the time and creativity. Why not go back over the history of the site and restart an old thread, if the current ones aren't satisfying you? People check the recent comments lists (it's how we find spam), so if you start something, people will come. I once ran a black-market parlor game in a dead thread, back before I was on the front page.

Ball's in your court.

#742 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 01:41 PM:

Aren't Open Threads the places where we can start new conversations, should other threads not fulfill our needs?

#743 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 01:46 PM:

ddb, there are an amazing number of people in the world who do not think much about books. They do not think about where to get books, they do not think about why books are good things, they just don't think about books. They are not necessarily prejudiced against them; they just don't think about them very much, if at all. Exceptions might be made for repair manuals, cookbooks, and the family copy of a basic religious text, but books are, for a lot of people, somthing they just don't think about one way or another, and so they don't go out of their way to pick one up. They aren't opposed to the idea that reading to their children will help them learn to read, and that they will likely do better in school if they're read to. It's just that they'd never think of it on their own, and going into a bookstore, or a library, for the specific purpose of getting a book is as remarkable a notion as sailing solo around Cape Horn. Maybe they could do such a thing--but they've never thought about it, and aren't very likely to run out and do it.

Any children's librarian or school librarian can tell you that there are children who only enter the library when specifically sent there by their teachers, with a specific project in mind. They haven't been raised to think of books as bad and libraries as dangerous, evil places--they just haven't been raised to think about them at all. They are not on these folks' mental map.

#744 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 01:55 PM:

Aren't Open Threads the places where we can start new conversations, should other threads not fulfill our needs?

#745 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 02:04 PM:

Serge @#718: If you had grown up with were more books, you would have undoubtedly gotten 3.2 more years of education and thereby learned not to argue with science!

#746 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 02:05 PM:

Argh, and if I had grown up with more books I would have removed the word "were" before posting the above.

#747 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 02:07 PM:

Serge@718: my parents (not rich, and both had left school at 14) had no books in the house of their own, other than ones they'd received as presents and one or two work-related ones of my dad's. But they read a lot from the library: WWII naval fiction for him, family sagas for her. My mother didn't like going to the library so my dad chose books for her, mainly by the cover: anything that was being marketed like a Catherine Cookson novel. I think he must have accidentally widened her taste over the years—I once flicked through one of the ones she was reading, a Jilly Cooper, and suffered a bout of embarrassed teenage surprise at the contents.

In an epsiode of the reality show Wife Swap, the non-posh wife swapped into the posh household tried to improve the bedrooms of the posh teenagers by getting rid of all the books in there, on the grounds that it must be horrible to have to relax and go to sleep surrounded by such things.

#748 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 02:10 PM:

neandertal genes
living in my DNA
rishathra's offspring

#749 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 02:23 PM:

Steve with a book #747: the non-posh wife swapped into the posh household tried to improve the bedrooms of the posh teenagers by getting rid of all the books in there

The word "tried" is ambiguous. She removed all the books, or she tried to? Either way, what happened, and did posh kids end up with books in their room?

#750 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 02:30 PM:

Dangit. I had foot for lunch yesterday, too.

Ahem. Allow me to rephrase: folks seem to be off having Real Life for the moment. Usually I have to really struggle to keep up with the message volume.

I did not mean to slight the kind souls who are present. But I did. In a particularly whiney, annoying way. I'm sorry. I especially apologize to abi. (And "black-market parlor game?" What a wonderfully evocative image.)

Yes, it did occur to me that I could try starting a topic myself. After I posted the above comment, of course. Esprit de l'escalier, and all that.

#751 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 02:38 PM:


> The word "tried" is ambiguous. She removed all the books, or she tried to? Either way, what happened, and did posh kids end up with books in their room?

My recollection is that the books were indeed removed for the duration of the swap (and were replaced with televisions—or is my brain making that bit up?). ISTRT the posh kids were polite about the experience and played along with it gamely, but were glad to have their books back once the experiment was over.

(To voracious readers of my parents' generation, I think ownership of books looked like profligacy: you spend all that money on a book and it's all wasted once you've read it; why buy books when you can get them for free from the library?)

Richard Hoggart's The Uses of Literacy is still relevant: he identified how in a small and crowded house, sitting alone reading quietly can be identified as a sort of defection from the solidarity of the family...

#752 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 02:48 PM:

Jacque @750:
It's OK. I'm sorry I crabbed at you. I'm doing my best here.

Xopher @700:
You actually posted something with so many links that it didn't go into moderation; it actually went into spam. I didn't know we had that threshold.

I'm going to email the text of the comment to you, and if you want to post it (and you should), please do so again. If I fish it out of spam, it's going to mess up many many comment references, and I for one haven't the heart or the time to go untangle them.

We are not told when comments go into moderation or the spam bucket, or we'd be being told stuff all the time. This is why we request that you post immediately afterward with a note that you've got a comment in moderation, so I can go look and fish it out, and then (if necessary) kill your flag comment off and not spend 45 minutes adjusting everyone's up-references.

(Because, you know, I've had people get upset at having them messed up, too.)

#753 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 03:07 PM:

abi: And doing very well at it, too, if I may say. Virtual guinea snuggles?

#754 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 03:14 PM:

OtterB, #717: The article said that having as few as 20 books still had a beneficial effect -- smaller, but measurable.

You'd think there couldn't possibly be a household that wouldn't have at least 20 books. But the family I occasionally baby-sat for when I was a teenager didn't. I still vividly remember one evening when literally the only book in the house was a porn best-seller called "The Betsy", and I read it from cover to cover because I'd finished the newspaper, and they didn't have any magazines either, and there was NOTHING ELSE TO READ. And these were well-educated, upper-middle-class white people.

TexAnne, #720: Ditto, and I'm in the age group that could have watched it. But I never did.

#755 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 03:38 PM:

Lee @754: I remember the time in high school when I was traveling in another country and I'd finished off the 40 books I'd bought to keep me busy while we were in non-anglophone countries: and I was reduced to borrowing Allan Drury novels and Terry Southern's Candy. I liked the Drury better....

I grew up in a house with thousands of books, some measureable number of which were SF/F. My parents even had a few fanzines lying around (though they weren't fans). Also mysteries, good kids' books, lots of general fiction and non-fiction. (I'm pretty sure it was actually tens of thousands -- we had more books than the local library, or so it seemed to me.) A few of the books were even written by family members.

#756 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 03:50 PM:

Samples of the black-market parlor game, by way of recompense for my crabbiness:

It started with a race between me and Serge to mark comment spam, which Xopher capped with a verse out of who knows where.

It was an intermittent way to mark spam for a while.

But the main body of it was at the end of an Open Thread. I see, rereading it, that Teresa was watching the whole time, but it did feel deliciously secretive at the time.

#757 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 03:50 PM:

Bookless houses creep me out.

My parents -- who always had books in the house -- enjoying watching HGTV, the "house porn" channel.

Many of the shows are about room and house makeovers. A designer, or competing group of designers, remake an area. The result invariably looks like a model apartment. If there are shelves, they are sparsely littered with aesthetic objects; soulless bric-a-brac. Like a black bowl full of amber marbles supporting gilt fake foliage. All carefully lit.

I've never seen shelves full of books in these made-over rooms.

I'd rather chew tinfoil and listen to an MP3 player of chalk board scratching than live in such a place.

I can't imagine children growing up in such a place.

#758 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 03:52 PM:

One of the happiest days of my younger life was the Christmas I was nine; my father had built me an actual bookcase, my very own, for my room. I didn't quite fill up all the 18 running feet of shelf space immediately, but I definitely was able to make it look populated. Only now does it occur to me to wonder where my books lived before then.

#759 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 04:05 PM:

I grew up in a house full of books - we had 36 boxes of books when we moved just before my junior year in high school. Those were orange boxes, roughly the same size as the medium-sized boxes that storage places sell now.
All the relatives we visited had books, too, even if a lot of them were Reader's Digest condensed books.
(They didn't really stop us from getting into them, but my parents put their 'adult books' on higher shelves.)

What I really don't understand is the people who think that libraries should be either school libraries or private.

#760 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 04:07 PM:

Stefan Jones @#757: I have seen a few rooms in architecture/decor magazines where books were organized by color. I decided, for kicks and as a way of getting reacquainted with the collection, to organize my own that way. The result is amusing and visually soothing, but now I am suspicious of the magazines, because the books they show are all suspiciously pure in hue, rather than visually complicated and multicolored like real books.

#761 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 04:11 PM:

The idea that one could have a living space without books strikes me as perversity bordering on heresy. I grew up in a house with multiple thousands of books - the remains of my father's science fiction collection (those which had survived my grandmother's book purge of the late 1970s, when he moved out of the house for graduate school), huge numbers of history books, vast numbers of classic novels, mountains of Shakespeare editions, rooms of Psychology/Vision texts (the family trade)... my own collection, of which only a quarter is in TN with me, filled better than sixty feet of shelving.

This is just what I needed to think about right now, as it happens - I am a bit bent out of shape by the whole process of having to find an apartment for grad school, and realizing that I am moving to a town with a plethora of used bookstores makes me happier about the whole process. There are a couple here, but having only two in a whole town (and they are only middling decent for browsing) does not do it for me.

Hmm, wonder if I can find an apartment with big built-in bookshelves... that might be a dangerous temptation though.

#763 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 04:39 PM:

abi @ 741: I hope the work and interpersonal dramas resolve themselves soon.

#764 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 05:00 PM:

Heh. Something I just remembered.

Many years ago I did technical writing for company that did some software publishing (cheap CD-ROM titles), and also software bundling.

One of the projects we worked on was the "localization" of a cheap 386SX PC. I helped write the manuals, and also the script for the VHS tape install guide. I got to go to the video shoot. The set was cheap plywood, painted and dabbed to look like a classy and tasteful home office. On camera it looked really nice!

The set had a set of book shelves, crammed with books. What the camera didn't allow you to see was that there were many, many copies of only a dozen titles. The prop guy had just bought up a bunch of remainders of totally hopeless titles. The one I remember was "ANDROPOV: CHALLENGE TO THE WEST!" Andropov was one of those post-Breshnev pre-Gorbachev Soviet premiers whose career of waving stiffly at parades was tragically short.

Whenever I DO see books on a set, I imagine them to be stuff like that.

