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July 14, 2013

Comments on Open Thread 185:
#1 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 08:59 PM:

Yeah I was going to pull and retweet that particular quote when I saw it the other day, but when I tried the retweet on for size it didn't look quite right on its own. Part of a coordinated ensemble, I guess. But anyway, I liked it a lot and decided to hang it in my closet, on its own, in anticipation of possibly someday being able to wear it somewhere nice.

Glad to see it here.

#2 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 09:05 PM:

There's a letter in the October Analog, from a guy complaining about 'light' SF - and his examples are a couple of stories from the 1970s that I remember ('Poppa Needs Shorts' and the one about Mal R Key, the cat).

(Me to him: Dude, didn't you ever figure out that SF can be funny as well as serious?)

#3 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 09:17 PM:

For what it's worth, funny SF has gotten me through unhappy times. I'll read lots of things, but entertaining, relatively light SF is supportive and comforting.

#4 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 09:31 PM:

Oh dear.

Yesterday I went to a reenactment event and found myself playing with a drop spindle. It felt pretty meditative so I put one on my Amazon wishlist, and I said so on my book-of-Faces page. Now a knitting friend tells me she has the wool of two sheep that she can send me to spin for her, should I so desire. Assuming it's washed (I looked it up - doesn't seem like the kind of thing that can be done in an apartment) I suppose I could do that, as long as she's in no particular hurry. How difficult is carding? Any fiber people have any words of support? I just wanted something to do with my hands or quiet the insomniac hamster wheel on those evenings when praying the Rosary just won't work.

#5 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 09:33 PM:

Historically, it's been much more "for the sake of argument" fiction from the start; but that is 9 syllables rather than 4, and much harder to turn into a genre name. Marketing categories need marketable names.

#6 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 10:07 PM:

nerdycellist: Carding isn't difficult, but it's tedious unless you have a drum carder (which is a pedal/motor-driven carding device).

You could wash wool in your bathtub, if you were prepared to deal with cleaning out the drain a lot. I wouldn't recommend it.

#7 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 10:16 PM:

nerdycellist @4 : Carding is not that difficult. You "charge" one hand carder with a bit of wool, which looks like snagging tufts in the teeth of a larger version of a pet brush, and then you lightly pass the other carder over the first (you don't so much drag one carder's teeth through the other as you just "make them kiss") until the wool is transferred from one to the other. Repeat a couple of times. Remove wool "batt" from carder in a rolling motion. Apply to spindle.

Honestly, washing isn't that difficult either. You just do it in batches that your sink can handle, putting it in lingerie bags or kitchen sieves or whatever you've got. The important part is realizing that, having applied to your wool VERY hot water (a friend swears 140 d F is perfect) and a mild detergent (the favorite around here is Dawn, the blue stuff; NEVER Woolite), you have on hand two of the three ingredients needed for felting your wool, and you must be careful not to add the third: agitation.

So, not hard -- just a little time-consuming. But if you were worried about time-consuming, you wouldn't take up hand-spinning on a drop-spindle.

I can recommend a great book about which I'm NOT AT ALL BIASED just because it was written by the spinning teacher at the south Boulder shop where I learned to use a spinning wheel: Start Spinning by Maggie Casey. This book is like revisiting her spinning class. It takes you from the sheep to the finished knitted or woven or felted or etc. product by way of everything you could possibly need to know as a handspinner. Well, everything you need as a beginning handspinner, at least. I take it off the shelf every time I wash wool because even though I've done it a lot I want to make sure.

Sounds like you are imminently to find yourself in possession of a fiber stash. Good luck keeping it to a reasonable size!

#8 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 10:40 PM:

I'm trying to find something cheap to do with my hands (shut up!) that doesn't take a whole lot of brains, so getting a drum carder is out of the question at this point. The sink/tub situation in this apartment is less than optimal, so I'll need pre-washed wool. My friend with the wool has three kids and not a lot of free time so I'm not sure she's going to be carding and spinning her fleece anytime soon. As long as she's aware that I could take forever to spin a skein of yarn, I'm game. I think I'll get the little drop spindle starter pack and look into "Start Spinning" before I have her send anything. I don't want to get too ambitious.

#9 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 10:49 PM:

I have a drop spindle starter pack you can have. (Includes wool.)
Also good for washing woolen stuff is 'Orvus WA', available at better pet supply places - it's for washing animals. It's about as gentle as you can get, and not scented. (I wash my finished stuff with it; I got a 12-quart stock pot at Smart&Final.)

#10 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 11:03 PM:

nerdycellist: I wouldn't recommend carding if you're looking for meditative hobbies - I at least, find the sound of hand cards horribly grating, and I generally end up carding my skin at some point. (YMMV, of course.) Aside from your friend's two bags full, prepared fiber is easy to find online if you don't live near a store, and satisfies the I-wanna-spin-NOW that fiber prep can delay for days. And then you can get into hand-painted roving and silk blends and OMG-it's-all-so-beautiful-and-floofy-and --

Er. 'Scuse me. Have to go pet my fiber stash now.

#11 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 11:49 PM:

Thanks for the info - I'll tell her to hold off on sending me her sheep until I've a.) got a spindle and b.) have spun at least one starter kit's worth of fiber. I've poked around a couple of places and what's really great about this hobby is that a beautifully crafted spindle can be had for about $50, while a plainer one suitable for a beginner is less than $20. Well, that and being able to call myself a "spinster" in a literal as well as figurative sense.

#12 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2013, 11:51 PM:

I don't have firsthand knowledge of working with fiber or spinning, but I do know what a fiber stash that's gone way beyond the hobby stage looks like. That'd be my mother's. She got into it around the time I graduated college (so, 2007-2008) and, these days, runs her own small business (as a hobby in her off hours) selling hand-dyed yarn and fiber. Lots of hand-dyed yarn and fiber. To the point where the counter staff at the local post office know her on sight, and she brings them dozens and dozens of packages every couple of weeks in several re-purposed laundry bags.

The stash in question has taken over most of my parents' not insubstantial basement, and gets restocked regularly. The Amazing Girlfriend and I have wrangled the restocking a couple times on visits back to my folks, and there's something very satisfying about bowling a 30lb box of fiber down the basement stairs from the kitchen. So, any time I hear about fiber or yarn stashes, I have to recalibrate - I assume most stashes out there don't eat large basements.

#13 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:02 AM:

nerdycellist--There are people out there (search terms 'fleece carding' and 'fleece processing' may help) who will wash the fleece for you, run it though serious carding equipment, and then send you back the roving. All you'd have to do is give them money, and then spin.

#14 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:33 AM:

I dislike the “We’re supposedly a forward-looking genre, and yet” approach to criticizing stuff in the SF world.

What drives my criticism along those lines is a feeling that the bulk of the fiction I read hasn't yet caught up with the present, to say nothing of the future. The people I meet, the news I read, the problems I encounter day-to-day are all stranger and more interesting than so much of what I encounter in fiction that I sometimes despair of it.

Which is not to say that good counterfactual fiction can't be written in which society returns to some earlier state -- I've enjoyed a post-apocalypse or an alternate history or three -- but I would like them to acknowledge the changes which have taken place.

#15 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:43 AM:

Abi and janetl, thanks for getting me out of spamspace on the previous Open Thread. *munches on the to-go order of lutefisk she brought along*

I'd had a call right after making the post and by the time I got back to the internet groove, I was Distracted By Stuff, hence my forgetting to send up a flare.

Carding, spinning and wool (oh my!)... I have a few friends who do that, and wouldn't mind trying it myself sometime.

#16 ::: SummerStorms appears to have permanently angered the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:44 AM:

So now nothing I post escapes moderation... sigh...

#17 ::: The gnomes hate me ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:46 AM:

For some reason, every post I make under my normal username (SummerStorms) is going into the moderation queue.

(I knew I should've gotten the live chicken.)

#18 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:50 AM:

Interesting interpretation of how introverts deal with life and how to deal with them. Uh, us.

#19 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:33 AM:

SummerStorms --

That isn't the gnomes' doing. That's the Great Old Ones; AKA Moveable Type's antispam measures.

The posts aren't going into the moderation queue; they're going into the spam bucket. Here's the message we get when we find 'em there:

"TypePad AntiSpam -1.0 TypePad AntiSpam says spam"

I don't know what to do about that, since TypePad AntiSpam isn't under my control. I've searched the spam bucket back two days and released everything there from SummerStorms. We can experiment, but I don't know the solution right now.

-- JDM

#20 ::: Summer ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:50 AM:

Jim, thanks for the heads-up. That's weird, though. What I've been getting on my end is this:

Your comment is being held for review.

High in the glass-and-steel tower that is Making Light Headquarters your post is being examined under criteria both Mysterious and Arcane. Soon, if it passes High Level Review by our Gnomes, it will be released

The most common reason that a post is held is that it contained a Whole Lot of URLs. Alternatively, you may have used one or more Words of Power, and we must determine if your intentions are Good, Evil, or Amusing.

I'm attempting to post this one under my normal username to see what happens. If it gets caught in a filter again, I'll re-post under another identity.

Note: It did indeed get hung up in the filter again, which is why I'm now experimenting. This is my 6th attempt at reposting; different username and email, with no link to my LiveJournal

I'm really hoping I don't have to change identities, though, as I've used the same one here for several years (despite my dropping out for a while until recently).

#21 ::: But I don't WANT to give up my identity! ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:53 AM:

Jim, thanks for the heads-up. That's weird, though. What I've been getting on my end is this:

Your comment is being held for review.

High in the glass-and-steel tower that is Making Light Headquarters your post is being examined under criteria both Mysterious and Arcane. Soon, if it passes High Level Review by our Gnomes, it will be released

The most common reason that a post is held is that it contained a Whole Lot of URLs. Alternatively, you may have used one or more Words of Power, and we must determine if your intentions are Good, Evil, or Amusing.

I'm attempting to post this one under my normal username to see what happens. If it gets caught in a filter again, I'll re-post under another identity.

Note: It did indeed get hung up in the filter again, which is why I'm now experimenting. This is my 7th attempt at reposting; with a radically different username and email address, and nothing in the URL box.

I'm really hoping I don't have to change identities, though, as I've used the same one here for several years (despite my dropping out for a while until recently).

#22 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:53 AM:

testing something

[The last several hit the Gnomes' filters, not the Typepad filter. That's because they held Words of Power; specifically the words "your post" (which is a frequent word-group in actual spam). The ones that Typepad takes shouldn't yield the Gnome message--near as I figure they just Don't Post, with no notice to you -- or to me.

I believe that going back and Approving everything of yours in the Spam Filter told Typepad that, no kidding, this is legitimate traffic. (They have something going that draws on input across multiple blogs. Again, I'm not sure exactly what's going on there.)

So, two different problems hit you at the same time. Sorry about that. -- JDM]

#23 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:54 AM:

Jim, I just went through 7 attempts at testing, which you will find (with explanations included) in whatever filter it is that's decided it doesn't like me. I'm about to run one more test.

#24 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:55 AM:

Another test, this time to see whether the use of HTML formatting tags might be the culprit.

#25 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:56 AM:

Okay, I officially have no idea what the problem is/was. At the moment I appear to be able to post normally, and as myself.

#26 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:58 AM:

Thank you for your help, Jim. And to everyone else, thank you for your patience and the use of bandwidth.

#27 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 02:20 AM:

I'm reduced to typing "owl" into and quietly sobbing each time I click the "next page" button.

#28 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 03:27 AM:

SummerStorms: as a scientist, may I congratulate you on your use of the scientific method - varying different parameters and observing the outcome.

My own biggest in-normal-life scientific experiment I undertook several years ago to confirm that drinking coffee gives me headaches. Design: part 1, drink no coffee for three months, count number of headaches per week; part 2, drink coffee again for three months, count number of headaches. Actual: complete part 1, realise headaches have dropped from about 3-4 per week to maybe one per month, don't bother with part 2...

(Then a while back I was tired and drank coffee on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday mornings to help me stay alert. Had headaches on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. The penny dropped. No coffee on Thursday, no more headaches.)

In the interests of completeness I have to reveal that I do still get tension headaches occasionally, but we're talking a few a year, not a few a week.

#29 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 03:36 AM:

For anyone who enjoys good chewy sociopolitical SF, I strongly recommend this Vorkosigan fanfic. I believe it to be AU to at least the latest couple of books. I'm also only about halfway thru it (it's novel-length), but it's giving me the sensawunda on a level that I rarely get any more, and the technobabble is both reasonably plausible and surprisingly easy to follow, despite being quite technical. There's also a strong admixture of Barrayaran history, and an ethical analysis that seems to be running in parallel with the technological stuff.

(Link goes to the chapter I'm currently reading, but you can get to the beginning easily enough via the chapter index at the top.)

#30 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 04:53 AM:

SummerStorms: AIUI, the way TypePad antispam works is by applying Seth Breidbart's USENET anti-spam method to blogs: spammers are dumb or lazy and recycle their junk in multiple places. The original form was an automated check for spam on USENET: if the same (or very similar) item was posted separately to more than about 10 newsgroups,then 99.99% of the time it was spam.

The TypePad mechanism centralizes spam reports from blogs, so if the same item is flagged as spam by several blogs then it is reported as spam to any other blogs whose plugin sends a query ("is this message spam?") to the central server.

Obviously, some spammer was using "S*mm*rSt*rms" in their spam, got reported as such ... and inadvertently blacklisted you. The ML moderators marking your postings as non-spam whitelisted you back off the shity-list.

#31 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 04:54 AM:

Irony: explaining how typepad anti-spam can accidentally get you tagged as spam can get you remanded in gnome custody!

#32 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:10 AM:

j h woodyatt @ #27: a good way or in a bad way?

#33 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:19 AM:

Mary Aileen, et al., from OT184:

I think what's going on with the Zimmerman page (it's happening in my browser as well) is down to the way the embedded tweets are loaded. That happens in two stages: first, the plain text; then, if your browser supports it, all the styling and buttons and stuff are added. After step two, the tweets take up considerably more vertical real estate than after step one.

So what I think is happening is that the browser is doing the separate "jump to comment" step after the text has loaded but before the chrome is applied, and when the latter happens, the comment moves away from the position the browser had jumped to.

#34 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:48 AM:

What Kevin said @ #14. It also bugs me when I read older SF (sometimes not that much older!) and people are flying to the stars and women are still stuck making the coffee.
W/r/t the unwieldy lengthiness of "for-the-sake-of-argument" fiction, there's always "thought-experiment" or the trusty "what-if?"

#35 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:36 AM:

I don't mind the idea that science fiction is "forward-looking" so long as one is willing to admit that the future might include bad things as well as good ones.

I believe the short version of counter-factual is "what if?". It's just important to remember that the "what if?" just needs to be something that leads to an interesting story. The amount of science may be homeopathic.

Any thoughts about the relationship between science fiction and prediction? I realize that accurate prediction isn't the test of science fiction, though I'm still smug when an author gets something right and bemused when the whole field misses something completely. (So far as I know, no one predicted tattoos becoming stably popular.) Perhaps it's just that trying to predict has a fertile effect on the imagination.

Speaking of prediction, I'm reading Moises Naiim's The End of Power. His claim is that power is eroding in all sorts of institutions, more likely to be transitory for individuals, more subject to veto, and more likely to be challenged from non-obvious directions. He says it's not just improved communications-- that there are also more resources of all sorts more widely distributed (including more people), more mobility (both people and money), and a mindset that everyone is entitled to affect what happens.

This all seems plausible to me, with the caveat that large institutions grew in the recent past, so it's conceivable that the current weakening of barriers to entry could reverse.

In any case, I find his claims highly plausible, and definitely good enough for science fiction.

#36 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:43 AM:

Jim @ (my) 22: I think the immortal words of Homer Simpson sum up my reaction beautifully. "D'oh!"

dcb @ 28: Thanks. The scientific method is pretty much SOP for me when faced with a puzzle to solve. Sorry to hear about your headaches, but glad to hear you found the cause and the solution. Mine's the opposite -- I get headaches if I don't have caffeine. (Yes, I'm probably addicted, but I don't focus well without it. Stupid ADD.)

Charlie Stross @ 30: Some days winning does take a little longer, doesn't it?

On (alternative, or not) terminology for SF: Hence my glee upon encountering the moniker "speculative fiction".

#37 ::: Age or Wizardry ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:44 AM:

Long-time lurker delurking briefly to share with y'all a book that I believe is relevant to this community's interests. :-)

The other day at my library, I came across Gail Carson Levine's Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems. All the poems are based on William Carlos Williams' "This Is Just to Say". I immediately thought of Making Light, having read many brilliant pastiches and variations on this poem here. As a bonus, many of the poems have an sfnal bent, with for example aliens or elements of retold fairy tales.

As a sample, here's the one that precedes the introduction (on page 18, which you will see is relevant):

This Is Just to Say

Instead of the beginning
I slipped
this introduction
in here

my editor excruciatingly loudly
it does not belong

Forgive me
I also shredded
her red pencil and stirred
the splinters into her tea

I hope you enjoy!

(I did delurk once before a few years ago for a comment or two, but have no idea any longer what name I may have used. A quick site-specific google search suggests that it wasn't this one, but I'll try to keep using it from now on--if I don't forget again before whenever the next time I delurk is. :-P)

#38 ::: Age or Wizardry ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:49 AM:

(Aha! I have a View All By; it was this username after all.)

#39 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:51 AM:

I am called to jury duty this Thursday. Nothing interesting ever happens on jury duty. Well, there was the time the guy (de)brained his wife with a sledgehammer because of secret messages from the Bible and he wanted us to say he was not guilty not because he could've been wrapped in aluminum foil and sent to everybody as an unwelcome and largely inedible Christmas present, but because, you know, he was only doing what Jesus told him to do. It was like an early Law & Order episode.

But, yeah, other than that, nothing interesting ever happens on jury duty.

#40 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:53 AM:

I should be getting ready to go to the dentist for a root canal. I think I'll have another cup of coffee first...

#41 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:58 AM:

nerdycellist @ 4 ...
Now a knitting friend tells me she has the wool of two sheep that she can send me to spin for her, should I so desire. Assuming it's washed (I looked it up - doesn't seem like the kind of thing that can be done in an apartment)

IIRC & FWIW, wet fleece *SMELLS* (and depending on whether it's been washed or not, may also outright *STINK* and be full of nasty things).

#42 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:20 AM:

Stefan Jones #18: That cartoon shows only a small part of why introverts sometimes have problems with extroverts.
Some of us not only aren't comfortable when people "come on too strong", but we just don't usually find people basically as interesting/compelling as things or ideas or animals, and only start to like certain people after they've earned it.
I have been deeply hurt a couple of times by certain relatives treating me like some sort of diseased and defective freak; one has wised up but I'm not sure about the other (who is 99 so the problem may soon solve itself. But I haven't got a lot of relatives to spare.) As time went on I found some folks who have more of a clue, and came to realize that I really value (a few) people as well. And I'm better at coping with the loud ones and so on than when young, and I'd also like to think I've learned to become less of a bore when I get to talk about something I like. (I've got a couple dozen favorite subjects.) But I will always be an introvert, although I am not usually awkward or shy in the usual sense. Being asexual at least makes it simpler in a lot of ways. Having ADD and PTSD does not (this kind of belongs on the dysfunctional family thread.) I'd be pretty smart if I was whole.
Another problem is that some people think people like me belong on some autistic spectrum when so far as I can tell the match isn't that close. There are a lot more spectra or even color-solids out there, or something, and these aren't well known. Lumping me in with the autistics is not fair either to me or them. The whole autistic spectrum concept has become stretched so far it is becoming meaningless. Even if it wasn't, loners with unusual enthusiasms aren't fodder for someone's taxonomic mania. No one can tell my story for me.
When a couple of other people kept hitting me with that, I made very fine rubble of it with logic, only to have them start telling me I was in denial. I told at least one of them to shut it, in no uncertain terms, and that was that. It really makes me appreciate cats, and I'm not that big of an animal person either.
Diagnosing a person against their will, if that person isn't an addict, a criminal or "mentally challenged" (or whatever the current euphemism is) is at best rude, at worst deadly.
There need to be some new cartoons or books made, or something.

#43 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:29 AM:

Paul A. @32: Aha, I think that's probably it!

#44 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:37 AM:

B Durbin--would you be willing to email me? My username at gmail.

I'm always amused by science fiction that has AI, but the interfaces are still command lines.

#46 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 11:53 AM:

Handspinning Subthread: Washing a fleece can happen in your very own bathtub; I've done it. It's heavy wet humid work and how smelly it is depends on the individual fleece; ranges from 'no worse than an enormous dog' to an aroma my husband evocatively calls 'zoo poo'.

That said, if you have a carefully washed, well-sheared fleece, there's not really any need to card it if you're spindle spinning, since you can spin it 'from the lock' very nicely. You pick up small amounts of the fleece and hold them in your hand and spin from the cut end (note: not the curly end that was the tip of the hair; you want to spin from the end that was closest to the sheep).

This only works with really nice fleeces, but when it works it works like WHOA. Much faster than carding/combing/etc inbetween.

#47 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 11:58 AM:

Dave harmon @45: I am reminded of the book including drawings of 'life reconstructions' from living-large-mammal bones if you use the same presumptions about body fat percentages, outside-the-skin coverings, cheeks, lips, etc that the mainstream of dinosaur art uses. I believe the term of derision for how we've gotten used to dinos looking is "shrink-wrapped dinosaurs", all bulgy muscle and melted-on skin texture.

That page includes their 'reconstructions' of baboons and swans, and a Google image search on the book title turns up more from the work, including some of their proposed, speculative, NON-shrink-wrapped dinosaurs.

#48 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:04 PM:


Perhaps that's why I've found myself growing annoyed as I get older with stories where the story is too obviously constructed to support the author's argument, e.g. dystopias that don't make a lot of sense when you think about them too hard.

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:05 PM:

We are not measured rightly by good chance
our hopes are limitless, but not our skin,
there are no victors ever at this dance.

They told us this was the time to advance,
that all the old faults had been cast in bin;
we are not measured rightly by good chance,

our wounds will never let us jump or prance
and when we are related we're not kin,
there are no victors ever at this dance

since it's a game whose players can enhance
their virtues best by adding to the din.
We are not measured rightly by good chance

nor yet permitted to take up a stance
above the fray; our only hope is sin.
There are no victors ever at this dance

but there are still fools who think it romance
and who believe that there's a prize to win.
We are not measured rightly by good chance
there are no victors ever at this dance.

#50 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:25 PM:

Handspinning: (re: Elliott Mason) You can even spin "in the grease" (unwashed wool) if you so desire. How pleasant that is depends on the condition of that particular fleece and how much you like the smell and feel of lanolin. (Generally I find the smell of an unwashed fleece pleasant, but there's unwashed and then there's "covered in poo and vegetable matter and also this was on a ram, wasn't it?")

nerdycellist, this is probably filed under "too ambitious too soon," but if there is a handspinners' or handweavers' guild near you, those organizations often rent equipment inexpensively. I have a friend who rents a drum carder from the local handweavers' guild when she wants to card a whole fleece at one time, or blend it with another fiber.

I'm told that clean fleeces are less susceptible to moth invasion than unwashed fleeces are.

#51 ::: Rebecca ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 12:58 PM:

Re handspinning, I've found washing locks of fleece individually, flicking them open with a flick carder, and spinning directly from them with a spindle to be a small-apartment-friendly, equipment-light way to deal with smelly fleeces. This is not to say that I don't have bags of fleece waiting to be washed due to intemperance at fleece auctions, but washing a couple of ounces' worth of locks at a time and drying them on a rack on the counter is less time- and space-intensive than dealing with a lot of fleece all at once when you don't have space to spread out. I recommend asking your friend whether the fleeces have been skirted (a.k.a. had the dirtiest parts of them removed) before you volunteer to take them off her hands -- nothing worse than a garbage bag full of sheep shit in a small apartment.

Beth Smith wrote a good article for Knitty in 2008 about washing locks and spinning from them. (Note that you can buy a specialized flick carder if you want, but a wire slicker pet brush like this one works just as well.) Flicking is fairly quick and results in a smooth handful of fibre to spin, which is easier to manage than an untreated lock when you're learning. Here's the first bit of my current spinning-from-locks project if you're curious what it looks like (l-r: washed lock otherwise untouched; lock flicked open; lock having been spun, knitted, and blocked).

The above-recommended Start Spinning by Maggie Casey is great; an equally excellent spindle-specific book is Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont.

#52 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:00 PM:

Angiportus, #42: Diagnosing a person against their will, if that person isn't an addict, a criminal or "mentally challenged" (or whatever the current euphemism is) is at best rude, at worst deadly.

Furthermore, useless and therefore best kept to oneself. Even in the case of addiction, you can't MAKE someone agree with whatever "diagnosis" you've developed in your own head -- and that's not even counting the instances when YOU are the one in "denial". If they're going to agree with you, they'll get there themselves sooner or later. In the meantime, you come off sounding like those creeps who ask people, "Have you heard the GOOD NEWS about Jesus Christ?"

#53 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 01:38 PM:

Tarry wool, oh tarry wool,
Tarry wool is ill to spin.
Card it well, card it well,
Card it well ere you begin.

#54 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 02:47 PM:

tykewriter @53: For extra fiber-geek bonus points, why might wool be tarry?

(answer rot13'ed for those who want to guess first)

Orpnhfr furcureqf cnvag bcra jbhaqf naq bgure fxva yrfvbaf jvgu gne gb frny gurz va n ybat-ynfgvat, snveyl-nagvfrcgvp onaqntr.

#55 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 04:41 PM:

Elliott Mason @ #54, "First, recognize some words can be verbs or adjectives."

All I could think of immediately was wool lollygagging around waiting for something to happen.

#56 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 05:56 PM:

Linkmeister @55: That immediately suggests carding as punishment (which, having done it, I can imagine). :-> Relatedly, (or is this verging on a Wiki-safari?) several European Christian saints were martred on wool-combs, and I can see THAT too, since I own a pair, very much smaller and tamer than the ones commonly in use for large-scale medieval textile production.

#57 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 05:59 PM:

Working out some issues by reading a site, and then the links, until it's rather later than is healthy for my head. I found this link, about the importance of speaking up, which gave me encouragement, and I wanted to share.

Crazy(and secretly hoping this link leaps to the particles section, *wan grin*)Soph

#58 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 06:32 PM:

This is just to say that Pacific Rim is the best mech-vs-monster movie you're likely to see. It has a lot of stuff going on. Lots and lots better than Man of Steel in lots and lots of ways.

Worth seeing on the largest screen you can find.

#59 ::: Keith Edwards ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 06:56 PM:

Michael Weholt@39:

I'm called to Jury duty on Wednesday and can only hope something half as interesting will be on the docket. Seeing as how i live in the Portland metro area,I'm hoping for something Portland-weird. Maybe a 3 fixie pileup or a coffee fueled bird-gluing rampage.

#60 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 06:59 PM:

sf is such a big spectrum. In the last few weeks, I read Machine of Death, some Bujold (The Curse of Chalion and early Vorkosigan), and Shadow of the Torturer, to name just a few.

The common thread: To explore strange new worlds, even (maybe especially) ones going by the name of Urth.

If sf were just forward looking, we could not construct glasses that peer into many dimensions, through time and space, into impossibility, out of alien eyes, reflecting back the strangeness of humanity. To our loss.

#61 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:10 PM:

Well now I've done it. My resume has been updated and uploaded, the job applied for on the internal website. All relevant supervisors and managers have been informed. Per the one doing the hiring, no suitable resumes have come in over a month since the initial job posting. So I guess the odds are good. I'm not concerned about my ability to do the job; it combines the stuff I already do, adds a patina of authority to that AND gives me more things to learn and greater responsibility, which upon reflection, I've found I'm really craving. No, my biggest concern right now is getting them to pay me more than I'm making as a Union member, plus enough to compensate for insurance PLUS a little more for the added responsibility. Surely a woman who included Amateur Pastry Chef as one of her activities deserves the money!

#62 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:16 PM:

Wording help: I keep trying to use the phrase 'compound interest' to talk about why it's good to start a process that will work slowly and incrementally EARLIER rather than LATER, but it's not actually compounding as money does from interest. For example, opening the house windows to let cooler outside air replace our warmer inside greenhoused air in the evenings. It's cooler at bedtime if you open the windows at the earliest possible "it is colder outside" moment than if you wait until an hour before sleeping.

But it's NOT actually a compounding process, nor is there interest involved. What can I call it instead?

#63 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:23 PM:

Elliott Mason: That immediately suggests carding as punishment

It used to be done in prisons and workhouses, as was the vaguely related fiber task of picking oakum.

#64 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:38 PM:

Jim Macdonald #58: Pacific Rim... Worth seeing on the largest screen you can find.

So I should just swallow the resistance I feel to seeing ANOTHER giant punch out movie? I'm being unfair in thinking it must only be (or be not much more than) that?

I've really grown to despise giant punch out movies.

#65 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:41 PM:

I need some advice about a Situation. I will, of necessity, be rather vague about the particulars.

I have recently been re-contacted by someone I used to know some 30-odd years ago in a state that is neither where I live now nor where I used to live. The method of said contact put me very much on edge -- the guy was acting like a creepy stalker. I spoke to him once on the phone, and he was going thru the whole stalker script about how he's been looking for me for 30 years, no other woman has ever been able to get me out of his head, he's got cancer and only has 6 months to live, he really wants to see me once more before he dies, etc. etc. etc. (Yeah, right.)

He said he'd written a letter, but didn't want to send it until he knew it would reach the right person. I told him to send it. He sent two letters; one is fairly lucid, the other is 10 repetitive, handwritten pages of the script above. The letters are written on spiral-bound notebook paper, and the handwriting looks like a young teenager's. (I'm surprised he didn't dot the I's with little hearts.)

We have looked up the return address in $OTHERSTATE. It's a somewhat dilapidated trailer park. In the lucid letter, he says that he doesn't drive, and is apparently either living with his mother or she buys food and runs errands for him -- I couldn't quite tell which. He sounds... hapless, I guess is the best word. He also sounds like someone whose life sucks, and who has fastened on this brief encounter from long ago as some sort of magical talisman. Given the distance between here and $OTHERSTATE, if he doesn't drive, I'm not terribly worried about him showing up on the doorstep.

But here's the thing. I bribed him to send the letter (and to get off the phone, because he was showing no signs of wanting to stop talking anytime in the next year) by telling him that if he did, I'd send him a current picture. My idea was that I'd send an unflattering shot that displays every year and every extra pound, since he's still thinking of me the way I looked 30-odd years ago (in the hope that this would break the obsession), along with a letter firmly stating that I don't want any further contact.

Now... I'm not so sure. We have Caller ID software that records the numbers from all incoming calls, and for the first couple of days after I spoke to him he called 7 or 8 times a day. (We did not answer any of those calls.) That's been dropping since then, and for the past couple of days he hasn't called at all. I'm wondering if actually sending him the picture would start it all up again, or whether we shouldn't just block his number (letting him think I lied to him) and let the whole thing drop. The odds of us ever being in $OTHERSTATE are slim to none -- it's not a place where we do business.

There are arguments to be made on both sides, and I guess there's also the option of keeping the letter and picture in reserve against future need. What I'm really looking for here are opinions from people with professional-level knowledge of how people like this guy work. Which approach is more likely to discourage him permanently?

#66 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 07:56 PM:

Elliott Mason @61 It's not an exact fit, but feedback is pretty close to what you're saying.

#67 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:32 PM:

Lee @ 64 ...
There are arguments to be made on both sides, and I guess there's also the option of keeping the letter and picture in reserve against future need. What I'm really looking for here are opinions from people with professional-level knowledge of how people like this guy work. Which approach is more likely to discourage him permanently?

If he's giving you the heeby-jeebies already, I'd go with your gut, and cut contact completely. If you do run into the guy, be firm and polite about not wanting further contact, and either leave or otherwise make it clear that you are Quite Done Now.

It's not necessarily comfortable living with yourself, when you've said that you will do something, and you take that as a bond -- but it's likely that any sort of contact is going to be read as encouragement, no matter what the content ("Well -- she -said- that she didn't want to contact me anymore, but sent me a picture and a letter...") -- but it's even less comfortable living with the unreasonable expectations, fantasies and delusions that somebody else is projecting onto you.

#68 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:34 PM:

Michael Weholt #63

For me to enjoy a punch-based movie, all the non-punching scenes must support the punching scenes, and vice versa. The only punching movies I've really enjoyed in recent years have been the excellent Marvel ones set in the Avengers universe.

To borrow a description from some tumblr reviews, Pacific Rim is set in a world where the only superpower that matters is the ability to open yourself up to another human being, and to cooperate with that person flawlessly. Robot fights are fueled by deep interpersonal connections. Now, the characters are broadly drawn and the plot is simplistic and there is that one moment where they do that thing that they always do in movies and they pay for it. But I liked it because it had interesting characters, comic relief that was actually amusing, beautiful images, and hope.

I went in expecting Transformers meets Hellboy 2 meets bad Evangelion Ripoff. Pacific Rim is none of those things. It's a cute fighting movie about robots powered by trust that punch godzillas. It's a movie about friendships and parents and families... both the kind you're born into and the kind you make.

And it's damn refreshing to see a movie where the most important relationship is between an adoptive parent and child.

#69 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:34 PM:


It's not a kindness to give this guy any encouragement, which any additional contact (much less sending a photo) certainly would.

Block his number, let him slip away.

I understand your angst of "but I promised him I'd send him a photo". That was under duress.

If he calls again from another number, a ploy I've used is to pound hard on the closest solid surface and say with mild panic, "sorry, I've got to go". Gently hang up.

#70 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:43 PM:

nerdycellist @#8: You don't get wool from kids. Maybe you can get some cashmire instead.

#71 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:53 PM:

Pacific Rim has resonances from Perseus to Beowulf to Prometheus. Lots of stuff going on in this one.

#72 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:55 PM:

Carol, #68: You've slightly misinterpreted. It's not the angst of "but I promised" that's the issue here; it's evaluating the risk of being perceived as sending encouragement (or at least mixed messages) against the chance of him seeing me as a plump, middle-aged grandmother type* and going "EW!" because I'm not the pretty girl he remembers, and thus solving the problem once and for all.

* Complete with short, fluffy white hair, courtesy of the costume shop.

#73 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:58 PM:

#67 Leah Miller & #70 Jim Macdonald

Okay, I'm in.

#74 ::: chaosprime ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 08:59 PM:

Jim @70: That's the fire-and-vultures Prometheus, not the "for the sake of argument, let's say that in the future we forget everything we ever knew about hazmat procedure" Prometheus?

#75 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:11 PM:

Elliott Mason @61, I think I'd just call it getting a head start.

#76 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:26 PM:

Lee at 64: My advice, for what it's worth, would be to refuse all further contact with this person. It sounds like he's got a particularly tenacious fixation, and the prospect of any further encouragement sets off all sorts of warning klaxons in my head. I believe it would just encourage him, and that's not something you want. I'd filter his calls and dispose of any further letters unread.

#77 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:39 PM:

Lee, any contact is going to encourage him. You may feel that if you show him that you're not the spring chicken of his memories, he'll trudge away, discouraged, but that's not the track he's on.

If you want to take a goofed-up photo for the joy of the then-and-now contrast, go for it. For gods' sake don't send it to him.

#78 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 09:53 PM:

Lee, my thoughts (I've never been that creepy, but I have in the past obsessed over a woman):

His reactions are not under your control. He might or might not die unhappy whether or not you write.

Him being in touch with you is creeping you out. That in itself is a good reason not to react, not to write, and not to send the picture. You have a lot of experience in the world, large portions of it unconscious: and the unconscious part of you is saying not to write.

Do you need permission not to send a picture? I give you that permission. And I give you permission to make taking care of yourself more important than taking care of him.

Now, go and do what feels right to you.

#79 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:05 PM:

chaosprime @73
Fire-and-vultures Prometheus. Plus Philos, Agape and Eros.

I have never found fight scenes gorgeous, but there were bits and pieces that I thought were mind-blowingly pretty.

#80 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:30 PM:

Lee @ 64

Do not send the photo. Do not take or return his calls. Keep his letters in case you need proof later. Document the call and the length and subject matter. People recover from cancer all the time. He may show up sooner or later.

#81 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2013, 10:56 PM:

Lee #64....

I'll bet you a donut that this person does not have cancer and does not have just six months to live. If I'm wrong about that, wait six months and the problem will have solved itself.

If I seriously planned to do someone harm the very first thing I'd want would be a recent photo of them. Don't give him one.

Log everything, but do not make/maintain contact. That feeling in your gut is a warning. Never ignore a warning.

#83 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:54 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ #81, I defer to the experts in publishing for an opinion on whether that idea might work, but the author, Virginia Postrel, is a noted libertarian, so her "succumb to the market" approach is no surprise.

#84 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 06:13 AM:

In HLN, I'm going to have a meeting on the 23rd concerning a financial services job. Wish me good luck.

#85 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 06:16 AM:

Today marks the release of Tor Books's fantasy novel "Mist", by Susan Krinard, aka my wife.

#86 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 07:33 AM:


My go-to source for advice on this kind of situation is Captain Awkward. On this recent post, both Captain Awkward and the commenters cover a lot of the ground of how you make your own self-care your first priority, up to and including things we'd normally not like doing:

In a nutshell, you have every right to your own safety. You are not obligated to explain yourself to anyone violating, or trying to violate, your boundaries and/or agency.

If it quacks like a stalker (riffing off of your label "the whole stalker script"), it most likely is one.

While I appreciate your desire to fulfill a promise you made, I'd like to add a detail - people with these stalker tendencies will zero right in on empathetic, conscientious people like yourself. The very worst of them will then use that trait to tear you apart.

*deep breath* Okay, now I'm going all Gift of Fear (Gavin De Becker) on you. Forgive me, and let me try to not remember something from out of my own past that somewhat resembles this thing. I'm worried that, after the first call, you got 7 or 8 calls the next couple days. Even if only just the one day, that in itself is a very red flag.

No contact, that's how I'd go with this circumstance. The only dissuasion that will work is if he's getting NO RETURN on his efforts.