#765 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 05:23 PM:

We didn't have a lot of books IN the house when I was growing up -- but we went to the library and borrowed the maximum every week, and we children were frequently given books as gifts. For some reason, we always got books at Easter -- I don't know where that custom came from. When my brother and I discovered flea markets, our libraries grew exponentially, and now we are both the kind who cover every vertical surface with bookshelves. So maybe regular exposure to books in large quantities, whether personally owned or not, is the real key factor?

#766 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 05:25 PM:

Our books in the parlor/library. Haven't had time to shelve them yet.

#767 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 05:42 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 764 -

This place often furnishes books for movie sets and other venues which need books as decor.

#768 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 05:45 PM:

I remember looking at books in a catalog photo, and realizing it was a set of encyclopedias that matched one we'd had when I was a kid (nto a bad set, either).

#769 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 06:02 PM:

Stefan, #757: ISTR a PR campaign some 25 years ago in which the kind of shelves you're describing here were shown under the heading "An American Tragedy". It was supposed to encourage parents to expose their kids to reading, and to read themselves. I don't think it lasted very long.

One of the independent used-book stores in Nashville (at least when I was living there) had a cartoon taped to the end of one of the racks. The picture was a couple being shown thru a house, and there were built-in bookshelves on every wall. The caption: "What kind of crazy people lived here, anyhow?" I have no idea where they got it, but I'd love to have a copy.

I remember being given The Tour of a friend's new house once, and one of the bedrooms was long for its width, with windows only on the wall opposite the door on one end, and the short wall at the other end. My immediate thought was "LIBRARY ROOM!" If I had a room like that, I'd install floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on all the outer walls, plus back-to-back stacks in the center. I'd have a reading chair by each window, take the doors off the closet, and put my computer desk there.

#770 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 06:15 PM:

Lee @ #769: the two rooms with built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves were major reasons why we bought our current house. (One is now our library and TV room; the other is sort of a junk room, so only a minority of its shelves are being used to hold books.)

#771 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 06:23 PM:

Lee@769: One online source suggests the cartoon was by Peter Arno, and published in the New Yorker, but doesn't cite an issue or claim certainty. The New Yorker sounds very believable; it seems like that kind of a cartoon to me, and I've definitely seen it.

It is, in any case, brilliant.

I strongly suspect our rental truck was overloaded moving back from Massachusetts in 1985 -- we had relied on the professional movers' estimate of the weight of our stuff, and they don't really understand books.

The house in Massachusetts had TWO rooms devoted entirely to books (stacks out through the middle of the room, not just shelves around the walls), PLUS Jerry's bedroom was essentially totally filled with books in addition, though it did also contain his bed and clothing and such.

#772 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 06:53 PM:

Deb Notkin used to quote from Shirley Jackson (one of the autobiographical books) about when they were selling a house. Someone looked at the bedroom and commented that there'd be a lot more room in it if they took out all the books. "Yeah, and there'd be a lot more room if you took out the bed," was her response.

#773 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 06:57 PM:

abi @ 756... Oh goodness. I had forgotten about that one. You brought a much needed smile to my life. That did, plus Freya having started to scratch her ear with her mended leg.

#774 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 07:01 PM:

Oh yeah, books! One my my earliest memories is of crawling past shelves of books.... Most of Mom's personal accumulation was in the basement (and likewise for Dad's, at his house), but there were bookshelves on the main floor too, and in the (top-floor) bedrooms.

In my last couple of apartments, I had wall-mounted shelves (took them with me when I moved), but my rabbit chewed through the supports! Now my books are overflowing from three big industrial-strength shelf-sets, into an upstairs case and assorted other surfaces. I'm taking a half-dozen for tomorrow's train ride (12 hours to Boston). (No, I probably won't finish them all on the ride, but I might do some reading on the trip back, despite that being an auto ride with Mom.)

#775 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 07:02 PM:

abi @ 741: I have marked this comment for special attention next time I get hungry. (Which will probably be sometime tomorrow.)

'Nother reason I didn't just throw out a topic for discussion today: I'm just Too Stoopit. And this has been one of those days when my friendly social overtures seem to produce the result you'd expect from punching someone in the face. Makes me reticent to initiate.

Houses with books: Our living room (300 sqft?) had books floor to ceiling, wall to wall on two sides. Which is fairly modest by modern fannish standards, even though both my parents and my brother were constant and voracious readers.

My own collection only covers one 10ft wide wall, floor to ceiling. (I did a purge a few years back.)

Steve with a book @751: sitting alone reading quietly can be identified as a sort of defection from the solidarity of the family...

*[click]* Huh. I think you just explained why I never became an particularly avid reader. My experience of family members reading was that they were therefore unavailable for interaction (and would get testy if interrupted). Since I was already the Lost Child of the family, everyone sitting around reading just agravated my feelings of isolation. Huh. Damn. I'd never noticed that before.

Contrast this with a guy I knew for whom books were a rather direct proxy for love. Pro: non-fattening, unlike chocolate or ice cream. Con: storage volume.

Chuck Jones, in his memoir Chuck Amok, reports that when his family rented houses, one search criteria was that they be equipped with a library.

#776 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 07:24 PM:

#767: My father goes to The Strand often (or went, before his vision started to fail).

Didn't know they provided that particular service, though! How peculiar.

I suspect the books on the set I visited was not a product of this service. It looked like some set decorator just loaded up on what he could get at Odd Lots.

* * *

Most of my non-graphic-novel, non-computer-manual books are now on a single, very large book case. It was built by my father in an afternoon in the early '60s, partially as a way to distract a visitor who had a reputation of being a holy roller. Keeping him busy measuring and cutting prevented him from trying to convert my parents.

I have a "staging" bookshelf in my bedroom. It has books I mean to read, and books I've read that I plan on selling or giving away.

I had two other shelving units full of books, but I sold off about half of my books last year. I don't want to pay to move them next time I relocate. I intend to sell or donate more before that happens. What I'll keep are the books I really, really want and would be hard to replace.

#777 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:09 PM:

Ginfer @ 708: Checking the browser history isn't foolproof. I never did figure out how my 13-year-old niece downloaded a porn dialer when she only ever visited Harry Potter and boy band sites. Maybe I should have looked closer—there might have been a trove of Daniel Radcliffe/Aaron Carter slash fic.

#778 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:10 PM:

I seem to have lost track of which discussion was where, so I'm reposting this bit from the litrary pop quiz thread:

We had a few zillion books at home, plus the ones from the library. Among other sources, my parents subsidized purchases of children's books from the Scholastic catalog. And the local used bookstore got a lot of our custom. My cousin (then about nine) once observed, in tones of awe/bafflement, "They have books in every room!" (not quite literally true, even discounting the bathrooms, but darn close).

#779 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:23 PM:

Steve, #751 & Jacque, #775: Between the two of you, you've reminded me that it doesn't have to be a crowded or busy household. My parents periodically nagged me to "come out and be part of the family for a change" because I spent most of time at home reading in my room. Every so often I'd bring my book out to the den instead, but (1) they would keep trying to talk to me and (2) it never took more than 15 minutes for this to turn into Captive Lecture Time*, and I'd quickly decide that I didn't need this and retreat to my room again.

* Because I spent so much time isolated in my room, my parents saw most of the time I spent with them as a rare and valuable opportunity to harangue me about Everything I Was Doing Wrong -- especially when I was trapped, e.g. riding with them in the car. This in turn made me ever less inclined to spend time with them. They never did figure out the connection AFAIK.

#780 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:24 PM:

I keep my books in waves; stacks of Most Frequently Re-read Books are piled on top of boxes (of books); a couple of small shelves of books a mid-distance away but still inside (tech vs. non-tech); and a separate storage room a few blocks away with somewhere between 150 to 175 boxes of books. I'm in no way trying to brag about the number of books; many people here have lots more than that; but I did want to mention my "waves" system of pretend organization.

#781 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:24 PM:

There were books in our house when I was younger, though not an overwhelming amount. Mom and Dad got the Reader's Digest condensed books - which I enjoyed - but had others as well. Dad, a lawyer, preferred history and historical fiction. Mom read, and read, and read, but mostly from the library, and nearly all mysteries. As I was transitioning from the children's section to the adult section - before YA existed, or at least before it was so labeled - she introduced me to Dick Francis and to the Mrs. Pollifax books. Neither of my parents were fen in the least. I count it among the minor accidental pleasures of my high school days to have turned my father (an old Navy man) into a Heinlein fan by leaving a copy of Glory Road lying around the house. With mom, my success came with Georgette Heyer.

We have lots of books now. Our kids have lots of books. One of my daughter's tasks before she goes off to college in the fall is to sort her bookshelves into take with, keep, hand down/give away, and return borrowed things to mom! Alas, she doesn't like science fiction at all, but reads quite a bit of fantasy and parts of several series have disappeared into the black hole of her room.

#782 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:29 PM:

AKICIML Can someone tell me who the major cell phone service providers in Ottawa are, so we can go look up their options on the web? My daughter is headed to college at Carleton in the fall. Any advice on plans to include service to the United States would be helpful. We can expand our US-based family plan to include voice calls to/from Canada relatively cheaply, but apparently not text messaging, and she'd like to be able to do both.

#783 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:37 PM:

Open Threadness Goodness --

It's going for 90 degrees, which means it's Potato Salad weather!

Surely the old Romans, possessing such appetite and appreciation for lettuces, salads and crunchy vegetables would have classed potato salad as a dish fit for the gods. They also understood mayonnaise, or at least something very like, and they certainly understood vinegars.

Alas, they had no potatoes.

I have achieved the summer's first potato salad, and have all on mine own deemed it Worthy, most Worthy, even.

Love, C.

#784 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:43 PM:

Jacque @ 775: My ex, who never got on with any of my family (which is not to say that I ever exactly did), nearly always had a book with her at family gathers as a defense mechanism; when she was through pretending to engage in the conversation, she disappeared into it. So, yeah, that isolation thing? I understand. Works both ways.

#785 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 08:49 PM:

fidelio #743: They haven't been raised to think of books as bad and libraries as dangerous, evil places--they just haven't been raised to think about them at all. They are not on these folks' mental map.

"The card catalog is not the territory; let's go look at the books." -- Sam the Librarian

#786 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:16 PM:

500 books? When my mom's parents moved to a new house back in the 40s, they had about 3000 books, and that was before paperbacks became widespread. (On the other hand, he was a professor and she was a schoolteacher.) The better parts of the collection went to the university in their later years.

My parents didn't have as many books visible, but they were limited by wall space, so many of the books were in boxes in the attic or the attic stairway or hiding under various beds (and taking over the rooms of children who'd moved away), and mom was an advocate of community libraries, so the dozen or two books in the front were really a rapidly-changing virtual portal into a set of a few million books. And the used bookstore helped, because paperback mystery stories had only a 50% chance of staying in the house after they'd been read. I'd guess that 500 books was less than our annual consumption, most years.

My father didn't read as much, and especially read very little fiction; he tended toward biographies and history and slower-reading books, and thought science fiction was mostly pulp trash (as opposed to mysteries, which were enjoyable pulp trash...) After he died, my mom's eyesight declined so she had to move out of the house to apartments she could live in without driving, and it's hard to tell whether she's got more books; there's a lot more shelf space, but mostly hardbacks with larger print.

My wife and I probably have fewer than 5000 books, but we don't have kids, so we only get to be the data points for people who grew up around books.

#787 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:18 PM:

At my high school graduation party, the Shrine to Me included a board of school pictures, performances and awards, and one whole board of me reading. All over the place. Every vacation ever. Little me, big me, me with chicken pox looking like death. Me under a pile of books courtesy of my cousin, who decided to bury me in literature. I can mostly tell what book I'm reading, though the covers may be hard to read, and in a pinch I could tell you about some of them.

#788 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:30 PM:

I volunteer at my local library for a few hours on weekday afternoons. There are always kids there, but many of them don't engage with the bookshelves at all.

Some of them only come in to use the computers for web access-- those kids may need to be repeatedly shushed if several of them are simultaneously engaged in the same online game, whether as opponents at different terminals or enthusiastic watches/kibitzers.

Some kids are there for very directed tutoring/study sessions-- they brought their own textbooks etc. with them and don't need supplementary references. They may need to get shushed too, but it's harder to get annoyed at gleeful eureka moments about algebra than at chaotic trash-talking between terminals.

And then there are the kids who have no obvious reason for being at the library at all, as opposed to hanging out at the mall two blocks away. They cluster in a regular group at a table and periodically become loud and annoying enough for the librarians to tell them to leave-- in which case the group just relocates to the sidewalk or the parking lot, and sometimes becomes sufficiently loud and annoying out there that the librarians call the cops to boot them off the grounds. (Perhaps the kids have been similarly thrown out of the mall already.)

But all of these groups seem to boil down to a matter of viewing the library as someplace where the kids can stay without specific adult supervision, presumably until their parents come home from work. Books just don't enter into it.

#789 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:42 PM:

My main bookshelf unit last year, after I sold 40% or so of my collection to Powell's:

The gaps have been filled with cook books from a shelf unit in the dining room, and science and reference books from a unit in the living room.

I recently threw away about 90% of my cassette tapes; pretty much all of the mix tapes and 80s vintage recordings of The Prairie Home Companion, the Star Wars radio show, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. That opened up a gap on the comic book shelves.

#790 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 09:56 PM:

Allan Beatty @ 777: Good point. I should check the download history as well (I use Firefox and Chrome over IE).

In re: Books, collections, in home, variations thereof -- I worked in libraries starting in 8th grade (the year of St. Mary's School) and became the Family Librarian. Naturally, I grew up in a house full of books -- no television -- and my parental collection is still in the thousands. My own collection is smaller, but I've given some to friends, and restricted my purchases over the years -- I use the public library to assuage my burning desires, or I have my electronic library at hand/in pocket.

My ex grew up in a family that did not have more than about a dozen books total. She never really understood why I had to own so many books. Then again, she liked a warm bedroom at night, while I prefer something much cooler.

#791 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 10:04 PM:

Hamlet's soliloquy, with links to titles drawn from it.

To be or not to be– that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep
No more
– and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to – ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished
. To die, to sleep
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.—Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

#792 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 10:29 PM:

Diatryma @ #787, I'm with you there. I have milestones that I remember from what I read.

Like 2nd grade, Bahamas winter vacation, a Jules Verne Omnibus my dad checked out because I very seriously asked that he check out a fiction book with No Pictures. It took me two months and some dictionary time to finish, but I read it through. And got vaccinated with the "SF Bug" to my eternal pleasure. (And, I found out as an adult, my father's despair....)

#793 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 10:30 PM:

Mark @784, eventually I learned to bring knitting.

#794 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 10:37 PM:

#688 ::: Jacque:

Thanks for the Sher/Newbold interview. It sounded good, but it's not an area where I have much experience. Anyone else listen to it, and if so, what did you think?

#795 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 10:59 PM:

The History Channel is showing a documentary called "The Universe", which is about having Sex in Space. Sponsored by Virgin Atlantic.

#796 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 11:36 PM:

Paula Helm Murray, it's not so much that I can date the pictures by the memories of the books as that the covers are sometimes distinctive enough for me to remember, and some books stuck. I couldn't tell you what I was reading on any specific vacation, but I can guess: the South Dakota one was probably the one where we stopped at a bookstore and I bought Peppermints in the Parlor and a very confusing book of comic adaptations of apparently famous stories, including "The Smallest Dragonboy". That's a guess based on the fact that that was the longest vacation, thus the one that required more books.

#797 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2010, 11:53 PM:

I have two largish bookcases in my front hall. When a new visitor makes a comment such as "my, you do have a lot of books," I refrain from mentioning the other 19 bookcases. Mind you, most of the others are on the short side. They line the walls upstairs, and many of those walls angle in with a dormer at about 40 inches.

Lee @ 754: You'd think there couldn't possibly be a household that wouldn't have at least 20 books. But the family I occasionally baby-sat for when I was a teenager didn't

I babysat for a family that had no bookshelves at all. I found one paperback next to the chair where the wife probably nursed the baby, and a copy of the Philadelphia Social Register (his family was listed). I believe they were both college graduates. He worked at a bank. I guess they must have watched television, and that was in the days of three networks and no Netflix.

#798 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 12:41 AM:

Apropos of nothing at all --

Early next month is the centenary of John W. Campbell's birth. He was (arguably) the most influential magazine editor the field has had. I wonder what he'd want for a birthday present?

#799 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:53 AM:

One of the main reasons I would like to win a large lottery is to be able to buy a house with room for lots of good bookcases. Lawyer bookcases with those glass fronts would be nice, to keep the cats and the dust out of the book equation. As it is, I have ***counts and multiplies*** 102 running feet of bookshelves, most of them double-stacked either partly or fully.

A partial view is here.

I can't help it. They multiply like wire coat hangers in the bottom of the closet. (The books, not the shelves.)

#800 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 04:39 AM:

I've lost, in various moves, the odd bit of storage unit disaster, etc. a few thousands of books.

Right now I think (because most are in storage) I own about 1,500. Most are non-fiction. The fiction is transitory. I know I can replace it. The non-fiction is more durable, because such things are harder to find.

I've been in houses with few books; and most of them fiction, and that just strike me as odd.

When I was living with my folks... hell Marty has an SF collection which was valuable enough to use as collateral for loans to open the bookstore; and the comic books could be used to backstop a mortgage on a house. I don't know, 15-20,000 volumes of SF, from pulps to modern.

#801 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 04:49 AM:

Random open threadiness...

My wife loves Lark rise to Candleford, a light drama* set in a bucolic idealisation of late 19th century Oxfordshire village**. The episode she watched last night centred around a self-declared atheist coming to the village, to the revulsion of the reactionary elements and the curiousity of the progressives.

Since various folks here are knowledgable about history, religion, and literature, I would like to ask your opinion: Would a declared atheist really be such a spectacle in the England of Thomson's time, a little over a century ago and a good century after the French revolution?

*Adapted from Flora Thompson's trilogy
**If you're familiar with Cranford, it's kind of Cranford-lite, with the deaths removed

#802 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 04:50 AM:

791: Very impressive! "Hamlet? It's all full of quotes."
I suspect that "Sleep No More" may take its title from Macbeth - "Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep". And there's this one too...

I vaguely remember a spoof "Marx Brothers Hamlet" that included the line "Nymph, in your orisons be all my sins remembered. And with sins like mine, let me tell you, you'd better broaden your orisons."

But I am delighted to find that no one has yet nicked the title of my forthcoming children's book, "The Adventures of Fardels Bear".

#803 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 04:52 AM:

Lee @779: Captive Lecture Time Gaaahh!! Flashbacks! The flashbacks!

To be fair, there was plenty of SF in the house. I was rather startled, when I finally got around to reading Stranger in a Strange Land, to learn that "grok" was not standard English vocabulary.

Serge @795: Sex in Space. Sponsored by Virgin Atlantic. Wait—what? :)

Tom Whitmore @798: His own personal dome at Mars Colony?

#804 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 04:56 AM:

801: in late-19th-century rural England? Yes, definitely. Remember that the French Revolution happened in, well, France; the Church was still very much part of the fabric of life in England.

#805 ::: kid bitzer ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 07:30 AM:

@801, 804--

those narrow-minded brits! it makes me glad to live in america, where atheists face no raised eyebrows or hostility, and candidates for public office routinely refer to their proud free-thinking atheist ways.

of course, some people thought the pendulum had swung too far when the first president bush declared that only atheists could be patriots, or even citizens.

but at least we don't have to put up with the revulsion against atheists that was common centuries ago in england!

#806 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 07:48 AM:

Jacque @ 803... Obviously the sponsor was a Watery Tart.

#807 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 08:23 AM:

795: Virgin also used to run train services in Britain. The joke was that "they're called Virgin because they never quite go all the way".

#808 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 08:41 AM:

Russ #801- yes, I think a confirmed outspoken atheist would be pretty unusual in a small idfealised english village. Thats just the impression I've picked up over the years from various sources, I can't tell you much more. Remember the drop in UK religiosity only really got going after WW2, and there were many pressures towards conformance in the Victorian/ Edwardian period. There undoubtedly were a few freethinkers around, but I doubt they made so much noise.