I know you'll make the choice you need for yourself, so I'll just end with please be careful.

Crazy(and really surprised at myself... you'd only asked a question, after all...)Soph

#87 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 09:25 AM:

Lee, also keep in mind: it's not just you--it's your partner, his daughter, your pets, any random friends and business associates that happen to be within range. All of these could be in danger. The best thing is no contact, and keeping track of any efforts that go beyond random calls.

These could be the simple yearnings of a dying man, wanting to imagine having had another, better, happier life. They could be something a lot worse, a lot scarier, and more dangerous than that. Smart money does not bet on yellow snow being lemon-flavored.

#88 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 11:33 AM:

@62, In that very specific case "Compound Interest" is exactly wrong (mathematically): instead of being exponential, the return is logarithmic. (Doing it for eight hours gets you almost nothing more than doing it for seven. Except that the coldest hour is just before the dawn. I'm overapplying heat transfer, aren't I?)

Low-throughput/high-latency, maybe?

Unrelated to any stalker info in this thread: We're having a Mad Science party on Saturday afternoon. Bringing experiments is encouraged but not required. We're in NJ, a commuter-train-trip from NYC, so I know there are Flurospherians potentially around (albeit it is short notice on a summer weekend.) Email (rot13) arohybhfzranpr@lnubb.pbz if interested.

#89 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 11:50 AM:

*bangs head on desk*

So... the water to my house got shut off this morning, on what may well turn out to be one of the hottest days of the year. Have I mentioned the landlord is an idiot?

I share a two-bedroom apartment with my ex-husband on the first floor of a duplex in an inner-ring Cleveland suburb. (Gotta love that economic "recovery".) The rent is cheap, but the place isn't even worth the amount we're charged. The landlord owns some unknown number of houses in this 'burb, and when something breaks, either takes his sweet time fixing it or argues that it isn't really broken.

The house has a single water meter, serving the piping that feeds both rental units. This is SOP around here, and the vast majority of landlords include water as part of the rent.

Not this guy. He's paranoid that tenants are going to abuse the water if they're not paying for it themselves. "They'll have all their relatives over to do laundry or take showers and I'll be paying for it, or they'll leave the water running all the time and I'll get stuck with the bill," he says. (I don't even want to know what kind of people do that, but it isn't us. Hell, I don't even *have* more than a handful of relatives left to speak of, and none of them live in this state.)

So instead, he charges what he considers a lower rent, eschews leases in favor of verbal month-to-month rental agreements and then expects his tenants to split the water bill, with each unit paying a portion depending on how many people actually live there. The bill, however, goes to his father's home in the next 'burb over, and he never once has shown it to us, mentioned it to us, asked for $!amount toward it or anything, in the 10+ months we've lived here.

As it turns out, he hadn't paid the water bill in five months. I learned this when, this morning, I stepped out front to find a water department truck parked at the curb, and a guy shutting off the valve in the treelawn in front of the house. He was very apologetic and gave me a number to call. When I did, the department informed me how far in arrears the bill was, and how much would have to be paid to get the water turned back on.

I called the landlord, who at first claimed to have no knowledge of why our water should've been shut off. I recounted to him my conversation with the water department, and cited the fact that by law HE is responsible for the bill since the account is in his name as homeowner and the rental units do not have their own meters. He said, "You guys need to be paying that bill."

"How," I asked, keeping my voice as calm as possible, "are we supposed to do that when we never even see the bill? The city says they send it to an address in [redacted]."

"Oh, yeah, well I have that go to my dad's place."

"Not our problem."

He agreed to get the bill caught up and have our water turned back on today, which as of this writing it has been. I'm actually glad I was off today and could be here and on top of the issue, because otherwise tonight would've been very annoying... but dear ghods, what is up with this guy? And now he wants to put the bill in my ex's name -- for the WHOLE house -- and let us wrangle splitting it with the neighbor upstairs, whom we almost never see because she is out of town about 75% of the time. (And when she is home, half the time it sounds like she's making amateur porn upstairs, but that's a whole separate issue.)

Um, no.

Is it any wonder I want to get out of this place, this town and this whole area?

#90 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 11:59 AM:

Leah Miller @ #68:

I also have been trying to figure out from the reviews I've seen whether I want to see Pacific Rim. That was very helpful. Thank you.

#91 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:01 PM:

Age or Wizardry @ #38: Aha! I have a View All By; it was this username after all.

Not necessarily. When you click through to View All By, the username it shows is always the username that was on the comment you clicked through from. (This can have amusing results if somebody has adopted a blatantly false name for a one-off effect.) To find out what username you were using on an old comment, you have to click through from View All By to that comment.

#92 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Lee at 65: Do not send the photo. Do not communicate with this person again. Trust your gut when it tells you, as it has, that No Good Can Come of This. You are not in a relationship of any sort with this person. You are not obligated to him in any way. Whatever fantasy relationship exists in his head is a lie, and you must not feed it. Don't answer his calls. If he sends you more letters, do not respond. Forgive me if I sound harsh here, but I speak from experience. What you want is for him to recognize that you do not want any contact with him, thank you very much, go away now. ANY response from you, including a letter which says "I do not want any contact with you, go away now" will feed the fantasy relationship which is, I repeat, only in his head.

If he were a total stranger approaching you, you would have no qualms about not responding in any way. Consider: he IS a total stranger. People change immeasurably in 30 years. Whatever part of his personality allowed you to be friends or acquaintances 30 years ago may be buried so deeply that not even he knows where or what it is.

If your conscience bothers you (I am not being facetious) because you don't like to lie, or because you might be overreacting (maybe he's harmless) point out to it that you have an obligation to protect yourself and to protect the people you love, and that maybe he isn't harmless. At this point, you have no way to know.

If you are a theist, put him on your prayer list.

#93 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:03 PM:

Anyone else having the problem that when you click a comment link on the Last 1000 list, you go first to that comment and then it leaps up to some other one several comments earlier?

Or is it Firefox doing something I never told it to?

#94 ::: Howard Bannister has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:08 PM:

@93: I had that happen once, and then I restarted the browser and it hasn't happened since.

Regarding Pacific Rim; basically, I went because I trusted the director. He always does something special, even when it's not what I was expecting. (see most especially Pan's Labyrinth)

And everything Leah Miller said in 68.

Most especially the sense of fun, and ... I complained heavily about Man of Steel not having any sense that the hero cared about the random mooks being mowed down? This movie made me believe they cared, and that the wanton destruction was inevitable.

#95 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:10 PM:

...I've put my name in without the 'has been gnomed' three times, and it keeps coming back. Sorry.

*clicks 'forget personal information'*

#96 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:20 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @ #93:

Several people reported the same behaviour late in the previous Open Thread; see #33 on this page for my best shot at an explanation.

#97 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:21 PM:

Tom, #78: I don't need anyone's permission to not send the photo, but I thank you anyhow.

Jim, #81: See my reference to "stalker script" above. The minute he said "cancer" my skepticism went into overdrive. And I had the exact same "well, if he does, this is a problem that will solve itself in short order" reaction.

crazysoph, #86: Thank you for that link -- it was interesting reading, and reminded me a lot of the DFD threads. Believe me, I have no problem with being a "cold, selfish bitch" in this instance.

Thank you also to everyone who has responded here. On further reflection, I think I was putting too much weight into the idea that this guy would react like... well, like the average American male upon discovering that the long-ago acquaintance/classmate/flame/whatever that he's been having nostalgic fantasies about has gotten just as old and fat as he has. I am reminded, once again, that you can't apply normal values to a dysfunctional situation, and that's clearly what this is.

There is no angst in this for me. I don't owe this dude anything whatsoever, and it's not a game that I might be able to win.

#98 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 01:47 PM:

Ah, thanks, Paul A.

#99 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 02:04 PM:

Lee, #97

Well, you know what they say -- "The only winning move is not to play."

(Another strong vote for no more contact.)

#100 ::: Debbie spots a borked link ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 02:27 PM:

Jim's Diffraction link to Susan Krinard's new book is borked. Leads to the ML error page.

#101 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 03:46 PM:

Hyperlocal news... Local man is told by local costumer that he has monkey arms. Local man still planning to be in local costumer's worldcon masquerade.

#102 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:10 PM:

So it turns out my kid has read an entire book today. Two, actually. Books she's never been read before, with minimal helps from me.


#103 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 04:54 PM:

HLN: watched "John Carter" last night on DVD. Decided reviewers were idiots in their expectations. A movie based on a book published in 1917 is not required to have 21st-century subtleties baked into it.

It was a perfectly acceptable popcorn movie (although I didn't make any, blast it. It was 9:45pm with only a half-hour to go before I thought of snacking).

#104 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:01 PM:

Linkmeister, they improved enormously on the book.

#105 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:39 PM:

Way late, but here's a back ref to OT184. (Now watch: somebody else will have already got there ahead of me.)

#106 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 05:47 PM:

Elliott Mason @102, it's such an exciting thing to witness as a parent. Congratulations.

#108 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 08:22 PM:

Serge at @85,

HLN: Area woman acquires copy of first "non-romance" novel by excellent romance novelist. "I've been looking forward to it since I read the short story that leads into it in an anthology a few years ago. The fact that it was written by one of my online friend's wife is only the icing on the cake."

#109 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 09:02 PM:

Linkmeister @103: HLN: watched "John Carter" last night on DVD. Decided reviewers were idiots in their expectations. A movie based on a book published in 1917 is not required to have 21st-century subtleties baked into it.

My expectations were perfectly well aligned -- I expected the movie not to have any of those subtleties, so I didn't watch it.

#110 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 09:05 PM:

HLN: Cleveland woman ate ice cream for dinner because it was too doggone hot to cook anything.

Serge @ 85: Consider it added to my "to acquire and read" list.

#111 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 09:13 PM:

HLN: Local man notices that his office is either just inside or (apparently more likely) just outside an area where water is being cut off due to an urgent repair to a water main. This does not affect local man as much as it might since local man is about to fly out to San Diego for Comic-Con but local man does need to pay some attention to this matter.

#112 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2013, 10:17 PM:

Nancy Mittens @ 108... SummerStorms @ 110... Thanks!

#113 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 12:25 AM:

Haven't commented here is quite a while but this thread was interesting. I loved the sub-thread about spinning. I recently took a workshop involving making one's own art yarn -- spinning at least 3 or more yarns into one yarn. It was fun. I have a large yarn stash that could be used for such projects.

Linkmeister: A friend and I saw John Carter. We both liked it very much. I thought the TV commercials were really bad, though. Because the commercials were bad, I wouldn't have wanted more of them. Better trailers/commercials were needed. I don't understand why they didn't include "of Mars" in the title. I recently bought it on DVD; I haven't played it yet, but I will. I've never read the Burroughs books but have general sense of them and I thought the movie was well done.

#114 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 12:45 AM:

Open threadiness: The latest XKCD what if is about what would happen if you put a drain in an ocean and drastically reduced sea levels. It is most interesting, as always, but the behavior he expects from the Dutch is not at all in keeping with what Abi has lead me to expect!

#115 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 01:48 AM:

HLN: Local man has spent morning watching plumbers at work on the bathroom. Results: Outlet pipe from shower to drain completely replaced, ditto toilet cistern.

The old drain pipe was metal -- had been metal; when the plumber got it out of the underfloor space into the light, it turned out to consist largely of holes held together by rust. I'm astonished there wasn't more obvious leakage than what prompted me to sic the plumber on it.

The toilet was a much simpler fix on the face of it -- a plastic doohickey in the flushing mechanism had worn out -- but the plumber's advice to the landlord was that if he replaced the doohickey it would just wear out again in a few years, being a cheaply-made doohickey known for doing that, so he was given the go-ahead to install a new cistern with a more sturdy mechanism.

#116 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 02:36 AM:

janetl@ #114, The Dutch were imperialists once.

#118 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 09:02 AM:

So, this is the part where I confess that after all this time, I'm not quite sure what to do with an open thread. Does 'open thread' mean we can just talk about whatever? That's kind of what it looks like, but things that quack aren't always ducks.

Also, FWIW, solidly with Jim Macdonald @#81, and with PNH in the OP.

#119 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 09:48 AM:

MNiM... Does 'open thread' mean we can just talk about whatever?


#120 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 11:35 AM:

HLN: Local man and spouse return from eight-day trip across Canadian Rockies, part of which was by train. Verdict: Awesome squared!

#121 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 11:51 AM:

Michael Weholt @64: I'm being unfair in thinking it must only be (or be not much more than) [ANOTHER giant punch out movie]?

I see nothing in the trailer to indicate otherwise. My resistance derives from my impatience with anthropoid monsters with superfluous joints and random appendages added to make them look "alien." And not particularly interesting or plausible ones, at that.

#122 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 12:13 PM:

Lee @65: the guy was acting like a creepy stalker

I actually dealt with almost exactly this same scenario, though somewhat milder than your situation: guy from high school got in touch with me a few years ago. We were acquaintances back then, though he made it clear he wanted "more." I'm pretty sure I made it clear (well, as clear as I could, give that "no" was verboten vocabulary, back then) that I didn't.

When he contacted me more recently, the explicit message was that he just wanted to re-establish contact, but there was an urgency to the subtext that set off alarm bells.

After several very asymetrical exchanges (he contacting me multiple times for every response I gave), I explained that he was making me very nervous, and I preferred that he didn't contact me again.

He apologized, saying he didn't mean to make me nervous, and I haven't heard from him since.

Your guy sounds rather more desperate. In your place, I would feel no obligation to honor his desires for contact. I would tell him that my initial impulse to send him a letter and a photo has been superceded by uneasiness resulting from his approach to contacting me (listing the details you innumerate above, using neutral language).

Note in particular that "changing your mind" does not equal "having lied to him." And, in fact, telling him that his behavior caused you to change your mind would be, in my evaluation, a net favor to him. Speculating wildly for the moment, I'll wager you're not the first person to be put off by his behavior, and I'd further bet that most people aren't generous with specific feedback about how his behavior produces the responses he gets. It's not unreasonable to guess that the net result would be that he senses that people avoid him, and has no useful clue as to why. This (in my, um, experience) is kind of a nightmarish place to be.

The advantage of this approach is that if he does change his behavior so that you feel less uncomfortable dealing with him, this leaves you the option of changing your mind again, and responding to his original request.

#123 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 12:15 PM:

re 103: My one real problem with JC of M was a casting issue: there were two of the males (one good guy, one villain) who were simply too similar for me to keep track of-- and it was important to distinguish them, so that every time they switched from one to the other I was at least briefly confused. Other than that I thought it was hugely entertaining, with a great visual style. My reviewer snark was against all the ones who dissed it for being derivative, when it's everything else that is derivative of it.

#124 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 12:22 PM:

Jacque @ 121

These were the most un-alien looking aliens I've seen in a while. The overall look of each kaiju seemed to be a basic bipedal/humanoid patterned on wildlife. It read to my eye like a mutated human & animal hybrid built on a gigantic scale. The monster fights had a very Godzilla-like feel without resorting to stiff rubber suits - a classy homage to Japanese monsters seen during MST3K marathons.

I adored the use of phosphorescent glow to highlight kaiju details.

#125 ::: Howard Bannister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 01:24 PM:
#123 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 12:15 PM:

re 103: My one real problem with JC of M was a casting issue: there were two of the males (one good guy, one villain) who were simply too similar for me to keep track of-- and it was important to distinguish them, so that every time they switched from one to the other I was at least briefly confused

...but they wore DIFFERENT COLOR TUNICS.

I knew almost immediately who you meant. It did present a problem for me the first time through, as well.

#126 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 01:52 PM:

This article describes a family of Jewish academics who were convinced to flee Nazi Germany by Albert Einstein, and the whole operation of bringing fleeing academics from Germany to Britain and the US. Very interesting on all kinds of levels.

I feel like I just don't have a good sense of the way the world must have felt between, say, 1900 and 1945, to people in central Europe. Germany, Austria-Hungary, Czechloslovakia, Russia, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands, France--it was a completely different world. And they more-or-less threw it on an enormous fire twice in 30 years, changing the world in so many ways it's almost impossible to imagine what the world would look like if things had gone down differently.

Imagine a world where we'd somehow not gone down the path of WW1 or WW2 (which was a follow-on from WW1). Would colonialism still be going strong? Would America be the world's great power? Would the Romanov family still be in power in Russia, or perhaps in a ceremonial position with little power after some kind of reform turned it into a constitutional monarchy?

#127 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 01:55 PM:

MNiM 118: To expand on Jim's response with a bit of history: IIRC, Teresa originally intituted Open Threads so that we could discuss her Particles, which didn't have their own threads. Eventually someone asked the question you just asked and Teresa enthusiastically encouraged it. They've been the source of new conversational topics ever since.

C. 123: My one real problem with JC of M was a casting issue: there were two of the males (one good guy, one villain) who were simply too similar for me to keep track of-- and it was important to distinguish them, so that every time they switched from one to the other I was at least briefly confused.

Not helped by the fact that there are also shapechangers who masquerade as one or another character at various times. BTW, the shapechangers aren't in APoM at all. He gets to Mars just by staring at it and wishing he were there (for no reason).

My reviewer snark was against all the ones who dissed it for being derivative, when it's everything else that is derivative of it.

I'd like more detail on this. There's a fair bit of the movie that isn't from the book. This is because the book is a very poorly-structured narrative; and it is derivative of some earlier stuff (like H. Rider Haggard).

#128 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 01:57 PM:

C.Wingate @123: I had that problem cubed when L.A. Confidential first came out. great movie, but I didn't know any of the actors (yes, I really didn't know Kevin Spacey, Russell Crow or Guy Pearce to recognise reliably) and had to concentrate really hard to remember who was who and even then sometimes gor confused (they all had dark hair, with similar hair styles, similar clothes...).

#129 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 02:31 PM:

Jacque, #122: I take your point, but (1) this is normally something that a friend of his should do (and which I have done for a couple of friends in the past) -- and I do not fall into that category; (2) see multiple above comments to the effect that ANY response is likely to cause escalation. Yes, it's a nasty catch-22 for him; however, I am under no obligation to do anything about it.

If I cared anything at all about this guy it might be different, but I don't. He's someone I knew, very briefly, a long time ago. Hell, I've had more conversation with C.J. Cherryh than I had with him.

#130 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 04:12 PM:

Lee: Understood. I hadn't seen the rest of the thread when I responded (someday I'll learn...?), and I come from a place where I just don't (knock on wood) tend to attract dangerous energy. But that could be because I'm not bashful about shutting down unwanted contact, especially if it pings my creep meter.

My core point still applies: having changed your mind about sending him the letter and photo does not mean you lied to him.

Given the overwhelming consensus to avoid further contact with him, that does seem like the sensible thing to do.

#131 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 04:14 PM:

dcb @128: I had that problem cubed when L.A. Confidential first came out.

I recently confirmed the magnitude of my issue with this when I realized I had confused Billy Preston with Leon Russell.

#132 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 04:33 PM:

Interesting word that came across one of my mailing lists: "whataboutery".

A word turned up in my newspaper that I thought had outlived its fashionableness, even its utility: whataboutery, but it turns out to have significant currency still. It's associated particularly with the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Bitter arguments by one side about terrorism were often countered, not by reasoned argument, but by accusations of similar atrocities by the other. In 2000, The Scotsman attributed the coinage to the former West Belfast MP Gerry Fitt, and gave this example: "Aye, the IRA might be bad, but what about ...". That makes clear it's "what about" turned into a noun. The Belfast Telegraph used it on 29 September: "Both sides are steeped in historical 'whataboutery' and they cannot see the historical woods for the modern trees."

We may not use the word over here, but we certainly do have the concept; it's the basis of the "But Clinton did it too!" argument.

#133 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 04:39 PM:

Hyperlocal news... While waiting for his wife to be done with her gym workout, local man sees an old lady wearing a redshirt on which can be seen the visage of Montgomery Scott.

#134 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 04:49 PM:

I'd have been curious to see what Jon Favreau's "John Carter of Mars" would have bene like if the studio hadn't pulled the plug on it. After they did that, he moved on to another project you may have heard of - "Iron Man".

#135 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 05:45 PM:

I was terrified they'd mess up Pacific Rim, thereby convincing Hollywood forever that "giant fighting suits movies don't work".

My husband, when I started sharing Fluorospherian review feelings about Pacific Rim with him, said, "I bet it's just anchoring; when you're half-convinced something's going to be horrible it looks pretty awesome if it just fails to suck."

Let me state for the record that, in my opinion, I don't think I only liked Pacific Rim because I was pre-terrified it was going to suck. :->

Instead, I am shocked and amazed to report, in as spoiler-free a manner as I can, that I think it may have a claim to being one of the most legitimately SCIENCE-FICTION-feeling movies to come out in a very long time, in that finally someone has accurately filmed and movie-fied the kind of thing our subculture has been writing amazing short stories about for decades: a plucky group of individuals genuinely perched on the brink of the edge of their world who band together and say NO, THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN IF I CAN STOP IT. But, somehow, in the SF-short-story way, not the action-movie-cliches way (which is not to say there aren't some amazing action-movie-cliche sight gags thrown in for fun).

Also, it made me laugh hysterically in the middle of a fight scene (rot13: gur Arjgba'f Penqyr rkrphgvir gbl) that was otherwise pretty horrific and tense, without (for me) ruining the tension. Guillermo del Toro is apparently a mad genius who knows how to shoot fight scenes that use rhythm and variety to make themselves MORE intense the way some heavy-metal bands know how to use silence in the middle of crashing noise to make the noise even louder.

Also I was very sniffly from FEELS repeatedly throughout the movie, and his big butch ass-kickers are in the main also allowed to have FEELS without it making them un-manly.

I'm don't think it passes the Bechdel test. There are at least two female characters with names (Znxb naq gur Ehffvna cvybg), but I don't think they talk to each other on screen ever. If they did I bet it wouldn't've been about-a-man, though. Probably about kicking kaiju ass.

I also was pleased to not be able to spot them changing the suit size for dramatic license (like the Cloverfield monster did repeatedly). They may have done it, but if so, it wasn't totally blatant.

And several of the stellar actors in the movie were HAVING SO MUCH FUN doing their jobs I found it really fun to watch just on that scale, as well as all the others. :->

So, to sum up: not just a punching movie. Definitely not just a punching movie.

#136 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 05:46 PM:

Um. Brink of the END of their world. I swear I checked for typos in preview. Multiple times ...

#137 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 06:05 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz #35: Any thoughts about the relationship between science fiction and prediction?

Nobody gets the future exactly right, but it's interesting to see how much some folks do get right. I'm occasionally depressed that we're seeing so much stuff climbing out of Brunner's books, notably Shockwave Rider and Stand on Zanzibar.

#138 ::: Keith Edwards ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 06:15 PM:

The in-laws came to visit two weeks back, in order to see their grandchild who is 5 months. This was excellent for me as a stay at home dad, because these are hands-on grandparents, willing to feed bottles, change diapers and entertain the wee one for hours o end, so I basically got a week-long vacation.

My father-in-law is not a sedentary man and would disappear with the baby and a stroller for hours at a time. Normally a good thing, as they both got plenty of fresh Oregon air and exercise.

Except now my son is accustomed to 5 mile walks every day, even when it's 92 degrees outside, and since grandpa has flown back home, it's up to me to do the walking.

Which is how I've lost 5 pounds and gained a tan in the last 2 weeks.

#139 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 07:34 PM:

HLN: Local woman finds stellar apartment in Boston, signs lease, gets library card, and keels over from joy. "Now I really *am* a local woman, with THREE local cons!" she said.

#140 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 07:54 PM:

TexAnne, three cheers for new job, new apartment, and library card. (Clearly a woman with her priorities in order.)

#141 ::: OtterB was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 07:55 PM:

Probably for too generic of congratulations to TexAnne.

#142 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 07:59 PM:

TexAnne: YAY!!

HLN of my own: Local woman returns from two-day annual meeting of the National Disaster Life Support Foundation, exhausted but full of hope for the future of disaster response and the training therefor.

#143 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 08:02 PM:

On the topic of SF predicting the future, here's a tweet I liked:
Kyle Marquis ‏@Moochava: Yearly reminder: unless you're over 60, you weren't promised flying cars. You were promised an oppressive cyberpunk dystopia. Here you go.

#144 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 08:12 PM:

Hey, wait a minute. I'm 43 and I distinctly remember a weekly dose of the Jetsons, flying cars, robot maids, and the works.

The first cyberpunk dystopia that made an impression on me was Blade Runner, when I was 12. And even that had flying cars.

#145 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 08:17 PM:

Elliott Mason @135:

Jim's review was a definite hook. Your's is fuel for the fire (mixed metaphor, I'm sure).

IMAX 3D tomorrow.

#146 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 08:34 PM:

Rob Rusick @145: I saw it in 2D, because (a) cheaper and (b) the 3D sometimes gives me a headache from my eyes trying to focus places they aren't 'supposed' to be looking in frame.

We went to a $5 matinee (and spent more on the concessions than the tickets), and I feel it was well worth it. Though it was kind of surprising, in the beginning: I was settling in to watch the eye candy and suchlike and suddenly WHY AM I CRYING AT AN ACTION MOVIE?

The opening/setup montage was really fun, even at theater speeds on first watch; I'm looking forward to it hitting YouTube sometime so I can go through it slower and peruse the 'footage' carefully.

#147 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 08:38 PM:

Oh: and thanks to Beka, Pacific Rim was the first movie I've seen in theatres since Star Trek: The Lens Flare Frontier (note: not Into Darkness, the earlier one).

#148 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 09:37 PM:

Glad to hear, TexAnne!!!

#149 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2013, 09:52 PM:

TexAnne (139): Yay!

#150 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:15 AM:

I'm still working on all the albums for the Canada trip, but I think this picture is my favorite so far.

Bird at Lake Louise

It's a Clark's Nutcracker.

#151 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:50 AM:

Is it HLN if someone is on the other side of the continent from her normal abode?

I am in California, packing up the last of my stuff in storage, for transport back to Albany. I was expecting to be acquired by a cat once I returned to Albany. The PowersThatBe have a sense of humor, in that it was felt that not only should I have a cat, I should have a cat-that-is-carry-on-luggage.

Merlin is a delight, a joy, and a loud-mouthed babbler. His voice is not siamese, but his constant chatter sure is. He is not shy about telling me where he is or what he needs (most times, attention).

I am concerned that my travels from California back to Albany via the airlines will be fraught with issues relating to a very upset Merlin. With this in mind, I have acquired sedatives from the vet, with the understanding that they may cause problems. Apparently, sedatives will cause a drop in blood pressure; this compounded with drop in cabin pressure may cause death. I don't intent to use the sedative unless Merlin is completely freaking out, or continually crying. Any thoughts?

I have acquired an airline-approved carry bag, and spoken to the airline about tickets. I have read that the TSA requires the pet to be taken out of the carry bag so the carry bag can be inspected. I'm not really sure I want to take Merlin out in a public area and have him go streaking off. Can I ask that everything be inspected in a small, private room? I'm flying Southwest thru LAX.

#152 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:14 AM:

Lin, could you get an over the shoulder harness and leash for the kitty? Or rather, do you think that there's a way that you could get such a harness on the cat? That way, if the cat bolts, you might have a 6foot long handle for retrieval.

#153 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:19 AM:

Lin Daniel @ 151:
No doubt you found both of these: TSA official page, and blog post. Neither of them mentions getting to go to a room, unfortunately. They have rooms for pat downs, so if you ask nicely they might use one.

Have you ever used a harness with Merlin? Pet stores have inexpensive harness/leash things for cats, which improve your odds of hanging onto them.

Rigid carriers typically have a separate top and bottom that bolt together. One of mine has clips that snap, instead of bolts and wingnuts, so you can take the top off very quickly and easily. I do that at the vet, because it's easier than dragging the cat out of the door of the carrier. The cat generally wants to hunker in the carrier, and get right back in it. You might be able to unsnap the top, open it slightly and put you hand on the cat, then just tilt the top for the inspector to look under it.

My cat have certainly done some commentary when they are in a carrier in the waiting room at the vet. On the other hand, in a sufficiently alarming environment, he might go into stealth mode and just hunker down and hope to avoid being noticed.

If you haven't already thought of it—I've had a cat pee or defecate in the carrier, out of fear (usually happens right away). Carrying some extra newspaper, or those pet pee pads they sell, would be good!

#154 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:37 AM:

Lin Daniel @ 151: I flew with my cat Totoro about three years ago when I moved to Berkeley from Nashville - he's really mellow, so it was a nonevent. That said, the hairiest part was the security checkpoint - the TSA agents *did* have me remove him from the carrier, after they weren't particularly willing to inspect the two of us in a private room. I got through the checkpoint holding Totoro to my chest - hard - and drawing on three years of professional cat wrangling experience. In the absence of that (and assuming Merlin has his front claws, which courtesy of a previous owner, Totoro doesn't), I'd suggest the harness. It's a bit of an affront to Merlin's feline dignity, but it's better than chasing a deeply freaked out Merlin around LAX.

#155 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 03:47 AM:

Lin Daniel @ 151: if you do decide on the harness, get one of the ones with quick-release (squeeze the sides) buckles. You do not want to be trying to undo buckles with prongs on if your cat freaks out about the harness. (Why they even sell that type I really don't know).

I suggest: 1) put the harness on a few times before you go - then feed him, so he associates the harness with good things and doesn't immediately try to get rid of it. 2) if you're not already doing so, leave the cat carrier where Merlin can go into it. Make sure it has a nice comfortable liner e.g. veterinary fleece. Put treats inside it. If you have time, put treats in, let Merlin go in to eat them, close the door and immediately open again. Next time, leave the door closed for a minute. After that, close the door, pick the carrier up, put it down, let him out. In other words, do what you can to desensitise him to the carrier and make him associate it with good things. And I realise you have a limited time to try to do this in. And I think they're CRAZY not to take a cat into a smaller room at the airport for this sort of thing!

#156 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:43 AM:

Lin: One trick I've used with my guinea pigs is to zip the likely-to-bolt party into a lingerie bag. A laundry bag might serve for a cat.

#157 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:15 AM:

@ Jacque #156: A drawstring laundry bag, carefully knotted so as to stop drawing past the point of danger, is indeed a good way to restrain a cat. Pop cat in, close string around neck, knot string to prevent further closure, tote cat wherever. It is easier than jamming a strong and highly disapproving cat into a carrier, and the cat burrito can be transported safely via car for short trips. HOWEVER, this is a two-person job best done in an enclosed room!

For restraining a cat at an airport, I suggest a harness.

For a complete change of subject, I'd like to leave this here:

Nutshell: Good silly veddy British fun in elegant British clothing. See two cyclists joust with rolled umbrellas, thrill at the strategy of bread baseball, guffaw (genteelly) at the three-trousered race, then break for tea on the lawn. You will never see so many pairs of neatly pressed trousers on display off the set of a costume drama. And the hats!

My one quibble: Female participants should be called gels, shouldn't they--not chapettes?

#158 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 07:03 AM:

Lin Daniel #151: I went through this a few years ago when I had to get my late Gremlin down from NYC to C-ville. IIRC, the point where they make you take the animal out is the metal detector, you need to carry them through. Happily, I was blessed with an extremely mellow cat. In the general case, this falls under "the TSA is dangerously insane".

#159 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 07:41 AM:

Lin @151: I'd also recommend obtaining and using a hand-held feliway spray on the cat carrier's interior before traveling -- cat pheromones that make an object or area smell familiar to your pet. (I'm not sure whether the spray bottles are under 100ml, but I think they are, in which case: liquids baggy, for topping up the carrier en route.)

#160 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 08:50 AM:

Charlie Stross @159: Yes, you can get a travel Feliway spray that's 20 mL.

#161 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:07 AM:

Based on my experience using Feliway spray at home, I don't see a need to re-spray the carrier in trip that takes less than a day. You definitely don't want to spray it while you're in the plane—while it doesn't have a strong scent to humans, it has a weirdly penetrating quality.

I'm puzzling over that sedative that could be dangerous. Any chance that the concerns were with the air pressure in the hold (since animal crates may be transported there, too)? Is it OK at normal cabin pressure, but a risk if a problem causes the cabin pressure to be much lower than usual?

#162 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:23 AM:

Thank [word of power deleted here] one and all. I thought the instructions for pets and TSA inspections were insane. I'm glad to have that confirmed. I'm not glad they're insane, but knowing they're insane prepares me. Probably for low values of prepare.

Harness is going to be a necessity and I hadn't thought of it. Words of appreciation offered again. I haven't lived with Merlin long enough to know what he'll do in completely whacked out situations. I would indeed prefer to offend his dignity than chase him thru the airport. The reminders on how to acclimate him to the carrier I knew, but hadn't remembered.

I was planning on cutting out food 12 hours before, so as to not have to deal with kitty poop in a carrier under the seat. Exchanging bedding when it's wet is easier when I have to take it out of a barely opened carrier. Wet bedding annoys a cat. Pooped on bedding humiliates them.

Merlin was also declawed by a previous owner. I'm allergic to cats and when I get scratched, I break out in hives around the scratch. I will at least be spared that annoyance for this trip.

This is Merlin.

#163 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:26 AM:

Janetl @161: For some cats sedatives/tranquilizers act as "kitty speed" -- that is they make the cat hyper-active and hyper-vocal.

Lin Daniels: I've had a Siamese howl under my seat for the majority of a flight between Columbus, Ohio and NYC, FWIW better the cat be noisy than dead. (Thank the Powers, there was NO TSA then.) And I did use a harness on Pyewacket.

#164 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:32 AM:

With regards to sedatives and cabin air pressure, I'm only repeating what the vet said. The cabin pressure drops enough that in combo with the blood pressure reducing effects of the sedative, could be dangerous. She also said she would flat refuse to give sedatives for a pet riding in the hold, so I'm guessing air pressure conditions are worse in the hold. (From what I've heard, everything is worse in the hold.)

On the issue of making the carrier more feline friendly, I'm stashing a pair of my dirty sox in the carrier. I've used sox with previous cats and long trips successfully, but this will be a first by air.

#165 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:35 AM:

Lori @163
It may be worth testing the sedative before I fly, then. And yes, yowling is far better than dead. I didn't rescue this cat to kill him in transport.

#166 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:48 AM:

On my adventures here in SoCal, I satisfied a long time wish and visited the Tehachapi Loop. The pics aren't great, and cropped badly (photoshop is at home and I am not), but still fun.

Freight train thru Tehachapi Loop

#167 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:54 AM:

In hyperlocal news, the temperature in Edinburgh is up to 28 degrees, which is about 5 more than forecast -- an unusually large error. Celsius, not Fahrenheit. For your anywhere-else equivalent temperature discomfort scale, add ten degrees: aircon is unknown here, and buildings are designed to retain heat ruthlessly. Indeed, if it reaches 30 degrees the roads begin to melt.

(I have a portable a/c unit, but it has decided to leak condensation on the carpet, so I'm just suffering beside an open window. I think work is semi-cancelled today ...)

#168 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:01 AM:

Charlie Stross @ 167

Acclimation is a wonderful thing; to me at this time of year, anything below 25 degrees feels cool. (For comparison, when I ride home tonight at 5, the temperature will be around 35 degrees, and it's a normal summer day; last night's low was 24 degrees.) The humidity being over 80% is annoying, though.

#169 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:10 AM:

I have determined experimentally that, without a fan pointed directly at my substantially-unclothed skin, 84-85 degF (~29C) is where I begin to lose my higher cognitive functioning into NOBRAIN. With a fan and near-nudity, I can raise that as high as 90degF (~32.25C).

However, for sleeping, I get weird over-vivid very emotional dreams if the room gets much over 25C (77-78F).

This week in Chicago, the highs are in the mid-to-high 90sF (right now outside it is 37C) and it's not getting as low as 78F overnight. My usual method of keeping my fairly-well-insulated house livable during the day is not working, as it involves using cool outdoor night air to drop the whole house to at most 76F and then close all the windows and let it slowly coast up during the day.

I think I need to go somewhere and use their air conditioning ... Luckily, the periods in Chicago where overnight lows are too high for my method to work are relatively limited.

#170 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:14 AM:

My ENOBRAIN flag is raised if the work environment goes over 23 Celsius (72F); ideally I need 16-17 degrees for sleep (60-62F) -- 18 (64 Fahrenheit) is too hot.

Aircon in most hotels doesn't go cold enough for me.

#171 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:47 AM:

For those plagued by hot temperatures, The Cobber neck wrap really, really works.

This is an unpaid spontaneous endorsement by a satisfied user.

#172 ::: Clarentine ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:08 PM:

Posting to note that Jim's diffraction regarding Fukushima vegetables takes you to a page that now contains a notice that the photos of mutated fruit and veg are not, in fact, from Fukushima.

#173 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:09 PM:

Jim Macdonald @171: And at $12 (plus $8 shipping from Oz, if you buy it direct), it's surprisingly cheaper than I thought it would be.

#174 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:20 PM:

Jim @171: I've bought my husband (a large heat-averse person) a few different types of cooling neckwraps. Is there something that sets the Cobber apart from the others?

I'm dragging the heat-averse husband to the library to take advantage of free AC and comfy seating this afternoon. 29C plus extreme humidity is making for great unhappiness. If that fails, it'll be an extended tour of the walk-in beer cooler at the LCBO.

#175 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:24 PM:

Jenny Islander @157: My strategy (which I would be sure to rehearse in safety at home) would be to reach into the carrier with the open end of the laundry bag, and then loop it over the cat. Pull the draw-string shut with the whole cat inside, and then take the cat out of the carrier.

But I haven't tried this on an actual, live cat, so I don't know how practical it is.

#176 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:39 PM:

Ellen, without knowing what the others are or how they work, I can't really answer your question. The Cobber works by evaporative cooling applied directly to the large blood vessels in the neck, and, in my experience, works quite well.

#177 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:39 PM:

Jim Macdonald @171: The Cobber neck wrap really, really works.

Looks like that works by evaporative cooling. I imagine it is somewhat less effective in environments with high humidity.

I've actually been coping remarkably well this summer. I don't have ac, but I've discovered: Sweating™!