#809 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 08:42 AM:

Russ #801- yes, I think a confirmed outspoken atheist would be pretty unusual in a small idfealised english village. Thats just the impression I've picked up over the years from various sources, I can't tell you much more. Remember the drop in UK religiosity only really got going after WW2, and there were many pressures towards conformance in the Victorian/ Edwardian period. There undoubtedly were a few freethinkers around, but I doubt they made so much noise.

#810 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 08:58 AM:

guthrie #809: I'd say you were correct. You have to consider the huge scandal over the issue of Charles Bradlaugh's inability to take the oath of allegiance in order to sit in the House of Commons (this, decades after the United States made it possible for office to be held on oath or affirmation).

#811 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 09:37 AM:

I believe that at one time shoemakers in Britain had a reputation for being atheists. I don't know whether this had any basis in real life, but I've seen it alluded to more than once in literature. This suggests that atheists were not wholly unknown to the general population, but also that they were rare enough to stand out.

#812 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 09:52 AM:

I believe that at one time shoemakers in Britain had a reputation for being atheists.

Possibly because they were known to sell their soles.

#813 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 10:02 AM:

When my brother was in elementary school, a teacher assigned the class the task of counting the books in their houses. When he came back with a number somewhat over 1000, the teacher responded, "No, not magazines -- real books." Of course they really were real books, and we never understood why the teacher thought it was more reasonable for a family to have over 1000 magazines, but not books.

At this point we only had about 1000 books because my father was still in the Army, and we limited the number we moved with. My parents now have two houses full of books, and recently added a 16 x 20 ft library to the weekend retreat. At their ages (89 and 95), I'd say this is a wonderfully positive attitude.

Family time was (and is) sitting together in the family room reading, with or without the tv or radio on. Mom is still reading her beloved Pratchett with the help of a magnifying glass. I don't know if she's his oldest fan, but at 95 she's certainly in the running.

#814 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 10:15 AM:

We've got three large bookcases (6 feet tall, about 40" wide) in the living room downstairs, and we also get people commenting on how many books we have.

Those are the display books; signed copies by friends, special editions, and such. Well, and some overflow cookbooks from the dining room.

The upstairs living room is fitted out as a library, and is entirely full. (That does include books from 4 adults. Then again, all the bedrooms and offices have significant book content too.)

In this house, neither kitchen or bathroom has books. Previous house, we had some shelf space for the most-used cookbooks in the kitchen, but I don't think that will happen here even when we redo the kitchens. The rooms with steam in them are bad for books anyway.

#815 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 10:43 AM:

Fragano Ledgister@810

Thank you for leading me to look up Charles Bradlaugh - fascinating chap. Although I note from the wiki entry that there was a London Secular Society in 1858 for him to be elected president of. London, of course, is not the country.


Or their known association with vamps?

In other news, I wholeheartedly withdraw my suprise that a declared atheist might be a rural novelty as recently as a century ago.

#816 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 10:44 AM:

Terry, I remember helping Marty move that collection, back around 1979, when it was at least 120 printer-paper boxes (the 8 1/2 by 11 with tractor strip kind of box.) A lot of books!

#817 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:00 AM:

The summer I was ten, my parents went to Europe for six weeks, leaving us four kids with relatives. Since this meant we would be away from the library and our personal book collections for the duration (although we had same-age cousins to play with for the first month), my mother gave us each $10 to buy books to take along. This was in the days when new paperbacks cost less than a dollar apiece, so $10 bought quite a stack. (I hadn't discovered the used bookstore yet, although I think my oldest brother had.) One of the volumes I picked up was Four Comedies by Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, and The Tempest). It only cost 75¢--I remember thinking, "Shakespeare's supposed to be really good, comedy means they're funny, and you get *four* of them!" Obviously a bargain. The only one of the four I actually read that summer was As You Like It; I found it heavy going, but I enjoyed it. And that's still one of my favorite plays.

#818 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:05 AM:

There are sixteen full-height bookcases, six half-height ones, and a built-in for the cookbooks. Not too long after our last move, we counted all the books, since they were all out on the shelves for the first time in about a year.[*] Just under 4000. I think we've bought a few more since.

There had been about a thousand more, but they'd mostly been stored in the garage the whole time we were in the last house, and we held a Great Purge after making sure none of them were things we needed/wanted after all. (Old tech books, out-of-date medicine, self-help in various no-longer-necessary flavors, Really Bad SF ...)

[*] Selling a house in a decidedly cold market makes you do all sorts of weird things that you otherwise never would consider, like condensing the visible book collection down to four bookcases instead of eighteen, just to make it look like there's enough space in the house to swing a cat. Not to mention that it's considered decidedly gauche to have bookcases in halls or closets, much less both.

#819 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:16 AM:

I'd like the Skiffy Channel to show a crossover between Shakespearean theatre and the drive-in theater.
Maybe it'd be called...

The Taming of the Giant Shrew
#820 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:23 AM:

My mother always used to dislike it when I took books places with me, and still gets peeved if I try to bring knitting or the like--which i don't get, because knitting's way more interactive than reading!

As recently as a few weeks ago, upon being told we were going to stop in the bookstore for coffee on the way home from her place, she told me, "Don't buy a book."


#821 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:30 AM:

An ex-gf of mine would send photos of her bookshelves to people she was thinking of dating. She said it helped speed the selection process considerably.

We only have one room in our house dedicated to books, and we prune the collection ruthlessly to try and keep it under control. But if we actually had to shelve the books in the rest of the house (bedrooms, etc) we'd be in trouble.

#822 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:30 AM:

My parents' last house had shelves in the hall (standard and bracket type), as well as in both bedrooms and the living room. And my father's basement office collection had spilled over into the 'linen' closet just outside. (There were several shelves in his office, and the closet there had books in it also.)
They didn't keep books in the bathroom, though.

#823 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:35 AM:

The Two Mansquitos of Verona

#824 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:40 AM:

The current topic reminds me that there are three boxes of Classics of the Field hiding in my parents' attic, where they have been ever since I purchased them four years ago.

Eh, might as well tell the story, as the group will likely appreciate it. This was my junior year of university, and my father had emailed me to let me know that Harvard's science library was having a book sale, and did I want to go - given that I had been raised with near-weekly used bookstore / library sale raids and I was just beginning to really get in to the field that I now work in, I jumped at the idea (it helped that I had no classes on Fridays that semester). Met up with him in Cambridge, had some lunch and we made our way over to the library under distinctly soggy circumstances.

The sale, I believe, had been going on for the duration of the week, and Friday was its last day - and everything, save the full-size OED, was marked down to $1/book. My father had been there a day or two before and come home with a respectable crate of books on psychology and vision science. The two of us went through the rather large number of books which remained with glee - I believe the final count was 120 or so books - half of which, I bought as the core of my own collection on early vision research and early psychology.

As to why they are still in boxes back home, I was in the dorms when I bought them - that year, I was in the smallest dorm room I have ever lived in - and the places I have lived since have either been small, on-campus studio apartments OR they have been ~1100 miles away from home, and three crates of additional books were not something I felt a great need to pack. However, since the books in question are a well-selected set of classic works in the field, I think they may have to make their way to Berkeley once I move.

#825 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:45 AM:

OtterB@ 782:

C. and I use Bell; I and L use Telus. We've been happy with both. Rogers are evil and we hates them.

Unlimited texting is pretty cheap - calling the US is, sadly, ruinous by US standards, as are Canadian cel phones in general.

Since I call California a lot, for some odd reason, I have free local nights and weekends and I buy phone cards. This has worked out well for me. Alternately she might end up wanting a local phone and keeping the one she has now, if your family plan will work well for calling home.

I hope she enjoys Ottawa; it's a lovely city.

#826 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:47 AM:

A midsummer night of the living dead?

#827 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:49 AM:

Over at Susan Palwick's blog she is posting from her Alaska cruise and says, "The ship’s librarian is a musical-comedy actress who reads and writes SF/F; when I told her I did too, she asked me who my publisher was, and went very wide-eyed when I said, 'Tor Books.'”

Local relevancy aside, I pass this on because I now want a job as a ship's librarian.

#828 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 11:53 AM:

The beginning of the ends well?

#829 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 12:21 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe #824: The sale, I believe, had been going on for the duration of the week, and Friday was its last day - and everything, save the full-size OED, was marked down to $1/book.

OED3 is supposed to be ready by about 2037, by which time I expect it will be published as a nanite skin patch.

#830 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 12:43 PM:

Son of Henry IV

Merchants of Venus and Merchant of Venus have already been used, of course.

Hamlet 2: The Revenge

Troilus and Costello

#831 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 12:47 PM:

Earl and Benjamin, now is the time for me to bring up (probably again) our 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica, which *was* purchased for $1/volume from the SF Friends of the Library (or near offer) sale in the echoing depths of Fort Mason roughly 25 years ago. I was not present but spouse and his co-worker played hooky and drove up. His way of introducing what he'd bought was to say, "You'll never forgive me for this, but I think you'd better look in the trunk." The cloth binding is in incredibly tatty condition, as it had been the official library encyclopedia for a private girls' school. And it just got moved again, as I have just finished a multi-day project moving a third of the downstairs library upstairs and all the science fiction hardcovers downstairs, in what must be a classic example of writing avoidance.

#832 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 12:52 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 757 "Bookless houses creep me out."

When I was looking for my first flat, I found it really unsettling being shown round places with an absence of books - and also often a lack of artwork on the walls. Didn't seem right.

Our present house has more than 500 shelf-feet of bookshelves/bookcases (about half being double-banked paperbacks), not including my home office/library where there's a further 183 feet plus (back-to-back bookcases fill half the room), as well as five four-drawer filing cabinets of papers. Where we don't have bookcases (e.g. over the sideboard, and up the stairs*), we have pictures.

janetl @ 797: It's when you reply "yes, but we don't have a television" that they really look startled/confused/disbelieving.

joann @ 818: When I was selling my flat, I'd recently had a (clean water) flood and had not yet replaced many of the (chipboard) damaged bookcases, so I only had the solid wood ones left. The estate agent still recommended that I remove more of them, to make the place look larger. I refused.

*Not really wide enough to put paperback shelves going up the wall.

#833 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 12:57 PM:

Marna: I'd say I was an odd reason, yes. 3368 was an odd thing to put on my cowl. btw.

OtterB: I had Merav Hoffman, who used to work at Tor, visiting me and she and I were at an aquarium (because I had a Marine Bio Lab assignment) and one of my fellow students was there.

She had mentioned being a writer; it turns out she was published by Tor, and Merav had handled her files.

#834 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 12:59 PM:

We might have anywhere from 5000 to 10000 books in the house right now--it's hard to tell for sure because my mother often squirrels the mystery novels she's already read and is waiting to pass on to friends away in rather odd places to get them out of the way. About 3000 of those books are mine, or at least that's what we estimated I had when I moved back in with my parents. I think the kitchen and the upstairs hall are the only rooms that don't have at least some books in them. The shelves in the bedrooms are mostly stacked three deep.

#836 ::: Merav ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 01:20 PM:

Terry @ 833:

To be fair, I handled just about everybody's files, given that I did a complete reorganization of the filing system while I was there, because there were some serious inconsistencies; but it was still lovely to meet her so serendipitously.

#837 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 01:34 PM:

Some years ago, when we were thinking of moving to a smaller house, we measured the books. We had enough books the shelves were the length of four fifths of a (American) football field. (If we put the books in a continuous shelf, it would be that long.) We have probably 22 bookcases, though some are half height. Every room has a bookshelf or three, except the bathrooms and the kitchen.

#838 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 01:41 PM:

Russ #801

This BBC Larkrise to Candleford plays very loosely with Flora Thompson's works.

It also plays very loosely with history and the chronology of.

That said, I'm enjoying it. I thought the first season was much too slow, even dull, too much of the time. A few episodes into the second season, this one seems rather better in that aspect. It has some new characters too. It's still not at all like Flora Thompson's books.

Love, C.

#839 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 01:49 PM:

For them as doesn't have books in the kitchen...where do you keep your cookbooks??

LibraryThing says I have upwards of 1800 books. This doesn't count the books that technically belong to my children, and is somewhat out of date, since I've been on leave and haven't cataloged new stuff in a few months.

#840 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 02:07 PM:

The Beast from Full Fathom Five

#841 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 02:26 PM:

Sarah S. @ 839: The cookbooks are kept in the living room, because there's no space in the kitchen to keep them there. If/when we get around to putting a utility room on the back of the kitchen, hopefully we'll be able to fit the cookbooks in the kitchen. I do have a cast-iron book rest for keeping a cookbook open while using it - but often with the large books I find it easier to photocopy the relevant page and use that.

#842 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 02:41 PM:

I don't know how many books I have. I don't know because I have had most of them in storage for about a decade. I hope to go through them, and see what, if any, need culling.

Cookbooks are with the other books, mostly because I don't have recipe books, so much as technique books, and I read them much as I would a text on fencing, or evolution; for the fun of the information. I re-read them for pleasure more than I use them as reference.

Comparing how one writer says to make ghee, or break down a chicken (Jaques Pepin is overly busy, if you ask me. A good knife will do the leg without needing to ring the skin), is fun.

#843 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 02:41 PM:

Terry @ 833:

Twit. :-)

#844 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 02:43 PM:

Terry Karney @842:
Comparing how one writer says to make ghee, or break down a chicken (...), is fun.

I do that with bookbinding books. Everyone has their favorite endpaper structures and headband sewing recommendations.

#845 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 02:43 PM:

See, I told you spending that much time to talking to Calif. was odd. It's being spent on a twit.


#846 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 02:49 PM:

abi: I think it's a trait among any who attempt skill at craft. Without craftsmanship art isn't possible.

It's also a comfort to know that others have struggled with the same simple (not to be confused with easy) things.

#847 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 02:49 PM:

Sarah@839: The cookbooks and wine books fill the shelves in the dining room, and then about another 6 shelf-feet in the living room. Plus what Pamela has upstairs.

Our current kitchen is small, old, and has 3 doors and a window; so there's just very little usable space (a good chunk of open wasted space in the middle). None of the ideas for remodeling it created space for cookbooks, either. But then, for browsing and planning, the kitchen isn't the ideal space anyway.

#849 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:03 PM:

Marna @825, thanks. I think she will enjoy Ottawa. We were there only briefly while doing a college road trip last year, and look forward to seeing more of it.

Constance @783, you've succeeded in making me hungry for potato salad. Hmmm.

Terry & Merav, clearly one for the small world department.

And our cookbooks are in the dining room; we're another whose kitchen configuration has no good place for them.

#850 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:03 PM:

OtterB#827--I have a friend who worked for several years for a company that handled the production work for cruise ship entertainment. Most of the cast members were also expected to perform other jobs around the ship during the day--mostly involving getting passengers organized into activities of one sort or another. One of the jobs handled by cast members on at least two of the ships was library work-and it's more of a library clerk thing, as they step into handling pre-selected books and magazines, rather than setting up the library from scratch.

So it's probably not an accident that this woman's credentials included "musical-comedy actress".

However, if there's ever an opening for a non-singing, non-dancing library minion on a cruise ship, I'll wrestle you for it.

#851 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:06 PM:

RE cookbooks:

The half dozen or so cookbooks I have, plus an untidy heap of clipping and cards, used to live in a small bookcase in the dining room area.

This case tended to collect crap. Like newspaper clippings, old maps, coasters I liked*, a set of hand weights, samples of dog food, and etcetera.

When I culled my main bookcase (see picture in previous post) I moved the cookbooks (and the maps) there and got rid of the little bookcase. There's a row or recycling bins there now, under a table I use for photography.

I could probably cull my cookbook collection down to: The Joy of Cooking and one book of bread machine recipes. The former is an astonishing work.

* The Mcminnimin's (mispelled) chain of restaurants and brewpubs has awesome coasters. I should really send them out with Christmas cards so I can get them out of the house w/o feeling guilty about throwing them away.

#852 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:08 PM:

They are afraid of change and Teh Gay, aren't they?

Makes me wonder what would happen if they ever told themselves the truth about their own preferences. (We might have to clean up a lot of exploded heads.)

#853 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:15 PM:

Tom Whitmore 798

An ipad. With a bunch of books written by aliens downloaded on to it.

Russ, ajay 811, 812:

Sounds like a load of cobbler's to me.

#854 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:34 PM:

Open threadiness:

Google is supporting SSL connections to its main search screen. This is a small step in a direction the whole world desperately needs to take.

It's absolutely nuts that in 2010, with whole large, well-funded industries dedicated to stealing our data and violating our privacy, the default for everything is to send it out in the clear, unless someone can make a strong case for encryption. We should be doing the opposite; everything should default to being encrypted unless there's some unusual reason why it can't be.

This is a link to the SSL-encrypted search page.

#855 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:40 PM:

OtterB at 782, 825

I use Rogers - they're ok, a bit expensive.

There are some new carriers/resellers in town - Wind - and Virgin

A fair bit on information on Steve Punter's Southern Ontario Cell Phone site at - some carriers/service providers I haven't heard of like Cityfone

#856 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:48 PM:

Joel Polowin@830: Jenna Moran also did a Hamlet sequel, entitled The Arrows of Fate.

#857 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:51 PM:

fidelio @850, I figured that job probably fell in the "too good to be true" category for some reason or another. Sigh.

Henry Troup @855, thanks.

#858 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:59 PM:

With the exception of the California kitchen that unaccountably had a blank wall, I've always kept my cookbooks in the dining room or the breakfast room. Until now. As near as I can tell, the architect for this house plan couldn't figure out what else to do with a one-foot or so space between the downstairs bathtub and the back hall. So he made it into a bookcase facing said hall, a few steps from the kitchen. When I first toured the model home, the first thing I said when I went6 into that hall was "Ooh, cookbooks could go *there*!"

My mother, who I would guesstimate to have roughly 200 books in her house (but a really heavy library habit, so I'll cut her some slack) has about seven cookbooks-which she stores on the kitchen counter right next to the stove. This seems both incredibly counterproductive and rather unsafe; I've given up trying to help in any serious way with Thanksgiving dinner because there literally is no room to maneuver.

#859 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 04:10 PM:

OtterB @849: The Ottawa Valley is a pleasant area in general, although even when I was living there I rarely entered the city. I mean, when the best used bookstore in the area is located outside the city limits, why bother?

#860 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 04:48 PM:

albatross @854: Google: "Don't be evil." Ur doin it rite!

#861 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 04:59 PM:

Terry Karney #848: FRC predicts increase in sexual assaults if DADT is repealed

More likely, it could trigger an increase in the incidence of hate crimes committed by supporters of the FRC.

#862 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 05:10 PM:

re 813: I've told the story here before, but when my eldest was asked to make a tic mark on a paper for every book in the house, we laughed hysterically and then decreed that he would put a mark for all the books on one shelf in his room. Even then he had 53 marks.

re 832: One of the things we had to learn very quickly when house-hunting was that nearly every place we looked at had some great oddness, to the point where we used them to catalog them. Among those we looked at were The Speakeasy (wet bar and dance floor, with grilles on the windows), Mighty Hunter (taxidermy everywhere), the Italian Horror (olive oil can decorating motif), Crayon House (Crayola decorating motif), and Showtime (there was an alcove in the kintchen wall with a Levolor blind over it meant to hide a TV set).

#863 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 05:15 PM:

762 Lexica: I was inspired to do sort books by color once, when plans to move literally fell through the day before we were going to move. I was at loose ends, needing some kind of organizational task to calm myself down, and here was this empty bookcase and the boxes of books it used to contain.

Here it is.

I highly recommend it as a distraction/calming tool, but my book-cover memory wasn't good enough to find what I wanted easily, even for just one bookcase.

(After this I had a new variant on my someday-I'll-have-a-library daydreams--the shelves would spiral around the room and the books would go in color order. This would have the added entertainment advantage of requiring a fireman's pole for entry.)

#864 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 05:17 PM:

I cull my books all the time. Nearly 4 decades ago I moved from Chicago to San Francisco, and shipped 22 boxes of books ahead of me. Silly me. There were plenty of bookstores in San Francisco in 1972. I spent years visiting them. I still recall the joy of locating volumes of the The Lymond Chronicles in used bookstores across town. I believe I still have those original volumes -- maybe not, though. Over the years I have purchased and given away God only knows how many libraries.

As I get older, I find that the urge to accumulate grows lighter and lighter. These days I use libraries all the time. I have eight books on hold at the moment at the local library. They send me an e-mail to let me know the volumes have arrived. It's incredibly convenient, and it keeps me from buying books.