Turns out that, at least to start, this is something I have to decide consciously to do. Furthermore, in the past it seems I've actually unconsciously resisted sweating, which may account for much of my low heat tolerance.

Who knew?

(But, again, only effective in dry climates.)

#178 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Jim - There are several brands out there which seem to do the same thing. Here's one of the brands I've purchased at a local store. I've also bought them at craft shows - all are variants on neck-wrap filled with something that retains cold water after soaking in order to promote evaporative cooling. They dry out to close to flat in between uses. I'm wondering if there's anything that differentiates them besides the appeal of the fabric, becasue if there's one that does some kind of super-cooling magic, my DH could use one this week.

What I would really like is a hat that has the poly-whatever crystals in the crown.

#179 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:02 PM:

Unsurprisingly: ask the internet and ye shall find a cooling hat. Now to find out if I can buy one in the 'hood.

#180 ::: Ellen is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:04 PM:

My link to an internet toy shop perhaps? I have some strawberry-lime paletas left in the freezer to share.

#181 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:24 PM:

In Patrick's Orwell or Tolkien Sidelight, I read this paragraph:

Surveillance is typically reactive. Intelligence professionals try to anticipate and counter the actions of their opponents; this leaves them on the defensive. For all our justifiable fears of the “watchers,” the advantage is often on the side of the watched. Every act of surveillance entails a struggle over meaning, narrative, and plot, with the infiltrator often creating the story in a way that exploits the surveillance mechanism’s weaknesses. In The Lord of the Rings, determined individuals (Frodo, Gandalf) with an adequate understanding of the enemy’s blind spots are able to rebel in plain sight.

And Bujold's Borders of Infinity immediately sprang to mind.

#182 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:54 PM:

I have a fan going, which is providing the cooling breeze needed for my brain to work in the 27 C inside my house (Kentish suburbs of London, UK) today. Outside is hotter, but at least there's a breeze today - it was totally still and airless yesterday and last night.

#183 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 01:56 PM:

Congratulations, TexAnne!

#184 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 02:16 PM:

Another thing that works reasonably well in hot dry climates but less so in humid ones is the swamp cooler. Houston is much too wet for one of these.

When I was in Phoenix for Fiestacon and NADWC, I noticed that a lot of restaurants have what amounts to a light-spray lawn hose mounted above their outdoor seating, which is another form of evaporative cooling -- in that climate, the tiny water droplets are vaporized before they get down to where the diners are sitting, but it makes the air in that area significantly cooler.

#185 ::: pseuded regular gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 04:47 PM:

spagetting & spinach for lunch?

#187 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:06 PM:

I'm putting in a nice word for the Frog Togs Chilly Pad-- basically a big flat flexible sponge.

#188 ::: neither Chan nor Cousteau ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 05:36 PM:

Thinly disguised regular requests community and mod advice over on the DFD thread.

#189 ::: neither Chan nor Cousteau, GNOMED ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 06:19 PM:

Here's some gummy oranges from the breakroom.

#190 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 06:19 PM:

A very noticeable earthquake near Wellington, New Zealand a little more than an hour ago (0906 NZT, 2106 GMT)

Magnitude 5.7, 8km deep.
No reports of significant damage as yet.

This is well within design spec for buildings etc in the region.

#191 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 08:02 PM:

Explaining polyamory via a sports metaphor.

#192 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 08:41 PM:

XKCD's "Time" strip has had some interesting developments. If you haven't looked at it in a while, you might consider catching up. (I use to follow it; there are other aggregators as well.)

#193 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 08:45 PM:

Argh. Weed-ID keys and apps and interfaces are failing me. We've done Univ of IL, Univ of Missouri, and UC-Davis, plus a few others.

It's an upright-habit broadleafed weed, with whorled leaves that grow in a palmate compound with A LOT of bare spindly stem in between the clusters. The leaves have branching veins. I don't know what color the flowers were; right now there are tiny (>.5cm diam) burr-like spiky spheres of immature seed held up in umbels. 2+ft high. No hairs on it anywhere, leaves or stems.

photo; seed-head closeup. Or maybe that's the flower.

THIS SHOULD NOT BE SO HARD. It's not American Ginseng which was the closest right answer out of anything I could find in any key we used ... but the fruit is very wrong (and it doesn't have ginsengy roots). We live in Chicago.

Help us, Obi-Wan Fluorosphere: you're our only hope!

#194 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 09:06 PM:

While I don't know what it is, it might be helpful to describe or photograph the roots; does it have a taproot like a carrot or a dandelion, or a fuzzy cluster of roots, or rhizomes, or what?

#195 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 09:14 PM:

Cally @194: Tiny little stubby cluster of rootlets mated onto the stem directly. Looking proportionally really shrimpy, compared to the weed itself.

#196 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 09:21 PM:

Charlie Stross @167, to prevent a window AC unit from dripping into the house, you have to make sure that the unit is tilted at least two or three degrees toward the exterior of the house. In other words, the front (toward the inside of the house) MUST be about a centimeter, give or take, higher than the back (outside the house). The condensation will collect inside the unit and run downhill; if it's mounted correctly it'll have a near-continuous drip (in hot humid weather) out the back of the unit. The back should also extend past the outside wall by at least a little bit, so the water will drip down, or past, the outside wall rather than collecting inside the window.

If it's mounted incorrectly, you'll wreck the plaster on your wall beneath the window and get mold in your carpet.

How do I know this? Erm..., no reason... <hiding mold-killer behind back>

#197 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 09:22 PM:

Elliott: I've been cursed by those in Texas, but if I ever knew the name I've forgotten it.

#198 ::: Cassy B. has been gnombed ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 09:23 PM:

For offering window air-conditioner unit installation advice.

Ice cream?

#199 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:12 PM:

#193 : Elliott Mason

Consider buckeye or horse chestnut?

#200 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:14 PM:

Speaking as a Houstonian, there is only one god and his name is Willis Carrier.

#201 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:27 PM:

Jim Macdonald #199: Those are both trees. This is an herbaceous weed, no sign of woodiness to the stem even on the largest (waist-high?) examples.

#202 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:37 PM:

I'm aware those are both trees. I'm thinking of very juvenile specimens.

Is there a whole bunch of it, or just one or two?

I'm sure you've already tried it but this is the University of Wisconsin's weed identification program:

#203 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:43 PM:

Jim Macdonald @202: There were about a dozen of them scattered around the weedy areas of our yard (not clumped). Didn't get 'em last year, but we're getting a lot of volunteers this year that we didn't get last year.

The buckeye flowers are definitely wrong. I can't find a clear enough picture of the right growth stage of horse chestnut to be certain, but the seedling shots I'm finding seem to show it's about as woody as a maple when it's little, which these are not -- green and supple (hollow-stemmed, a little) all the way to the ground even on the waist-high ones.

The WI weed ID tool is telling me 0 matches even with very few criteria chosen ... which is what a lot of them do. Or else they throw up things like bindweed which it is totally not.

#204 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 10:52 PM:

Cassy B @196, Charlie specified that he had a portable AC unit — one of those free-standing units you can move from room to room, with a tube that fits into the window to vent the warm air — not a window-mounted one. I’ve never owned a portable AC, but I understand some of them are designed to collect condensation in a tray, and some try to pass it out with the warm air as vapor, and often they just drop it on the floor.

#205 ::: Cassy B. has been gnombed ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:04 PM:

Avram @204, my mistake; I've never used a portable a/c unit like you describe, and I think of smallish window units as portable, so I misunderstood what he was describing.

#206 ::: Cassy B. has NOT been gnomed. ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:05 PM:

Sorry; forgot to change my nym.

#207 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2013, 11:39 PM:

Jim Macdonald and my weed identification AKICIML: it's looking like something related to Humulus japonicus might do the trick; ours is definitely upright and not twining, but it has a lot of the same weird growth pattern spindliness.

#208 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 01:10 AM:

R.I.P. Marty Gear.

Quietly, in his sleep, last night. The person from who I heard it said it was an awful jolt to run across on Facebook, so I am hoping to spare some folks here the same shock.

#209 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 02:39 AM:

Re: AC units -- if you have house plants, this water they produce is very good to save for watering things as it's effectively distilled, free of nasty minerals.

The roof AC on my trailer (I live in a fifth wheel) makes about 2-3 gallons a day. I've been saving the water from my roof AC in a bucket. I'm starting seedlings for a fall garden right now, so the distilled water comes in handy. Our well water is highly mineralized and seedlings don't care for it much.

On an unrelated note -- you know you live in the wild, wild, west when security camera in your back yard catches this.

#210 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 03:33 AM:

Elliott Mason @193: To my British eye and Collins Gem Guide to Wild Flowers that's looking like Creeping Cinquefoil - Potentilla reptans - although that does have long runners as well as the short stubby roots. European native, but naturalised elsewhere. The leaves are certianly appropriate for that or a related species, and the seed heads also

Hope that helps in narrowing it down.

#211 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 05:20 AM:

Cassy @196: it's not a window a/c unit, it's a wheeled floor-standing one. Window a/c units would in fact be illegal where I live. I can't even fit double-glazing. (Grade A listed building in a UNESCO world heritage site. More than 10% of this entire city is Grade A listed. Stuff that's illegal includes anything that changes the exterior appearance of the building -- even TV aerials require formal planning permission, and satellite dishes are flat-out verboten.)

My problem is that the drain hose in the base of the unit has come adrift and isn't discharging into the water bucket, but into the bottom of the unit and thence to the carpet. As it runs on 240 volts a/c, I decided that sweating was preferable to electrocution. As a replacement a/c unit -- if any were available in the middle of a sudden and spectacular heat wave (complete with heat emergency that's believed to have killed up to 700 people so far) -- would cost over £500 and only lower the temperature of a single room, I'm probably not going there.

(I have seen cheap window-box a/c units on sale for $50-100 in NYC and boggled enviously. Over here they cost 5-10x as much to buy, and 2x as much to run.)

#212 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 06:27 AM:

Serge Broom @#119 & Xopher Halftongue @#127 -- Thanks guys!

#213 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 06:34 AM:

albatross @#126

You might try Mark Mazower's Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century. It's a relatively short book, eminently readable, and addresses the implied question in your second paragraph. It will probably also give you (more) food for thought on your third.

#214 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 06:40 AM:

More hyper-local irritation:

Local author irritated by foul stench when he closes his office window to keep out the excessively warm breeze.

(Turns out that the water leak from the aircon soaked into the carpet right over the area where Frigg, who died of cancer two and a half years ago, used to demonstrate her feline displeasure about the colon cancer that eventually killed her. The smell of stale cat effluent has risen from the grave to haunt me once more: it's diminishing slowly as the carpet dries out, but it will probably only go away for good if I move everything out of the office, rip out the carpet, and replace it. And as "everything" includes eighteen feet of library-grade floor-standing bookcases, a sofa, a desk, a filing cabinet, and over a thousand books, this is not a trivial fix.)

((Luckily Mafdet, our surviving feline supervisor, is as punctilious about litter-tray discipline as one can expect from a deaf, arthritic, nineteen year old.))

#215 ::: MNiM ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 07:09 AM:

Charlie Stross @#214

I'm sorry to hear about your cat, and that today you're being reminded of the sad times.

Re: the carpet, if you don't mind too much how the carpet looks, you could just remove that section and replace it. (If the lack of match is aesthetically unpleasant, you could maybe stick a coffee table (or similar) over it.)

#216 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 07:36 AM:

Charlie @214

it's worth checking for hire of carpet shampoo machines. I know I can hire one at my local Morrisons supermarket, and other place.

#217 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 08:08 AM:

Lin Daniel @ 162 ...
I was planning on cutting out food 12 hours before, so as to not have to deal with kitty poop in a carrier under the seat. Exchanging bedding when it's wet is easier when I have to take it out of a barely opened carrier. Wet bedding annoys a cat. Pooped on bedding humiliates them.

They now sell largish sized pads for house training dogs which are essentially reworked diapers-for-the-floor, and consequently absorb much before becoming obnoxious.

That said, I've flown five of my cats (in the hold) at various times, and the airline bent over backwards to be sure they were well taken care of [0]... and the cats, sans tranquilizer, seemed to cope with the whole thing quite reasonably.

[0] One of the guys at the cargo terminal tried to talk me into letting him have the kittens ... but that just meant that he took extra care with them.

#218 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 08:19 AM:

Dave Bell: One wants to be careful, especially if it takes more than a few hours for the shampooed carpet to dry. I tried that once in an apartment bedroom where the previous resident had apparently locked their dog.

The result was, um, spectacularly unsatisfactory. Couldn't use the bedroom at all until the carpet was replaced. Even with the bedroom window open and the door closed, the whole apartment was quite redolent.

Might be worth experimenting with spot-cleaning using Odormute, or one of its newer variants.

Charlie: I have silly visions of using a window-mounted AC with some sort of specially-designed external facing that would cleverly disguise it as an appropriately-period architectural element.

#219 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 08:20 AM:

dcb @210 said: To my British eye and Collins Gem Guide to Wild Flowers that's looking like Creeping Cinquefoil - Potentilla reptans - although that does have long runners as well as the short stubby roots.

The seeds are much pricklier and tinier (if they're seeds; they might be green flowers) than in the botanical illustrations of Potentilla reptans I can find. Also, it's very enthusiastically upright, not creeping.

#220 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 08:37 AM:

Elliot Mason @219--There's Potentilla erectans as well, which is upright.

I suppose the leaves are wrong for buckwheat. The flower/seed part sounds like a plantago variety, but the leaves and wrote for all of those are entirely different.

#221 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 09:18 AM:

Jacque @216, paint the outside like a window flower box and glue on artfully arranged plastic flowers to disguise it....? <grin>

#222 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 09:59 AM:

HLN: local woman looks up on morning dog walk and sees this bird. Startling. Must have wandered up from one of the swamps in the southwestern part of the state, presumably expecting the entire rest of the state to turn into a swamp (not unlikely).

#223 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 10:14 AM:

Elliott Mason @219--I take that back; now that I've gone on break and looked at the pictures on my phone, the seed heads/inflorescence is very different from plumbago.

At least it's not a cannabis variety, legal or otherwise.

#224 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 10:16 AM:

Lee: He will be missed.

#225 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 10:22 AM:

Charlie Stross @ 214: They sell liquid "pet odor killer" products, as Jacque mentioned @ 218. I used one on a carpet after a dog had a spectacular decompression, and it did an amazing job. You have to thoroughly soak the carpet and right into the pad underneath and let it dry slowly—something about enzymatic action doing the work.

#226 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 11:10 AM:

re 193: I've got this too, and it has small flowers with five tiny petals spaced radially around the center. It's obviously something in or near ''Potentilla'' (cinquefoil being the most commonly encountered weed member of the family) but none of the weed ID sites seem to be able to decode it.

#227 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 12:11 PM:

Dave @216: hire of a carpet shampooing machine is definitely on the agenda, but I am not hauling one of those things up and down four flights of stairs the same day in this weather!

#228 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 12:23 PM:

fidelio 223: the seed heads/inflorescence is very different from plumbago.

I thought plumbago was a kind of dark-purple back pain...

#229 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 01:27 PM:

Open thready question (which could more-or-less go here or in the Snowden thread):

This story seems to be about a US citizen on US soil, who was arrested for running a website that encouraged terrorism against Americans. Now, my understanding was always that even abstract calls for violence, like Al Franken's bit on old SNL skits (he would say something like "I'd just like to go out on a limb here a bit and call for the violent overthrow of the United States Government") were protected speech. Is that no longer true?

My understanding is further that quite a few terrorism cases have sent people to prison for what I would have thought were completely legitimate things to do under the first amendment. One guy apparently is in prison now for selling satellite decoders that let people in the US receive a Hamas channel. (You know, just like in the Soviet Union, where you could get into trouble for being caught listening to the wrong foreign media.)

Several people I know (respectable middle-class people who aren't the least bit inclined toward tinfoil-hat-ism of any flavor) have commented to me that they don't feel safe making some Google queries or reading some websites. They don't want to end up on some kind of watchlist and get hassled every time they fly, or have something even worse happen to them. And they're right to worry about that. There are apparently (if you read the stories about the Marathon bombers or the wacko who shot up Ft Hood, you can see this) websites you can go look at, which will get you added to a watchlist. It would be remarkably fortunate for us if there were only one set of such websites. Far more likely, there are hundreds of different watchlists or categories to put people in. Islamist? Occupy? Antiwar? Tea Party? White Supremacist? Too suspicious of government?

And once those watchlists exist, there must be an immense temptation to use them, for all kinds of good purposes. And then marginal ones, and extending down into purposes that will seem good to the people doing them, but will sound awful to everyone else.

#230 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 01:38 PM:

It isn't tinfoil hattery at all. We've entered a world where you can be put in jail, incommunicado, without charges, and without counsel, for years, on the president's say-so alone (or whoever he's delegated the authority to).

Yes, we've gotten to the situation that we used to point to in the old Soviet Union as proof that they were a tyranny.

Right now you can't cross a state border without state-issued ID except as a pedestrian, on a bicycle, or as a passenger in a private automobile.

#231 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 01:56 PM:

Jim: not that I disagree with the main thrust of your comment, but I went from Atlanta to Minneapolis and back on a bus last month and nobody at any point checked my ID. I only had to show a bus reservation number, and no evidence that I was the person who made the reservation.

#232 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 02:01 PM:

You can't legally cross a border without ID, Jim -- but there are a lot of people out there who are driving without a license, and I'm sure they cross. We don't have border crossings that check ID (though there are some border inspection stations, for example coming into CA from OR, for agricultural pest control).

Yes, we really are very close to the country our parents warned us about.

#233 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 02:12 PM:

Jim McDonald @230:

Right now you can't cross a state border without state-issued ID except as a pedestrian, on a bicycle, or as a passenger in a private automobile.

I do so every day on the DC Metro system (from Maryland to DC, though at my previous job I went to Virginia). This doesn't invalidate your larger point, of course, but things haven't gotten quite so bad yet.

#234 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 02:25 PM:

I think common commutes are a general exception. You can ride trains between NY and NJ (also buses) or CT without showing ID each day. If you drive and don't pay exorbitant tunnel fees in cash (and wait in line extra time too) your EZPass record tells where you've been when.

Of course, that only tracks people who are NOT planning terrorism.

It's all Potemkin security, as Miss Teresa pointed out years ago.

#235 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 02:26 PM:

Jim @230: I feel too depressed and too old to get active in resisting this stuff. Both globally and in its local (UK/Scottish) forms.

As a certain other Scottish SF author put it last time we talked about it, "we are living in a soft totalitarian state." (And it's only soft by comparison with the likes of the GDR or USSR because the dominant ideology is shadowy and inchoate, so it's hard to directly identify and persecute those who dissent unless they stick their necks way above the parapet.)

I'll just focus on writing encouraging motivational propaganda for the eventual fight-back, and hope I live long enough to see it.

(Visiting the Estonian Writers' Union in Tallinn the other month and talking to folks who remembered the Soviet era was illuminating ... we aren't under that level of censorship, but then, the System doesn't need it: merely living in a surveillance state panopticon has a sufficiently chilling effect on most people.)

#236 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 02:32 PM:

HLN: Area man on way to supermarket notes the presence of half a dozen black vultures on the roof of a half-completed house. Wonders vaguely if this is a sign of something. Is reminded of the time four decades earlier when he saw an equal number of turkey vultures perched on the bell-tower of a church.

#237 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 02:39 PM:

Fragano, isn't it obvious? The Munsters are moving in.

#238 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 02:59 PM:

Meanwhile, the cops are recording and storing (for years) date/time/place for millions of license plates.

#239 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 03:35 PM:

Xopher #237: You're right!

#240 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 04:08 PM:

It's possible they were discussing where to go for lunch.

#241 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 05:16 PM:

P J Evans @ #240, or, more ominously, on whom they planned to lunch.

#242 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 05:55 PM:

P J Evans #240/Linkmeister #241: As long as I was not the object of their prandial intentions I was not too worried.

#243 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 06:33 PM:

In reference to dining at LoneStarCon 3, there's an official riverwalk guide which I haven't looked at yet due to having an old computer at home.

#244 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 10:33 PM:

SummerStorms@89: A lot of landlords think they can do business the way they (don't) do their personal lives; some jurisdictions have laws to make clear they can't (always), and some don't. I had a landlord once who was playing some sort of dodge that involved remailing my check from another part of the metro area to the apartment next door; one month this meant the check was cashed so late (~28th) that it was the one to trip an arithmetic error and bounce. Cost me another month's rent for a lawyer to fight the hysterical eviction attempt that followed -- not nearly as critical as losing water in a heatwave, but more agita than I wanted to deal with.

TexAnne@139: Only 3? Are you excluding Vericon as too small, or Readercon because the carless must take an inconvenient bus? (And congratulations on the library card....)

#245 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 10:51 PM:

Charlie@168ff: I mostly sympathize; the BBC site had a story recently on how utterly unprepared the UK is for hot weather. OTOH, I suspect it could be worse; for the first Scottish Worldcon, our choice was to sleep with the window closed and stifle, or sleep with it open and be kept up by the luggage handling at Queen St. (right behind us). That was the year our return flight got held up because the temperature was too high to let us take off with a full load; if somebody had been thinking ahead the plane would have been underfueled and a stop in Reykjavik or Gander(?) planned, but that would have meant admitting that Plan A wasn't working.

#246 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 11:20 PM:

Open Threadiness related to talk of surveillance states:

Tolkien vs. Orwell: who understood the modern surveillance state best?

And in other news: A friend just recommended Francis Fukuyama's "The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution" to my reading list.

That'll keep me busy for a while.

#247 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2013, 11:33 PM:

CHip @ 244: Yikes! That sounds... convoluted. I've had rent checks cashed that late, mind, but I don't think I've ever run into that kind of roundabout situation.

In my city, landlords can't start eviction proceedings unless the rent has been habitually late for months or unless it's more than a month past-due. There was one landlord my (now)ex and I had who repeatedly refused to fix things that were clearly code violations, and once we got fed up and requested the city do an inspection, he got dinged on 30 violations rather than the three we'd complained about. He tried to evict us in retaliation, and that's illegal as well. He shut up after our lawyer sent him a letter, but it was good enough to get us out of our lease.

#248 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 04:02 AM:

SummerStorms @247: I've had rent checks cashed that late, mind, but I don't think I've ever run into that kind of roundabout situation.

My favorite variation of this was when a rent check didn't clear, I called the manager. Got some sort of redirect to a management company or something. "Oh, you didn't hear? The owner blew himself up when his basement drug lab exploded, and the manager has left the state with no forwarding address."

Got a free month's rent out of the deal.

#249 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 06:07 AM:

Just discovered: in case anyone was wondering, Retronaut has a bunch of photographs of the city I grew up in from the 1970s and early 1980s, i.e. the time I was growing up there.

In case anyone is wondering why I don't live in Leeds any more, here are those photographs.

(TL:DR; File under "it's grim oop north".)

#250 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 06:54 AM:

CHip, 244: I excluded Vericon because this is the first I've heard of it.

FOUR! FOUR local cons a-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

#251 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 09:36 AM:

Charlie@249, is the "Strange Girls" attraction just ... girls? I've been sitting here for two minutes reading far, far too much into that sign, I think.

#252 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 10:21 AM:

Sandy: this was Englandshire in the 1970s. "Strange girls" probably meant mini-skirts and hula hoops or something.

#253 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 12:31 PM:

Charlie, what amazes me about those pictures is that there is nobody in them except the named people posing for the photographer. That definitely adds to the grimness factor -- there's no life going on. Was Leeds a ghost town in the 1970s, or what?

#254 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 12:58 PM:

I started reading Among Other recently. It is very good. Thanks to everyone who's discussed it here (including Patrick, in breaking his rule not to promote his own projects).

I read sci-fi in middle school and early high school, and remember liking Vonnegut and Asimov but bouncing off Heinlein. My mother seemed to think the genre as a whole was typified by the pulp covers where a man in a spacesuit defends a woman in a bikini and a fishbowl against a betentacled alien. Eventually the constant disparaging comments convinced me to drop sci-fi for horror, because she'd like it less. I'm not sure I didn't also like it less.

At any rate I suspect I'll be spending some time on this, playing catch-up....

#255 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 01:03 PM:

Among Others, with an S, that is. Patrick would have caught that. ^__^

#256 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 01:08 PM:

Charlie Stross #249: All I can think, seeing one photograph captioned "A dripping-refinery worker", is that he must have worked next door to a bakery.

#257 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 01:47 PM:

Today is the 44th anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin's moonlanding.

#258 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 02:25 PM:

I find myself intrigued but frustrated by the concept of a "dripping-refinery". A few quick searches only turn up references to that photograph.

My only guess is that a "dripping-refinery" might be a rendering plant, where fats and oils are extracted from the byproducts and waste from meat packing?

#259 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 03:07 PM:

So it is. Happy Moon Day!

#260 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 03:14 PM:

I've heard some say that 97% of scientists believe the moon landing was real and man-made. 3% believe it occurred, but that it was the result of natural, periodic processes.

Someone tweeted that this morning, can't remember who.

#261 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 03:14 PM:

And, it being Moon Day, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter views Apollo 11:

#262 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 06:10 PM:

Those photographs of Leeds were the tail-end of pre-Thatcher Britain, and she changed things in ways which caused a boom in property speculation. Quarry Hill flats were eventually replaced by an office building for the government. Old was replaced by new. Traditional farm buildings were being replaced by corrugated-steel sheds.

That Plumbers' Merchants on Crown Street is now a Pizza Express, the architecture is still recognisable.

Some of the other locations seem to have gone. In other cases, there's enough features of the building that I think the shop on Beck Road might now be the Saki Hairdressers on the junction with Markham Street, but I am not at all sure about the old building which still exists on Lucas Court.

Google Streetview can be fascinating.

You can still see the traces of the Cinema sign on the building at the corner of Sissons Lane and Acre Road, but the roof has gone. There might be something totally different there when Google take their next look. The Photographs of September 2012 show a roof cladding which might be corrugated asbestos. It's all gone by November, and yet there was talk of using it for "leisure development".

It's surprising what you can discover with the internet.

#263 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 08:33 PM:

If anyone's curious, here are the images I selected from from our Canadian Rockies trip. It's definitely one of the best vacations of my life.

Canadian Rockies trip

#264 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 09:29 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @260: 3% believe it occurred, but that it was the result of natural, periodic processes.

I'm, er—huh!? (I think the joke, she is not getting it.)

#265 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 09:51 PM:

#264 ::: Jacque

Replace the words "moon landing" with "climate change" and all will become clear.

#266 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 11:16 PM:

Utah legislator calls for return to the 18th century.

He claims that compulsory education* is bad for families and should be abolished. Next, the abolition of child labor laws? It would seem a logical progression.

* Which, by and large, reached America in the 19th century, although parts of the Deep South didn't jump on the bus until the early 20th.

#267 ::: Lee, be-gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2013, 11:16 PM:

Given the topic, it was probably a Word of Power.

#268 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 12:47 AM:

Steve C. @ 263: That looks fantastic. Was this a package trip with stops & tours?

#269 ::: Errolwi ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 01:45 AM:

An update on the earthquakes near Wellington, NZ. No need to be overly concerned about Wellington-based friends and acquaintances as yet. A 5.5 Richter Scale shake this morning (and a fresh swarm of aftershocks) has been overshadowed by a 6.5 at 1709h local (0509h GMT)

These are being reported with an intensity of 'severe', reflecting VII or more on the MM Scale _at the point of most shaking_. As they are shallow, and happening in Cook Strait SW of Wellington and ESE of the town of Blenheim in the South Island, the effects on land are _relatively_ minor, and within what the human infrastructure is expected to handle fairly well. However there are toppled power lines, halted lifts etc. Risk of landslides, fires etc.

Local media sites

#270 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:35 AM:

Jim @265: Oh dear.


#271 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 02:44 AM:

Thank everyone for the Pacific Rim recommendations. The trailers made it look like a CGI Things Punch Each Other For Two-Point-Five Hours, but it was much better than that. Beyond the storytelling and FX, it was nice to see a variety of ages and types represented, as well as a woman who was allowed to wear clothes and not be a love interest. DO YOU HEAR ME, JJ ABRAMS?!!

#272 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 10:12 AM:

nerdycellist @271: She most definitely was a love interest. What she was not was a sex object.

#273 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 10:30 AM:

janetl @ #268 -

Steve C. @ 263: That looks fantastic. Was this a package trip with stops & tours?

It was a package trip, aboard the Rocky Mountaineer. The package we took was the Canadian Rockies Getaway.

If you're a scenery junkie, it's highly recommended. The RM folks handled things very nicely.

I did have to laugh when one of the tour bus drivers related the story about one British tourist he had who took detailed notes. She kept asking about various mountains the first day -- what's its name, who discovered it, how high -- and then she stopped asking questions. The driver noticed that she was entering in the same three letters in her journal. ABM, ABM, ABM.

So he asked what ABM stood for.

"Another bloody mountain," she replied.

#274 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 11:01 AM:

nerdycellist @ 271... I doubt he does, what with the loud rattle of all those coins falling into his bank account.

#275 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 12:10 PM:

Steve C. Lovely photos - brings back some great memories; I have photos of some of the same features - we honeymooned in the Banff/Jasper area. We have a plan to go back for our tenth wedding anniversary. I see you have a photo of a deer (you'd call it an elk; I'd call it a red deer) with a radio collar on! Can I have permission to use that? With credit, of course. Also the American crow (I'm assuming it's an American crow - the black corvid you took a picture of).

Also re. the British tourist and "ABM": *grin*. Our first day in the Rockies I found it hard not to stop as we rounded each curve in the road and were provided with another fantastic view. After that it got easier, but I was grateful for the automatic with cruise control (so I could look more and not worr about keeping an eye on the speedometer) - even if I -had- needed someone to give be a "how to drive an automatic" lesson in the car park before we drove it away.

#276 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 12:27 PM:

dcb @ #275 -

Thanks - use any picture you'd like. I think those elk were on the hotel staff - perfect timing to come down around sunset.

The tour bus driver called them ravens, but I'm not up on my ornithological subtleties. :)

#277 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Steve C. @ 273: Thanks for the info.

open threadery: if you were planning to read David Rakoff's book "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish", I recommend that you go for the paper book, not the e-book. I'm a huge fan of reading on my Kobo, but in this case, the book as a object is far too lovely to forego. I checked to see who it was designed by, and—no surprise—it's Chip Kidd. I just picked it up at my local book store last night, so I haven't read it yet and can't confirm the rave reviews. The full-color illustrations are by Seth, and they are throughout the book. The cover has holes punched in it to reveal the title. Yum!

Hyperlocal news: Area woman participated in an attempt to set a new world record for Largest Tree Hug. "It was rather surreal to head into the woods of the arboretum with 950 people, and have them scatter off of the path to stand in small groups around scattered trees," she said. The count of huggers was coming up short, so organizers ran around the park, asking passersby to join in. The most novel of these were a bride and groom, in full white gown/tuxedo regalia. photo of huggers

#278 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:17 PM:

DC-ites take note: the titan arum has started to open.

#279 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:31 PM:

Thanks, C. Wingate, for the reminder. It tickles me that there's a live web cam focused on a plant.

Alas, the Internet will fail to transmit the promised olfactory emission. Perhaps I'll stop by on Tuesday if it's fully ripe.

#280 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 05:43 PM:

Remember the big moral panic about crack babies? The linked article describes a big longitudinal study that couldn't find much or any effect of crack use by moms on babies.

It's worth remembering that there was a time when almost *everyone* was certain that crack babies were a real and horrible phenomenon. It got lots of media coverage (well, no skeptics got any, as far as I remember), everyvody was sure it was a moral crisis. I am sure I believed it too--the story was sort of plausible, crack was doing really awful things to inner cities, and all right thinking people believed that crack babies were real.

This is useful to remember, the next time everyone knows that some new threat or horror is out there, and urgently needs new laws, police powers, social movements, etc. to address it. The media are mostly not in the business of informing you, much of what everybody knows is nonsense, and you can't trust that just because everybody says it's true, there is anyone who has really tried to check it out, In the case of crack babies, there was someone checking it out, but proof could not come for many years. That didn't matter--anecdote was enough to get laws passed and kids taken away from their moms and sell papers and ads on the latest moral panic.

#281 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 06:23 PM:

I just cast my vote for the Hugos.
Say, why isn't there a category for best pro zine this year?

#282 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 06:33 PM:

(Open thread coffee randomness)

So, I've got a huge espresso machine that wakes up before the Amazing Girlfriend and I do each morning (it's about 90lbs of brass and copper, so getting it suitably hot takes time). After 9 months or so of this routine, I walked into our kitchen a few mornings ago in a pre-caffeine haze and realized two things. First, the machine was off (which was OK, the timer shuts it off at a reasonable hour - we'd just slept in), but rather more worryingly, I was standing in a large puddle and there was the distinct odor of Dead Electronics pervading the kitchen. Opened the thing up to find that the brain box (the electronic controller that controls the machine - boiler fill, temperature and the like) had, quite literally, fried itself. As in, melting a hole in its plastic enclosure. The good news is that the machine is still under warranty, so the retailer is sending me the part. The bad news is that until said part arrives, we're short our espresso machine.

Which is why it's nice to have several other ways of making tasty coffee in the mornings.

#283 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 07:07 PM:

albatross, #280: This doesn't surprise me at all. Remember the huge flap about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome* in the early 90s? Any pregnant woman who wanted a glass of wine with her dinner was PUTTING HER BABY AT HORRIBLE RISK OMG!!!

What I think that study shows is the intersection of two large-scale social trends: (1) the obvious one, bashing the poor for the problems created by their poverty, and (2) yet another attempt to define women as walking incubators.

* FAS is a real condition, but the moral panic about it was completely over-the-top. As I understand it, FAS affects children whose mothers regularly drink to excess during very early pregnancy. Note "regularly", "to excess", and "very early" (IOW, any damage would be done well before she would be visibly pregnant). Nobody cared that pregnant women have been drinking in moderation for millennia** with no discernible ill effects on their children, because it was such a handy stick to beat women over the head with.

** The spellcheck still does not recognize the plural form "millennia". Nor, I am amused to note, does it recognize "spellcheck".

#284 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 09:09 PM:

I need to ask a question, purely for my own education (and I apologize in advance and invite correction if my terminology is disrespectful): do drag queens generally regarded themselves as trans-women? (I imagine the first-cut answer is "which drag queen?") I don't know (if I know) any gay men who enjoy dressing as women, so I don't have anybody to ask directly.

#285 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 09:18 PM:

Jacque: As I Understand It (IANA-DragQueen), many drag performers consider themselves to be somewhere on the transy/genderqueer spectrum. Some of them eventually come to the realization that they would be happier if they transitioned full-time (just as, closer to my own end of things, some people who've spent a decade identifying as butch lesbians come to the later realization that they are transmen). But a lot of them just enjoy it as a pastime or letting one aspect of themselves out to play -- and also enjoy presenting as male the rest of the time.

#286 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 09:20 PM:

Steve C, at #273, I believe that in England there are so few mountains that a person can realistically aspire to know them all by their personal names. That said, when I first saw the Tetons, I was so impressed that I took a panoramic series of photographs as we drove past them. And I grew up around mountains.

albatross (#280)I certainly do remember "crack babies" -- we adopted one. I was determined never to mention his origin to anyone we came in contact with, because even then, I thought that the main problem with so-called "crack babies" was that their mothers weren't able to take care of them. Fortunately, this mother realized it, and gave him to us. It was a private adoption, which saved us no end of trouble and unwanted intervention. We never kept it from him, of course, but we're a family that doesn't put our business on the street, and he's one of us.

He is now grown, married, employed, a father, doing fine, as fine as any of the others.

#287 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 10:23 PM:

Elliott Mason @285: Excellent answer, thank you.

Also: it occurred to me after I walked away from the keyboard that my question presumes that all drag-queens are gay men. Given the Multitude That Is Humanity, I'm willing to bet that this is not always the case.*

* Heh: only one counter-example being Victoria.

#288 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 11:47 PM:

Providence Council names intersection after H.P. Lovecraft.

On the one hand, it's a well-deserved honor. On the other, be careful what you ask for. :-)

#289 ::: Lee has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2013, 11:48 PM:

Probably for a suspicious link. Would Their Lownesses care for some white-chocolate M&Ms?

#290 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:04 AM:

dcb @275: in the Rockies I found it hard not to stop as we rounded each curve in the road and were provided with another fantastic view. After that it got easier, but I was grateful for the automatic with cruise control

Friend of mine grew up in Montana, and had lived in Denver for many years. Is an unrepentant mountain junkie. At the time I knew him, he'd recently been transferred to Houston, and was suffering a chronic topological relief deficiency. On one of his visits up to Boulder, we decided to have a drive up Trailridge. As we entered the tundra, he said to me, "I'll drive, you gawk." Which was dumb, as he was the one that was jonesin'. Not one minute after he said that, he got so distracted by the view that he allowed the front corner of the van to drift too close to the sheer rock wall to the right of the road.

GRRRRRINNND....! He yanks the wheel to the left, but now the van has a decided list to the starboard, and is limping noticeably. He slowes waaay down and keeps going (as it was a very skinny, twisty, two-lane road at that point), chugging to the next turn-out. Shortly, a park vehicle magically appeares right behind us as a pace-car, keeping traffic back until we limp to safety.

Finally found a scenic overlook, pulled out of traffic, and had a brief confab with the ranger while my friend changed the tire. He took pictures of the casualty, which resembled not so much a tire as a bowl of black spagetti.

#291 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:18 AM:

HLN: Local mosquito mistakes warmth of computer screen for good dinner candidate. LM is unable to regret confusion.

#292 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:22 AM:

Well, since 'queen' is a term* that means "gay man," I'd say a straight man into drag should either a) get comfortable with the assumption or b) call himself by some other phrase!

*and in fact the formula '____ queen' means "gay man who's into ____ or whatever is symbolized by ____." So "greasepaint queens" are gay men who do theatre (as opposed to "theatre queens" who like to attend).