#865 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 05:51 PM:

Lizzy L @ #864, I discovered the online "reserve" function at my library a while back. Our library has a limit of 30 books the user can place on hold at any one time, and I'll be damned if I haven't pushed that limit a time or two.

Right now? I have about 12 in transit.

#866 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 05:56 PM:

Stefan Jones @757 said: Bookless houses creep me out.

In our last domicile (an apartment near the college John and I both once attended), we agreed to host a friend-of-friend making her residency visits at the end of medical school. As she was a total stranger (though friends with a friend of mine), I was a little nervous about housekeeping and suchlike, since we tend towards 'clutter' on good days, and kiss the edge of 'squalor' on bad ones.

I shouldn't've worried. She came in the door, and even as I was apologizing for the mess, she stared up at the full, towering 8' bookshelves making a canyon on both sides of the entryway, and breathed happily, "I'm HOME!" During the few days she stayed with us, she spent a lot of time curled up reading: she devoured three titles from my collection (and took another two from my "I'm done, pass along" pile for the airplane and next city).

Apparently a proper, heavily-booked fannish household is an anodyne to the heart of someone stuck in sterile motel rooms for a week on end.

Similarly, Tracie @813 said: When my brother was in elementary school, a teacher assigned the class the task of counting the books in their houses. When he came back with a number somewhat over 1000, the teacher responded, "No, not magazines -- real books." Of course they really were real books, and we never understood why the teacher thought it was more reasonable for a family to have over 1000 magazines, but not books.

The teacher knew of families with stacks of old National Geographics (etc) in the basement, perhaps? Also, 10 years of un-thrown-out back issues of 10 subscriptions (say, Ladies' Home Journal, Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Nat'l Geo, Consumer Reports, Vogue, Better Homes Than YoursAnd Gardens, and FHM, to take 10 fairly mainstream titles) adds up to an awful lot of individual magazines.

Henry Troup @855 said in re Ottawa cellphone providers: There are some new carriers/resellers in town - Wind - and Virgin

NB, all: learn from my pain. Virgin Mobile in Canada and Virgin Mobile in the USA are two entirely separate operations, and do not have mutual roaming treaties. I know this because I had Virgin Mobile service in the USA, and halfway across the bridge at Sarnia, I suddenly stopped being able to use my phone for anything but games and addressbook functions; we had to buy a prepaid phone card at a gas station and use their payphone (which thankfully they had) to let my in-laws know how close we were to arriving at their home in Toronto.

We have since changed carriers to one that admits the existence of cellphone towers in Canada. I don't know if OtterB's college-bound spawn was likely to want to use their phone on both sides of the border or not, but figured it was relevant info.

C. Wingate @862 said: re 832: One of the things we had to learn very quickly when house-hunting was that nearly every place we looked at had some great oddness, to the point where we used them to catalog them. Among those we looked at were The Speakeasy (wet bar and dance floor, with grilles on the windows), Mighty Hunter (taxidermy everywhere), the Italian Horror (olive oil can decorating motif), Crayon House (Crayola decorating motif), and Showtime (there was an alcove in the kintchen wall with a Levolor blind over it meant to hide a TV set).

We've just begun househunting again (this time, hopefully we'll be in it until our children go off to college at minimum ... but then, I thought that LAST time. Sigh), and I find this technique fascinatingly amusing.

One house I looked at today would be 'Earthquake House' by that standard -- it has apparently suffered from being empty and insufficiently winterized these past seasons. The name comes from the main front-and-dining-room conglomeration, whose tongue-in-groove maple flooring is rucked up longitudinally like a hallway runner kicked by a scrambling dog ... I imagine it got moist or humid in the fall, then suffered frost heaving. It's a shame, because if it didn't need all new walls, floors and ceilings (the plaster has fallen off the lath in many places, and there's a faint moldy sort of pong in a few rooms), it might very well be a house we'd want to buy.

#867 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 06:37 PM:

I have a thousand books piled in the hall
They really make a quite impressive stack
I once knew someone who had none at all!

Each place I go I hear the siren call
Of books that speak my name until I crack
I have a thousand books piled in the hall

It’s always an adventure at the mall
I pick them up and seldom put them back
I once knew someone who had none at all!

Someday I’ll put some shelving on the wall
Devise a system that will help keep track
I have a thousand books piled in the hall

I must admit books hold me in their thrall
Is that a fatal flaw, a moral lack?
I once knew someone who had none at all!

As vices go, there’s worse I can recall
I never mess with heroin or smack
I have a thousand books piled in the hall
I once knew someone who had none at all!

#868 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 06:37 PM:

Elliott #866:

We called the house we rented for 15 years Rollingwood, because it was on cedar posts in clay soil, with no subfloor and four-foot stringers; there was not a flat floor surface in the house, and none of the walls were quite true. The living room floor was particularly interesting; there were definite and visible waves, and all the bookcases (including at one point back-to-back cases on each side of the front door) had to be balanced with little bits of cardboard under various corners and edges. (You do not want to know what it took to level the bed--suffice it to say that we had to buy many packages of index cards.)

#869 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 08:17 PM:

Terry, #848: Because of course all men rape; so if we have gays in the military, then we'll have gay rape as well as the existing problem with het rape. Ptui.

Rainflame, #867: Bravo!

#870 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 08:33 PM:

Rainflame #867: I am envious.

#871 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 10:32 PM:

Bookcases. Sigh.

My husband is vaguely allergic to clutter. He doesn't want bookcases in the living room. He doesn't want bookcases in the dining room. His books are tidily organized by author on a set of shelves in the bedroom - the ones he's keeping. Most of the time, he reads them then gets rid of them.

I find the notion of getting rid of books ranks somewhere in the neighborhood of heresy.

Oh, and most of the utility shelves I used to have books in have long since been commandeered for other storage purposes.

So I've still got books packed in boxes from moving in with him five years ago.

He did let me colonize the upstairs hallway with a set of shelves for massmarket paperbacks.

I've kind of quit messing with books, and taken to reading the internet instead. It's an all-you-can-read buffet, and it doesn't take up much [*] space.

[*] I would say, doesn't take up any space, but I had to colonize the last remaining square foot of his desk to set up my laptop. We either need a bigger house, or a lot less stuff, or he needs to let me put geek stuff in the public parts of the house.

#872 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 10:59 PM:

Thena, #871: Two immediate thoughts on reading that:

1) Bookcases reduce clutter. How is it worse to have books properly filed in a bookcase than sitting around in boxes?

2) Isn't it your house too?

#873 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 12:02 AM:

I recently moved in with people for the first time in years-- two roommates, one a good friend, one a friend of a friend. We are having the usual new-roommates problems of air conditioning and what amount of things can be in the public spaces of the house.

I am very much a see-it person. I clutter flat surfaces and leave drawers empty. One of the roommates is a nice-neat-public-space person and wants the rooms to be presentable.

The weirdest interaction so far is that I bought apples this week. Monday morning, I go to grab an apple with my lunch... and they are gone. They are not where I put them! Woe! Of course, this has happened before-- I won the tiny quiet bread battle, yielded on peanut butter-- so I checked the obvious cupboards. Then, inspired, I checked the fridge.
No apples.
When I got home, I was again inspired: the fridge contains drawers. Which contained apples!

In almost four years of having a full-size fridge of my own, I have never once put anything in a drawer. That's where you put things if you want them to be forgotten. That's where you put things to rot.

Then my roommates made gentle fun of me because of course fruit goes in the fruit drawer. That's what it's there for! Fruit!

The apples are currently in a nice bowl on the counter.

#874 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 01:02 AM:

Titus Androidicus
The Merry Wives of Stepford

#875 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 01:47 AM:

On the Shakespeare variations sub-thread, I heard an interview on NPR with a couple of the authors of a comic miniseries titled Kill Shakespeare. They say it started when they were riffing on 'Kill Bill', and went to 'Kill William' and then to their title. The more they played with the idea, the more they saw potential.

I picked up the first couple of issues (all that are out so far) at my local comic book shop. Can't tell yet how the story is going to sort itself out, but there is this much: in a world populated with characters from Shakespeare, Shakespeare himself is reputed to be a powerful wizard with a magic quill (which other people wish to acquire).

#876 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 03:36 AM:

Lee @872:

Bookcases are visual clutter.

All those spines, all that writing, everywhere you look. When I'm at my worst in the winter, having that much visual complexity around me is almost more exhausting than the comfort of the fact that they're books can make up for. It's like having a radio playing static all the time.

Nonetheless, we have many bookshelves, because books are worth the cluttered visuals.

#877 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 04:43 AM:

rainflame @867, applause

On the cellphone for the spawn, trying to decide whether to get her a separate Canadian phone or not. Probably so. We'll figure it out by the end of the summer, I guess.

Re househunting: there are some we still remember years later ... the one with the black dining room (walls & ceiling). The one with the ugly green paneling. The one with the orange and blue paisley ceramic sink in the second bathroom. (I wore contact lenses at the time, and if I dropped one in that sink I'd never have found it.) The one with the big add-on room we called the "grand ballroom" - big empty space, lots of windows. Actually wouldn't have made a bad library, except the shelves would have had to be half-height so as not to spoil the window effect. At the age our kids were when we were hunting, we joked about filling it with gym mats and nothing else.

#878 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 04:44 AM:

Bookcases with solid doors? That would reduce "visual clutter" while still allowing book storage in public areas.

#880 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 09:20 AM:

#821:"An ex-gf of mine would send photos of her bookshelves to people she was thinking of dating. She said it helped speed the selection process considerably."

I'm happily married and all...

... but LOOKING couldn't hurt. Could it?

#881 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 10:56 AM:

Hmm, Teresa, is it really necessary to link to a "Europe is turning into Eurabia" blog?

#883 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 11:29 AM:

Raphael, 881: Yeah, I was about to say. And the poster in question using the acronym of the Jesuit motto as his handle makes me uneasy too.

I also really doubt Cuba and Venezuela are the entry points for the Muslim invasion of North America, as one of the links from that page has it.

#884 ::: Foible ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 11:49 AM:

Since "Midsummer's Night of the Living Dead" has already been suggested, I'm going to propose the second half of that B movie drive-in double feature:

Twelfth Nightmare on Elm Street
Freddy vs Shakespeare

They'd only have to make a couple of more Freddy movies to be up to number twelve for real!

#885 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 12:38 PM:

#849 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2010, 03:03 PM:

Constance @783, you've succeeded in making me hungry for potato salad. Hmmm.

Then my work here is finished. :)

Love, C.

#886 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 12:43 PM:

TChem @863: I was inspired to do sort books by color once ... to calm myself down.

This is one reason I keep a box of marbles on hand.

Elliott Mason @866: 10 fairly mainstream titles adds up to an awful lot of individual magazines.

Hell, try 3 titles: NatGraph+SciAm+SciNews*30 ≈ 1630

Diatryma @872: It has been my experience that refrigeration ruins things like bananas, mangos, avacados, and tomatos. (OTOH, fridging makes onions much easier to deal with.) In your place I'd be inclined to have a family meeting to formally negotiate "tidy" room temperature fruit storage.

#887 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 12:46 PM:

My cookbooks currently reside in the living room, since the kitchen really only has room for the one in use. Though I have culled them over the years, it's interesting to go back to see the cooking phases I've gone through -- vegetarian, cooking for babies, wild foods and preserving, now low-carb...

All told, even with leaving behind a lot in the divorce and living in a two-bedroom apartment, I have just over 2000 books and DVDs. (And that's not counting my study at work.) There's a comforting feeling in being surrounded by walls of books.

#888 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 01:10 PM:

Chris, Raphael, your Spanish is much better than mine. I was simplemindedly amused by the game, and missed the overtones of the site. I've gone back and added "rel=nofollow" to the link so they'll get no googlejuice from us.

#889 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 01:24 PM:

My living room currently doesn't have a bookcase.

The problem isn't the visual clutter inherent in the books, it is the face that bookcases in my apartment attract other stuff. Things that get laid "temporarily" on top of a book, or in a gap, and then sit there for months or fall behind the books and are Not Seen for years.

Having just one main book case means the miscellany-gathering potential is limited to just one place.

#891 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 01:44 PM:

Stefan Jones @889:

Ah...we solve that by having a bookcase that is not used for books. We call it the "clutter magnet" or the "whatnot" and pile all the oddments and bits and bobs on its shelves. When the piles are too tall for the angle of repose, it's time to clean it up and put things away.

It was originally purchased to provide some relief for the dining room table, which I was rather hoping to use to dine off of without having to shovel things out of the way every evening. It works, sometimes.

#892 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 01:45 PM:

> Sandy B.@880:

> > #821:"An ex-gf of mine would send photos of her
> > bookshelves to people she was thinking of
> > dating. She said it helped speed the selection
> > process considerably."

> I'm happily married and all...

> ... but LOOKING couldn't hurt. Could it?

From a few months ago: Kieran Healy of Crooked Timber goes on Chatroulette and demands that people show him their books (SFW unless your workplace objects to small-font profane text in screenshots).

#893 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 01:47 PM:

Earl Cooley III @620, I wouldn't pay $750 for a hat either, but if I had a lot more money for hats and more occasions to wear them, I wouldn't find it unthinkable, though I might prefer the version with corners (it's three hats down from the one in question), trimmed with brass rather than grosgrain. An exclusive or short-run hat is an artwork as well as a garment, and not to be judged solely on the cost of its materials.

Was that a cowboy hat or a Stetson you bought, back in 1997?

Kid Bitzer @632, are you woofing me? Because I'm suddenly feeling obtuse.

Serge @627, it's a small price to pay for being able to judge the advisability of plans.

#894 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 01:53 PM:

abi (891): My family had a large set of brick*-and-board shelves in the hallway, which we called the Clutter Shelves. This is where all the odds and ends lived permanently. My mother rigged a curtain for the front, to hide the mess.

*or rather, cinder-block

#895 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 02:14 PM:

To bring this back almost to where it started:

It is astonishing how large the gap is between interior design / decorating and how people actually live.

It goes beyond book shelves.

When I apartment-hunted in the Portland suburbs I felt utterly intimidated by the furniture and furnishings in the model apartments. "Wait!" I thought to myself, looking over the living rooms whose coffee tables sprouted scented candles and vases of gilt flowers, Do I have to live like this to rent here? Is this how people live?


I'm glad to hear people have clutter shelves. I have two, in back corners of the bedroom and office. Actual accommodations to living, as opposed to the house porn of model apartments and makeover shows.

Decor? My mantelpiece has a plaster wolf, a plastic model of a von Braun moon rocket, a replica Chinese sage statue, and some solar-charged blinky lights. Oh, and one of those waving good luck cat statues you see in Asian restaurants. And sometimes, a small pile of dog fur waiting to be transferred to the duffel bag in my storage closet.

#896 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 02:20 PM:

Clutter shelves!? People can get by with only shelves for clutter? I have a whole room...

#897 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 02:25 PM:

Jacque @896:
People can get by with only shelves for clutter? I have a whole room...

So do we. It's got my daughter's name on the door, and I dimly recall seeing a bed in there once, too.

Oh, did I say that in my outside voice? Whoops.

#898 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 02:32 PM:

On the general topic of an excess of books ...

I've spent a large portion of my life accumulating books in part for the sheer sensuous feel of owning so many books. (That is the sensuousness of the "accumulating" part -- the books need not justify themselves in that fashion.) But when I emerged from grad school and decided I needed a comprehensive "life cleaning" I took a hard look at the functionality of that accumulation and started divesting. I think I purged about a quarter of my non-fiction. Once I got past the emotional landmine of realizing I was deleting the fantasy of the life in which I would have had practical use for a copy of Pannini's ancient Sanskrit grammar (in ancient Sanskrit), or the nearly-complete run of the first 10 years of Speculum, or ... well, any number of other fantasy lives that couldn't be fit into reality. Once I got past that, it was a bit easier to separate out "books I really have no earthly use for -- primarily because they really aren't particularly good for their topic" and "books that I can find easily in the library if/when the one occasion in my life arises that I need that information" and "books that I've owned for 15 years without ever actually opening the covers" and any number of similar categories.

I still have many many more non-fiction books than I use on any regular basis. (Although I have found comforting justification in having twice made practical use of my 5 volume dictionary of Early Modern Danish.) Now I find myself thinking wistfully that, having assembled some fairly extensive specialized reference collections on topics like European textile archaeology, and the linguistics of early Indo-European languages, and the history of Roman Britain, and the language and literature of medieval Wales, and similarly ecclectic topics, it would be nice for them to get used a bit more regularly and by more people than me.

I've been starting to make stabs at thinning out the fiction, although with a slightly more ruthless hand. I think I've accumulated enough life experience to have a good notion of which novels I'm ever likely to want to re-read in my lifetime. Add to those the works or particular authors, or complete sets of particular series, that I find it esthetically pleasing to continue to own and I think I can probable divest myself of somewhere around 60% of my existing inventory without any pain at all. Well, except for the pain of figuring out what to do with the culls.

All this culling has left me with:

*Dining Room: one entire wall (8ft x ca. 20 ft), primarily language, literature, art, gender/women; plus one separate case with cookbooks & brag

* Living Room: one entire wall (8 ft x ca. 15 ft) history, textiles & costume, crafts

* Guest Room: one case music (books & sheet music)

* Bedroom: one entire wall (12 ft x 12 ft) fiction, plus much spillage of the "to be read" stacks

#899 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 02:35 PM:

My wall of books, in the url in my name above.
I know i'm a bit late, but I was busy, honest. The problem I face is that when my most empty shelf is full I'm really not sure where to put the new bookcase. I've got 2 bedroomed flat, and 3 boocases in the main bedroom, and I don't really want to start drilling into walls to put shelves up, although that would get me some more space. The spare room has no more floorspace left, but room for shelving on the wall, hmmmmmm, unless I moved the spare bed away from the wall and put bookcases against it. Ok, that means a foot less florspace, but I can live with that.

The main wall of books in the living room that you see in the photo is 2 deep, ideally I'd want it 1 deep and more shelving. Or I need a new house, but its too much hassle to move...

#900 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 03:17 PM:

re 895: When I went apartment shopping, at the place I eventually rented, the offices were in a separate building. And when they offered to show a model apartment, and I said yes, they led me to the far wall, where there was a row of little apartment models, miniature furniture and all.

#901 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 03:35 PM:

Jacque, #896: Michael Longcor has a song called "Kitchen Junk Drawer". On the recording I have, he notes that after one performance, a guy came up to him and said, "I don't have a kitchen junk drawer. [beat] I have a garage."

#902 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 03:47 PM:

HRJ @#898: I don't suppose any of your I-E books are looking for a little walkabout? I'd be delighted to pay shipping. I find the local libraries distressingly short on ancient Indo-European linguistics.

#903 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 04:07 PM:

On roommates and the proper placement of things: I just came home from giving blood to find that one of them was in and cleaned the public areas. I meant to do this today-- it was on the list of things to do, following getting a new driver's license* and giving blood**. There are enough things that I am doing wrong that I don't feel right throwing my weight around on the things they are doing differently.

Besides, none of us are big movers of things that have been put there. Um. You know how things look like they're there on purpose? We have different thresholds. Mine is that a thing is there, so it must be there on purpose, and I won't touch it. Theirs are higher, so 'apples in bag on counter' are clearly pre-putting and need put away, while 'apples in bowl on counter' have been placed appropriately. We are all passive enough for this to cause problems-- the first person to express a preference controls everything if you aren't careful with this dynamic.

*not the worst picture of me ever taken, not even the worst meant to be put on an ID, but seriously, I look like a dead mole rather than just a mole.

**uneventful for once, double platelets, and the citrate took ages to wear off. Probably should have waited before driving home.

#904 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 04:11 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden #893: Was that a cowboy hat or a Stetson you bought, back in 1997?

Mine is a hand-did SRV (bolero style), which I got in 1994 to wear to ConAdian (where the site selection vote was). It's seen better days; I need to replace the hatband and the inner lining one of these years.

You're right that short-run hats can be artwork. I suppose the accordion hat just hit me the wrong way; it just seemed like the kind of thing that one would rarely see outside of a crazed, pretentious fashion show runway. YMMV, of course.

#905 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 04:41 PM:

I know that half of the books I own are ones I'll never read again.