#293 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:42 AM:

Xopher @ 291

I always figured it depended on context. If you're queening in a drag context, it refers to a certain kind of camp. If you're a [type] queen/king, then it's probably safe to assume you're LGBTX.

I do agree that anyone engaging in noticeable genderbending in this society is likely to have assumptions made about their sexual orientation.

#294 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:55 AM:

Jacque @ #290, such heartlessness is understandable.

#295 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:02 AM:

HLN: Local cis man, accused of being menopausal by woman friend, realizes he can't remember when he last had a period, and fears his memory is going too. Another friend suggests he talk to his gynecologist about estrogen; he remarks that taking estrogen has never worked for him (and that the same is true of cordrazine).

#296 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:10 AM:

Steve C @ #273, is that domed car the one reserved for Gold Leaf travellers? If so, what do the Silver Leaf and Red Leaf passengers ride in?

#297 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:38 AM:

Serge Broom @281: Possibly because the category "Best Professional Magazine" hasn't been awarded since 1972? My impression is that it was more or less replaced by "Best Professional Editor", more recently by "Best Professional Editor, Short Form".

#298 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 05:05 AM:

@290, @275: On the subject of driving in mountains ...

A couple of years ago I got an invite to teach at Clarion West, so planned an elaborate west coast trip involving Seattle, then a flight to SF to meet up with Feorag, side-trips elsewhere, then a scenic sleeper train ride up to Portland in time to catch my open-jaw flight home.

Unfortunately at the time I did this, I was on a medication that was slowly chewing holes in my short-term memory. I kept forgetting things, would find myself in the kitchen or bathroom half a dozen times a day with no clear memory of why I was there, and I would actually have difficulty remembering a date when flipping tabs in my web browser between Google Calendar and an airline booking website.

Which is how I screwed up my dates thuswise:

* Keynote speech at USENIX Security in downtown San Francisco: Wednesday morning.

* Reading at Powell's City of Books in Portland, Friday evening.

* Long-haul flight home to UK from Portland, Saturday morning.

I was traveling with long-haul business-level baggage, so a domestic flight from SFO-PDX would have cost an arm and a leg (two extra checked suitcases, ten kilos more weight than the regular economy maximum). Not to worry: we'd get a sleeper compartment on the Starlight Express. Except ... memory trouble! When I finally remembered to book our train seats, it turned out that all the actual compartments had gone. We could put up with 22 hours in reclining chairs (in which I cannot sleep), or we'd have to drive.

So I finally bit the bullet on car rental in the United States. 650 miles in two days ought to be do-able quite easily, with two drivers, right? Even though one only passed her driving test 12 months earlier and hates automatic transmissions, and the other has a phobia of driving on the right hand side of the road and has peripheral retinopathy in his right eye reducing his field of vision on that side by around 50%.

Then I made a truly fatal error and posted a question about routes on my livejournal. "What's the best way to get from SF to Portland by road, given my time constraints?" I asked. "Take Highway One! It's really scenic and gorgeous!" Came the unanimous response.

The big day comes. I give my speech at USENIX, then we go up the road to collect our car from Avis. Bad news: they were out of the mid-size saloon I'd requested. "Would you like a free upgrade?" They asked. Being an idiot ignorant of the ways of American car hire companies, I said "yes".

Which is why we ended up taking a Lincoln Town Car up Highway One.

How to describe our reaction to the aforementioned vehicle ...?

I don't do automatics; I'm used to driving, on the other side of the road, what passes for a big-ass car in the UK with a manual transmission. The Town Car could have carried my Volvo 850 as a lifeboat. And the controls ... I had to go back to the office and ask if anyone could show me where they were. I recognized the steering wheel, but mistook the gearshift for the indicators (turn signals) and had no idea where the hand brake was. Then I hit the first challenge: driving through downtown San Francisco in a land yacht. After I picked up Feorag and our luggage, which clumped forlornly in one corner of the boot, I proceeded to follow the satnav directions out of town, and somehow didn't crash and burn on the way: an hour or so later, we found ourselves on Highway One.

Dear State of California, a Highway is not a strip of tarmac two car-widths wide with a dotted line down the middle, clinging to the side of a cliff, with copious numbers of inclined switchbacks and an advisory speed limit of 15 miles per hour. Claims to the contrary constitute false advertising and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Take a driver with little/no peripheral vision on the right, a vehicle nearly as broad as an eighteen-wheeler on a road so narrow that if it drives to the right of the central divider it'll scrape off its wing mirrors on the sheer cliff wall, and add hairpins? This is not funny. I think Feorag aged 10 years in as many miles. (But that was okay, because she had half an hour to do it in.)

To add to the fun and hijinks, the car's drivetrain was doing nothing to reassure me of the acceptability of automatic transmissions. Take two or three tons of steel, add a five litre V8 able to pump out about 300 horsepower -- it should behave consistently, right? But the designers had stuck a three-speed slushbox in it. So on most of the hairpins, the car laboured mightily as it wheezed uphill, slowing and slowing in second gear ... until it kicked down into first, growled mightily, and deployed all of those horses in an attempt to fling itself over the edge of the cliff.

We made about forty miles that first day, in six hours of driving. Yes, it was scenic. But I was too busy trying not to die, and Feorag was too busy alternately whimpering with fear and screaming at me not to drive too close to the cliff face or the oncoming pickup trucks straddling the centre of the road to pay much attention.

We holed up in a motel overnight, checked the satnav, and, as we recovered from the terror, agreed to switch to what looked like a bigger, faster, road: Highway 101, which would ultimately take us to the interstate.

Now, Highway 101 was a bit more like it: it was a real road, almost as wide as the A68 through the Scottish borders (a road I consider unfit for any form of transport with more than two wheels), if somewhat twistier: it actually had what looked like a cycle lane on either side of the two lanes, except that these disappeared whenever the road twisted to avoid a tree. Trees? Yep, this was redwood forest central, and some of those trees were wider than the road, which diverted to by-pass their roots.

It was a lovely morning, and I suddenly realized I was nearly out of gas. We had, it seemed, been averaging 18 miles to the gallon. So we stopped at a sleepy garage, and I filled up the tank, and got the bill, and began to laugh hysterically at how cheap it was. Back in the car: more driving, more beams of sunlight filtered through the canopy of a spectacular forest. "This is really lovely," said Feorag, "how about we stop soon and go for a walk in the woods?"

"Yes," I said, absent-mindedly keeping one eye on the pick-up truck impatiently tail-gating me as I kept to a 35mph cruise, "that'd be nice --"

Which is when the brown bear ran across the road right in front of me.

Reader, I left two sets of skid marks. The pick-up truck suddenly started to hang a long way back. And all thought of a nice walk in the woods was shelved. And I was still shaking ten minutes later when we drove through a sleepy little town and I passed a unicyclist going along the other side of the highway.

An hour or two later, by way of a rather good diner, we hit the interstate and I drove another 470 miles that afternoon and Feorag hosed me out of the driver's seat and took over for the last 200 miles to Portland the following morning. Because the map lied about the distance. And if not for that doubtless well-intentioned advice to take Highway One we might have had time to drive up to Crater Lake, or to see more of the mountains than the unwinding of the gas gauge while keeping one eye on the cruise control and another peeled for trucks wheezing their way up the hard shoulder, dammit.

But in summary, this tale has a very simple moral:

Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to take a Lincoln Town Car up Highway One through Northern California. Also, brown bears have right of way.

#299 ::: Charlie Stross has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 05:08 AM:

Their mountain highnesses have obviously taken exception to my disparagement of a twisty little bike lane in Northern California. Sigh. Would they care for some cat treats? Because I'm all out of human food ...

#300 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 07:02 AM:

David Goldfarb @ 297... Right.

#301 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:17 AM:

Have just un-gnomed Charlie's epic post. Whew.

Speaking of whom, his photos of Leeds in the 1970s bring to mind the fact that our first trip to the UK was as the 1985 TAFF Yorcon III, that year's Eastercon, in Leeds. The place was clearly in the early stages of redevelopment, with all the benefits and ills entailed, but you could clearly see through to the dying Leeds of the 1970s.

#302 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:28 AM:

Patrick: Yorcon III in Leeds was my first ever SF convention.

(Leeds these days is pretty much unrecognizable. But drive just twelve miles south to Dewsbury, or ten miles west to Bradford, and the dying 1970s Yorkshire gothic is still alive and kicking.)

#303 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:41 AM:

Charlie, I've been on that road, southbound. It's not improved, even with a smaller car, when your right side is a few feet from a vertical drop to rocks with waves breaking across them.

Fort Ross was interesting, though.

#304 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:45 AM:

re 302: Good god. Did you know (he says brightly) that RVs are embargoed from Going to the Sun Road in Glacier Park? It is even less of a "highway" than Highway One; I have to suspect that "going to the sun" has to do with reducing the orbital distance between you and are closest star. The sane way to traverse it is to park the car and take a ride on one of the "jammers": ancient bus-like vehicles which surely mark the absolute limits of what may safely be conveyed across the divide there. Driving yourself is, of course, an exercise in missing all the scenery, plus you are not guaranteed a parking space at the top. Then there was the traffic light at 6,000 elevation. We're going along, and ahead on the next loop I can see a traffic light in the middle of the road. ("Turn right, Dad," #1 son says unhelpfully.) Mind you, plowing this thing in the spring, er, early summer is such a project that they have a plowing status webpage (here's a picture of a rotary plow at work on May 21). One of the questions of the FAQ page is "How scary is it to drive the Going-to-the-Sun Road?" Ironically, Marias Pass on the south side of the park is the lowest rail pass across the divide in the US.

#305 ::: Steve C ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 10:11 AM:

Linkmeister @ #296 -

That two-level domed car is for Goldleaf service. The Redleaf service is a single-level car with large windows, and the Silverleaf car is a single-level domed car.

Service levels

#306 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 11:03 AM:

Charlie Stross @298: Actually, IMnsHO, Lincoln Towncars are a blight upon the ecosphere. But I'm prejudiced. (My brother visited me in Minneapolis many years ago. He was driving us to dinner. At one point he asked, "What do you think of the car?" (It was a '70-era boat.) "Too big," I said, assuming it was a rental. It was only later that it occurred to me that it was probably his car. Turns out my brother and I have very little in common.

Great story.

It's much too easy for me to imagine the clerks at the car rental, nudging each other in the ribs and having a laugh at what they plan to do to the poor, unsuspecting Brit.

Also, I have never been farther afield than Vancouver, BC, but watching British TV shows, I have to do a double-take and mental calculation every time I see someone driving a car. I imagine that, if I ever do make it to the UK, I'm going to have to hire a driver (would anyway, since I don't drive) and just cower in the back seat with a bag over my head. Driving on the left is just wrong, wrong, wrongity WRONG. Sorry to be a provincial, but it just is.


Should you come to Colorado, you definitely don't want to drive Trailridge.

For added white-knuckle value, even the four-lane interstates going through the mountains have runaway-truck traps. I've never seen one in use, but the images they invoke are...impressive.

C. Wingate @304: rotary plow

We have those, too. Except for some parts of Trailridge, the slopes adjacent to the road, um, don't.

#307 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 11:04 AM:

But they can share some of my purple oatmeal for breakfast.

#308 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 12:08 PM:

I wouldn't have recommended taking Highway 1 from SF to Portland anyway, particularly since you said there were time constraints. I've driven I-5 probably 30 times over that route, and there's some very nice (but not spectacular) scenery there. And it's really efficient. Save the touristry for when there's time!

For sheer mountainous beauty (and yes, I've driven the Going to the Sun Road) I've seen nothing to compare with Crow's Nest Pass on Canada Route 3, driving west-to-east, at a bit after sunrise. It was jaw-dropping -- so much so, that when I'd gotten through and Marci, the passenger and other driver, woke up, I turned around so she could see it. The drive east-to-west was only moderately nice, and she was wondering why I'd insisted she see this.

She understood when we went the other way.

#309 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:00 PM:

Hmm. Am contemplating taking that accidental travelogue, fleshing it out, and turning it into a real blog entry on my own platform ...

#310 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:07 PM:

Charlie, #298: Yikes. After the Reno Worldcon, I had arranged to take a scenic trip down US 1 from Monterey to LA with a friend who lives in the latter. It was... every bit as scenic as I had thought it would be, and there were several points at which I was very glad that HE was driving, and that his car was a little Honda Civic. And that's not the twistiest section of the road by any means. I would not have wanted to attempt it in my minivan! So I sympathize.

Also, I'll repeat the question you may have missed above WRT the Leeds photos: why are there never any people in them apart from the ones specifically named in the captions? Was Leeds that deserted in the 1970s?

#311 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 01:22 PM:

Lee: Leeds was a city of some 600,000 people back then (closer to 700-750,000 today). So no, it's not that deserted. I suspect the photographer took those particular shots early on summer mornings -- sunrise there is before 6am on the solstice, so it'd look pretty deserted then.

#312 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:15 PM:

Could anyone direct me towards resources for publishing paperback, 275-300 page (seems to be standard for this area) non-fiction, related to a particular area of a particular sport, with a strong human interest/inspirational element, in which there would be (I think) a reasonable assumption of a few thousand people (I'm guestimating 2-15K) being interested in buying the book, were it to be written?

I've looked on my bookshelves to see which publishers publish books in the wider area (the particular sport), so I've some idea which publishers might be interested. I've seen one website which suggested you need a book proposal, which you then need to send off to agents, and another which suggested a book proposal which you then sent off to publishers directly.

Would this differ depending on the size of the publisher (i.e., would it be easier to contact a niche publisher directly, but for a publisher for which sports publishing was just one area of interest, it would require an agent)? How might this change if you knew an author (writing on a different sport) who already had a relationship with a small sports book publisher?

What's the lead-in time for this sort of thing?

Any assistance in getting started (i.e. being pointed towards appropriate, reputable resources) would be appreciated.

#313 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:31 PM:

Lee #288: Well, that intersection looks resolutely Euclidean to me. Back when I lived in Cambridge, I said that if I even had occasion to gamemaster a trip to R'lyeh, I'd use a Boston streetmap.

#314 ::: L.S. Baird ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:46 PM:

I expect the kind folks here can help me out with something that's been puzzling me. Regarding the recent dust-up about J.K. Rowling being outed as Robert Galbraith, articles I'm reading state that before the reveal, the book in question had only sold 1500 copies. Quoting the BBC:

The Cuckoo's Calling - believed to be the debut novel of Galbraith - ...received good reviews when it was first published. It had sold 1,500 copies before Rowling was revealed as the author, but within hours it rose more than 5,000 places to top Amazon's sales list.

1500 copies seems ridiculously low, even for a genre novel from an 'unknown' author. I realize the book was only released at the end of April, but still! Is this actually typical?

(Because if it is, my own book sales are a hell of a lot better than I thought.)

#315 ::: Steve C ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:53 PM:

Was that sales figure for Amazon UK?

#316 ::: L.S. Baird ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 02:56 PM:

@ Steve C #314 I don't think so; I saw that number in both US and UK articles.

#317 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 03:12 PM:

L.S. Baird @315: I don't have any first-hand knowledge, but it wouldn't surprise me if the number was first published in a UK article, and then got repeated in other articles on both sides of the Atlantic, without any thought about silly details like which market(s) the number came from.

#318 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 03:18 PM:

L. S. Baird @315: that's not actually bad for a British hardcover novel by a new author. The UK market is about a quarter the size of the US market; that's equivalent to a first novel shipping 6000 hardcovers, which I think I can safely say is what my debut novel sold in the USA in hardcover in 2003. (I sell more now, but for a first title from a new midlist author this isn't unusual.)

Also, it was published April 18th. So this is the sales figure for sales in its first 10 weeks? While that's the peak for sales of a new title, it still had some room for further hardcover sales. And the paperback isn't due until next February.

#319 ::: L.S. Baird ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 03:39 PM:

Jeremy Leader @ #316: I suspect you are right about the detail filtering from other articles--without being checked against international as well as domestic sales. As I recall the other article I read was on Gawker, and though I saw it there before seeing it on the BBC, I don't know which article was published first.

Charlie Stross @ #317: If it's UK numbers only, and for a hardback, that would make much more sense! But as the number was reported without further comment, it certainly stuck out as a strange thing to me. Then again, I'm probably more hung up on things like book sales numbers than the average readers of the article would be.

Thanks for your help, gents.

#320 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 03:47 PM:

L. S. Baird: I suspect your average print or BBC journalist is utterly clueless about fiction print runs. Believe nothing that doesn't come from a specialist in the field.

#321 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 04:22 PM:

#312 : dcb

With non-fiction selling on proposal is more common than selling with a finished manuscript.

Obtain the guidelines for all the appropriate publishers. Many non-fiction publishers have very specific formats they'll want in the finished text, and writing to order from proposal makes sense. One thing you'll probably want to put in your proposal is why you are the best person to write this book: are you already well-known in this sport by its fans?

Note books similar to yours already in the bookshops (need not be about the same sport). Find out if they were agented; if so, those are the agents to approach.

A world-wide possible audience of 2,000 strikes me as rather too small to interest most major publishers. You'll be looking at niche publishers. If, on the other hand, you have a book with broad appeal plus those 2,000, you might have a better chance. A larger publisher gets better distribution, more market penetration, and generally better sales. Larger publishers also have larger resources to take on smaller-but-worthwhile projects.

In terms of non-fiction some of the larger publishers do accept unsolicited and non-agented proposals. Their guidelines will tell you.

In general, depending on how hot the topic is, lead-time for publishing can range from speedy-indeed to glacial.

For more resources and discussion you might want to look at the Sports and Fitness and Nonfiction boards over at Absolute Write.

#322 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 04:47 PM:

L.S. Baird (314), and following: A review of Cuckoo's Calling in today's Newsday contained this line:

It sold 1,500 hardcover copies in the U.K., the publisher said, and fewer in the United States, according to Nielsen BookScan.
I know that a number of the original US sales were to libraries, based on the rave reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist.

(The reviewer also implies, in a deniable fashion, that Rowling spilled the beans to raise sales for that book and for the paperback edition of The Casual Vacancy. That whole paragraph gives me the creeps.)

#323 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 04:49 PM:

Hyperlocal news... Local man, while reading James SA Corey's space opera "Abaddon's Gate", finally gets to the part where his tuckarized self appears. Local man find that 'Serge' is one of the deputies for a warship's security dept. Local man expects an unpleasant demise.

#324 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 05:31 PM:

Jim Macdonald @321: Thank you for that. What I meant by the 2 -15K was my guess of the immediate "I'll buy that!" practically guaranteed market for initial sales. But I really have no idea how many copies books like this sell.

More research needed - oh well; that's something I do well (but in the spirit of not reinventing the wheel, it's good to have a couple of starting points).

#325 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 06:06 PM:


I'm afraid that is true about almost everything. Journalists are largely in the business of reporting on stuff they have only the fuzziest understanding of. To some extent, that's just the business--nobody can be an expert on everything. But a bigger problem is that most news sources don't lose any business when they get their facts wrong, or end up all writing more-or-less the same story the last guy wrote because it's easier than finding out anything new, or whatever. Nor do journalists seem to get in any trouble for those errors. (By contrast, making stuff up or plagiarizing stuff can get them fired.)

In general, if everything you know about X you learned from watching the news/reading the papers, you know a lot less about X than you think you do. (And if everything you know about X you learned from TV and movie drama, you know *less than nothing* about X, and making decisions on your unknowing ignorance is nearly certain to lead to bad places.

#326 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 06:26 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 298 ...


Oh man. I've been having one of THOSE days, to put it politely[0], and that's the first time I've cracked a smile (never mind a laugh) in days! Thank you!

[0] Yes, I know I broke the build... again... if I hadn't been up all night fixing the build (NOT my fault that time), I probably wouldn't have managed to break it...

#327 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 06:26 PM:

C Wingate @ #304, the "How scary is the Going-to-the-Sun Road" question in the FAQs has this as part of its answer: ". . . thousands of vehicles have safely made the journey from one side of the park to the other."

Gives one pause, that does.

Steve C @ #305, thanks. I'd like to do that trip but the pocketbook will determine which level I should attempt.

#328 ::: xeger gnomoned ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 06:28 PM:

I appear to have been gnomed for excess hilarity. Seems par for the course for the very long day I've been having (all week-or-so of it).

I'd offer the gnomes some form of penance, but it's probably safer for all concerned if I don't try to do that just now...

#329 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 07:09 PM:

follow-up to my #322: If the US figures are from Nielsen BookScan, that would not include all the sales to libraries--and I know that there were quite a few.

For that matter, I think it's still true that mid-list* hardcovers sell more copies to libraries than to the general public. (Or was that just mid-list mysteries in hardcover? Now I don't remember.)

*i.e., not bestsellers or other heavily promoted titles

#330 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 08:01 PM:

Linkmeister @326, that puts me in mind of the mule-trip down the Grand Canyon I took twenty years ago... (was it that long ago? Can't be!... Oh, yes. 1992) where we were blithely informed "we've never lost a tourist yet."

Which set me wondering how many guides and wranglers they'd lost. After all, they take those trails in iffy conditions to make sure they're safe for the tourists to ride....

#331 ::: Cassy B. has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 08:01 PM:

Probably for odd parenthetical punctuation.

#332 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 08:05 PM:

Okay, we ("we" = me, TNH, and Pip Macdonald) finally managed to see Pacific Rim. We don't always agree with Jim's movie tastes, but we're right there with him on this one.

As TNH said, if you can swallow the idea that it makes sense to respond to an invasion of aliens from another dimension under the sea by BUILDING GIANT ROBOTS TO PUNCH THEM, you'll find that it's the smartest, most enjoyable movie you've ever seen about giant robots punching monsters. Bonus: Some pretty good humans, too!

#333 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 08:09 PM:

re 249 et seq.: The Atlantic has just started running spreads from the Documerica photo project of the 1970s, starting with NYC.

#334 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 08:18 PM:

PNH @331:
sounds like Gigantor with actual production values.

#335 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:28 PM:

Question for the hivemind.

I'm going to tag along with my sister and her family on a trip to Italy.

Our cell phones -- all pay-as-you-go "Tracfones" -- won't work there.

I'm wondering if similar phones -- buy for around $20, plus may $10 for an hour of usage -- are a Thing in Europe in general and Italy in particular.

#336 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:30 PM:

Pacific Rim quibble: Gur zbivr jbhyq unir cnffrq gur Orpuqry grfg jvgubhg erdhvevat nal yvar punatrf, be nygrevat gur zrnavat bs nal eryngvbafuvcf, vs Obj Gvr Thl jrer cynlrq ol n jbzna vafgrnq. Nyy gur bgure frpbaq-fgevat znva punenpgref V pbhyq guvax bs, pnfgvat gurz srznyr zvtug vaqrrq unir erdhverq fbzr fpevcg punatrf urer naq gurer, be ryfr punatrq fhogrkg (juvpu V'z tbvat gb nffhzr jnf Nf Vg Jnf Ba Checbfr), ohg ur pbhyq'ir orra n fur jvgu ab ceboyrz ... naq jnfa'g.

#337 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:33 PM:

Elliott Mason: Gung'f na ragveryl yrtvgvzngr dhvooyr. Cvgl gung jvgu nyy gur bgure guvatf vg qvq fb tenghvgbhfyl jryy, vg bayl unq bar srznyr punenpgre bs pbafrdhrapr. Nyorvg n tbbq punenpgre!

#338 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:34 PM:

(For those not bothering to un-rot13: I'm agreeing with Elliott's quibble.)

#339 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 09:56 PM:

I really thoroughly enjoyed Pacific Rim, but it is the kind of film I don't think much about afterwards.

Compare that to Cloud Atlas, which had many flaws but which I had vivid flashbacks about for weeks afterwards.

#340 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2013, 11:56 PM:

Casey #330: Well as of fall of '89 when I worked at Grand Canyon, they had never lost any passengers, guides or wranglers, but they had lost several mules over the years.

All of the trail mules start out hauling freight, and the skittish ones are sold off before they ever see the canyon, much less a passenger - but once in a great while, usually in the winter (or so I'm told) a mule would slip or get spooked and that, as they say, would be that.

I used to know the spot on the South Kaibab Trail where (at the time) the most recent mule had been lost, and that was at least ten years before I was there.

#341 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 12:24 AM:

Charlie Stross: Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to take a Lincoln Town Car up Highway One through Northern California.

If you ever go to Hawaii and anyone suggests you drive the Hana Highway in any car you are entitled to defenestrate them. There's an interesting video at Notice that during the 6:15 the video runs you only see the road for 30 seconds or so? And that you only see cars travelling across the bridges one way at a time? And that what little you do see of the road has double yellow lines down the middle? I've never been on a highway with more beautiful scenery, but having been on both I'd take a garbage truck down Highway One before I drove "The Road to Hana" in anything larger than a subcompact.

Tom Whitmore: For sheer mountainous beauty (and yes, I've driven the Going to the Sun Road) I've seen nothing to compare with Crow's Nest Pass...

Ever been to Hana? Granted you'll see more mountains in Canada, and they're beautiful, but if you want to become more familiar than you ever intended to become with a mountain while driving on it Hana takes the cake.

#342 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II discovers Gnomes don't like Hawaii ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 12:25 AM:

In lieu of poi, I think we have some pickled herring around somewhere.

[Broken link. Fortunately, you'd left enough information for us to fix it. -- Bores Uilei, Duty Gnome]

#343 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 12:39 AM:

Finally saw Pacific Rim. Enjoyed it immensely for all the reasons given in this here thread. (I am a sucker for parallel structure. Also for random appearances by Ron Perlman.) John and I did have one of those conversations on the way home that would have fooled an eavesdropper into thinking we didn't like it - we have a lot of storytelling/story-architecture-level criticism that mostly comes down to "This needed to be episodic. Like, y'know, Big Robot Anime. Too much was attempted in too short a time. Things did not Hang Together." But we criticize most closely the movies we enjoy. The higher the obvious ambition of the creators, the more poignant the missed opportunities and miscues.

Also, if anyone has a chance to see it at an Alamo Drafthouse, go go go! We went to the one in Littleton CO and knew we were in a Good Place when we walked into Theater 5 and it was showing a clip from a Voltron episode. After that, a clip from Evangelion. After that, more stuff in the genre, including this piece of benevolent and delightful WTF'ry. This place loves the movies it shows, and works to create an environment appealing to those who come to see those movies. The hour-long drive in afternoon traffic turned out to be SO WORTH IT.

Also, it's a dinner theater. Its food is quite good. Its menu includes a selection of adult milkshakes (I had the Irish Coffee milkshake). The popcorn comes with parmesan-herb seasoning. The mushroom pizza is fantastic. Etc. etc. etc.

(We were introduced to the theater when Peter Beagle's & Conlan Press's tour with the new print of the Last Unicorn film came through Colorado. That too was awesome.)

#344 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 01:56 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @ 341: I started to drive the road to Hana, and was not enjoying myself. Headed back*, and signed up for a guided tour. We rode in a minivan driven by someone else, and enjoyed the view. Definitely the way to go!

*I don't recall how.

#345 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 02:12 AM:

I've driven the Hana Highway once, and I live on Oahu, not very far from Maui. Once was enough. For those who've wondered about the Saddle Road on the Big Island, it's been resurfaced and it's now permissible to take your rental car on it. That wasn't the case for about 20 years.

I've never ridden the mules down to the river in the Grand Canyon, but I hiked down and up once when I was 18 or 19. That was an awful lot of cigarettes ago. Even though I've quit I couldn't hike that again.

#346 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 03:31 AM:

Stefan Jones @335: Yes. Certainly in the UK you can buy a mobile 'phone (cellphone to you) for about £15 and Pay As You Go starts at £10. And I know my (American) niece stuck a local SIM card into her cellphone while she was in Barcelona for three months. I see no reason to suppose Italy will be any different.

There seems to be some good info @ Using Mobile Phones in Europe - so you can probably each buy a $15 or £20 unlocked 'phone in the USA (just make sure it's a quad band), take them with you and buy the SIM cards when you get to Italy - very simple.

Charlie Stross @298: Thank you for sharing that -interesting- drive with us!

Jim Macdonald @321: Just to say thank you again. For some reason I hadn't realised Absolute Write covered non-fiction...

#347 ::: k8 ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 04:03 AM:

Oh god, the Road to Hana. I don't really remember anything except getting to the end, being so thankful that we'd made it at last... and then realizing that we had to make the entire trip in reverse to get back to our hotel. I seriously contemplated swimming instead. It is not a road for the easily carsick (or even the 'carsick under the right circumstances' folk like me).

#348 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 07:49 AM:

Smile Activated Gatling BB Gun. Yeah, I think I have a counterargument for the "Where's mah flying car" crowd now.

#349 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 09:50 AM:

A few years ago we went up to the Palomar Observatory from Julian, California. The lady at the Tourist office gave us some directions and a blurry, much copied map. When I checked the relevant page of my Thomas Guide, it looked like the cartographer had been in the middle of a sneezing fit while drawing the road. I was pretty sure we were going to die in our little automatic transmission Honda civic. The only other people we saw on the road were on sports motorcycles of the "Crotch Rocket" variety. The observatory itself was great, but when it came time to leave, my roommate accidentally took a wrong turn - which took us down the beautiful, leisurely side of the mountain. This time we shared the road with more relaxed Harley riders.

#350 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 11:03 AM:

Open threadiness: Game takes on Shakespeare

#351 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 12:11 PM:

@278: Jon Singer supplies this. I haven't been able to get it to fuse, yet. Ow. And I've got a headache from trying.

#352 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 12:15 PM:

#351 : Jacque

You might try moving back farther from the screen.

#353 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 01:19 PM:

Jacque @351: I had trouble until I realized it's apparently an eyes-crossed stereogram (where your eyes converge in front of the image); I'm more used to the eyes-spread variety (where your eyes converge behind the image). I ended up sitting about 40 inches from my 24 inch monitor, putting my forefinger about 10 inches in front of my nose, aiming my eyes at my finger, and moving the finger back and forth until the images fused.

But 3 images for a stereogram? WTF? I've never met Jon Singer, but based on what I've heard, has he maybe built himself a third eye?

#354 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 01:26 PM:

I got it to fuse by moving as close to the screen as my laptop permits, and then pulling back until there was some three dimensionality.

#355 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 01:31 PM:

The first and third image are identical.

Thus, the first and second image form a cross-eyed pair; the second and third form a diverged-eye pair. Take your pick.

#356 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 02:01 PM:

Charles Stross: "Which is why we ended up taking a Lincoln Town Car up Highway One."

Well, you wanted a large jet aircraft, or maybe a train with a sleeper compartment; the car company gave you something as close to a large aircraft or train as they could manage:)

Besides, Lincoln Town Cars are meant to be driven at 45 miles per hour on the highway. However, you're 25 years too young to drive one. And your vision is probably better than the average Town Car driver (a decade ago, the average age of purchasers of those was supposed to be over 60).

#357 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 02:31 PM:

Open thread goodness:
Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling

That is all.

#358 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 02:32 PM:

Barry @356: I will concede that if what you want to do is cruise for 500 miles a day along an interstate, a Town Car is quite a comfortable way to do it.

(But I'd still rather have done it in something closer in size to my own car, which is merely a bloated land yacht by British standards.)

#359 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 02:48 PM:

Because I suck at self-promotion I'm not going to mention this.

#360 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 02:51 PM:

Cassy B. @330: mule-trip down the Grand Canyon

If one wants a similar experience albeit on a much smaller scale, there's a riding stable in Eldorado Springs (coupla miles southwest of Boulder). There are places where the trail is close to vertical. But the horses have all done it a bazillion times. One can just sit back (literally—pro-tip: put all your weight in the stirrups) and enjoy the scenery.

Bruce E. Durocher II @341: Hana Highway

I wonder how it compares to the road up to Flagstaff House in Boulder? (Though most certainly longer.) The Fiske Planetarium did a bit for their Friday night show where they mounted a camera on the front of a motorcycle, and then drove down that road. Edited in a bicyclist with suitable reaction shots, and then showed it in over-crank speed, to Yes's "Close to the Edge." Wheee!!!

Jeremy Leader @353: I ended up sitting about 40 inches from my 24 inch monitor, putting my forefinger about 10 inches in front of my nose, aiming my eyes at my finger, and moving the finger back and forth until the images fused.

Ah! I'll try that.

But 3 images for a stereogram? WTF? I've never met Jon Singer, but based on what I've heard, has he maybe built himself a third eye?

Not...that I've heard. :-)

Andrew has the right of it. Here are Jon's instructions:

The two images on the left (left & center) are for crosseyed viewing, which is the more common method.

If you can tweak the size of the thing on the screen, make it small—that should facilitate matters. Once you get it to fuse, you can go back to the larger size.

Don't even mess with the two images on the right—at 17c, unless you can shrink the thing considerably or you have a stereo viewer, it will be exceedingly difficult to view in walleyed mode.

#361 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 02:59 PM:

Mark D. @357: Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling

Argh. Makes me want to write fiction again. Not helpful, Mark. Not helpful.

#362 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 03:39 PM:

I managed to view both stereo pairs, but the walleyed one was on the hard side.

#363 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 04:21 PM:

That is a very strange stereo . . . triplet.

I was able to cross-eye fuse the middle and left image, and regular-fuse the middle and right image. Both gave a properly depthy effect.

#364 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 04:43 PM:

Jim Macdonald @ 359: Thank you for that link to the review of "The Price of the Stars" Wish I could say it made me go out and buy it, but I did that a long time ago (then went out and bought all the others avaiable at the time, then looked out for more appearing). I -did- just make use of the follow-on link to "A Matter of Oaths" (Helen Wright), which I also bought and enjoyed years ago, and downloaded the e-book version she'd made available (and made a donation, 'cos I bought the book originally second hand).

Still not managing to get either side of the stereogram to work for me - oh well, I do have days like that. Try again tomorrow.

#365 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 05:16 PM:

Denizens of the Open Thread:

I have a job. A real, grown-up, degree-using, career-starting job, with a good paycheque and excellent annual leave.
Expecting to rent my own flat by Christmas.

Today is a very good day.

#366 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 05:43 PM:

duckbunny: Loud enthusiastic cheers!

#367 ::: Lila is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 05:44 PM:

Probably for enthusiastic cheers re duckbunny's excellent job news.

Would Their Lownesses care for some fresh cherries? Storebought, but good just the same.

#368 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 05:45 PM:

This is just to say

Someone has eaten the

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

I has left in the icebox at work

I was saving them for this evening

to eat before my class

They left the empty box in the fridge

and didn't even leave a poem

that was so cold

#369 ::: Lila's gnomed again ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 05:45 PM:

The comment reporting the gnoming of the previous comment has been gnomed.

Moose bites can be really nasty.

Congratulations, duckbunny. (suppressed exclamation points)

#370 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 05:46 PM:

Congrats duckbunny!

Congrats Jim & Doyle!

#371 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 05:50 PM:

HLN: local fanfic writer celebrates the fact that today her favorite of her own works has garnered 1337 hits.

Leet-chievement unlocked!

#372 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 06:03 PM:

Duckbunny #365: That is wonderful. Congratulations!

#373 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 06:46 PM:

Congratulations, duckbunny!

#374 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 07:13 PM:

I just want to say, totally unconnected to anything else here: "Carlos Danger" ?!?!?!

#375 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 07:17 PM:


Oh Frabjous Day!!

#376 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 07:21 PM:

Patrick @ #374, good God. That's--just embarrassing.

#377 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 07:26 PM:

Carlos Danger is undoubtedly Weiner's tribute to Compadre Hugo.

#378 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 07:30 PM:


Which is the correct form of the expression?

This: "Acme restaurants is by far in the way the most successful restaurant chain in the British Isles."

Or: "Acme restaurants is by far and away the most successful restaurant chain in the British Isles."

#379 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 07:36 PM:

Soon Lee: Neither. Use " far and away the most..." or " by far the most..." but don't combine them.

'Far in the way' belongs in the Dreadful Phrases thread; it's simply a misparse of the real phrase.

#380 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 07:55 PM:

What Happens When you Mix Ammonium Chromate & Mercury(II) and Set it on Fire

#381 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 08:01 PM:

That was interesting. (We never got to play with that one in chem lab. Probably for good reasons. We did get to fill small bottles with chemically-generated oxygen and drop hot objects into them.)

#382 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 08:03 PM:

I was going to mention California Highway 17 between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz (a 4-lane mountain goat track), but I have to admit the Hana Highway trumps them all. I drove it when I was about 30 in a rental car with the high beam/low beam control in an unfamiliar location. Wouldn't do it again but was glad to do it once for all the scenery and flowers and skinnydipping in clear mountain streams.

#383 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 08:10 PM:

Jacque (380): Holy carp! I don't usually follow links to random videos, but I'm glad I watched that one.

Pity about the spoiler in the blurb below the video, though. ;)

#384 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 08:10 PM:

Xopher @379:

Aha! That's good to know; both options were making me twitch*. It's a discussion I'm having with a workmate.

*Certain turns of phrase feel wrong despite being unable to articulate why. The language version of my lizard brain knows more than I do.

#385 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 08:18 PM:

The fun part of Santa Cruz Highway is seeing the tire marks on the center divider - which went in, IIRC, in the mid-1970s. Before that, it was just two double-yellow stripes a few feet apart.

#386 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 08:48 PM:

Duckbunny, congratulations (exclamation point)

Jacque @360; shorter would have been good. Here follows my Grand Canyon Mule Ride Story; feel free to skip the Wall of Text....

We arrive at the lodge the night before. In a moment of jocularity, I told the travel agent (remember travel agents?) that all we cared about for the room was a bed and a bathroom. This proved fortuitous; we got one of the very few rooms with its own bathroom. More on that later.

My husband spent the evening scrambling WAY too close to the edge, getting photos. I was the Voice of Caution.

Next day, we got our mules. Mine was named Cat; she was recovering from equine flu and this was her first time back on the trail. My husband's was named Madonna. We were supposed to be sequential with each other, but my husband, who had never ridden an equine, couldn't persuade Madonna to follow Cat and he ended up almost at the end of the group. (I'd had a dozen riding lessons, which proved largely useless, because I was taught to neck-rein but with mules you just haul on their mouths...) It was a lovely day. We went down about halfway, to the edge of the plateau, and then back up again. (All the way down is a two-day trip.)

My travails first: Mules are noticeably wider than horses, which means by the end of the day I was getting decidedly saddlesore. On the way back up, you stop every five or ten minutes, for five or ten minutes, to let the mules rest. While we were moving, my thighs hurt. While we were stopped, poor Cat was wheezing so hard she was actually rocking, trying to get her breath. Which was, no lie, making me seasick. (Mulesick?) I started to pray to get moving (and hurt) rather than stop (and risk hurling...)

Meanwhile, my husband, near the back of the train, was a victim of the "rubber-band" effect. Mules like to bunch up close, so when gaps form, they rush to keep up. Which means, at the back of the group, they have two speeds; practically stopped, and trotting. Fast. Sometimes skidding around the corners of the switchbacks... At every official stop, the mules turn outward towards the middle of the canyon, so they can see exactly where it is. Now, Madonna apparently was a trifle hungry. She started snacking on treetops that grew up against the canyon. When there weren't any close, she'd lee-eee-eee-an out to get it. This made my husband, understandably, very very nervous. (Especially since the riders on either side of him looked rather pale when they saw this happening.) My husband, being a non-rider, had NO idea how to stop her.

At the end of the ride (which was beautiful, and terrific, and memorable for good reasons as well as the ones outlined here, and which we will NEVER EVER DO AGAIN), I retired to the (blessedly private) bathroom for a long, long soak. I noticed that night and the next day that my previously fearless husband had suddenly decided that fifty feet back from the edge of the canyon was A Good Place To Be. (It took him several days to get over the fear of heights.)

#387 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 09:22 PM:

There's a mule ride on Molokai from the top of the island down the cliffs to Kalaupapa, the place where victims of Hansen's Disease were isolated. I've never done that, though.

#388 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 09:46 PM:

Jacque @380 -- is that the chemical reaction that made the firework snakes we got when I was a kid work? It sure looks like it. The ash cords are pretty fragile, but great fun to watch. And the burning of them left a black mark on concrete/brick that was pretty much impossible to wash away. The snakes came 6 or so to a package, and were black cylindrical pellets about 1cm in each direction. I'd bet they were a serious environmental hazard....

#389 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 09:55 PM:

So about Jacque's kraken from 380:

What is a plausible story about why a pile of powder, when burning, would start to generate coherent strands like that? What ordered structures in the combustion are they using as scaffolding? Why is the number of them what it is, i.e. about a half-dozen, instead of only one per pile, or several thousand? How do they collect material on the bottom end of the strand, and how does it generate pressure to push the upper parts up, instead of breaking the strand apart?

That is an extraordinary phenomenon--it just seems like a surprising degree of order arising out of what could instead have been a relatively unordered process. For most combustible powders, e.g. sawdust, if you burn a heap of it nothing very exciting happens, and certainly nothing where macroscopic structures develop.

#390 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2013, 10:47 PM:

Loved the video. The kids' enthusiastic labeling of it makes me wonder what movies they've seen recently.

#391 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:36 AM:

What Xopher Halftongue @379 said, strongly seconded.

#392 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:07 AM:

Tom, #388: I remember those snakes! And you're right, they did look very similar to what's happening in that video.

#393 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:16 AM:

oldster @389 -- The plausible story comes if you think about nucleation centers, similar to seed crystals in a supersaturated solution. The ash starts coming together, and that leads other ash to accrete on the end of it; the accretion pushes the ash out of the way of the reaction, and it continues along. Because it's started in one place, there's no tendency for a second one to start "near" it (and nearness should be a determinable construct, based on various chemical and physical factors). With the snakes I referred to in 388, there's a single accretion point where the ash is generated; sometimes it branches, resulting in a fork in the snake, but it usually comes back together very quickly.

Googling "safe and sane fireworks snake" leads to this page as the first link: note the comment at the end of the description "The traditional mercury salts are no longer used because of the toxicity." That's an indication that yes, this is the reaction I'm familiar with. With a single pellet, there's one nucleation center where I apply the initial flame.

#394 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:51 AM:

A key fact (which I'm sure we noticed but is worth putting in words): the ash is solid, but much less dense than the powders that form it. This is not true of burning sawdust, for example.

#395 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:52 AM:

Thinking just a bit further -- the size of the nucleation center is going to be the same as the diameter of the various snakes, about a centimeter (note that they all have approximately the same diameter - none are significantly larger or smaller consistently). This may be related to heat generation from the reaction -- at a specific diameter, there's exactly the range of heat that makes the chemical reaction which yields a stable ash column. This should be fairly easily measurable, and say something interesting about the reaction.

It's supported by the fact that the ash reaction doesn't happen until significantly after the burning starts. There's a temperature that has to be reached, locally, before the ash nucleation becomes sustainable. There's a nice little paper in figuring out exactly what the temperature range is, and it's probably been done. The uniform diameter (clearly within a factor of 2) of the "snakes" is a pretty amazing clue, and I can't believe someone hasn't actually examined it and determined what's going on.

#396 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:35 AM:

Alan @382: I once worked for a company based in Santa Cruz, and had to drive Highway 17 a few times. In 1993. That's what put me off driving in the USA for 18 years.

#397 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 09:39 AM:

From The Atlantic website: Stephen King on the opening sentence

#398 ::: dancingcrow ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 10:31 AM:

PNH's sidelight on jaywalking reminded me of this comic with the Sphinx. One of my favorites.

#399 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 11:34 AM:

Allan Beatty #382, Charlie Stross #397:

Ah, yes, Route 17, where freeway drivers apply their hard-won straight-line skills to getting up and down a 4-lane goat path at freeway speed. Grand Prix driving almost also ran.

I interviewed with a Santa Clara company in the early 80s whose founders all lived in Santa Cruz. The insanity carried over.

#400 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 12:05 PM:

Joann @398: Highway 17 on its own isn't that bad. Reminded me of a bunch of roads I grew up rat-racing on in Yorkshire, like the A58 or A61.

The special sauce for me was trying to tackle it on the wrong side of the road in an automatic. Too many things to keep track of, simultaneously! (I do not like automatic transmissions. I especially do not like having to drive a vehicle where the nearside is the side I have limited peripheral vision on.)

#401 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 12:06 PM:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a banknote in possession of an empty space, must be in want of a portrait.

The Bank of England plans to put a poortrait of Jane Austen on a banknote to be released in 2017

#402 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 12:27 PM:

Context for Charlie @399

For non-UK drivers, the drivers licence here distinguishes vehicles with an automatic transmission from others. If you passed the test with a stick-shift, you can drive any car. Pass with an automatic, and you can only drive with an automatic transmission.

I don't know what is going to happen when electric vehicles become dominant. There used to be, a long times ago, a category for an electric vehicle: low-speed battery-power stuff such as milk floats. They're a lot different from the new electric version of the Mercedes SL. Category H is still there in the list, but the first new driver to pass a driving test in an electric car was in October 2012: the driving school doesn't mention whether he passed for B, B auto, or H.

Anyway, driving instructors use stick-shift vehicles. We get taught to drive them (Exception: some disabled drivers). We Brits rarely encounter automatic transmissions.

#403 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 12:57 PM:

Context additional to Dave Bell: Whereas in the US, in city-living people under 40, it is perfectly possible to never have encountered a manual transmission car you were expected to be able to drive. Many models of car do not COME in manual; to my knowledge, no electric or hybrid vehicle for sale in the North American car market comes with a manual (a fact that royally cheesed off my manual-loving in-laws when they decided to switch from Volvos to Priuses). Manuals, when available, always cost more at purchase. Many driving schools do not OFFER a course in manuals, on the grounds that today's 16yos are never going to see one ... which may be short-sighted, but whatever.

I did make a concerted effort to learn to use one when I learned to drive (as an adult, not that many years ago). However, various sensory-integration things meant that the amount of juggling balls I had to keep in the air just to control a car and keep it pointed in the right direction was too much to add shifting and transmission-management in for ... and the reason I was getting a license at all was because I needed to transport my grandmother to medical appointments immediately. Her car was automatic. Therefore I learned to drive THAT, and by the time her transportation was no longer an issue, we had downsized our household from two cars (her land-boat and a manual my husband drove) to one car. Of necessity, we downsized to an automatic, because I could drive it. Were I to try again to learn to drive stick, first I'd have to find someone who owns one they'd let me use periodically for learning on, and I don't think I have any local manual-trans-owning friends.

#404 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 12:59 PM:

Additional to my last: the other thing the UK car market has lots of that are completely unheard of in the US market are passenger diesels. There just aren't any. Partly, perhaps, because the US supply of diesel fuel is horribly sulfurous and generally very polluting, so they don't look like an 'eco-friendly' solution at all.

It amazed me when I started watching Top Gear not only how tiny the 'big' UK cars were but how absolutely all of them seemed to come in both diesel and petrol versions.

#405 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:06 PM:

Some of us learned on stick - my parents didn't like automatics. Their feeling was that if you can drive stick, you can drive anything.
I've met automatics (rental) that always seemed to be in the wrong gear, but I like the one I own now (an '02 Prius).

#406 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:09 PM:

Elliot: I never drove an automatic until the first time I hired a car in the USA, about 12 years after I passed my driving test. Nor have I ever owned an automatic.

(My current car is a turbocharged diesel estate with a six-speed manual transmission. Looks utterly boring, but it's the fastest-accelerating thing I've ever driven.)

Over here, automatic transmissions cost extra to buy -- used to be a lot extra -- and until relatively recently they were less economical, an important point in the land of $10/gallon petrol. Modern dual-clutch/eight speed autos or continuously variable systems are an entirely different matter, of course, but the old three-speed slushbox used to return about 20% worse mileage.

(My dad used to drive automatics from the 1960s onwards, and he did about 30,000 miles a year for business, but he was exceptional: a lot of that was stop/start town driving -- he did a lot of sales visits for his family business -- so he paid the fuel premium in order to spare his left ankle.)

#407 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:11 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 403

A quibble; while they are not common, VW diesels are still available.

We had one; awesome performance, seated 5 adults comfortably, got almost 50 mpg. My little sister wrecked it--a head-on collision with both vehicles going over 50 mph. The vehicles (it and a pickup) were totaled, but everyone walked away.

Another vehicle class that isn't available in manual transmission versions (to my annoyance) is minivans.

#408 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:14 PM:

Elliott #403:

For values of US market that = "Made by US companies".

There are the occasional passenger diesels made elsewhere, mostly in Germany, a very few in France, on the roads here in Texas, although they seem(ed) to be most prevalent in California.

#409 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:21 PM:

joann @407: Yes, of course. Though I would note that US companies are happy to sell small passenger diesels in the UK market, and so are companies like Toyota -- which still don't offer them for sale here. I know because people I know have walked into dealerships and attempted to order one to be told they don't exist. When the salesperson was shown photos of (in one case) the family's former UK car that is EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO ORDER, the salesperson was gobsmacked and said there was no entry for it in the computer, they had no idea where this bizarre thing in the picture is from but it clearly isn't a REAL Toyota ...

Um, yes. :->

And Charlie, I know: I'm pointing out that there are things that are normal and widespread in the UK that are nearly unknown in the US and vice-versa. It is very very difficult to rent a manual-transmission car in the US (impossible most places; when possible, usually a huge pickup truck).

I know quite a few USian drivers who love manuals and can get quite serious improvements in gas mileage out of them (over what an automatic can do) by driving them properly ... who are gradually being forced to convert their household autos to automatic through lack of access, or simple cost. If you can only afford to buy off the used market, for example, manuals get even harder to find than they are new.

#410 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:24 PM:

(Nods to Dave Bell) I just read that the Bank of England is going to put Jane Austen's likeness on the 10 pound note. This is so full of win, as we say, that it got me thinking: whose likeness would I want to have on US greenbacks?

I'm tired of the usual suspects. Let's give the Founding Fathers a rest. It's a new game. Only rules: if historical person (doesn't have to be either historical or person), said person must be a) dead, and b) clearly and obviously connected to the USA. Feel free to play! Here are my suggestions:

$1 bill: Woody Guthrie
$5 bill: Sojourner Truth
$10 bill: Mark Twain
$20: Jerry Garcia
$100: Boss Tweed as drawn by Thomas Nast

#411 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:27 PM:

To clarify, shorter myself in the past few posts: Dang, isn't it annoying when you stub your brain against massive differences in the 'of course' default value for something?

Like when we went to Edinburgh for a family wedding and I discovered that I could order a Sprite and get served lemonade? Or limonata? Or some weird sludgy citrus thing they made in the back of the restaurant? And the waiters had NO IDEA why I was upset I hadn't gotten a Sprite/7-Up/some mainstream clear, noncaffeinated soft drink in a green can? Or the fact that nearly every durn place that sold food and had seating was CLOSED between 1PM and 4:30PM except Pizza Hut? Eat lunch early or abandon all hope of calories, ye who enter here!

That was an exciting two weeks of unfamiliar food and complete spoon deficit on my part, though it also catapulted Edinburgh onto the short list of towns I could see myself cheerfully living in. And I am VERY PLEASED at the difference in default assumptions that meant I could get a baked-potato-with-stuff-in at any pub we walked into, 'of course'. Baked potatoes, mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

#412 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:37 PM:

Elliott Mason (402): Manuals, when available, always cost more at purchase.

Not always. I recently bought a 2013 Hyundai Accent; the list price for the automatic version was roughly $1,000 more than the manual version. That was also true of the Honda Fit. On the other hand, manuals would have been a lot harder to get than the automatic I wanted.

I did learn how to drive a manual, but I haven't done it in about 30 years. I'm sure I'd need practice.

#413 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:53 PM:

So, silly question: For people who learned to drive a stick shift, is there actually some degree of difficulty in using an automatic, or is it just having to unwrap your head from worrying about a whole bunch of things you've gotten to thinking of as, pardon me, automatic and reflexive?

(Disclosure: I've almost never driven a stick except for one simulator session in high-school driver-ed, where they thought it would be cool. Oddly enough, I did reasonably well, probably because I was so busy worrying about not virtually stalling the thing that I wasn't overthinking some other stuff.)

#414 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 01:56 PM:

I think light trucks (that is, what the US calls 'pick-up trucks', although some are pretty durn freakin' large) are the most common exception to the manual-costs-more rule, because the reasons people traditionally had for buying these vehicles meant that you wanted the extra functioning a manual gives you pretty badly.

Having driven a manual for fifteen years now (and yes, having learned on an automatic meant that adapting, especially in a non-flat city like Nashville was challenging [to the point of hair-tearing] at times) I find it a PITA to work with an automatic now.

#415 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:00 PM:

Joann @413: controlling the vehicle isn't hard. What's hard is dealing with an invisible idiot who keeps changing gear on you at the wrong time!

Auto engines put out differing amounts of torque at different RPM levels. For example, my car (diesel) idles at 500rpm, pulls sluggishly but with steadily increasing force between about 700rpm and 1900rpm ... then at 2000rpm the turbo gate opens and it goes like a rocket up to redline at 4500rpm.

If I want to drive economically, on level ground, I aim to change gear to keep the engine RPM between about 1000rpm and 1800rpm. And if I want to do my best Mr Toad impression I keep the revs above 2000rpm but change up before I hit 4000rpm.

With a stick shift, this is relatively easy. With an automatic, you lose this fine-grained control over how much torque the engine produces. When you floor the throttle, the gearbox will eventually realize that you want more torque, and will kick down into a lower ratio -- but if you drive hard it will probably keep changing up prematurely. And it's always lagging behind what you want it to do.

The result is curiously distancing, between the driver and the road. I'm used to demanding more torque to drag my (front wheel drive) car out of a curve, avoiding under-steer: this is easy in a manual, but automatics are less controllable. And sometimes they get it wrong, going into kick-down dangerously if pulling uphill towards a hairpin bend.

#416 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:05 PM:

Apparently, the Swedish Police did a test comparing manual and automatic transmissions, and found that the average Police driver could get better acceleration out of an automatic.

Driving a manual is lizard-brain stuff. You're hardly conscious of doing the gear changes. Learning to drive it is the problem.

I have driven a few vehicles with an auto or variable transmission, but most of those driving hours have been with combine harvesters. It's a whole different lizard doing the driving.

#417 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:06 PM:

re 404: Part of the reason passenger diesels mostly died in the US, I would venture to guess, was that they were originally marketed as more economical back in the days when diesel fuel was significantly cheaper. Smokey Yunick's spirit is surely pleased that this is no longer the case (he predicted for years that diesel would eventually be more expensive), and while it may work out cheaper in the end when you do the MPG/price arithmetic, psychologically it's a harder sell when the price difference is right there on the sign.

#418 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:07 PM:

@402 Elliott Mason
Context additional to Dave Bell: Whereas in the US, in city-living people under 40, it is perfectly possible to never have encountered a manual transmission car you were expected to be able to drive Manuals, when available, always cost more at purchase. Many driving schools do not OFFER a course in manuals, on the grounds that today's 16yos are never going to see one ... which may be short-sighted, but whatever.

Manuals are more expensive in the US? Here (Canada), they are cheaper, even though they are less common. They're even called "standard", as in, "I drive a standard". Automatic transmission is an added option you have to pay for.

Driving schools offer the option to learn on a standard, although there's no separate class for the license once you've got it. I took my lessons and got my license on an automatic and learned to drive a standard later.

Oh, and diesels are not common here, but I have run into a few (most VWs, one Merc). The main complaint I have heard is that they take so long to warm up, although maybe that's improved now?

I drive a standard because I prefer it, but on those occasions when I need to drive an automatic, I'm OK to do so. The worst thing is that I keep thwacking at the floor with my left foot, instinctively clutch-hunting.

One does sometimes run into the occasional yob who insists that "women can't drive standard". I still think they must look funny, changing gears with their testicles like that.

#419 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:12 PM:

Cheryl (418): No, manuals are not more expensive in the US, or at least not universally. The four-door hatchbacks I researched last month were all substantially more expensive as automatics.

#420 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:16 PM:

Cheryl @418: the first passenger vehicle I owned was a 1984 Chevy Suburban. Manual transmission. However, there was a button on the floorboard right where the clutch 'ought' to be -- took us couple of weeks (no manual) to discover it was the control for the high-beam headlights. So John spent a lot of time accidentally flashing his brights when his foot tried to clutch.

That car also had listed on labels as Premium Features of this Expensive Version that it had rear disc brakes, the towing package (which meant double the gas tank -- and at appx 11mpg when we were being careful, it NEEDED it), and an AM/FM radio. Because the cheaper versions of the same model came with AM only. Speaking of features you don't realize are a Special Feature until you suddenly don't have them ...

This is the car that, when we decided the rust spots were unacceptable, we used up my mom's supplies of old part-used paint to do a complex spongepainted faux finish on. Plus a wide racing stripe up the driver's side, because John had always wanted one. :-> I have photos somewhere, but apparently not in digital form. It was also wide enough to take a double/full mattress in the back, flat, without folding down the rear seat.

#421 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:17 PM:

Argh. My Suburban was an automatic. This fact is kind of important to the story. However, my fingers insisted on typing the other, for reasons best known to themselves ...

#422 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:20 PM:

Cheryl, 418: My mother switched to automatics, hm, call it 35 years ago? She still goes for the clutch before unexpected braking.

#423 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:29 PM:

My car has CVS, so brain doesn't have do deal with it. It was a much easier transition than I expected. (Except for the lizard-brain kicking in every so often.)

Left foot is parking brake, and it's far enough over to the left to keep 'clutch' out of circuit. On the other hand, when I try lizard-brain reaching for the stick, I reach for the empty spot right in front of the console....

#424 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:33 PM:

Cheryl @418: Oh, and diesels are not common here, but I have run into a few (most VWs, one Merc). The main complaint I have heard is that they take so long to warm up, although maybe that's improved now?

The first diesel I drove was a company car in 1989. It had glow plugs: you switched on the ignition then waited ten seconds for a dash light to go out before you hit the starter motor, or you'd be surrounded by blue fumes of unburned fuel (because the plugs weren't fully up to temperature).

My current car ... works just like a petrol engine, except at lower revs (and with an extra gear ratio to compensate). Turn the ignition key and it starts.

#425 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:38 PM:

One thing I found interesting was that the motorcycle safety course I took failed me the first time. "We could pass you - barely - but we want you to take it again to really get what you need out of it. If we fail you, *we* pay the retry cost; if we pass you, *you* do." It was the right decision, by the way.

The issue? While everyone else was learning how to do 2-wheels-and-a-motor, I was learning how to use a clutch.

Mumble years on, I wonder how many more people are in my then world - never used a manual clutch.

Got a chance to drive a convertible on holiday; it had paddle-shift, auto-clutch available if desired, but not mandatory; no "real" clutch was available, even on that (which was good; I was worried that I would have to pull out my mumble-year-old knowledge on how to not stall).

#426 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:39 PM:

@420 Elliott Mason
the first passenger vehicle I owned was a 1984 Chevy Suburban. [Automatic] transmission. However, there was a button on the floorboard right where the clutch 'ought' to be -- took us couple of weeks (no manual) to discover it was the control for the high-beam headlights. So John spent a lot of time accidentally flashing his brights when his foot tried to clutch.

My Mum's '74 Duster had that button, although I was too young to drive that car. I recall that she hated it, because she had a hard time finding it with her foot, so that by the time she managed to switch the beams on/off, it was too late. This may have been related to the fact that her left leg was severely injured in '72, and she'd had it reassembled with plates and screws and whatnot. It took a year to properly walk again, and that foot still looks funny.

Her decision to learn on an automatic (she only learned to drive after the accident) was in no small part based on the fact that she still had a cast on her left leg when she started her first lessons.

#427 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:42 PM:

Elliott Mason: the Honda Insight used to be available as a manual (my daughter has one); the 2013 Honda CR-Z hybrid still is.

I learned to drive on a stick shift (my father insisted) and a couple of times I've been glad of it, as I had to drive someone else's car and it happened to be a manual. But I prefer an automatic, which doesn't require three feet and two hands when the traffic light turns green on a steep upgrade.

#428 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:45 PM:

Note to the musical folk in the crowd who haven't driven a manual/standard shift -- the engine will change key when it needs for you to change gears. The friend (who was making sure I could drive their car) expressed surprise at how quickly I caught on to their vehicle's needs. When I explained, she said, "Really?!" Turns out she was tone-deaf.

#429 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:46 PM:

With all due respect: have you ever tried to park a car with a manual transmission on a steep hill?

There are reasons why tourists planning to drive inside San Francisco (which you really don't have to do, what part of excellent public transportation system do you not understand?) are told they'd do better with an automatic transmission car, even if they're used to a manual.

Just sayin'.

#430 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 02:59 PM:

Lizzy @429: here in the UK, you can't pass your driving test in a manual transmission if you can't safely do a hill start (on an inclined street) without rolling back. You've also got to be able to hold your vehicle on the clutch without stalling and move off smoothly. And do a three-point turn, and reverse around a corner. Deal with roundabouts (traffic circles). Execute a safe emergency stop. And. And.

(These are some of the reasons why US driving licenses are not considered equivalent to a UK license, and US folks moving to the UK are required to pass a driving test.)

#431 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:02 PM:

I learned to drive (early 60s) on an automatic and taught myself to drive stick a dozen years later when I bought a new car (the cheapest available in the U.S.) that had a manual transmission. It was a little nerve-wracking for a couple of outings but I already knew how to handle a car so I could concentrate on shifting without running off the road.

The two times I rented a car in the UK I reserved an automatic. The combination of driving on the wrong side of the road and shifting with the wrong hand was just too awful to face.

After thirty years of driving stick I switched reluctantly to an automatic seven years ago. My main reason was that I wanted to share the driving on roadtrips with a couple of friends who preferred an automatic (though they could drive stick.)

#432 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:05 PM:

@429 Lizzy L

With all due respect: have you ever tried to park a car with a manual transmission on a steep hill?

My car is a standard, and has been since '94. I live in a city that has a mountain in the middle (though I admit it's no San Francisco). So... yes?

There's definitely a trick to it, but, like any other skill, you learn it with practice. Given 20 years, I'm sure you could do it in your sleep. I'm certainly capable of keeping my car stationary on a hill without using my brake.

@424 Charlie Stross
Sorry, when I was saying "warm up", I meant to say "the engine is warm enough to provide heated air to the passenger compartment". When it's your 30th straight morning starting the car at -20C, warm air now is kind of a mantra. Not to mention that you can't go anywhere until the windows clear.

#433 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:05 PM:

For the last few days, someone I've been following on Twitter has been posting links to anti-vaccination sites.

One had an article claiming that vaccinated kids suffered from "two to five" as many "diseases" as unvaccinated kids. Source: A study by a German homeopath. Must be true, though, because it had CHARTS!

Another link was to . . . well, the site was a sort of clearing house for natural remedy articles. Full of snake oil ads. But the article linked to was boldly titled "STATE DEPARTMENT CAUGHT IN MASSIVE HUMAN TRAFFICKING RING" or some-such. Started with a statement to the effect that our scandal plagued times surely indicate the downfall of the nation. Then the story . . . which was about *one* guy in an embassy in Gambia selling visas.

Man. If you follow the "right" people you get glimpses of this whole shithouse-rat crazy world.

#434 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:10 PM:

I considered buying a manual recently, but I was moving to Orange County at the time, and I've been told by stalwart manual drivers that Southern California traffic is the one place they'd prefer an automatic. I've driven a manual a few times, and it would be an absolute nightmare to do so in some of the LA traffic I've encountered. Then again, I never learned well enough for it to become second nature. I've also heard that heavy, stop-and-go traffic is the one place where automatics perform better, mileage-wise, than manuals, though I don't have a cite for that.

I can provide another datapoint for pricing of automatics vs. manuals, this time on the used market. When I was shopping for used cars, I was looking for one of two things: a 90s Honda Civic, or a late model Mini Cooper. In both cases, manuals were $1000-3000 less than automatics for cars with identical features and mileage. That might just be the area... again, I was shopping around LA, where manuals might be less desirable.

#435 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:13 PM:

@430 Charlie Stross

here in the UK, you can't pass your driving test in a manual transmission if you can't safely do a hill start (on an inclined street) without rolling back. You've also got to be able to hold your vehicle on the clutch without stalling and move off smoothly. And do a three-point turn, and reverse around a corner. Deal with roundabouts (traffic circles). Execute a safe emergency stop. And. And.

In Quebec, if you have chosen to take your mandatory driving lessons on a standard, then your test will include these things as well (except maybe roundabouts, as we don't have many). If you have chosen to take your lessons on an automatic, they leave those "specific to standard" skills off the test (at least, this was true until 1997, when mandatory lessons were abolished. When this proved to be a bad plan, they were reinstated in 2010, so it's likely many rules have changed).

#436 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:26 PM:

@434 Leah Miller

I considered buying a manual recently, but I was moving to Orange County at the time, and I've been told by stalwart manual drivers that Southern California traffic is the one place they'd prefer an automatic. I've driven a manual a few times, and it would be an absolute nightmare to do so in some of the LA traffic I've encountered.

I can see this. Back when I was using my car to commute, I mostly didn't hit rush hour traffic due to my schedule. On those occasions when I did get stuck in stop-and-go, the toes on my left foot would go numb. It didn't happen often enough for me to change my preference, though.

I can provide another datapoint for pricing of automatics vs. manuals, this time on the used market. When I was shopping for used cars, I was looking for one of two things: a 90s Honda Civic, or a late model Mini Cooper. In both cases, manuals were $1000-3000 less than automatics for cars with identical features and mileage. That might just be the area... again, I was shopping around LA, where manuals might be less desirable.

I just did a quick check on the Mazda, Honda, and Chevrolet US websites. Manuals were cheaper on all of them.

#437 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:29 PM:

Stefan 433: These people just infuriate me. The anti-vaccers have the blood of children on their hands. But that person sounds like a bozo in other ways too.

What has your response been? Have you responded with "this is bullshit" to any of these ridiculous tweets? (I don't always have the spoons for such a response myself, so I'm not trying to guilt-trip you for not doing it if you haven't; just curious.)

#438 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:32 PM:

re diesels and glow plugs: There was a time (and for all I know, may still be) when Norwegian Army vehicles had a pipe sticking out the front that ran straight into the block-- for the blowtorch. Apparently sometimes glow plugs just don't cut it.

My recollection was that in the US it was generally manuals that were standard and automatics which were an added-price option. Of course, the price was never the price anyway, so that doesn't mean that people paid more or less for one or the other (except at Saturn dealers).

#439 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:34 PM:

lizzy l @429 - I in fact have parked a car with a manual on a steep hill! I learned to drive on a stick, and living in between Seattle and Tacoma, was regularly engaged in parking the car on various levels of hills. Later I moved to northern California for college, and wound up taking the same car into San Francisco occasionally. While it is not the easiest task in the world, it's not impossible once you invest a little time in understanding where the "hold point" for your clutch is.

In general in the US these days, I have observed that a manual transmission may often be available these days only on the lowest trim level of a particular vehicle, I presume in an attempt to drive down the "as low as" price. The automatic version is usually another $1000 or more. Some of the more driver-focused high-end vehicles that used to offer a manual option now often seem to have a semi-automatic solution instead - the tiptronic or some such - that allows for manual shifting but does not use a clutch pedal.

#440 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:36 PM:

Caution: gearhead wall-o-text follows.

SamChevre @ #407 & Elliott Mason @ 403, et al:

RE: Diesel passenger vehicles available in the USA.
VW, Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Porsche(!?! - then again, this is the smaller SUV that is basically a Touareg) all have them. Mazda6 and Chevy Cruze midsize sedans available late this year or sometime next year with diesels, too. (Note: Cruze Diesel auto-only, and you only gain 3mpg hwy compared to Eco-spec gasoline manual.) Only VW has a manual diesel, though. Choices from (sub?)compact (Beetle/Golf) through mini-SUV (Touareg - 33mpg hwy with automatic as confirmed by my Dad). Wagons available, too. Soon to be available in Jeep Grand Cherokee, and also continues to be available in fullsize 3/4+ ton domestic trucks and some vans. Dodge is reported to be offering a 3 liter V6 diesel in their half-ton late this year. Huh - looks like it is being advertised at only 25mpg, which is likely a highway figure, which is no better than their gasoline V6. Better torque figures, at least, and diesels typically do better on mpg at higher tow loads than gas engines.

Closest thing to a diesel minivan is the Sprinter van, variously available as Mercedes, Dodge or Freightliner. Up to 12 passenger seating. 20+mpg automatic. Get a used older 5-cylinder and you can top 25mpg.

RE: Minivans with manual trans in USA: Mazda5. Only one I know of, shares most of its underpinnings with the Mazda3. We have a 2007 (first generation) one, with the 4-speed auto, they are a bit small, but get good mpg compared to all the bigger ones - we get 19-25mpg depending on how much time spent idling/in traffic vs long-haul freeway. I like it, I can see over it (5'11"), and my wife loves how well it fits everywhere (parks as easily as her old '97 Nissan Altima). 6 seats (3 rows of 2) in the USA. 2013 models claim EPA 21/28mpg city/hwy for 6-speed manual and 22/28 for 5-speed auto, and they seem a bit bigger. Only available on Sport trim level now, though, but at that trim level you get 55 series tires on 16" rims vs. the 50 series rubber on 17" rims of the higher trim levels. I swapped our 17" rims for 16" ones when the original tires wore out - all the rims were bent. 50 series rubber on thin aluminum alloy rims is NOT good for potholes in a people-mover...

#441 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:45 PM:

Wall-of-text warning...

Elliott Mason @ 403

Whereas in the US, in city-living people under 40, it is perfectly possible to never have encountered a manual transmission car you were expected to be able to drive.

Heh. I learned to drive in a VW back in '67. In '73, went to a cousin's wedding in the DC area, escorting the groom's mother (my aunt, who was blind). Cousin rented a car for me... and it was an automatic. I'd never driven one before. Getting out of the parking lot and onto the streets, following him, was... rather a white-knuckled thing. (I now have an automatic, thank ghods - between the borked left knee and right shoulder, I can just imagine trying to shift. I do miss having the manual, though, any time I'm on back roads.) (Enjoyed driving on back roads. Also, ran a few rallyes in the early '70s.) (I drove stick shifts for ... well, long enough that if I'm a bit tired, I try to downshift at stop signs and shift back into first... *wry*)

TexAnne @ 422

My mother switched to automatics, hm, call it 35 years ago? She still goes for the clutch before unexpected braking.

*splutter* She's not alone in that. Every once in a while, my left foot goes for a pedal that's not there.

Lori Coulson @ 428

Note to the musical folk in the crowd who haven't driven a manual/standard shift -- the engine will change key when it needs for you to change gears.

Yes, this, exactly.

Lizzy L @ 429

With all due respect: have you ever tried to park a car with a manual transmission on a steep hill?

There are reasons why tourists planning to drive inside San Francisco (which you really don't have to do, what part of excellent public transportation system do you not understand?) are told they'd do better with an automatic transmission car, even if they're used to a manual.

Or an older-version VW bug in Erie, in the winter, when the pavement is still rather icy. The street grid there is such that in one direction, the streets are flat; the cross streets are somewhat... vertical. There's a neat trick to balance on the clutch and brake at the same time, and do *not* tailgate, because that car with a stick shift will roll back a foot or three, no matter how competent the driver. (This was before studded tires; I suspect they'd make a huge difference.)

#442 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 03:46 PM:

I, too, am a USian who loves, loves, loves her manual transmission. And I have to agree with Charlie @415 about the "invisible idiot"; I live in a town with hills, and I prefer a car that will downshift when I tell it to, thankyouverymuch, instead of shoving down on the gas and hoping the gearbox will figure out what I want.

All three of my cars have been standards, and they've all been about $500-1500 less than the equivalent automatic. And all used, as well. I didn't have any problems finding a replacement for my 1995 Neon when it was totaled in '07; Carmax had several 2005 models available in standard transmissions. IME, there are models of car that are more popular in standard transmissions here in the US, and those are the ones to look for on the used market.

#443 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 04:02 PM:

Charlie at 430: I have no doubt that it is harder to get a UK license than a US license. In most places in the US, if you can parallel park, execute a three point turn, remember to use your turn indicators when you change lanes, and come to a full (not a rolling) stop at the stop sign, you'll pass your test.

I've been driving for 40 years, I am a reasonably safe driver, but I would not trust myself to drive in the UK. Too many differences.

#444 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 04:03 PM:

@440 cajunfj40
RE: Minivans with manual trans in USA: Mazda5. Only one I know of, shares most of its underpinnings with the Mazda3. We have a 2007 (first generation) one, 17" rims of the higher trim levels. I swapped our 17" rims for 16" ones when the original tires wore out - all the rims were bent. 50 series rubber on thin aluminum alloy rims is NOT good for potholes in a people-mover...

My car is a 2006 Mazda5, so I'm pretty sure 2007 is not the first generation. It was marketed as specifically not a minivan - more like an "extended hatchback". They called it a MAV: Multi Access Vehicle. calls it a station wagon. The 5 and 3 are so close in size (length=181.5 for the 5, and 178.4 for the 3, height=64.2 for the 5, and 57.7 for the 3), I'm comfortable calling it a car (dimensions from for the 2006 years).

I have also had no problem with my 17" rims, and it's not like Montreal has so few potholes.

#445 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 04:03 PM:

Re my own 443: I've been driving for 50 years.

When did that happen...?

#446 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 04:12 PM:

I've described it as 'driving by ear'. You really can hear when it's time to change gears.

I had fun driving my father's little Toyota pickup. It was geared way lower than my Corolla. I wasn't used to shifting into 4th gear at 30mph. (It only had 4 gears. Fifth (highway) would have helped.)

#447 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 04:42 PM:

My dad (both my parents had and loved manuals when I was small) taught me when to shift gears, by the sound, when I was far too little to even see over the dash, much less reach pedals. But it was important to him that I learn how, so he talked me through his driving process and how to shift and clutch and stuff, and for a while he would let me 'shift' for him (tell him when to clutch, move the lever myself from the passenger chair) on trips where it was safe to do so.

So I instinctively know HOW and when to shift, I just have trouble (or did, when last I tried, years ago) coordinating the whole-body movements to do it fluently while also not hitting people, missing my turn, or driving off the road.

Curmudgeon moment (and believe me, I know I'm too young to get to have curmudgeon moments yet) tl;dr: this whole subthread seems to have pushed a button I get emotional about, feel free to skip my despairing moral outrage.

With the technology we have today, WHY IN EVERLOVING PROVIDENCE is 25-35mpg still considered a reasonable starting point -- or in some cases, Supreme Efficiency -- for ordinary passenger vehicles?!? Personally, I think somewhere around 30mpg should be an absolute floor, INCLUDING minivans and pickup trucks and cargo vans, with (say) modest 2-door passenger cars having to make at least 45mpg to qualify for sale.

We have the technology. We can build them. But somehow our economic system is so screwed up with its signaling that it is possible for it to be 'too expensive' to build basic reasonable fuel-efficiency standards into cars for sale in the US market. I see COMMERCIALS touting 40mpg as, the ad clearly believes, amazingly awesomely wonderful BUY ME NOW fuel-efficiency for sedans and that's just just so divorced from actual real-world technology that I have trouble believing the ad hasn't fallen in from some alternate universe next door where climate change isn't happening and we have oceans of refined, clean oil just laying about for the taking.

There are tuning aficionados out there managing to get 78mpg out of a diesel Passat (averaged over an 8,000+mi road trip, not some freak highway-only peak). That's a Passat with no hybrid features. The base model of the car that was tuned up for the trip gets 48mpg in the EPA highway benchmarks.

My 1984 Suburban, whose carburated engine was enormous and the entire car practically made out of cast iron, could get nearly 15mpg if we drove it carefully enough. There are several brand-new minivan models out there with EPA highway estimates of 12mpg. And manufacturers are selling 'hybrids' where the electric engine is used only for momentary torque boost, and the car as a whole still only gets 30mpg!?!

Jesus wept.

#448 ::: Elliott Mason got gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 04:43 PM:

Probably for excessive emotional use of interrobangs. And also a link.