The problem is that I don't know which half.

#906 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 05:14 PM:


I guess each book has an ad in it?

#907 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 05:20 PM:

Carrie @ 902

That fantasy has not yet been discarded (the one where I do serious research involving early IE langauges). In fact, just last fall I made extensive use of Bruckner's Die Sprache der Langobarden to evolve the phonology and onomastics for a doesn't-exist-in-our-timeline Romance language[1] spoken in the setting my my current WIP.

[1] That is, just as many of our real-world Romance languages show the influence of various vernaculars on a Latin-speaking population, I was running some rough-and-dirty phonological transformations inspired by the phonology and orthography of Langobardic and applying them to a collection of place names, personal names, and surname-generating elements to develop a handy store of proper nouns. It occurs to me that the fact that the culture in question speaks a Romance language doesn't really come up overtly. But I know.

#908 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 05:32 PM:

I have bookcase envy - we've just moved and been through a fairly brutal cull. I have two ikea billys in my room and we have one 7' case in the living room. We are awaiting the fundage to add a twin on the other side of the tv (which we are trying to sort of hide among the books) and we have a smallish kitchen bookcase and the roommate has a 4' one in her bedroom.

Nonetheless, the decorating books we have perused in hopes of finally having a Nice Space to invite people into have very few pics with bookcases and shelving. In one guide, the only suggestion they had for books was to pile them up and use them as a coffee table. WTF? I live with an archivist with an MLS - this will not do.

The book we bought specializes in design for small spaces (perfect!) and is pretty realistic with storage needs. There are exhortations to buy dual or multi-purpose furniture and arrange stuff away from walls that are interesting, but still raise many questions. If I go to the trouble to buy a credenza with shelves visible on both sides, why would then go buy pointless matching vases and/or tchotchkes? While I appreciate the aesthetics of a desk placed along the back of a sofa rather than against a wall, where am I supposed to plug in my computer? What purpose does piling 8 pillows onto my bed serve, when I will just throw at least 6 of those on the ground each night. Also, who the hell needs a bowl of mossy spheres lying around their 800sqf apt? Why are these random bowls of mossy spheres - and their cousins, twig balls - in every decorating magazine and book ever? What do they do? Is it some sort of plot?

I suppose I could tweak the author's suggestion to artfully arrange three sea-shells of various sizes on a table or mantelpiece, only maybe with a grouping of three differently scaled loose Data action figures. I must trust Ardala to stick to The Rule of Threes when strewing her squeaky toys around the living room floor.

#909 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 05:33 PM:

Heather Rose Jones@907: I find it hard to resist buying language textbooks. I think it dates from when I had vanishingly little money to spend on books of any kind—when you're in that situation, language texts seem to be such good value. ("Yes, I don't actually need to buy this second-hand copy of Teach Yourself Urdu, but if some disaster were to deprive me of all sources of amusement other than this book, I could fruitfully entertain, inform and educate myself for weeks on end with it.") The sheer density of information is the unique selling point.

#910 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 05:40 PM:

Yeah, I don't know which ones I'll reread (fiction mostly).

But in addition to that, it's something of a research collection. I may need to know what exactly was said in "Soldier, Ask Not" at some point, for a Usenet argument if nothing else. Pamela even more so (more for the fantasy side probably).

So I need to keep the ones we will reread, and the ones that are significant to the field, and the ones that are of significance to US, and even the ones that are of significance to people we argue against :-). And getting them out of the library is too much trouble for much of this; it'd be too late by the time we had the book in hand, if the library had it at all (which they don't, for the vast majority of F&SF in our library).

I need to clean out some non-fiction in my room, and probably some in the library, though.

#911 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 05:58 PM:

nerdycellist #908:

The best advice I can give (I'm not a decorator, but I've displayed many a book in my time) is that wall space is for bookshelves; anything else takes second place--except an upright piano, which has uber-priority. After that, symmetry reigns.

I keep my desk out in the middle of the room because I hate the feeling of being smushed up against a wall, and also want to face the door. OK, there are cords wandering about, but that's a tradeoff, and I do tuck them into one of those plastic strips that's used to keep them flat to the floor so people won't trip as often.

As to tchotchkes, don't add other people's ideas of what these should be. Display your own things you've accumulated that mean something to you. You can always put them on *top* of the bookcases.

#912 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 06:00 PM:

Earl, #904: If you're familiar with the comic strip Curtis, the cartoonist does an occasional strip about Church Lady Hats; apparently this is something which occurs primarily in the black community. I cannot look at a hat like the one in the link any more without thinking of it as a Church Lady Hat.

nerdycellist, #908: There is something to be said for using furniture as room-dividers; it's a tactic I've used successfully in each of my last 3 living spaces. But you do have to balance it with practicality.

If we didn't have 2 armchairs in the den, I could move the sofa that defines "den" from "dining area" a foot or so closer to the door and put half-height bookcases against the back of it. But there's not room to do that and have people be able to sit on both sides of the dining table at the same time unless we get rid of one of the armchairs, which we don't want to do.

Mossy spheres or twig balls around here would immediately become cat toys. At least they can't fish my stone eggs out of their bowl any more, since I got a different bowl with an inward-curving top edge.

#913 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 06:12 PM:

Thanks for the advice! We've got one of those 70's apartment open plans going on, and the first executive decision we made was to make the "dining" area the computer room. The desk is against a short wall, perpendicular to the bar side of the kitchen counter. The low filing cabinet is on the other side of the desk, making a small visual divider.

The new dining area is on the opposite wall. We just bought an area rug for that, and will be hanging a fabulous tapestry depicting some sort of epic tall-ship battle (I'm going to say Trafalgar). We are looking for something to break up the new dining area from the living room. I'm thinking a small bar that looks nice from both sides, which would also serve as storage for our booze and extra glassware. I expect that's going to make the dining area look a little tea room/pub-like, which is cool by me.

Even with all that, we have an immense amount of living room wall left over for future book or media cases. (my roommate insists on keeping the jewel cases to her CDs, whereas I put mine immediately in a binder and toss the packaging. Neither of us is 100% on board with "invisible" digital media). We were thinking of a tall backless bookcase to act as a dining/living room divider, but we're not sure how we would anchor that here in earthquake territory.

#914 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 06:33 PM:

Lee @912, there is in fact a section of "Church Hats" on the website of the accordion-hat maker; to my untrained eye they look somewhat, but not extremely, less elaborate.

#915 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 06:52 PM:

guthrie @ 899 said:

I've got [...] 3 boocases in the main bedroom

Where I would imagine Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts feature prominently?

#916 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 07:00 PM:

I really like ddb #814 with the photos pasted together.
I think I'm up to 120 feet or so, certainly 3,000 books, and thats basically the last 18 years of my life buying books.
I can only justify having so many books to myself if I lend them out again, and so far have only lost one, although I'm not seeing too much demand so far.
Tim Walters #905 also sounds familiar, although in the last year I've re-read quite a few books, from Buchan to Eco, and suddenly they make much more sense compared to when I read them as a teenager.

Does anyone else find that the appetite for fiction decreases as you get a bit older and more immersed in hobbies that involve research and reading? Plus I've seen enough stories and plots and characters that things get a little repetitive, or so it feels. Whereas non-fiction keeps growing as I get more and more into things and need rarer, thicker books to tell me what I want to know.

#917 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: May 27, 2010, 11:19 PM:

lorax, #914, Dorothy Height's hats which were examples to all Church Women in DC.

#918 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2010, 12:01 AM:

albatross @ 906: Well spotted.

guthrie @ 916: Does anyone else find that the appetite for fiction decreases as you get a bit older

Yes, to an extent. I still probably read more fiction than non-, but the share of the latter has increased noticeably in the last few years.

#919 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2010, 08:20 AM:

HRJ @ 907: Mmmm, conlanging. Are you familiar with Mark Rosenfelder's site?

And having just realized it was ambiguous, I wasn't proposing to take your books, merely to borrow them.

#920 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2010, 08:44 AM:

nerdycellist @ 908 Some decorators do admit the existence of books; one book devoted to actively decorating with them is Decorating with Books, although it gave me space envy at times. Not that I lack space currently, just nothing like some of the specific spaces pictured.

I have seen decorating guides that suggest putting covers on your books--usually plain paper, mostly white, occasionally other colors. I've no idea how to identify them once they're all covered in the same paper, given the way books are sized, but maybe discreet labels that don't show in the pictures have been added.

#921 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2010, 09:15 AM:

Guthrie@916: Not sure what's going on with my appetite for reading. I still love all my old favorites, and my latest discovery is the thrillers of John Sandford, so I don't think I'm acquiring refined literary tastes in my old age. But I'm definitely reading less SF and very little fantasy outside of rereads.

I have the impression that there's less I really like being published than there used to be; whether that represents ignorance, a change in my tastes, or a change in what is being published is less clear to me (probably all three to varying extents).

#922 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2010, 10:12 AM:

Guthrie @918, ddb @921, responding to this over on the new open thread...

#923 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2010, 11:27 AM:

nerdycellist @908: you might also find useful a book called Living with Books by Alan Powers. It's available as a trade paperback, ISBN 1-57959-073-X, $24.95 (why, yes, I do have a copy right here beside me, why do you ask?). A very nice book about using space for books well, with lots of pictures of rooms with many books.

#924 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2010, 03:15 AM:

Breadcrumbs to Open Thread 141

#925 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2010, 04:07 AM:

Jacque, you know the only reason I haven't started doing that is that it makes me smile when you do it, right?

OK, well, now you do. But I should probably start doing it in the main posts.

#926 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2010, 06:28 PM:

nerdycellist @908: I suppose I could tweak the author's suggestion to artfully arrange three sea-shells of various sizes on a table or mantelpiece, only maybe with a grouping of three differently scaled loose Data action figures.

You don't know how to use the three seashells?!

#927 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 31, 2010, 07:24 PM:

As can be seen by the date, I'm well behind my internet reading, but I'm surprised nobody's mentioned bibliophibians yet. (Also on a t-shirt)

#928 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2010, 02:44 PM:

A friend of mine is struggling with cutting. Does anyone here have some good online references I could point her to?

#929 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2010, 02:47 PM:

Yargh. My bookmarks are hosed. Please post any replies to the above to Open Thread 141.

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