#449 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 05:59 PM:

Elliot Mason @404: Our car is a diesel; we get about 50 mpg in town, 60 mpg out of town. It's also got such low emission levels that we gat very low annual car tax (£30 a year).

joanne @413: I drove my mother's automatic a few times in my late teens/early 20s and hated it - it never changed gear when I wanted it to. But I think I drove one maybe four or five times before we went on thet trip to the Canadian Rockies, and it had been probably 20 years since the last time I'd driven one. So I needed coaching on things like "you have to put your foot on the brake to start the car". But it's the fact that the automatic gears change some time after my ear tells me they ought to change that's really annoying. (Or - what Charlie Stross said @ 415).

Cheryl @418: But they didn't have any manuals on offer for hire cars when we wanted one. :( And modern diesels no longer take any time to warm up.

Elliott Mason @411: I had that in reverse - I had to ask for Sprite to get what I thought of as lemonade (sorry; I don't taste a difference) - fizzy and clear. And I presume you know by now that "cider" in the UK = "hard cider" in the USA. (Okay: what's the USA difference, if any, between "apple juice" and "cider"???)

Lizzy L @429: What's the problem? Seriously? I've been doing that since my second ever driving lesson from my stepmother...

#450 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 06:11 PM:

Dave B., #402: That distinction makes perfect sense to me. I learned to drive on an automatic, and when I bought a stick-shift car a few years later, I had a friend who drove one come over and give me an evening's worth of lessons, first in a parking lot and then on low-traffic residential streets. And even with that, I made stupid-beginner mistakes for a few weeks, such as being unable to get the car moving because I'd accidentally gotten it into third gear rather than first!

Technically, I can still drive a stick, but it's been 20-odd years since I did so except in emergencies. And I would really prefer not to try to regain my chops in Houston traffic, so it's likely to stay that way. Automatics remove one entire category of things one has to think about in a nasty-traffic situation, of which we have many.

Mary Aileen, #412: Back when I was buying new cars, stick-shifts were always cheaper -- the automatic-transmission package, as you note, added $1,000 or more to the price. However, that was a couple of decades ago, and things might have changed in the interim.

Another issue with stick-shifts is that there's not just one standardized pattern for the gears. 4-speed and 5-speed sometimes have odd and even gears reversed (as to which is down and which is up), and sometimes R is on the left and sometimes on the right. So learning how to drive one stick-shift car doesn't guarantee that you'll have the right reflexes for a different one.

Lila, #427: *snerk* Agreed.

Generally: I express extreme respect for anyone from GB/Australia who has the balls to try to drive a car in America. I have an Aussie friend who occasionally posts time-lapse videos of road trips, and my lizard brain absolutely cannot stop freaking out at being on the wrong side of the road. If I am ever in a place that has left-side driving, I intend to rely exclusively on public transportation.

#451 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 06:11 PM:

Apple juice, in the US, is generally sweeter than cider, and not always filtered (that is, it can be cloudy from solids in it).

#452 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 06:12 PM:


The tweeter in question was one of a clutch of people I've gradually been un-following. I tend to follow people in bunches. "A" follows me, I check out recent tweet history and am interested enough to follow back, then person "A" responds to or retweets "B" who I then follow, etcetera.

Most people say *something* interesting now and then. And I give them a chance.

Said clutch of people . . . well, maybe I started following them because they were batting about interesting futurology stuff, or techno-civil-rights stuff. I don't remember the exact reason.

But then it became apparent that the "not satisfied with the status quo" attitude shaded into "believes crazy shit because of anti-authoritarian streak not because of any real interest in the science." So you'll get people who are worried about fracking (yea!) but also don't believe in global warming (uh . . .). And now, anti-vaccine nuttiness. So I start to unfollow.

And you know, it just isn't worth arguing with someone who believes a sufficient degree of crazy.

#453 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 06:19 PM:

Cheryl @#444:
Ah, bad phrasing on my part. "First gen" to me means the first few years, before any significant changes are made to the basic structure. IE, there's little to no difference between an '06 and an '07, but a year or two later things get different, and now they have shaped sides and such. I don't recall the marketing not calling it a minivan - I just know it was the only vehicle that met most of our criteria for a new car. All the others sat too few or got horribly worse mileage or were prohibitively expensive or were too big for my wife to be comfortable in. I'm glad you've had no trouble with your rims. All 4 of ours were bent enough to show up on the balancer at ~30K miles. And with the price difference between 16" tires and 17" tires added in (Continental Extreme Contact DWS, dang fine tires, btw), it was cheaper to buy new aftermarket rims than to get my factory rims repaired.

Elliott Mason @#447:
I hear you. I want better mpg, and I know it is doable. I was quite displeased that I could not find a minivan that got 30+ mpg. You can buy one in the UK - a diesel Mazda5. Unfortunately, I'm at the mercy of all the other new car buyers out there and how they shift the vehicle market. Most new car buyers trade up every 3-5 years, so the incentive to buy expensive fuel-saving tech is not there. The ROI on a new hybrid or diesel is around 10 years at the mileage we drive per year - and there are no hybrid or diesel minivans. As for my car - '99 Chevy Prizm manual - absolutely nothing available beats it in cost per mile, except maybe a similar vintage VW diesel, but the ROI on trading up isn't there either since I do less than 10K miles/year in this car as a commuter drone.

I want a 3-wheeler tadpole electric for commuting, 40 mile dead of winter range, but it mustn't cost more than $3K or it isn't worth it making the commuter drone non-carseat-capable.

#454 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 06:20 PM:

Transmissions: I learned on an automatic* and never learned "stick."

Before my move to Oregon, I started looking for driving schools that would get me up to speed on manual transmission driving. I was looking at new cars at the time and wanted the option of a sporty Civic hatchback, which only came in manual.

After my sudden relocation, I gave that up, and got another automatic.

As it happens, knowing know how to "drive a stick" would have been helpful in my upcoming trip to Italy. I won't be able to help my sister and brother-in-law with driving rental cars. Oh well.

* My first car, a 79 Accord, was a semiautomatic . . . called an "Australian shift" for some reason. It was an automatic, but with two ranges (1 and 2, 3 and 4) that you had to manually shift between. No clutch.

#455 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 06:28 PM:

P J Evans @451: Thank you for the clarification (although I prefer cloudy apple juice myself).

Lee @450: I go by "as the driver, I keep myself in the centre of the road, my passenger on the kerb side of the road. That works fine until you take your own British car across to continental Europe...

Re: "there's not just one standardized pattern for the gears. 4-speed and 5-speed sometimes have odd and even gears reversed (as to which is down and which is up)" Here in the UK, I've never met a manual transmission car (stick shift) that didn't have the standard "H" with 1 and 3 up, 2 and 4 down (=/- 5th +-6th to the right), and weighted to 3 & 4 (if you go to neutral and take you hand off the gear lever (stick) for a moment, it will put itself ready to go up to 3rd, down to 4th. Of course, going from a five-gear car to one where reverse is at top right can be disconcerting. And yes, reverse can be in all sorts of places, and you may need to press down, pull up, pull on a ring around the stick etc. to go into reverse. That can be interesting...

#456 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 06:41 PM:

Lee (450): the automatic-transmission package, as you note, added $1,000 or more to the price. However, that was a couple of decades ago, and things might have changed in the interim.

My point is that they *haven't* changed. I bought a new car just last month, and automatics were definitely more expensive.

#457 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 06:50 PM:

dcb @449: I would have said that the two were more or less synonymous, but P J Evans @451 makes a good point.

#458 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 07:18 PM:

What I remember (and it's more than 10 years) is that 5th was far right up, reverse was far right down, and there was a sort of 'Y' slot so that you couldn't shift between them. You had to push toward 5th when you shifted, and from out-of-gear you pulled back as well as pushed right for reverse.

#459 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 07:18 PM:

Elliott @404: I'm on my 3rd diesel car in 15 years, owing to a daily round trip commute of 120km into Ottawa. The first, a 97 Passat wagon, had an unexpectedly short life, but the 2002 Jetta wagon that replaced it lasted a very respectable 500 000km. Both were manual transmissions. The Jetta's engine was still chugging along when we replaced the car last year after 10 years of honourable service,, though the electrical system was failing in many ways and there were rust issues all over.

Owing to being a very tall family, we ended up replacing the Jetta with a 2012 Passat TDI sedan, which is a diesel that is actually built in North America. I would have preferred another wagon, but we traded a back hatch for a backseat with enough legroom that I (185cm) can sit comfortably behind my 195cm tall spouse, should need arise.

We bought an automatic this time around - manual would have cost $1000 less, but it also would have been a 3-4 month wait for it to roll off the line in Tennessee. Also, having had the experience of trying to drive a manual transmission vehicle while injured and unable to fully move my left leg, it seemed prudent to have one car in the family that requires less physical dexterity. And, the sprogs are approaching the learning-to-drive age, and IME it is easier to learn on an automatic transmission. When I learned to drive (Toronto area, 25 years ago), group driving instruction was offered exclusively on automatics. I learned to shift gears courtesy of my intrepid mother taking me out to the mall parking lot in her craptastic K-car and letting me grind away.

The diesel technology has improved in leaps and bounds. Our first winter with the 97 Passat, we were aggrieved to find that once winter really hit, we had a large paperweight in our driveway until we were able to find an after-market block heater (couldn't believe that VW didn't make one!). The Jetta only required occasional nursing during the colder months, and the new Passat had no issues at all even on the coldest days last winter. My only complaint about the new chariot is for some reason the gas tank has a regular-sized intake rather than one designed to accommodate the often-wider nozzles on diesel pumps designed to prevent people from unintentionally filling their tanks with the wrong fuel.

The biggest adjustment going from manual to automatic?: learning to keep the left foot nailed firmly to the floor so as not to stand the car on its nose by unconsciously poking the brake pedal when slowing down. After a year, I think I have successfully squelched the instinct - though now I periodically stall when driving the other household vehicle (which has a standard).

#460 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 07:29 PM:

Variations In the shifting patterns: while 1-5 are in the same patterns, the location of reverse was completely different between a VW gearbox and a Toyota Gearbox. On the VW, reverse was up and to the left of 1st, on the Toyota it's right of 5th and down. Helps to keep one alert ;)

#461 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 07:41 PM:

dcb @449 said of my 'lemonade'/Sprite UK problem: I had that in reverse - I had to ask for Sprite to get what I thought of as lemonade (sorry; I don't taste a difference) - fizzy and clear. And I presume you know by now that "cider" in the UK = "hard cider" in the USA. (Okay: what's the USA difference, if any, between "apple juice" and "cider"???)

Around Chicago in my experience (I am not all USians, and food terminology is very regional), if you order 'lemonade' at a restaurant what you get will at least purport to be a mixture of straight lemon juice, water, and sugar (though often it's actually made from a powdered drink mix). Often somewhat cloudy. Non-fizzy. Served on ice almost exclusively. How sweet it is depends on regional and personal preferences.

If you order a Sprite, a 7-Up, or a (generic term) lemon-lime soda, you will receive something like what's in a green can marked 'Sprite' (though it tastes slightly different than the UK version of the contents of the same-appearance can, because ours is sweetened with corn syrup).

I taste a strong difference between what comes in a Sprite can and what my husband makes by squeezing lemons and mixing them with tap water and sugar (I don't like the latter at all, for one thing). It puzzles me bizarrely that apparently the general run of restaurant-going UK audience doesn't, at least to judge by how surprised the waitstaff were at MY surprise at how varied what I got when I ordered a Sprite, was. I think I came off as something between Sally Albright and a madwoman with the way I ended up interrogating them about IS IT IN A CAN, and WHAT DOES THE CAN SAY ON IT? Is it Sprite? Is it 7-Up? WITH THE BRAND NAME ON IT? No? Ok, thanks, I won't have it then ...

If you order apple juice in a restaurant (or buy something labeled that at a grocery store), it will be made of filtered apple-squeezings (possibly condensed and rewatered before it gets to you, 'from concentrate'), and often be significantly sweeter than apple-squeezings are served in the UK. It will also, unless you're at a very veganish/natural-foods kind of restaurant, be a perfectly transparent filtered liquid with no visible solids, and often fairly pale in color. If you buy a bottle called 'cider' in a grocery store around here, it will be visibly darker and often contain sludgy solids. If you buy it at a farmer's market direct from the farmers it will also be much more interesting in flavor and not as one-dimensionally sweet -- farmer's market jugged 'cider' is exactly what I got in the UK when I ordered 'apple juice' at a restaurant. Hard cider is sometimes explicitly called that in big letters, but usually you can tell it from the nonalcoholic kind in the store because hard cider comes in little brown beer bottles and nonalcoholic apple-squeezings come in big plastic juice jugs.

And then there's the difference between the contents of a plain, cheap-brand jar marked 'Peanut Butter' in the UK and the US ...

#462 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 07:50 PM:

dcb, #455: IIRC, my first stick-shift car was a 4-speed with 1 and 3 down, 2 and 4 up, and R all the way to the left and down (and you had to put in some extra effort to get the stick to go over there). To this day, patterns with the odd gears on top feel strange and unintuitive to me, because of the years I spent where "shift up" meant literally UP. And R on the right is just Wrong, because to the right is where the higher gears are.

Mary Aileen, #456: Okay, something strange is going on here. Elliott says that automatics cost less, you and I (and several other people) agree that they cost more. I'm sure Elliott isn't making this up, so perhaps something is weird in Chicago?

David G., #457: Having grown up in cider-mill country, to me the difference is specifically between filtered (apple juice) and unfiltered (cider). Yes, sometimes a jar you can see thru will say "cider" on the label, but it's not.

Also, I am SO spoiled by the flavor of fresh-pressed cider that I can hardly deal with any of the commercial varieties. I can taste the Miracles of Modern Chemistry in them.

Interesting side-note: my partner is fond of (hard) cider, and the other day he handed me a Stella Artois cider to try because he thought it was non-alcoholic. I took one sip and said, "No, this has alcohol in it." It did, but only about 4%, and I think in a pinch I could have drunk it. At least it wasn't completely nasty, though it still left that weird alcohol taste in the back of my throat.

#463 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 07:54 PM:

Elliot Mason, I'm curious -- what is the difference? I've never eaten peanut butter in the UK.

#464 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:02 PM:

Elliott, #461: I am totally with you on "lemonade" and "Sprite" being two entirely different things. Lemonade is (1) not carbonated, (2) not colorless, and (3) not made with "artificial lemon-lime flavor". I wonder if the brand-name specificity of the term has gotten rubbed off in GB, similarly to the way "Coke" can refer to any flavor of soft drink in parts of the southern US.*

You should also be careful in Mexico (or when buying drinks bottled there), because they do not distinguish between lemon and lime flavors -- both are "limon".

* Most places here, if you order a Coke you'll get a cola-flavored soft drink, although it may not be the Coca-Cola brand specifically. In parts of the Deep South, you order a Coke and they ask you "What kind?" -- and by that, they mean, do you want cola or lemon-lime or Dr. Pepper or root beer or what?

#465 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:04 PM:

Lizzy L @463: If you're familiar with US pb, ordinary UK pb is comparable to what we think of as the all-natural expensive health-food-store crunchy stuff: stick a bunch of peanuts in a pureeing machine, catch what comes out, and put it in a jar. You have to stir it before you eat it to remix in the oils. It usually has one ingredient on the label: peanuts.

If you're only familiar with UK pb, it's a little harder to describe the American version. It's more spreadable and not as stiff (think whipped butter/marg compared to ordinary), a little lighter in color, and distinctly sweeter in flavor, because it contains (in addition to peanuts) corn syrup and usually stabilizers, and sometimes additional fats. It does not separate when left on the shelf. US pb comes in 'chunky' (which has visible peanut chunks) and 'smooth' (entirely completely smooth throughout). Sometimes there is also 'extra chunky,' which has a lower proportion of smooth stuff per chunk volume.

#466 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:08 PM:

C. Wingate: I don't know about the blowtorch, but I have stories from my dad and his trucking buddies about lighting fires under the engine block when for some reason it had stopped while they were sleeping in the back of the cab. (Yes, I was shocked that they kept the engine running all night. I was even more shocked when they told me what they had to do if they didn't.)

Something about Regina, and November, and it's not going to get up to -10 again for three months.
I'm told that's better now, too (not the weather, but the engines and the engine assistances).

#467 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:19 PM:

Martinelli's cider has no sludge in it. Their sparkling cider is all over the place in December - it's fizzy and non-alcoholic, so it's work-safe. (Also it's pretty tasty.) They have other fruit juices, too.

#468 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:22 PM:

Elliot Mason, thanks. Around my neighborhood, Trader Joe's sells the good pb for a reasonable price. I usually toggle back and forth between the TJs stuff and one of the standard brands which does not contain corn syrup. Creamy, please.

#469 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:37 PM:

My uncle used to drive a Ford van with a diesel engine, but he put the engine in it himself.

#470 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:42 PM:

Linkmeister at # 382, I skipped the mule ride. The souvenir shops had bumper stickers saying "I'd Rather Be Riding a Mule on Moloka'i." I looked in vain for one that said "I'd Rather Be on Moloka'i Doing Anything But Riding a Mule."

#471 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 08:53 PM:

HLN: Aspiring author collects near-total refund from iUniverse. Local man's friend says the $150 they kept was a fair price for the advice on unflattering things written about people who are not all dead yet.

#472 ::: John Ordover ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 09:17 PM:

I read a story quite a while ago, that was written quite a while ago, about a "tech" thing that happens and everyone in the world forgets the last six months. It has nothing whatever to do with Robert Sawyer's work. I think it was a Golden Age story but I could be wrong. Anyone know what story it is? Elements I remember are that the story starts with our hero "waking up" on an airplane, that some evil scientist's mind ray caused it, and in the end it turns out he married his GF during the "blank" time.

Drop me a note at if this rings a bell.

#473 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 09:46 PM:

With regard to manual transmissions and motorcycles, knowing how to shift a car made it MUCH easier to learn how (and when!) to shift a motorcycle. (Although a few years ago, after one particularly balmy and dry summer during which my husband rode his motorcycle to work every day for two months, I reminded him the first cold and rainy September day "accelerate with your foot; clutch with your other foot, shift with your hand.")

My motocycle has four speeds. On the highway, I sometimes find myself trying to shift to a (nonexistent) fifth gear....

Still, could be worse. My husband told me his first bike (I can't remember offhand the make or model; it was a pretty generic UJM*) that had what he described as a "circular clutch"; the shift pattern for most motorcycles is "down one up four" (or three, in my case) -- press down for first gear, up (hard) for second (up lightly is neutral, which is between first and second); up again for third, up again for fourth, up again for fifth if you have it, up again for sixth if you have it. If you're out of gears, kicking it up again does nothing.

In a circular gear pattern, it goes (if memory serves) neutral, up for first, up for second, up for third, up for fourth, up for fifth, up for neutral, up for first....

You *really* didn't want to lose count of the gear you were in.

Fortunately, they stopped making transmissions like that many many years ago.

*Universal Japanese Machine -- slang for the cookie-cutter-identical 1960s Japanese-made bikes. Full disclosure; we both ride Hondas; we have nothing against Japanese bikes.

#474 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 10:36 PM:

I've never driven a VW - my brother learned to drive on one, and so he's pretty much stayed with them (but last time he bought a car, he got a Toyota). I understand he had a hard time taking his driver's test in a VW truck: like the bus and the van, you're sitting right over the front wheels, so the turns look a lot wider from inside than they actually are.

#475 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2013, 11:33 PM:

I can drive stick in theory, but in practice, it takes me long enough to stop stalling that it's not usually worth the trouble. I do like it, though I don't do Charlie's higher-level driving. I just like shifting into third or fourth gear and how good it feels. Anything else, I'm on an automatic because I haven't found a need for the higher-level driving.

Elliott Mason, I'm with you on mileage. It is ridiculous that it hasn't changed in years. My Buick got somewhat more than 26 mpg driving back from Pittsburgh this week-- the average started at 21 and was up to 26 by the end of the round trip-- and while it's okay, I guess, for an older car that had a lot of stuff in it on the trip out, it was also okay, I guess, for the previous Buick, which was seven years older.

There should be progress in those seven years. There should be progress in the seven years since.

#476 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 12:09 AM:

Driving data point:

As USA-in who learned to drive in public school, they taught most of us with automatics. There was one manual transmission car in the driver ed fleet, but since I didn't have one to practice with at home, I never asked how to try it out. It's a skill I wish I acquired, especially after car shopping, but as noted upthread, it seems fairly impractical for LA city driving.

As for the lack of improved fuel efficiency over the years, I wonder how much has to do with the size of the vehicle. When we bought our cars last year my roommate wanted the same make/model that she was trading in. Her '98 Civic coupe was was tiny compared to the 2012 she bought. One of the reasons I picked the Fit is because it drove the most like her '98 - it has a similar wheelbase and response. We had originally planned to "swap" when she needed to haul stuff, but I'm really uncomfortable with the size of that Civic, which is technically a "compact". It feels like I'm driving a boat. The increase in size was explained to me as "extra safety features". So I guess I should feel more secure. But the bulky a-pillar has obscured my vision more than once, so I am more likely to have to make use of the airbag it conceals.

#477 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 12:17 AM:

Stick isn't actually more of a problem in traffic - I've done most of my driving in LA, so I can say that. You may be in first second or or neutral most of the time in a traffic jam, but changing gears doesn't take that long.
Stop-and-go is more of a nuisance in the Prius, because the rechargeables get a lot more use and tend to drain. I try to avoid the places where it's usually a problem.

#478 ::: Errolwi ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 02:07 AM:

Here in New Zealand, it is now common for automatics to have an effective manual override. Typically you move the stick (while it is in 'D') to the right (i.e. towards the driver), and it will then change gears when instructed - push forward to go up a gear, back to go down. I only rarely use this feature myself (while driving cars other than my own manual), but it is handy when doing stuff like hill driving.
I get the impression from comments from manual drivers above that this feature is not available, or not used much for whatever reason?

We had a 6-speed diesel (manual) rental in France recently, automatics being basically unavailable. It was quite a sporty Alfa, with a fairly twitchy clutch, so the fast auto-start-from-stop feature was appreciated (especially after stalling when entering the roundabout because you tried to move off in 3rd...)

#479 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 02:27 AM:

Back when i was learning to drive, manual transmissions were still common enough to be "standard," with automatics being the more expensive option.I learned to drive on a Rambler with push-button(s) automatic transmission. That's them, the five buttons to the left of the steering wheel. I understand push buttons are back with some 2013 Lincolns. I also got to practice on an automatic with steering column mounted stick. Ken deMaife taught me to drive a manual, and a kindly US Army sergeant in Germany taught me to double clutch. Floor mounted automatics still get me to step on the non-existent clutch.

I never had a problem driving on the "wrong" side of the road in Ireland, but I rented an automatic. One less thing to worry about. Those roads are scary.

#480 ::: Tracie is gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 02:36 AM:

Maybe it was the link to the Rambler, maybe it was strange spacing or punctuation. I hope it wasn't sp*mmy vocabulary. I know it's early for breakfast, but I could make Your Lownesses some coffee, French toast and bacon.

#481 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 03:07 AM:

I've had a license for more than a quarter-century, but still don't own a car. This means I almost always drive automatics.

Zipcars and rentals in the US are almost universally automatic (though "semi-automatics" that also have a clutchless shifting mode are becoming more common); the (few) times I rented a car in the UK I wasn't going to combine shifting with the side-of-road swap so I paid the significant extra charge to get an automatic there too.

I don't borrow manual-transmission cars often enough to keep my stick driving good enough to trust, especially in Boston.

There's also the little issue of how I learned to drive a stick....

The summer I was going to get my license, I was visiting my grandparents in Arizona. They had three cars between them: Grandpa's Cadillac (automatic), Grandma's Chrysler (also automatic), and one stick shift car. Since I was supposed to be learning stick, it was Hobson's choice for which car I was going to use for that part of my family driving lessons.

The third car was a Jaguar E-Type, a '67 IIRC...which made for a very exciting experience (especially on straight flat desert roads) that doesn't translate well into more boring manual transmissions like you might find in a family hatchback. :-)

#482 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 03:22 AM:

On manual transmissions: Motor Trend compiled a list of manual transmission cars available in the US for 2011. There are a lot more than I thought there'd be.

#483 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 03:42 AM:

Elliott Mason @461: Just to make it clear, I meant, when I was in North America for the first time, back in the late 70s, I had to order Sprite because what we call "lemonade" is clear and fizzy and Sprite was the nearest thing I could get, even if it didn't taste quite the same. We can also buy "old fashioned lemonade" which is cloudy - but still carbonated, possibly a bit less sweet, but it's much less common and won't be available in most restaurants, fast-food or otherwise. Home-made lemonade (what seems to be standard for what you get if you ask for "lemonade" in the USA) just isn't common over here.

Elliott Mason @465: Thank you for the warning regarding American PB. UK varieties do vary, but I tend to go for the "Whole Earth" stuff - although even that has a bit of palm oil and sea salt added (95% peanuts). Must look for a "100% peanuts" brand

nerdycellist @ 476: I think much of the lack of improvement in mpg in the USA is the oil lobby (sell more oil! Don't worry about it running out!)and low government regulation. Here, we have high fuel prices (as mentioned by Charlie Stross earlier) and a big push to reduce car emissions - and a major way to reduce emissions is to increase the mpg. High mpg was one of the major criteria on our list when looking for a new car three years ago (the others were: fit into the garage; be comfortable for me to drive (5 ft 2) AND for my husband (6ft 5); have reasonable boot (trunk) space - and fit our price range). We ended up with a model which had just come out, a Kia Venga 1.4 litre diesel which has some Tardis-like properties - feels really roomy inside, but still fits into our (narrow) garage. Official fuel consumption is 54.3 mpg urban, 70.6 mpg extra-urban, 62.8 mpg combined. We don't get that, but not too far off (it's sitting at 58.5 mpg at the moment, and that's been mainly light town driving). There were a couple of other possibles which got better mpg but they didn't have the head & leg room. Of course, our cars tend to be a lot smaller than American cars, which makes a difference.

#484 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 03:52 AM:

We drove across country from LA to DC in a 62 Valiant with that pushbutton transmission.

My first car (Ford Falcon) had a manual transmission, 3-speed on the column. The next one was an MG, 4-speed on the floor. Then came a Triumph, also 4-speed on the floor. Then a Thunderbird automatic, a Geo automatic and now a Mini automatic. I got the latter used or I'd have hunted up a car with a stick.

I was looking at the Honda Fit last spring; while the price for one with a manual transmission was cheaper, the delay in getting one from Japan was several weeks to several months. I miss driving sticks, blast it.

#485 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 05:25 AM:

Ellen @460 -- on my husband's VW (2006?) Golf, the gearbox is as you describe for the VW. But on my 1998 VW Passat, it's as you describe the Toyota. Alertness indeed!

I learned to drive a stick, at a time when the stick was on the steering wheel. Driver's ed was with automatics, though, and then our car was totaled and our next cars were automatics for years. When we came to Germany, I had a tiny bit of muscle memory for shifting gears left, but it didn't help a whole lot -- I also had to learn to use that newfangled 4-on-the-floor transmission ;-)

Still, I'm a total convert to manuals. Driving an automatic isn't a problem, exactly, but driving a manual -feels- better.

#486 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 07:43 AM:

Don't forget that US mpg uses a different gallon than in the UK (where a pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter), so dcb's 58.5 mpg is only 46.8 in the US.

#487 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 08:07 AM:

I learned on a stick as well, though they're increasingly hard to get in the US (though still cheaper than automatics, at least on the kinds of cars we buy).

The Prius we got last year doesn't shift gears at all, once it's in motion. From what I understand, it simply varies the relative power input from the electric motor and the gasoline engine. So you're effectively always driving in high gear, but still get acceptable torque at low speeds from the electric motor. You can't burn rubber from a dead stop, but that's just fine with me.

In return, you get much better gas mileage. Although it's nearly as roomy as the Accord it replaced, it uses less than half the gas. (The regenerative braking is a big help here too.) Because of where we live, we do a lot of city driving and generally could only average about 20 mpg overall with the Honda, whereas we do better than 44 with the Prius. And that's with a lot of short trips that tend to drag the average down-- longer trips are often well over 50mpg.

This is likely to be the car our kids learn on when they reach driving age. I suspect they might find manuals even stranger than do older drivers who learned on automatics.

#488 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 08:10 AM:

Niall McAuley @ 486: yes, needs converting; for 58.5 mpg (UK) I make it 48.7 mpg for US gallons (US gallon = 0.8327 UK gallons, according to a couple of conversion sites online) - with official figures then translating to 43.2 mpg urban, 58.8 mpg extra-urban, 52.3 combined. That's still a lot higher than the 26 mpg given by Diatryma @475. My stepmother's car officially averages about 80 mpg UK extra-urban (or about 67 mpg US).

My car offers me instantaneous (too distracting, I find) or average mpg on my dashboard, which I find is great encouragement to both smooth driving and keeping below the speed limit, as you get instant feedback on how your driving affects your fuel consumption.

#489 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 08:17 AM:

dcb @488: I find the instantaneous MPG figure handy if I'm trying to hypermile on long-haul motorway trips with little traffic to demand my attention -- keeps me engaged with the process of driving, trains me in a good habit. But it's way too distracting if there are other vehicles about so it doesn't get used very often.

(Trick when driving through hilly/mountainous terrain: accelerate on downhill slopes, drift in neutral or maintain speed in highest gear on uphill slopes. It's not terribly workable if the uphill stretches are so long that you lose lots of speed, but for much of the UK that's not the case and you can really cut your fuel consumption by accepting some variation in speed.)

#490 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:12 AM:

Apropos of nothing: Someone on Minecraft reddit just had an amusing misreading... perhaps it will chutney somebody.

pf-rpanderson: I think it has a more parabolic shape to the velocity.

Eternal_Density: I misread that as "parabolic sheep". As in spherical cows and parabolic sheep...

#491 ::: Dave Harmon has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:16 AM:

Apparently innocuous comment, but mentioned a social site.

#492 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:26 AM:

Another significant factor in the low fuel mileage of US cars is our emissions regulations. The most efficient way to burn fuel is at high pressure, with plenty of air; however, that creates nitrogen oxides. Ozone regulation means NOx is very strictly regulated in US cars. (This is a major reason for the low numbers of diesels in the US.)

Cummins paid a huge fine in the late 1990's for designing engines that ran efficiently on the road, and less efficiently (to pass NOx rules) under test conditions.

#493 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:32 AM:

And don't forget that nowadays many crash tests are done with an SUV-sized thing as the 'aggressor'/car-you're-not-testing ... so tiny hatchbacks have to be able to protect the passenger compartment while being hit by a high bumper with that much mass behind it.

The answer is to put fewer SUVs on the road (and make them lighter and LESS DANGEROUS TO OTHER CARS), not to turn everything on the street into low-mileage tanks to withstand impacts from them! Just because semis exist and your car might be struck by one doesn't mean every single car sold in the US should be primarily designed to survive being semi-stomped.

But "Americans don't WANT small cars," we're told again and again, by car companies that seldom put nice small cars on the market at all ... so when people fail to buy not-nice cars, it's told off as not wanting smallness. Kind of how "woman movies" don't make any money, except those recurring flukes that make millions but we can't bet on lightning striking so let's just write all the women out of the script again. Ptui.

#494 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:32 AM:

I think the issue with manual vs. automatic transmission on US cars, or rather, cars made and sold in the US by the Big Three Detroit manufacturers, is that which one costs more depends on which one is designated as standard equipment for that model. If you look at Linkmeister's list, there's only one Buick there; the Buick LaCrosse comes with an automatic as standard equipment, per the Buick website (, were you expecting it to be something else?).

Any type of equipment which is not standard will cost more. I suspect GM looked at the sort of people who were going to shell out the bucks for their higher-end marks and models and concluded that most likely Buick and Cadillac purchasers were going to want automatics. You'll notice that Chevrolet, the other GM mark, has several with manuals as standard, which fits the profile for people who buy Chevies--they're supposedly economical cars, or sporty cars preferred by younger drivers.

If you've checked out the rest of Linkmeister's list, you noticed that most of the other cars on it, made in the US or not, were from foreign-based manufacturers. Although there's still a wide range of cars with manual transmission available in the US, most aren't made by the traditional Detroit manufacturers, whether they were made in the US or imported.

#495 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:52 AM:

Oh, I have no doubt that the oil lobby, and the sheer number of congress people on both sides of the aisle who make money from oil has something to do with the lack of interest these car companies have on giving us fuel efficient models. For heaven's sake, they're already making them in other markets - we're not asking for anything new! The BS about "Americans don't want smaller cars" is nonsense. America is a big place. Some areas want bigger cars. Others, like mine, are happy with tiny ones. There are SUVs all over the place here, but fewer than there were when we moved here a decade ago. And lots and lots of Smart, Mini, Versa, Fit, Accent, Fiesta and Yaris drivers - not to mention scooters and bikes.

That Kia Venga looks remarkably similar to the Fit. I agree with the Tardis properties, but I'd kill for the MPG you're getting. My car is strictly commuter for errands and the 12 mile round trip to and from work. Due to the terrain and the traffic, I average about 27 mpg. My roommate can eke out one or two MPG better since she drives more highway and it averages out. Still nothing close to the window sticker, but isn't that the origin of YMMV.

#496 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 10:47 AM:

It will surprise no one here to hear that TN Coates' latest reflections on French, Frederick Douglas, and the finitude of life are fascinating.

#497 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 10:59 AM:

On British sodas, Sprite and lemonade --

Can anyone tell me why most British carbonated soft drinks have both sugar and saccharine? I can taste the artificial sweetener in them, and I don't like it. The last time I was in the UK, I had a difficult time finding ones I could drink -- until I discovered that ginger ales do not have added artificial sweetener. This is a cultural difference that I just don't understand. And this is an oldish memory (more than 10 years ago) so I don't know if it's still the case.

#498 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 11:01 AM:

C. Wingate, #397:

Oh, dear.

Stephen King writes:

I'll never forget the botched opening lines of A. E. Van Vogt -- a German science fiction writer, long dead, who liked to effuse a little bit.

For values of "German" including "born in Edenburg, Manitoba." (He did speak German at home as a child.)

His book Slan was actually the basis of the Alien films -- they basically stole them to do that, and ended up paying his estate some money -- but he was just a terrible, terrible writer.

Could Mr. King be thinking of "Black Destroyer" or the fix-up that incorporates it, Voyage of the Space Beagle?

Well, one doesn't read Stephen King in search of historical accuracy, I suppose. For advice on writing, sure.

I can't deny that Van Vogt was a terrible, terrible writer, but it has been estimated that he was the fifth most popular author ever to appear in Astounding, which invites consideration of why some writers can be both terrible and popular.

#500 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 11:45 AM:

Yeah, Slan hasn't got a thing to do with the Aliens films, save for the fact that both stories have human beings in them.

Does anyone here know their way around Applescript and/or Automator for OS X? I get a particular email via every day, same subject line every day, same-named file attachment every day. I'd like for that attachment to get auto-saved into the same directory every day without me having to do it manually. Preferably this would also nuke the previous day's version of that file, but that would just be an optional fine point.

You'd think this would be simple. But googling around yields a lot of scripts that don't quite do this -- either they implement much more complicated schemes involving nested folders that archive multiple file versions, or they don't work under Mountain Lion because of the sandboxing that came in with 10.8.

I know how to set up rules, and I get that one can use rules to zero in on a particular email and then run an Applescript on it. But achieving the script itself has eluded me.

Note that I am not a programmer of any sort, just someone who can follow reasonably intricate directions and who isn't frightened by the idea of opening up the hood. Also note that I'm well aware that my life would benefit from learning some basic coding skills, so there's no need to evangelize me on that general principle, or recommend beginner's texts.

#501 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 12:06 PM:

Let me point out that today's Google Doodle is a memorial to the late Rosalind Franklin, who'd be 93 today (and hopefully in possession of a Nobel prize, along with Crick and Watson) if she hadn't died much too soon.

There's even a double helix in there.

#502 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 01:14 PM:

Patrick at #500: I haven't used Automator for quite this purpose, but I've played with it a bit. I did find this Applescript, which sounds like what you're looking for.

#503 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 02:16 PM:

Benjamin, #502: That's one of the many I've seen that (1) doesn't work in Mountain Lion and (2) has an inconclusive comment thread bewailing the fact that it doesn't work in Mountain Lion, with no clear solution.

#504 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 03:47 PM:

PNH @ 500:

You can set up an Automator application to run at a scheduled time every day that will do this.

Here's how:

Open Automator. When asked to choose a type for your document, choose "Calendar Alarm."

In the far left-hand column, click on "Mail." Then, in the middle column, click on "Find Mail Items," and drag it into the right-hand column. In the resulting box, you can choose:

"Find [messages] where [All] of the following are true:
[Subject] [is] [whatever your subject line is]
[Date received] [is today]"

(Add conditions as necessary to zero in on the specific message you want.)

Next, go back to the middle column, and find "Get Attachments from Mail Messages." Drag that one into the right-hand column, underneath the "Find Mail Messages" box. They should automatically connect, so that "Find Mail Messages" flows into "Get Attachments From Mail Messages."

In the "Get Attachments From Mail Messages" box, you can choose "Save attachments in [choose the folder where you want to save the attachment]."

Now go to File - Save and give your Automator application a name, e.g. "slithytoves."

This concludes the futzing with Automator portion of events.

Now, open iCal. Click on "Calendars" and note that there is a new calendar in the list, called "Automator."

If you look at today's events, there should be an event named the same thing as your Automator application (in this example, "slithytoves"). Click on it to see details. Under "alert," it should say "Open file / [slithytoves].app / 0 minutes before".

You can now edit the time when this calendar alert will auto-run the Automator application, set it to repeat every day, etc.

I've just tested it. It does not overwrite old files of the same name in the target folder, but appends sequential numbers to them. So it won't nuke the previous day's file automatically.

You may be able to make it nuke the previous day's file by adding a "Rename Finder Items" step to the Automator app. I'm still tinkering with that, though.

(This is still a bit clunky, because it has to be scheduled, rather than automatically executing via a Mail rule whenever the message comes in. But it doesn't look like you can set up a Mail rule to run an Automator app, and I don't know anything about AppleScript.)

#505 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 04:02 PM:

Reasons for relatively-low MPG in US cars:

1) Thirteen years ago gas was $1.00 a gallon in parts of the US; the average car on the road is about eight years old, I think. People have started to buy better-mileage cars. Apparently the first time gas hit $4.00, people started buying additional cars without selling the old ones, so they'd have a high-mileage car. I don't think that's how you save money.

2) Diminishing returns.
Let's express MPG in GPHM = "Gallons per hundred miles", a more practical way of thinking of it [I believe they use a similar ratio in Europe.]
12.5 MPG = 8 GPHM
25 MPG = 4 GPHM
100 MPG = 1 GPHM

Getting from 12 MPG to 25 is a bigger savings than getting from 25 to 100 .

Getting from 30 to 45 MPG is 3.3 to 2.2 GPMH . Assuming $4.00/gal gasoline and 12,000 miles a year, that's a savings of about $500 a year or c. $4000 over eight years.

(Getting from 12.5 to 25 is $2000 a year.)

3) Cars are not just transportation to most people. They have high symbolic value, whether that's caused by advertising or status or whatever. Otherwise you'd see a lot more sub-$20K (and sub-$15K) cars on the road.

#506 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 04:09 PM:

Sandy B: I've never understood the status thing about cars. (The newest car I've ever owned was 5 years old ... current one is a late '06 model, only because I traded up from my 16 year old banger last March.)

Why do people insist on buying new cars, when they lose about 30% of their value in the first month?

#507 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 05:19 PM:

Charlie, I don't get all of it either.
I hear people complaining about California's registration fees being high, but they seem to be people who replace their cars every three to five years (and luxury cars at that). It takes three-to-five years to notice that the fees are decreasing - they're based on the book value, and the first year tend to be about the same as a monthly payment. (After about ten years, they're down near the minimum.)

#508 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 05:32 PM:

Sandy B, Charlie Stross & P J Evans:

It seems to me that the car status thing is related to needing the latest iPhone, Samsung, Blackberry. The latter three are a lot less expensive, but it seems that smartphones are replacing cars as status symbols. I suspect also it's a vulnerability to *SHINY* (where *SHINY* is different things to different people).

I think for me, *SHINY* is books. But I have that habit under control. Honest!

#509 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 05:42 PM:

I learned on a stick (actually, on a very fussy VW pop-top campervan stick) on a bad dirt road. In the mountains. We've never owned anything but stick shifts.

I was doing a lot of mountain driving last week in an automatic (4wd Subaru). Drove me nuts, because I couldn't change down for a little extra torque as easily and quickly as I wanted to. I basically gave up on passing anything on an uphill slope.

I used the manual element that Errolwi @478 describes for engine braking going dowhill (Tioga Pass on the eastern side has a long, long 8% grade. Standard Basin & Range structure.) But I still found it difficult to work with on more up and down territory.

Basically, I'm kind of a Luddite about this all.

#510 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 06:02 PM:

Patrick (#500,#503): there's an Apple discussions thread that seems to imply that it'll work as long as you're pointing the script at the Downloads folder, since Mail can write to that. (Sandboxing issue.)

#511 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 06:05 PM:

I bought a new car for several reasons: 1, the interest rate was much better. As a person with wobbly credit, this made a difference. I had considered "Certified Used" cars, but the interest rate difference pretty much made up for any discount I'd get with the no-frills commuter cars I was looking at. 2, I did lots of research and went with a reliable brand so that I could be reasonably sure there would be no major repairs to contend with during the five years of my loan (other than tires; I have already replaced two. had I known that the slightly larger tires on the Sport model were easier to get replacements for, I may have sprung for the extra $1500) as well as knowing from my own driving habits that any damage I do will likely be cosmetic.

I plan on driving this one into the ground. My roommate's Civic was 14 years old when she bought the new one, and could have probably lasted several more if she had gotten it rehosed. If I can get ten years out of this car I'll be pretty happy. I live in a sunny climate where there's never snow, ice or salt on the road so I'm pretty confident. We'll see about the next car; maybe I'll want something a little cushier or quiet when I'm 50. But I am one of the few people who sees cars as a helpful mode of transport, and not a reflection of my aweseomeness. Unless you consider practical frugality to be awesome, in which case, it is totally a reflection of my inner self.

#512 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 07:07 PM:

Charlie, #506: It's not always a status thing. My father wasn't the new-car-every-year type by any means; our cars tended to be driven for somewhere between 5 and 10 years before getting to the point where the cost of keeping them repaired started to rival the cost of a new-car payment. But he would never have dreamed of buying anything but a new car right off the lot. "Buying a used car is buying someone else's headache!"

And in fact, that may be a safer option for someone who doesn't know anything about cars. We routinely buy used cars and drive them into the ground -- but my partner does all the maintenance and repair on them (except for transmission work), so we don't run up huge repair bills.

#513 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 08:00 PM:

I drive a 2008 Chevy Aveo stick-shift hatchback. (It's bright red and named Gossamer, after the Looney Tunes big hairy sneaker monster.) It was definitely cheaper than the automatic version.

It gets pretty disappointing gas mileage for something so small. I get about 26-28 in city driving, and 30-32 highway. My freaking 1985 Volvo wagon averaged about 26. Then again, I don't exactly drive for maximum fuel efficiency.

I learned to drive on automatics - my parents had a full-size GM station wagon and an Oldsmobile when I was learning, in the mid-1980s. My first lesson in stick shift was on a Jeep CJ7, and that was a nightmare. I have never driven anything with so stiff a gearshift ever.

The first car I ever bought was ALSO a bright red stick shift Chevy hatchback - an '81 Chevette. In 1990. With over 100,000 miles on it. It cost me $300 and lasted three months, but it did give me the chance to learn stick. Also to replace a busted heater core, at least on the engine compartment side of the firewall.

I like driving stick, and when I had an automatic rental car recently, I didn't enjoy it at all. Well, I also didn't enjoy it because it was an Impala, and therefore GIGANTIC. I like my little car!

I also really like it being a hatchback - because, like the station wagon I learned in, the rear window is at the back edge of the car, which makes parallel parking and three-point turns a lot simpler. Weirdly, the thing has a turning radius that feels as wide as a station wagon, when I'd have expected it to be smaller on such a small car. Is it because the wheelbase is pretty much out at the corners of the whole thing?

As for buying new - the advantage of buying this one new was getting a warranty. I'm not concerned about resale value, because I am a "drive it until it's dead" owner, but having a warranty (and I bought the extended one) to cover any repairs was a definite win for me.

#515 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 08:24 PM:

I learned on a manual shift, in Canada, by UK-educated parents advice. I think it was good advice. I drove rented or borrowed manuals periodically for years, including a five-ton diesel truck with a six-speed. That, I think, is the largest thing you can operate in Ontario with regular "G" license.
After being a one-car family for lots of years, work location forced a second car. Which turned to be a 1997 Ford Escort. The engine and much else is built by Mazda. It took about a month to get proficiency back. My definition of proficiency is that you don't stall unintentionally.
I switch back and forth regularly. The lizard brain occasionally has my right hand reach for a stick that's not there, when slowing down. No foot faults, though.
The Ottawa transit strike a few winters ago was hard on my clutch, at least once I smelled overheating clutch in stop-and-go during a snow storm.
That transmission did die, and I replaced the car with 1996 Ford Escort, very similar. This spring, the engine on that died. I still had most of the other one, so we did an engine transplant.

When I had a "dead" transmission, it could only be shifted with the engine off. This allowed me to validate my father's claim "you can do everything in third." I can, btw, now upshift all the gears from 2 to 5, without the clutch. Downshifting without clutching is harder.

In Ottawa, there's a driving instructor/school that specializes in manual shift. He has a book,which we bought when trying to get my wife back into driving manual. He claims that Ontario driving examiners, who mostly don't drive manual transmission, expect full downshift, through all gears including first. Whereas, I down shift 5-4-2, and shift to first only when starting again, which is how I was taught.

#516 ::: Henry Troup has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 08:28 PM:

For a gear-head wall of text.

We finished the cherries, but there's still coffee.

#517 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 08:46 PM:

Re: Grand Canyon mule rides (330, 340, 386):

I'm a current employee at the Canyon, so I can give some up-to-date information.

The ride to Plateau Point was discontinued a couple of years ago to reduce impact on the trails; the only ride that currently goes down into the canyon is the overnight trip to Phantom Ranch. There is also a half-day ride above the rim, which allows heavier riders than the down-and-back ride. Currently, this ride goes through the forest to one of the most spectacular overlooks, but I've heard that in the very near future, the route will be changed to go along the rim in a mostly undeveloped area.

We still haven't lost a customer, but apparently we did lose a guide a couple of decades back. I don't remember the details, but I'm sure they can be found in Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon (a guide to all known fatal incidents in the canyon, and a very good read).

#518 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 08:56 PM:

Chris @517, I'm very glad we did the plateau ride when it was available, then. It was painful and scary and beautiful and exhilarating. I wouldn't ever want to do it again (even if I was still young and fit) but I'm heartily glad I did it then.

#519 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:19 PM:

I've never understood the status symbol blingy either (and as a former on-call IT admin and massive introvert, I don't understand the phone part of smartphone either).

I've always driven cars (except for when I didn't own one at all) that were cheap and worked. Apart from my first one, which was a hand-me-down from family, they were also small, because I like decent gas mileage. As long as they can do 100 km/h on the 100 km/h sections of the Trans-Canada through the Rockies (and Steve C., I wish I still had your reaction; but I've "always" lived a day-trip at most away from those Rockies, so while it's still spectacular, it's a little "argh, can we be done with this part so I can be halfway?"), I'm good.

My current car, due to some random incidents that aren't worth the insurance hit to fix1 (for a car that cost as much as it did), looks like it should be bondo-and-bailing-wire. It's not, and it just wrapped 200 Mm footnote 2 3.

Now, if we could just convince carmakers that since we aren't going to get much past 140km/h in our cars (and *shouldn't* get much past 120), and will be spending most of our time negotiating the 30-70 range, it's less than helpful for a constant-range speedo to go to 230? (Having the Miata on holiday a couple of weeks ago made it seem worse - most of the drive was 25 or 35 MPH, and that was only 30 degrees or so around the dial. I think 75MPH was "middle").

1 Some idiot was throwing spray-paint cans out on the highway, and I popped one with my tire. So the left side of my car looks like it's got freckles. The back bumper is a bit scratched from someone's (not mine) escapade in a parking lot. It got dimpled in the big hailstorm we had in September. But it Just Works.

2Which seems like a much better way of putting it than 200k km.

3 First wrote as "200 Mm2", which on preview I realized had a slightly different meaning.

#520 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:37 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 506: I buy a new car every 14 or so years. So far, they've all been Toyotas. I bought a used car once, a Toyota Camry with 80,000 miles on it. It got 500 miles to the quart of oil. I don't know what that previous owner did to it, but it was nasty. I know I pay a premium for the new car, but I have peace of mind that as long as I do proper maintenance, I don't have to worry about unreliability for a long, long time. Our current car is a 2006 Prius. It has 30,000 miles on it.

#521 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 09:47 PM:

I don't know if I mentioned it here, but I found out from a neighbor that my house once had a squatter family living in it. They had an indoor pot grow in the basement/garage. And kids.

Over the last few days the county family services folks have been trying to track down the former woman of the house. I returned the phone call with what I knew about the former residents (absolutely nothing) and marked a letter from the agency to her return to sender.

This afternoon I found a note from the post office to the effect that an attempt was made to deliver a certified letter to her.

I am wondering what I need to do. Is it safe to just let things be? vs. letting the post office know that this person really, truly doesn't live here?

#522 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 10:00 PM:

It never hurts to let the USPS know that the person really doesn't live there any more, and that you have never even met said person. (It sounds like someone really really wants to get hold of her. Certified is serious mail.)

#523 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2013, 10:56 PM:

#522: Yeah, there are children involved. It wasn't clear from the case worker's message if they were with him or if he was in charge of their case.

Either way, sad. Pot-growing squatters with kids.

#524 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 07:27 AM:

Re. new cars. I don't get the "status symbol" thing either. We bought our car new only because of the scrappage scheme the UK government did, when our old car was 10 years+ and really needing replacing, and because the car we wanted (fits my tall husband, which most small cars do not) was a brand new model, so 2nd hand wasn't an option anyway. The seven-year warranty helps as well - we expect to have the car for at least 10 years.

Two of my three cars (in 25 years) have been new-when-bought. But the first one was 'cos my parents were gettng it for me at the same time as my stepmother was getting a new car and got a really good deal so it was the same price as a 3-y-o car - and came with a year's free insurance, which for a 20-y-o driver was a very useful thing to have, even back then.

Speaking of insurance: my sister managed to get affordable insurance for her youngest at age 18, by agreeing to have one of the monitoring things fitted to the car - they get sent feedback on how well it's been driven, and the "starts sky high" insurance gets reduced accordingly. He's sensible, so the insurance ends up okay.

Other US/UK differences: we don't have "Driver's Ed". We do have a Theory Test, which is now separate from the practical test and has to be passed first. When we were driving from Calgary towards Jasper, I asked in one of the garages if they had a copy of the "Highway Code" so I could check for any rules of the road I didn't know about. The server said: "a what?". So, what, if any, equivalent is there in the USA/Canada? Is it different for each state/province?

#525 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 07:45 AM:

dcb: In Illinois the booklet you want is called The Rules of the Road, and is freely available in dead tree edition from the Secretary of State (who is the state officer in charge of facilities that give out driver's licenses, handle car tax, and so on). You probably wouldn't be able to get it anywhere BUT directly from such a facility, though, unless a public library might have one on hand.

Technically speaking, you need not have read it to get a driver's license, though the written test (our test has a written, multiple choice section, a brief eye test, and a 'road' test behind an actual car's wheel with an examiner in the car with you) is based on material from Rules of the Road. However, the test is based on a very limited set of said data, and an unknown but nonzero portion of currently-licensed Illinois drivers have never read through the whole thing (and certainly many have never read it since they got their license initially in high school, though some things have changed).

As far as I know, these things are technically controlled at the state level, with certain uniformities imposed from the Federal level (which is why it's legal to, say, drive on a Montana license in Illinois if you're on vacation, though if you move you're expected to switch to an Illinois one within some reasonable timeframe).

#526 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 08:40 AM:

dcb @524--
Here's a link to the practice test site for Tennessee's Department of Safety; it includes link to the study guide and Driver's Handbook.

I think every state has some version of this; whether or not it's all online will vary from state to state, probably depending on budget issues. I don't know if the Handbook will include all the fine details and oddities of the local driving code [For example, legend claims Alabama still has on the books the law requiring people in a motor vehicle to be proceeded by someone on foot with a warning flag, so as not to scare the mules and horses; if this is still is (or ever was) a part of Alabama's legal code I can promise you it's not enforced.] I imagine that in places where this matters it might well cover issues like whether you can have studs on your snow tires, as well as towing requirements and such.

When I took the Tennessee test to transfer my Mississippi license over*, the written test was 20 questions, 4 of which concerned drunk driving. In 1977, the Mississippi test was (IIRC) ten questions, and they'd read them to you if you cuoldn't read them yourself.

*If you have a valid license in State A, and move to State B, you can skip the driving portion of the test, and just take the written part, to show your awareness of the main local laws about driving. If the license has expired, you have to do the driving part as well, and if it's been suspended or revoked, you have to demonstrate this issue's been resolved. Before computerized record-keeping, it was possible to have your license suspecnded or revoked in one state and get a new one in another state, as checking was such a challenge. Friends of mine got in trouble with his family because they wouldn't let his brother use their Tennessee mailing address to get a new license when his Kentucky license was revoked for multiple DUI incidents. It would be much more difficult to try that stunt now, and a good thing, too.
Long-distance truck drivers are now also required to be licensed federally; if you can't get the federal license you can only drive commercially in your home state. This has not been a bad thing overall, despite the inconvenience to some drivers.

#527 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 08:46 AM:

The New York Driver's Manual (and Study Guide) is online. Looks like you can download a PDF. Or, as Elliott says, many libraries would have it.

#528 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 09:01 AM:

The Driver Handbook for California is online, too. In multiple languages.

#529 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 09:28 AM:

fidelio @526 When I took the Tennessee test to transfer my Mississippi license over*, the written test was 20 questions, 4 of which concerned drunk driving.

Daughter the elder had to take her written test twice a few years ago. The first time, her knowledge about DUI was "don't do it," which I thought quite sufficient, but the test kept asking her questions about the blood alcohol concentration that would trigger this or that level of penalties.

#530 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 09:29 AM:

Another reason to purchase a new car other than status symbol reasons is if you have very specific needs that can't be met by a used car for one reason or another. When my wife and I bought our current car (four years ago), we test-drove a lot of cars, and found only one model that met our needs. (A Subaru Outback. We tried really hard to avoid the Lesbianmobile cliche, but needed something that was actually a car but had the ability to tow a small utility trailer, and that my short wife could drive comfortably, and it was the only game in town.) We wanted it to have rear side-curtain airbags for safety reasons, which meant it could only be a year or two old at the time, but that particular model is one that people tend to drive into the ground - they don't sell it after just a few years. So we ended up buying new.

#531 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 10:30 AM:

I just like how new cars smell. Mmmm, solventy!

#532 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 10:46 AM:

The emerging story of Dora Charles, the longtime cook for Paula Deen, is very interesting (in a depressing sort of way).

For many decades, now, the route to success in popular music has been to sing black and look white. From Elvis to Led Zeppelin to Adele, the (majority white) public wanted to hear music developed and crafted by black artists, but see white faces. (To some extent it may already have been true with Bing Crosby and Al Jolson).

This new story offers the same phenomenon, with cooking.
Cook black and look white? Become a multi-millionaire TV star. Cook black and look black? Wind up destitute in a trailer park.

Thank god Justice Roberts has assured us that racism no longer exists in America.

#533 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 10:57 AM:

Caroline, #504 --

Thanks for all that. In fact, I had forgotten one of OS X's most useful features that almost nobody knows about, the fact that alerts in (formerly can be set up to run scripts or open applications at pre-set times. I've used this feature before, but its existence had slipped my mind.

I did pretty much as you recommended, and it worked after a fashion, but the "Find Mail Messages" part of the process took over 25 minutes to run! Admittedly, I have a lot of mail on this machine, and yet neither Spotlight nor Alfred nor itself takes more than a second to find the pertinent message given the same search criteria. I briefly wondered if the problem was that the message lives in an IMAP mailbox, and rejiggered my setup so that it was in a local mailbox instead, but no joy.

The solution, it turned out, was to begin with a "Find Mail Items" action that does nothing but identify the appropriate mailbox; then feed that into, not another "Find Mail Items" action, but rather a "Filter Mail Items" action that zeroes in on the subject line and also includes the "date received" criteria of "today". Then feed that to "Get Attachments from Mail Messages" pointed at the desired folder.

My other wrinkle is that I don't actually use, but rather BusyCal, which is basically a superset of the features of Apple's built-in app, using the same *.cal files. The gotcha here is that BusyCal doesn't seem to detect "calendar alarms" generated by Automator. The solution, though, is simple -- don't build the Automator file as a "calendar alarm," but rather as an "application". BusyCal alarms can launch any file on the system. So now I have a BusyCal calendar called "Automator", with a daily alarm that runs this newly-created-by-Automator app every morning; and I've unchecked that calendar in BusyCal's left-hand column in order to avoid cluttering things up with a daily item that never changes. It all seems to work; thanks for supplying the critical stuff I needed to know and/or remember.

#534 ::: Cath ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 11:02 AM:

dcb @525
Major offenses are defined by the Criminal Code of Canada, but each province has its own version of traffic safety legislation. So in Alberta, you would have been looking for the Driver's Guide which is based on the Traffic Safety Act. Which I must confess I have not read in the decades since passing my driving test. Time to review, I guess.

#535 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 11:05 AM:

Re. new cars. I don't get the "status symbol" thing either. We bought our car new only because of the scrappage scheme the UK government did, when our old car was 10 years+ and really needing replacing, and because the car we wanted (fits my tall husband, which most small cars do not) was a brand new model, so 2nd hand wasn't an option anyway. The seven-year warranty helps as well - we expect to have the car for at least 10 years.

Two of my three cars (in 25 years) have been new-when-bought. But the first one was 'cos my parents were gettng it for me at the same time as my stepmother was getting a new car and got a really good deal so it was the same price as a 3-y-o car - and came with a year's free insurance, which for a 20-y-o driver was a very useful thing to have, even back then.

Speaking of insurance: my sister managed to get affordable insurance for her youngest at age 18, by agreeing to have one of the monitoring things fitted to the car - they get sent feedback on how well it's been driven, and the "starts sky high" insurance gets reduced accordingly. He's sensible, so the insurance ends up okay.

Other US/UK differences: we don't have "Driver's Ed". We do have a Theory Test, which is now separate from the practical test and has to be passed first. When we were driving from Calgary towards Jasper, I asked in one of the garages if they had a copy of the "Highway Code" so I could check for any rules of the road I didn't know about. The server said: "a what?". So, what, if any, equivalent is there in the USA/Canada? Is it different for each state/province?

#536 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 11:05 AM:

Nial @531: these days that "new car" smell comes in a spray can. When I bought my 6-yo wheels from a dealer they'd given it the usual pre-sales valeting, including a refreshing dose of new-car-in-a-can.

#537 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 11:09 AM:

and... (having had that in "preview" for some time and not checked before actually posting) thanks all for the info on Driver's Guide/Handbook/Manual - at least another time I'll have some idea what to ask for (or better, to look up online beforehand).

#538 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 11:32 AM:

Charlie Stross @535: Whereas when (rarely) John and I buy a car, we often have to let it sit somewhere hot with all the windows open for several days to air OUT that smell, as it gives us headaches.

Horses for courses. :-> There are several US hotel chains that are selecting a premium chain 'smell' and spritzing perfume generously around the room every time a maid enters it, which is also actively hostile to my ever being willing to give them business again.

#539 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 11:45 AM:

Elliott@NateSilver: Details, please? This is the first I've heard of this, and it is intimately relevant to my interests as I travel a fair bit for work and for hobby job, and the next stage in my family after the headaches is uncontrollable irritable throat (so coughing due to anything, leading to irritated throat, causing coughing, and...)

I had to move my work setup for two days because one of my colleagues but "just a little" cologne on, who works 50 feet away ... I noticed it about 300 feet and two walls away, and was at my desk for 5 minutes before I had to leave. And I'm not one of the really sensitive ones. What is it about "everything has to smell", anyway?

#540 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 12:03 PM:

For what it's worth, each Canadian province would also have its own handbook or guide—transport is a provincial ministry here—and as with the US examples already given, you would find it at a government office, a library, or on-line.

#541 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 12:03 PM:

I think the active pursuit of objects or activities for reasons of status is connected to status anxiety--either one's own, or as a part of the milieu one is operating in. There are circles where the right (or most right, even more right than other people's) stuff is an important marker for who you are and where you stand in relation to others.

My brother noticed this in the years before he retired--he was a partner in a civil engineering firm in Kansas City, and we are, as a family, averse to display for status reasons. If you spend your money you haven't got it anymore, after all! Once he made partner, he and his wife failed to trade up in terms of real estate, automobiles, and so on. Others felt, for whatever reasons, a much stronger need to do so. Some did so because they'd always wanted SSSSSHINY and as they now could have it they did, others because they seemed to feel a need to demonstrate they'd made it, and still others because they were afraid their right to be where they were might be questioned by others if they didn't make the right kind of show. His failure to do so amused some and confused others in the firm.

Status markers and status anxiety are an interesting and complicated set of issues, and why people decide to acquire and display them, and in some cases feel the need for them (either for themselves or in the people they associate with) varies a great deal.

#542 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 12:13 PM:

Oh god, we ran into the "Signature Stench" at a Westin last year. I understand if they want to do all their hotel soaps and lotions with a particular smell, or maybe their cleaning supplies, but as someone without any chemical sensitivities, I damn near developed them just from trying to get to my room every day. The lobbies were sprayed every couple of minutes and there was no way around the assault. I left some pretty strong feedback indicating that I would not be booking with them despite everything else being perfect (they completely de-feathered the room when I mentioned that one of us needed a down-free bed) because of their overwhelming miasma of perfume.

#543 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 12:15 PM:

My present car is a 2009 Toyota Matrix, bought late in 2010 (and sold to its original owner late in 2008, so despite the model year, it was almost 2 years old when I bought it.) It's my 6th car, my 3rd used car, and my 1st automatic. An injury to my left ankle several years ago left me with some chronic pain and made using a clutch unpleasant.

When I could afford a new car, I preferred to buy one so that I could get exactly what I wanted. The last one I bought new was a 1995 Ford Escort wagon; I had that car for 15 years and 273K miles. I think I got my money's worth out of it.

#544 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 12:23 PM:

That's good to know in advance. I wish soap companies would pay attention: if you can smell it more than 5 feet away, it's over-perfumed. That includes laundry detergents. (If general-you want your clothes perfumed, do it yourself. Not in public.)

#545 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 12:51 PM:

Patrick @ 533: Brilliant!

I really like your solution for the problem of "Find Mail Messages" taking forever. That's elegantly done.

#546 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 12:53 PM:

I should perhaps note here that I am driving my first new car--an 1998 GMC Sonoma. With a stick, which is not at all uncommon on a pickup.

In my family, we do not necessarily keep our cars until the wheels falls off and can no longer be reattached, but we do keep them long enough that when we buy new first-year depreciation becomes less of an issue. In fact, by the time we replace them, sometimes children that were unborn when the car was purchased are driving the car off to university.

#547 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 01:08 PM:

Sometimes I like a little scent in my laundry, if for no other reason than to help me determine when an otherwise clean looking item actually needs to be washed. For that I'll put a dryer sheet in, but I've noticed they've started doubling up on the fragrances. Like I said, I'm not terribly sensitive to scents like some people, but at this point I'm afraid to go down the laundry care aisle in the store because the smell is so strong. I wonder if I could just add a couple of drops of essential oil in with my "free & clear" detergent for a more subtle fragrance.

(and now one of the work elevators smells like stale incense. how on earth did that happen?)

#548 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 01:25 PM:

Oh dear. I didn't mean to trigger the "Oh, yeah? *I* only buy cars that have been lit on fire" competition. Although it's fun to watch that side of the status competition, too. And it's a lot cheaper to have that kind of status. Although I don't miss cars that changed their own oil, steady-state.

One interesting thing to see was, living in LA, you were very much judged on the car you drove. I tried to unwrap it and I came up with a number of things. LA has huge economic differentials within arm's reach (the $22,000/year person working on the same set as the $22,000,000/year person). 60,000 people move to LA a year to become a star and about 60 of them, generously, make it. LA is full of people who pretend for a living. LA very nearly requires a car. And, last, LA is a place that 25-year-old cars have not been slain by the elements.

What you end up with is hundreds of thousands of people trying to claim a social status that is not theirs, and society reacting with hostility and distrust to everyone. Cars are a portable form of wealth out there, and you are judged on the car you drive in the film business. Literally, a friend of mine has an old Honda SUV and he "gets away" with it because he actually does carry hockey equipment, surfboards, and dogs around with him.

I don't know if "I'm a power engineer" trumped vehicular status, or if I just didn't notice people judging me.

... One more thing: There are a lot of single people in LA. So they're doing that whole dance. Are you crazy? Are you broke? Are you lying about everything?

#550 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 01:58 PM:

OtterB 529: The first time, her knowledge about DUI was "don't do it," which I thought quite sufficient, but the test kept asking her questions about the blood alcohol concentration that would trigger this or that level of penalties.

That's grotesque. What are they trying to encourage there, management of level of offense? "Well, if you're willing to commit a misdemeanor, you can have this much alcohol, but you'd better be prepared to be a felon if you have THAT much!" Ridiculous.

oldster 532: Thank god Justice Roberts has assured us that racism no longer exists in America.

I've heard Roberts and the other four who joined him in the gutting of the VRA called the "Ku Klux Kort."

Have I said this here before? From now on, when anyone says there's no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, I will respond with "So you don't think the Voting Rights Act was important? Because every single vote to gut it came from a Republican appointee, and every single vote to preserve it came from a Democratic appointee."

#551 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 02:17 PM:

Sandy B. @#548:
Oh dear. I didn't mean to trigger the "Oh, yeah? *I* only buy cars that have been lit on fire" competition. Although it's fun to watch that side of the status competition, too. And it's a lot cheaper to have that kind of status. Although I don't miss cars that changed their own oil, steady-state.

LOL! In that vein, I'm actually searching off-and-on for something that goes on like paint (spraypaint, brush, roller, whatever) that can coat and seal automotive rust without changing the color/texture/reflectivity of it. I'm not willing to go the extreme route of air-brushed fake rust over repaired sheetmetal to "create" a "barn find" - I just want to take my Grandad's old farm truck and put the "typical Southern farm truck rust/dents" in "stasis" so I can drive it in Minnesota without it outright dissolving in a single winter. Southern hot/wet climate rust is way different than Northern cold/salty rust. Goes a lot slower, for one thing - at least until brought into the climate for the other kind. I've heard that Coastal hot/salty rust is yet another kind. Anyways, I've got a particular aesthetic leaning towards old, beat-up but still fully functional vehicles with lots of "character". Never had one that had been on fire, but I've got color-scheme plans that resemble it - heat treat the steel so you get the bluing and other color change effects in a steady progression from nose to tail, so it looks like at some point the vehicle was going so fast (ie, atmospheric reentry?) that the sheetmetal changed color due to it. It would need to be stainless steel or be clearcoated afterwards to protect it, though.

Vehicles that burn oil, though, drive me up the wall with the stink. Advice I've heard on one of those if you can't afford or don't have the skills to fix it is to make friends with a local oil change place and have them keep a couple gallon jugs of drained oil from cars they know the mileage on handy for you. Change the filter on a reasonable timeline (used filters are also a possibility, but change them more frequently and watch that gasket!), and it ought to keep rolling for quite a while. You'll have potential knock and ping with heavy loads to deal with (due to the oil dropping the octane rating of the gasoline, and carbon build-up in the cylinders), the ever-present risk of sudden total oiling loss (and thus seized engine), but the worst will be the stink. NOTE: DO NOT ATTEMPT WITH DIESEL VEHICLES. The engine will run on the blowby/leaking oil and will run away (ie, speed up uncontrollably) on you when the leak gets bad enough. It is possible to nurse one along for awhile - so long as the "fuel control in off position" idle speed is below ~1200rpm or so and you can still stall it to shut it down - but it is a time bomb waiting to go off, with potentially very hazardous consequences.

#552 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 02:36 PM:

cajunfj40 @551--Can you get a clear coat in a matte or satin finish? I seem to recall seeing this done to an old vehicle on one of the Discovery Channel's reality shows.

#553 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 02:38 PM:

cajunfj40 @ 551

I will change the color a bit, but you might try phosporic acid (common brand names are naval jelly and Ospho.)

#554 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 02:44 PM:

...and, infamously, various colas.

#555 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 03:30 PM:

#536 ::: Charlie Stross

A truck towing an Airstream pulls in, the back of the trailer swings up*, a ramp folds down, and the car comes out?

*not that they could without extensive customizing

#556 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 03:55 PM:

re 542: Some time back whoever cleans the restrooms here decided (for no apparent reason, they were always immaculate) that the urinals needed those cigarette butt catchers.

Which were intensely scented peach.

We managed to badger them into removing them within two weeks. I don't know why, but the scent (which of course was also extremely and obviously artificial) was horribly revolting in a bathroom.

Today they're trying again, with wintergreen. It's strong enough to make your eyes water.

#557 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 04:07 PM:

We always buy new cars. But since we let the old cars use up an enormous amount of years,* we feel fine about this (see the "I don't want somebody else's headache" argument above), although two of the first couple we bought were new because they didn't make any older ones of what we wanted (year 1.5 of Tercel models, year 2-3 of Camrys). The last two cars we replaced were each 19 years old. All we've ever gotten are new Toyotas, which seem to want to last forever (current set are 12 and 8 years old).

*Years, not miles; we're doing good to get 5K miles/year on whichever car is the current primary.

#558 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 04:07 PM:

re 555: I imagine an RV with something like a Smart Fortwo hanging off the back like a dinghy. This would be funnier if one didn't see these things towing small SUVs.

#559 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 04:12 PM:

After some four months, XKCD's "Time" seems to have finally reached an end.

#560 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 04:13 PM:

Family joke: RV towing a small car (or SUV), with a motorcycle or a bicycle on the back of the RV, and a kayak or rowboat on top. We think the hang glider is inside... (We have actually seen such assemblages.)

#561 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 04:21 PM:

The British may not have "driver's ed", but it is nigh-on impossible to pass our driving test without at least 40 hours of professional tuition (I passed mine by literally the narrowest margin possible, although I was suffering from a dicky stomach that day). According to Wikipedia the overall pass rate is only about 43%, although thankfully the only limit to the number of retakes you can have is your ability to pay the booking fee each time.

Additionally, for the first two years after you pass, you're under tighter restrictions re motoring offences - theoretically, you could lose your licence for two speeding offences within those two years. and if you do lose it, you have to go right back to the start - including re-taking the theory test and an "enhanced" practical that's twice the length of the normal one *shudder*.

C. Wingate @556: Wintergreen is a smell that has Good Historical Associations for me, so I probably wouldn't mind that specific smell that much. But a little goes a very long way, and I do agree that Perfume Zones in general are a very bad idea

#562 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 04:26 PM:

re 559: If you click on the comic it takes you to an archive where you can scroll through a set of periodic screen captures starting from the beginning.

#563 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 04:46 PM:

Hawai'i Driver's Manual (.pdf)

My last renewal was for 8 years, which is a prety long time for someone sneaking up on senior citizen status.

#564 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 04:51 PM:

fidelio @#552:
Can you get a clear coat in a matte or satin finish? I seem to recall seeing this done to an old vehicle on one of the Discovery Channel's reality shows.

Yes I can. I am concerned that it won't actually stick to or seal the rust. It is typically "not done" to paint rust directly without at least "converting" it. I will have to try it. If I can brush off all the loose stuff, and the clearcoat is thin enough, it might "seep in" to the rough oxide layer well enough to get a good grip and exclude oxygen. Just keeping it dry works well enough down South, but that precludes any winter driving up North.

SamChevre @#553:
I will change the color a bit, but you might try phosporic acid (common brand names are naval jelly and Ospho.)
I have used Naval Jelly to remove rust, but that is not the goal - I want a rusty truck that stays just as rusty as it is now, but doesn't rust any more - and looks like a rusty truck. I have also used a rust converter, but that turns it black. Attempting to preserve the rather complex "patina" of an old, beat-on truck, rust holes and all.

Thanks for the suggestions, though. Been a while since I thought about it.

C. Wingate @#558:
re 555: I imagine an RV with something like a Smart Fortwo hanging off the back like a dinghy. This would be funnier if one didn't see these things towing small SUVs.

I've seen, up close, a standard (not flatfront) yellow schoolbus converted to an RV/toyhauler. Roof was raised about ~2 feet starting about 3 feet back from the front windshield, slide-in camper (meant for pickups) was slid in up to the back of the small retained front seating area, ~8 or 10 foot steel platform was welded to the rear sticking straight back. 60's Ford Bronco was sitting back half on the platform, front half nosed up under the raised roof. Guy who made it tells a story that he only tack-welded the rear deck on at first (to check fitment), then did the rest of the work and forgot to finish-weld. On the first trip out, fully loaded, the top tack welds busted and the rear end of the deck swung down and smacked the road, fortunately staying attached via the bottom tack welds and the tiedowns holding the Bronco down. He finished welding it pretty quickly after that.

#565 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 05:39 PM:

Dave Crisp @561: I think most US states have additional restrictions, though they're often age based in addition to length-of-licensure based. That is, I don't think there are any restrictions on a freshly-licensed 30-year-old. If you're under 18 in California, for your first year you can't drive at night or with other youngsters in the car without adult supervision. There are also more requirements for formal training to get a license if you're under 18.

Wow, it just hit me that I've got less than 3 years until this information passes from theoretical interest to practical concern for my family!

C. Wingate @555: Around here, the herds of RVs return from their mysterious desert mating grounds for their ancestral post-solstice gathering in Pasadena, with their new-born young holding on to their tails like baby elephants. After a week or so, they disperse back out through the mountain passes again, where I imagine the little ones mature to return with their own offspring next year.

#566 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 05:41 PM:

AKICIML: Coolest things to do in NYC with a bookish 10 year old?

I'm spending a few budget-conscious days in NYC next week (M-Th) with my hyper-literate & geeky 10 year old. We've got tickets to see Matilda The Musical (this is our big splurge for the trip, apart from actually getting to NYC) and also Love's Labour's Lost in Central Park, and we plan to see the Punk Couture exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. I'd like to walk some of the High Line; she has expressed an interest in a zoo (Central Park? Bronx?). There may be a spot of shopping for discount/vintage clothes and books. We'll probably avoid the wait-in-long-lineup type of attractions like the Empire State Building.

I would appreciate any and all suggestions for off-the-wall places to visit or eat that I may not stumble across reading tourist literature from afar.

#567 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 05:47 PM:

Ellen @566: The two things I remember from childhood visits to NY were the arms & armor hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (also, the Egyptian section), and the Museum of Natural History. I have no idea whether they're still as cool; I dread imagining the possible impact of several decades of budget cuts.

#568 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 05:50 PM:

I bought my previous car, a 1988 Civic, from a Manhattanite who got sick of garage fees. Late 1989, as I recall. It had just over 7,000 miles. I sold it to a co-worker for $400 in late 2003 with a touch under 240,000 on it. Last year I was astonished to hear it was still on the road.

My current commute is ludicrously short. The new Civic I bought in late 2003 has 77,000 miles on it. I plan on keeping it for another five years, at least.

In the meantime I'm saving for next one. I'm hoping the whole hybrid / electric situation settles out by the time I really need to get a car.

#569 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 06:07 PM:

Ellen @566 -- I don't know if The Strand is still as much fun as it was for me, but for a bookish kid getting to go through *5 floors 5!* of used books is pretty wonderful. Set a budget, though, and be prepared for a Special Item to move what's wonderful beyond the budget. And don't forget the Rare Book Room. There's great stuff up there, and it's not always too expensive to consider.

Depending on the child's love of genre, it's also cool to see if any of the publishers of her favorites have some time to show her around. Our Hosts may have some recommendations.

The NYPL is a must-stop; Books of Wonder is worth a visit whatever your level of collecting kid's books happens to be. Showing her that you actually care about kid's books is probably the best present you can give, and these places are a good way to do that.

#570 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 06:53 PM:

Ellen @ 566
The Bronx Zoo is excellent, and reachable by mass transit from the city, but it is a bit of a hike.
Central Park Zoo is, well, OK, and in Central Park, so it's easily available.

If you're going to the Met, you'll probably find more than you can reasonably see at once there. I used to love Arms and Armor as a kid, and still like it as an adult.

The American Museum of Natural History is the other on the list of stuff for a bookish child. Dinosaurs, laid out cladistically. And the Discovery Room.

The Statue of Liberty is usually worthwhile, but with Ellis Island still closed it might be best to skip that this time.

#571 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 09:55 PM:

I am an Atomic Age kid. I loved this 1965 illustration of the Cars of Tomorrow the moment I set eyes upon it, and it has remained with me ever since.

Travel in a big, comfortable vehicle-- with portholes!-- but climb aboard your two-seater dinghy for short little trips to the store.

The vast, sleek glass of the cabin was the way Cars of Tomorrow were supposed to look, darn it. The rolling boxes of the 1970s and 1980s disappointed me.

I was never happier, as a motorist, than I was after purchasing a 1994 Pontiac Trans Sport minivan in 1998. (Even though it didn't contain a garage to carry a subcompact.) Finally, a Car of Tomorrow of my own!

I called it "Cyrano."

Because it had an enormous nose.

And because it looked like it could fly to the Moon.

I drive a sensible hatchback today. But for eight glorious years, I drove something that belonged in the 1990s of my mind.

#572 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 10:00 PM:

...for paleofuturistic automotive nostalgia.

All I can offer is post-muonic microwave popcorn. (The g minus 2 magnet just arrived at Fermilab, having traveled from Brookhaven. Google it-- I'm not going to risk putting another URL here.)

#573 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 10:40 PM:

I was just reading about that, and thinking that you have a cool! new!* toy.

* new to your place, anyway

#574 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2013, 11:49 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 571... That was Syd Mead, right? When I think of Mead, I remember the day a fellow SF fan did an improv/mime of someone trying to use a Mead car while in the middle of a Canadian winter.

#575 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 01:08 AM:

John Mark Ockerbloom #487: the literature on the Prius says it has a Continuously Variable Transmission (IIRC, first generally available in Audi). Your description makes sense for very low speeds; I've noticed mine always starts moving on electric only, but I start gently -- I suspect the IC engine would also engage if I tried to burn off the line at a light.

This is the third new car I've owned; I had a Mazda 323 for 9 years (because at 120K miles it had hugely expensive scheduled maintenance (replacing the timing chain)) and a Saturn for 14. The reason for a new car is simple: I could work out exactly what I wanted over a year's as-time-was-available testing and order it (or, for the Prius, at least call around and get price competition for something close), instead of having to hope that a bit more shopping wouldn't lose me the barely-acceptable beater I'd just found (as happened with my first buy). I did the buy-a-used-car dance twice before I was 30; I don't have time for that kind of intense shopping now. I also suspect the lower cost would be balanced by higher repair costs, but I can't prove that.

Charlie (originator): decent new cars don't drop radically in value -- that's a marker for a status car, and I suspect even they don't fall so badly now that most models are made much better. And why care about the book value? -- modulo an accident so bad that repairs cost more than book value, what matters is how long the car can be run rather than a market fiction.

#576 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 01:13 AM:

John Mark Ockerbloom #487: the literature on the Prius says it has a Continuously Variable Transmission (IIRC, first generally available in Audi). Your description makes sense for very low speeds; I've noticed mine always starts moving on electric only, but I start gently -- I suspect the IC engine would also engage if I tried to burn off the line at a light.

This is the third new car I've owned; I had a Mazda 323 for 9 years (because at 120K miles it had hugely expensive scheduled maintenance (replacing the timing chain)) and a Saturn for 14. The reason for a new car is simple: I could work out exactly what I wanted over a year's as-time-was-available testing and order it (or, for the Prius, at least call around and get price competition for something close), instead of having to hope that a bit more shopping wouldn't lose me the barely-acceptable beater I'd just found (as happened with my first buy). I did the buy-a-used-car dance twice before I was 30; I don't have time for that kind of intense shopping now. I also suspect the lower cost would be balanced by higher repair costs, but I can't prove that.

Charlie (originator): decent new cars don't drop radically in value -- that's a marker for a status car, and I suspect even they don't fall so badly now that most models are made much better. And why care about the book value? -- modulo an accident so bad that repairs cost more than book value, what matters is how long the car can be run rather than a market fiction.

#577 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 02:13 AM:

I bought a new Toyota Tercel in 1984. In 1996, I replaced it with a new Corolla. I didn't trade it in, because I figured I wouldn't get much for it, and sensibly planned to sell it. Then I couldn't face the task of selling it. Fortunately, a young relative got married—so I polished it up, and presented it as a wedding present. Rather unconventional, but they were thrilled, despite it being an under-powered, un-airconditioned little thing. They drove it for years. It was the "one person uses it for short commute to work" car.

#578 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 02:23 AM:

nerdycellist: yes, the essential oil will work, as long as you put it (along with water) in the rinse cycle dispenser.

#579 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 03:05 AM:

Well I just saw The Wolverine and it was suitably silly. I expect comic book fans won't like it, as it didn't feel terribly comic book in origin to me. I did enjoy it, but it didn't seem in the same league as the first movie in which we met Wolverine. But all in all, that's OK, because Hugh Jackman had a really hard time keeping his shirt on through it, and sometimes that's really all you need in a film. I would recommend it to fans of shirtless Hugh Jackman, people needing to sit in an air-conditioned room, and those not sensitive to the overarching "What this film really needs is a white guy!" theme.

#580 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 03:24 AM:

CHIP @575: received wisdom over here is that as you drive a car off the dealer's forecourt it loses 20% of its value. One acronym -- VAT -- accounts for it: you're paying 20% sales tax.

Best example I can think of is my elder brother, who bought a 4 month old Volvo XC70 last May. He paid about 70% of list value for a car with 3000 miles on it, saving himself about $15,000. (He does a lot of work-related driving -- spends 30-40 hours a week in it -- so gets a nearly-new car every 4-5 years.)

#581 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 07:44 AM:

nerdycellist @ 579... Hugh Jackman had a really hard time keeping his shirt on through it

Hmmm.... I wonder if TexAnne has seen the movie yet.

#582 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 10:10 AM:

Bill Higgins (571): I once saw a white Pontiac Transport painted to look like a Star Trek shuttle. It was glorious.

#583 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 11:20 AM:

Just last month I saw a Jeep Wrangler painted to exactly match the vehicles in Jurassic Park, park logo and all. Which I'd happened to have seen the day before, for the first time since the movie came out....

#584 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 01:26 PM:

Hey, I have an electric car. Technically, it has a one-speed transmission, not an automatic. Electric motors have lots of torque. That is why internal combustion engines use an electric starter motor.

As for electrics vs. hybrids, it's not really 'vs.'. I think the internal combustion fleet will go hybrid over the next decade, using mostly the parallel hybrid design as in the Prius. It's proven technology, there are no downsides (cost is less, usage is the same, performance is actually better), and it will allow us to cut overall fleet fuel consumption (and greenhouse gas production) by half. That is huge.

Plug-in hybrids get you another 50% reduction in energy use (electricity and gas together). Their efficiency depends on running as much as possible in electric mode, which has a short range (around 40 miles for a Volt). In gas mode the efficiency is the same as a regular compact car.

Pure electric gets you another 50% reduction on top of that. But the range is limited to around 80 miles. After that, the efficiency is zero; the car is not going anywhere. It's not practical for everyone. In my case, I could get away with using an electric car because I have a short commute that is practical only by car, and because we still have a gas car for longer trips. And torque is fun.

As battery technology gets better, there will be more plug-in hybrids and pure electric vehicles. But it will be a while before the future goes completely electric, if ever.

#585 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 01:30 PM:

Mary Aileen @582: The car that really looks like a TNG shuttle to me is the Pontiac Aztek (or Ass-tek, as people called it). Especially in white. It was early in the trend of black-plastic-body-accents-regardless-of-paint-color. Photos just don't do it's shuttlecraftiness justice; a lot of it is in the feel of the geometry as you walk up to it.

#586 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 01:48 PM:

Ideally, I'd have an all-electric car since my commute is so short and I don't use it a lot for recreational driving. But one of the small issues working against plug in hybrids is apartment dwellers. I don't have access to an outlet in my garage. One person actually ran an extension cord, but as the electricity for the garage is paid by the landlord, they weren't too keen on his use. I expect they will be building new apartment buildings with some sort of charging stations that can be metered along with your apartment, but they will likely be luxury apartments, and even in the event that they aren't, they won't be rent controlled and therefore not affordable to people like me in big city markets.

Looking on the Nissan Leaf page, it looks like there are many places you can charge your car in public, and it says that more of these places get 30-minute Charging Stations every day. They want you to download an app to find the stations. Why not make it easy for the prospective customer to see where these places are? I'd like to know just how many, and how long does it take to charge on a slower charging station. I hope by the time I'm ready to buy a new car the technology will have caught up. But right now, even the compact models are only workable for affluent people.

#587 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 02:23 PM:

My favorite comment on the Aztek comes from "Car Talk"; someone wrote in and said it looked like it had been designed by two teams of engineers, one starting at each bumper.

#588 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 03:29 PM:

Charlie, the Town Car reminds meof my mother's comment about driving a Buick, sometime way back: 'it's like sitting on your front porch and driving your house'.

#589 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 03:35 PM:

Hi nerdycellist,

You're right, an electric car at this time is a luxury. They're not extravagant — they are similar in cost to other luxury cars — but they're not economy cars yet. As a geek I don't care so much about an interior "with the look of real wood"; my idea of luxury is really good engineering. So that's what I got.

Actually, right now, Fiat started an EV price war with Nissan and Honda. I'm pretty sure it will last only until Fiat and Honda have met their compliance targets, then they will drop out and Nissan will raise their prices back to a level where they aren't losing money. But right now, their EVs are very competitive.

You might want to see if your landlord could put in a 240V outlet in the garage that is on its own meter. That is ideal because you can choose a time of day rate plan and charge your car on cheap electricity at night. You can get your own level 2 charger at a large hardware store. You just have to attach it to the wall and plug it in to the 240V outlet.

You can search on the ChargePoint website for charger locations. They are a commercial startup. In my area, some municipalities have free chargers that were installed and managed by ChargePoint. For example, if I drive to San Francisco and pay to park in a city garage, I can charge up my car for free. (And it is completely carbon free too, powered by hydro from the drowned formerly 2nd most beautiful valley in the Sierra Nevada.)

My employer has a charger and should be installing more as we're now up to four EVs at this site. The company gets clean air credits, so it's worth it to them.

#590 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 03:39 PM:

Remember this guy? He's applying for Worker's Comp because apparently his widdle fee-fees were hurted when people were meeeen on the internets after he pepper-sprayed those seated protesters, and now he's "psychologically injured."

Add to my list of people who should eat shit and die.

#591 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 03:42 PM:

Lila, #587: Heh. I know some model-builders, so my first thought on seeing an Aztek was, "It looks like a kit-bash."

#592 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 04:02 PM:

Just for fun, here's a map of one company's electric car charging stations on O'ahu. They're mostly in the urban corridor.

#593 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 04:14 PM:

I'm on day three of a "no between meal snacks, no toast for breakfast" routine. (I won't dignify it as a diet.)

So . . . anybody got any gum?

So, you get 167 of those Russian nesting dolls, and you stick small Theramins in them, and then you get 167 Japanese folks in a Church to use them to perform the "vocal" part of the Ode to Joy.

Because. They. Could.

#594 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 06:15 PM:

Jacque: I wonder how it compares to the road up to Flagstaff House in Boulder? (Though most certainly longer.) The Fiske Planetarium did a bit for their Friday night show where they mounted a camera on the front of a motorcycle, and then drove down that road.

You need to do a search for a film called Rendezvous by Claude Leloche. (It recently came out in a restored version on DVD, but you'd have to order it.) I recommend seeing it cold, as I did when I was running one of several film series--you don't want any spoilers for this one outside of clicking on the link to watch it. You're looking at under 20 minutes total, so it won't take up too much of your time.

When you watch it remember: there are no camera tricks. Everything happened just as you see it, which is why after the film's release the director had a VERY interesting meeting with the Chief of Police. (The soundtrack was tweaked somewhat in the studio, because it doesn't quite match the amazing visuals, but that doesn't spoil the film.)

#595 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 07:05 PM:

HLCN: Having the house FIOS fail late at night on a Thursday is really difficult when someone in the house has a semi-online course. Especially when a quickly obtained replacement didn't help.

And what bean-brained planner thought that dark green, thin-stroked Roman letters on a brick background was a good idea? Of course: someone in Columbia, Maryland.

#596 ::: C. Wingate awaits gnomish attention ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 07:07 PM:

Sorry, but we're out of fresh tomato sauce. You should have come sooner.

#597 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 07:12 PM:

I think the gnomes are out today.

#598 ::: Ellen ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 07:30 PM:

Appreciations to Jeremy@567, Tom@569 and Steve@570 for info about things to see in NYC. I know of The Strand - though I think I've only visited 2 of the 5 floors - but Books of Wonder will be a new treat.

Only 36 hours (2 sleeps!) til we leave! Assuming my sprog doesn't implode from excitement first.

#599 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2013, 11:02 PM:

Charlie@580: I hadn't thought about VAT; that's plausible for a tax that's built into the price rather than listed separately (as state sales taxes are in the US). OTOH, I read somewhere (while dealing with supplies for Interaction) that VAT is supposed to be passed through; e.g., if you pay UKP100 for materials for a project that you sell for UKP150, you get back the VAT you paid on the UKP100 (or collect the VAT on UKP150 and pay only the VAT on the UKP50 delta); is that not applicable-in-reverse for sales of used vehicles, or is it just unavailable (e.g., too complicated) to private citizens?

David@297: I remember Bova saying in 1976, on receiving his 3rd personal Hugo, that there were other good editors who should be recognized. Then Kelly Freas got his 10th and sniggered that he'd keep collecting them as long as we kept giving them. That night, O'Shaugnessy Slush ("can paint ... two hundred covers a year, provided they all have ugly little faces in the foreground") was added to the dramatis personae of the developing fannish musical Back to Rivets, or, Mik Ado about Nothing -- and Rick Sternbach was given (seized?) the part, which he played with great panache.

#600 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 03:57 AM:

CHiP @599

If you're a VAT-registered business, the net payment to the tax collector is the VAT on what you sell less the VAT on what you buy. There are complications, which I think tangle up car sales a little, but when I sell a car I cannot charge VAT. For me, it's the same as a Sales Tax.

The chain between businesses shares out the VAT cost, and makes sure that nobody pays twice. The final retail sale breaks that chain.

#601 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 05:30 AM:

So AFAICT, the XKCD "Time" strip is about . . . a long, elaborate game of pretend? The beginning is about building a sandcastle that gets flooded out, and the end features the protagonists escaping a flood in jury-rigged boats along with some random people. In between there are meandering discussions, journeys over (tiny?) landscapes, starwatching, ruins, and meetings with people who speak a mysterious language and all wear peculiar hats.

#602 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 08:23 AM:

CHIP @599: VAT is passed through to the final consumer. It's a consumption tax. So when you buy a car, you can't claim the VAT back on it unless you are a VAT-registered business buying it in order to sell it on (not operate it as a fleet vehicle).

You can only claim back VAT on stuff you buy if you are a VAT-registered business or self-employed person. In which case you also have to charge VAT on all your sales, and do the associated paperwork, and pay HMRC the tax you raised every quarter.

Wrt. your aside on Hugos to David @297 -- I want to go on the record here: if I ever win a third Hugo in any category I will thereafter withdraw from nominations in that category. And the number of Hugo wins needed to trigger a withdrawal will drop by one each time this happens. (The only exception I'll pencil in is that I'm not going to withdraw completely unless/until I manage to score one for "Best Novel".) It's a beauty contest and it's unfair to hog the lime-light.

#603 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 09:10 AM:


Workmans comp is a small price for having him no longer wear a badge. And even smaller when you consider the many other policemen who know why he lost his job. This is what's known as "creating the right incentives.."

#604 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 10:36 AM:

Jenny Islander @601 So AFAICT, the XKCD "Time" strip is about . . . a long, elaborate game of pretend? The beginning is about building a sandcastle that gets flooded out, and the end features the protagonists escaping a flood in jury-rigged boats along with some random people. In between there are meandering discussions, journeys over (tiny?) landscapes, starwatching, ruins, and meetings with people who speak a mysterious language and all wear peculiar hats.

Um, actually, "Time" is an epic tale of disaster and survival. Vg gnxrf cynpr va gur lrne 13,000-fbzrguvat (fbzr nfgebabzref svtherq gung bhg sebz gur bar ybat avtug); gur gjb fnaqpnfgyr ohvyqref abgvpr gung gur frn, juvpu unf arire qbar guvf orsber, vf fgnegvat gb evfr. Gurl qrpvqr gb svaq bhg jul. Gurl pyvzo n ybat, ybat evfr, naq riraghnyyl svaq bgure crbcyr jub fcrnx n qvssrerag ynathntr ohg ner boivbhfyl fheirlbef sebz gurve rdhvczrag naq zncf. Gurfr fgenatref (pnyyrq ol gur guernq sbyybjvat Gvzr "Ornavrf" orpnhfr bs gurve ungf) oevat bhe gjb urebrf gb fbzrbar jub fcrnxf gurve ynathntr. Jr qvfpbire (guebhtu zncf naq oebxra genafyngvba) gung gurve fnaql fuber vf gur zhpu-erqhprq-ol-rincbengvba Zrqvgreenarna Frn; gur oybpxntr ng gur Fgenvtugf bs Tvoenygne unf ortha gb snvy, naq gur Zrq vf nobhg gb svyy hc. Ntnva. Gur Ornavrf gevrq gb jnea rirelbar gurl xarj nobhg, ohg gurl qvqa'g xabj nobhg Bhe Urebrf' gevor. Gur Ornavrf gryy Bhe Urebrf vg'f gbb yngr; gur sybbq vf fgnegvat. Bhe urebrf teno gur znc naq eha onpx qbja vagb gur (svyyvat) onfva naljnl. Gurl svaq gurve gevor, naq hfr n fgehpgher gurl ohvyg ba n juvz juvyr znxvat gur fnaqpnfgyrf onpx ng gur irel ortvaavat bs gur fgbel gb pbafgehpg n znxrfuvsg ensg be onetr. Gurl erfphr gurve gevor sebz gur sybbq, naq, jvgu gur fgbyra zncf, frg bss gb sbhaq n arj yvsr.

This was all analyzed and figured out, in detail, by hundreds of people working together in the comment thread. Which also contains poetry, filks, silly pictures, sillier stories...

It was fun while it lasted. I'll kind of miss it. I think it may deserve a Graphic Story nomination for next year's Hugos.

#605 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 10:37 AM:

I just taught my daughter how to play King-on-the-Corner. My great-grandma taught it to me when I was about Beka's age (4ish). I get kind of sniffly when I play it with her, but in a good way.

She basically gets it; at the moment we are playing with her hand mostly face-up and the grownup cueing a lot of moves, but she enjoys it.

In other news, I now know WHY Great-Grandma taught it to me: it's a way to amuse the kid that is also marginally entertaining to the babysitter, unlike 'let's color' or tea party or (shudder) Candyland again.

#606 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 11:49 AM:

albatross, #603: In Texas, he wouldn't be eligible for workers' comp because the claimed injury did not occur on the job. There's also an argument to be made that it was self-inflicted.

Elliott, #605: You might also look at teaching her canasta, either now or as she gets a little older. I was playing that with my grandmother at age 6. (Note: my grandmother played it with 3 decks, which IMO makes for a much more interesting game than only two.)

#607 ::: odaiwai ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 12:32 PM:

Cassy B@604: "This was all analyzed and figured out, in detail, by hundreds of people working together in the comment thread. Which also contains poetry, filks, silly pictures, sillier stories..."

A thread which went to 50,000 posts, was mostly on topic and extremely civil and pleasant. (I believe the xkcd forums have very strong moderators, so all credit to them, and all the participants.)

The "Long Night"[0] when the astronomers[1] looked at the stars in the night sky, and established that it was April 10th(ish) 13,291, was one of the highlights for me.

[0] start from

[1] commenters in the thread, not characters in the comic.

#608 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 12:58 PM:

@CassyB #604: Wow! I obviously missed quite a few panels. I thought I was checking it daily.

#609 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 01:10 PM:

Jenny Islander @608, that's the thing about xkcd "Time"; the panels updated every hour on the hour (the first few days, every half hour!) so even if you checked it daily, you'd miss 23 out of every 24 panels. Which wasn't necessarily an issue during the Sand Castle Building Era, but once they started their journey, you could easily miss the WOWterfall ( and certainly miss the meteor during the Long Night ( -- that sequence of frames lasted was up for only a few minutes each.

Not to mention the Beanie's explanation of what was going on, with maps. ( &

#610 ::: Cassy B. has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 01:11 PM:

For too many links, probably. Or spaces in front of/behind parenthesis.

[Actually WOW in all caps (usual spammerese for World Of Warcraft). -- Byour Mirosi, Duty Gnome]

#611 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 02:59 PM:

Lee @606 said: You might also look at teaching her canasta, either now or as she gets a little older. I was playing that with my grandmother at age 6. (Note: my grandmother played it with 3 decks, which IMO makes for a much more interesting game than only two.)

Interesting -- in my family (well, my step-grandmother's household), canasta was firmly a GROWNUP GAME, KIDS OUT. In ten years of being pantingly interested, I could never get a single adult to break the Cone of Silence to explain to me how it was played; instead I was exiled to a table in another room to play boardgames with whatever subset of adults present did NOT want to play Canasta (or were detailed to Watch Kids), while 6-15 very interested adults played Canasta rowdily in the kitchen. with four decks of cards amongst them.

Can you recommend a good learning-Canasta resource?

#612 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 03:59 PM:

Elliott re: canasta as a grownup game

My experience also (and with big rowdy crowds with extra decks). I suspect it might have been too few cards, even if you job together several decks (what is it with the seven of spades, three of hearts and jack of diamonds going walkabout together?).

So, of course we kids learned it and sneaked off to play it as much as possible. We were willing to deal (so to speak) with the greasy dog-eared cards.

It kept us corralled and entertained, though I doubt that this was their plan.

Monopoly was also a favorite, with the kids' cheat of getting fully repaid for mortgages.

And the homemade game boards for Chinese Checkers and Michigan Rummy (Poker?), which had the actual cards for the counting series laminated on thin green plywood - that ate several decks itself.

I Skype with my nigh-ninety year old mother on weekday mornings. It's great to have this to ask her about, though I have to sneak in sideways or she'll claim she can't remember. Asking if it was Poker or Rummy, and who made the board should work.

#613 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 04:48 PM:

Carol Kimball @612: Counting series?

At my grandfather Beltz's house, after dinner almost every night was game time. If dinner was particularly early, we had the option of playing Monopoly (which often went 2-3 hours); when time was shorter, we would play other board games (in the main, Avalon Hill's bookcase games, especially Acquire) or cards. I knew 7-card stud poker well before I was 7, though I had to keep Hoyle's open on my chair next to me to glance down and remember which hand beats what. I still don't have that memorized.

Between poker and Fan Tan (both played with a common store of pennies kept in a special wooden box with the playing cards -- passed out roughly evenly at the start of the night and returned to the box when we cleaned up), I was well-versed in stuff often viewed as Filthy Gambling quite young. My grandfather and mother swore by it as a quite useful way of getting me fast on my numbers, counting, and certain kinds of quick math. For Fan Tan I got a grownup to 'fan' my cards for me, since my hands have always been tiny and the dexterity was beyond me -- and Fan Tan involves dealing out the whole deck evenly, so it's a LOT of cards.

We also played rummy, with what I thought were The One True Rules, but apparently (on reference to other households and some reference books as an adult) it was actually a highly-hacked set of house rules. It still feels like One True Rummy to me, though, and when I play with other people I have to get them to be explicit about what rules THEY like using so I don't accidentally 'cheat'.

Fun feature of Beltz game nights: my mom's eidetic. Her reflexive visual memory is strong enough that she can't NOT count a four-deck shoe; she can count a five-deck but she has to pay attention. There are some games where this gives her sufficient advantage that there is simply no fun in playing them with her. Other games she merely has an edge, and then there are a very few where she has exactly the same chance as anyone else. Compiling lists of which game goes in which batch is ... well, not fun, but interesting, certainly.

#614 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 05:39 PM:

Elliott, #611: This looks like a reasonably complete overview of the canasta rules, although IIRC there are a few differences from the way my grandmother played -- probably regional variation.

Looking at the rules again now, I suspect that the reason it was a grownups-only game in your family is that it's quite complex -- enough so that most young children would probably have trouble remembering all the rules. I had an outstanding memory as a child (not quite eidetic, but extremely retentive), and it was just me and Granny and my parents playing, so it was easy for me. I also remember teaching a couple of friends to play at about age 12, and that it confused them mightily until we'd been thru several practice games.

Granny liked to take me down to senior-citizens card day at her church, where she and I would take on all comers and generally win. I remember the other players being impressed with a child so young who could not only play, but play well.

#615 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 06:44 PM:

Lee @614: That sounds like me and my mom hustling Trivial Pursuit among her friends and acquaintances. :-> Her friends would usually 'make' her take me on 'her team' instead of letting me have my own quiche-holder ... without realizing that she and I complemented each other perfectly. We're both strong in Green and Brown, she kills all in Blue and some Pink, and I had a much better chance at most Orange than she did, while covering some of the more recent Pink she didn't know. We were, ironically, weakest in Yellow, because what we each knew mostly overlapped (so there were swaths of Yellow and Orange questions neither of us had a chance at).

Those are Genus Edition color categories, of course.

#616 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 06:45 PM:

Of course, my mother's advantage in Trivial Pursuit is that if she has ever read any question off a given card, she knows the answers to all the rest on that card ... her friends used to regularly buy new question-sets just to keep it marginally fair. :->

#617 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2013, 11:41 PM:

We just came back from seeing "Wolverine". I liked it, but that's about it. The best part was his dreams, where Jean called out to him and how lonely she was. The BEST part was the teaser for "Days of Future Past" within the ending credits. I actually applauded, and others immediately followed suit.

#618 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 01:00 AM:

We were driving south on I5 to Ashland, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, when we see a funny cloud. It looks like there's an orange reflection on the bottom of it, but it's hours from sunset. Oh, that's not a rain cloud—it's the smoke from a forest fire. I was in the passenger seat, and snapped some pictures through the (dirty) windshield with my phone. The fire is a good ways northwest of Ashland (and west of the freeway), and according to the news, it's now contained. If I'm reading the right report on the Oregonian website, there were 54 fires started by lightning in that area on Friday night.

#619 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 01:27 AM:

Elliott (613) There are lots of rummy games, all with sort of similar rules. Old Maid is a rummy game, for instance.

Our family invented a new one, one hot summer about 30 years ago. It was designed to make possible the use of all the incomplete decks of cards we had lying around the house, and we called it "Anomaly". All of our friends became entranced with it and would come over in the evening for the inevitable several hands of Anomaly, which ran late into the night (even though I was then a mail carrier and had to get up early).

Later on we found it to be impossible to recruit new players when old players left town, and even later, we saw a mention of essentially the same game with a different name on the internet somewhere, I don't remember. Haven't played it in years; I wonder if we know people now who'd be interested ...

#620 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 08:35 AM:

For the benefit of those here who do not read Girl Genius on a regular basis, Agatha Heterodyne has just built a sleigh shaped like a swan, pulled by a gilded mechanical reindeer whose antlers are also a chandelier.

Of course, she's Agatha Heterodyne, so she didn't stop there.

#621 ::: fidelio has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 08:36 AM:

Banana nut muffins, guys? I was just about to go make coffee for my unit.

#622 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 11:15 AM:

fidelio @ 620... she's Agatha Heterodyne, so she didn't stop there

Of course not.

#623 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 01:14 PM:

HLN: area man participates in live-action role-playing game on bike, with 6-year-old. (Area man identifiable by long pants and fluorescent yellow helmet.)

#624 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 02:18 PM:

Elliott way back at 403

I've been away for a week flying rockets in Ohio, so I'm just catching up. Actually you do have a friend with a manual transmission car. Hi.

#625 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 02:22 PM:

Cally Soukup @624: *waves* :-> I hope the rockets were fun!

I'm finally getting back into actively using the Chicago Public Library for my reading material (after several months of "life will be too busy to be sure I can return them in time"), and am trying to remember what's come out in the past several years that I was excited about reading.

So, AKICIML: what recently-published books SHOULD I be excited about reading? Anything vaguely spec-ficcish is lovely, as are cozy mysteries and quirky nonfiction ... with the caveat that I'm really, really not into anything that even smacks of grimdark right now. Extra poitns for actively humorous or ironic.

I can't guarantee CPL will actually have a COPY of any of the things recommended; their collection seems to have gotten really patchy in recent fiction in the past several years (for example, only one copy in the entire system of Midnight Blue-Light Special, and none at all past Book 2 in several 8-book series I'm familiar with), but if I know titles and authors to get excited about I can at least try.

#626 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 02:29 PM:

[I'm being intentionally oblique in wording below and not naming any names, because I don't want to pour Google-juice all over any of this. It's all screwed up enough already.]

I'm feeling pretty weirded out this morning. It's been since yesterday around noon when I heard about it.

Someone I knew very slightly, who I'd last seen just a few weeks ago, a member and off-and-on attendee of our religious group - not going to name group or religion here, in this context - is now in custody as the main suspect in a high-profile brutal murder last week. His guilt isn't quite a given, but it sounds like there may be strong circumstantial evidence.

It feels really strange; hard to wrap my head around at all. I'm struggling at the same time with how to bring the light of the precepts or of my personal practice on this.

Why did this woman have to suffer for what went wrong with this guy? And how did things go so horribly wrong with him that he could do this?

I woke up at 1:30am and couldn't get back to sleep for thinking about it.

#627 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 02:48 PM:

Clifton, that sounds like a terrible situation. Please allow yourself to be confused about it, to feel stressed about it, to struggle with it, et cetera. (Yes, this is me telling you to do what I'd need to do in your place.)

Elliott Mason, I'm looking forward to reading the third Kate Elliott Spiritwalker book (Cold Magic, Cold Fire, Cold Steel). I also have a new Sarah Zettel on the to-read pile, sequel to Dust Girl. Kate Milford's books are really enjoyable and the first is incredibly American (second, not as much, but that's understandable.) I've really enjoyed some middle-grade in the past few months as I worked my way through the Iowa book awards.

#628 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 03:05 PM:

Elliott Mason @625 -- Serious recommendations for Jo Walton's Among Others, which they darn well should have; Steve Brust and Skyler White's The Incrementalists, which they won't have for a month or so; and a push to check out the YA stuff by Scott Westerfeld, Garth Nix, or China Mieville. I'd also push Charles Stross even if he weren't a regular here -- his Company books are great fun if you like mystery series, and the Merchant Princes series has some really lovely complexity. Those are what leap to mind instantly.

YA is where really exciting stuff is happening right now. Kim Stanley Robinson is doing fine work for adults; Karen Joy Fowler is worth checking; you know, it's a good time for reading SF/F! I'm sure Our Hosts have more recommendations about stuff from Tor. My pushes here are based on knowing a little about your specific wants in a book. Happy reading!

#629 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 03:10 PM:

Is the "Making Light" title supposed to glow whitely or is that an artefact of my installing linux and using firefox instead of my usual Windows?

I second the recommendation of Elliot's Spiritwalker trilogy. I'm rather reminded of bits of Jane Austen, but it all works together well enough.

Fiedlio #620 is to be congratulated for their carefully worded comment re. Girl Genius, so those of us who have, for instance stopped reading it for now because it was all a big mess with too many plots and characters going on and it was all getting silly, are not told too much. I was able to give up reading it daily with only a few twinges. I'll try and catch up again in 2 or 3 years when the plot has moved on a bit.

#630 ::: Joseph M. ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 03:11 PM:

Elliott@625: Have you read Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway yet? While not quite as good as The Gone-Away World, not much is, and I quite liked it. Definitely humorous; while I wouldn't call it grimdark, there are a couple of scenes of villains being evil.

#631 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 03:12 PM:

Yes indeed, "Making Light" is supposed to glow.

Not all browsers support this.

#632 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 03:37 PM:

Clifton, #626: My sympathies. That's a very hard thing to have to grapple with.

#633 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 03:43 PM:

guthrie @629: it was all a big mess with too many plots and characters going on and it was all getting silly

Indeed, much of the recent sections have resembled a bowlful of multiple colors of Silly String (I'd say spaghetti, but that leaves out the "SCIENCE!" part of the program) with a couple of glow-in-the-dark tarantulas nesting in it. But you don't need to know anything about the plot to appreciate a swan-shaped sleigh pulled by a gilded mechanical reindeer with chandelier-antlers. That's the kind of thing that transcends plot, moving in the world of Cool Bits as it does.

You need more than Cool Bits to make a good story, of course, but there are some Cool Bits which are so cool you needn't know much about why they're there in order to rejoice at their existence.

#634 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 03:50 PM:

Clifton, that is the most bizarre murder we've had out here in a long time. I'm sorry you're affected by it, even at a distance.

#635 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 04:22 PM:

Finally! "The Right Stuff" is being released in Blu-Ray, on November 5.

You know you're old when you remember first seeing a film only a few years ago, just before you realize that some of your friends were barely hitting puberty when said film first came out.

#636 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 04:36 PM:

Clifton @626--I'm so sorry. That's a horrible thing to go through, whether up close or at a little distance.

I have no constructive suggestions to make, but I wish some peace of mind for you and others affected by this soon.

#637 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 04:44 PM:

WRT Jim's new diffraction about Homeland Security's impending move:

This is the place where Ezra Pound* was held for 13 years after being indicted for treason after World War II.

I'll just leave it there and you all can consider that from any angle you like.

*Great poet, talented editor, crackpot, moral midget. I'm just sayin'.

#638 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 04:48 PM:

Thank you all, Lee and Linkmeister and Fidelio. I appreciate your sympathy and thoughts.

Diatryma, I especially thank you so much for your kind words. That is indeed what I'm doing; that's my way too.

I think confusion, struggling, all of it is also part and parcel of the Great Way we're all working on.

#639 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 04:56 PM:

Charlie Stross 214
When replacing carpet for smells, it is most important to replace the pad, which collects them. And to clean the floor underneath.

If you had time, clean the subfloor, maybe with ammonia, rinse, then baking soda brushed in, let sit, then vacuumed out, then an enzymatic cleaner sprayed on and left, or another application of baking soda, left in. (The enzymatic cleaner I used in the past took several weeks to work, and had a perfumy scent in the interim. Might be a factor for some, and it was annoying at the least.)

Since with all that stuff to move, you're not going to want everything left out in the yard for weeks, at least try to get the installers to take a lunch break after removing carpet and pad, while you get the floor as clean as possible, and put down a final layer of baking soda to stay.

Also, instead of just patching carpet, as reference for others, if the carpet is going to be sitting out in the yard for a while, it can often be cleaned well just by running a hose through that area and letting it dry thoroughly. (However, backing might also separate...)

(Used to work at a flooring store here.)

#640 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 05:20 PM:

PS to 639
Or, of course, if you have a hard surface for the carpet to be on, a driveway or garage that drains, a carpet-cleaner can do a much better job there than in situ, where the liquid just goes down onto/into the pad.

#641 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 05:30 PM:

HLN: Local man drags self to gym for first time in months.

"I just did 20 minutes on the elliptical," he said, "but I got there and did something and it really did lift my mood." He added that followup is key and he hopes to do the same tomorrow.

#642 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 05:31 PM:

Serge #635:

It gets worse. I can remember watching the ticker-tape scene being filmed, from a block away in SF's financial district. We just happened to be wandering through, up from Palo Alto for the day.

#643 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 06:07 PM:

Elliott Mason @493: put fewer SUVs on the road

Peddling to the grocery store on Saturday, a saw what I first took to be a bus. Took me a minute to work out that what I was looking at was stretch-Hummer. "But, why?" we wonders.

Can't help but wonder how that thing corners.

#644 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 06:19 PM:

Some limo companies have them. Not sure why.

#645 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 06:25 PM:

Book reccs, 627ff

Diatryma: I generally enjoy Kate Elliott; thanks. They have Dust Girl, and I'm queueing it; I've loved every other Zettel I've ever read (plus she's a hoot to hang out with, yet another of the authors I didn't-know-were-them when I first met them in fannish situations). I'd not heard of Kate Milford before; I've put The Boneshaker on my list, as it's the only one CPL has and sounds cromlent (NOT corpulent, autocorrect! Cromulent is a perfectly cromulent word!).

Tom Whitmore: I have tried, repeatedly, the copy of Among Others I own. It seems to be Elizabeth-Bearian in its prose, by which I mean I can tell it ought to be gorgeous and spare and enthralling (like the book version of an Ansel Adams photo), but ends up, for me, being a bunch of confusing paleness behind four thick panes of glass to which I do not have the key. I shall try it again sometime, I suppose. Maybe it'll be like Arthur Ransome, a book I just have to be old enough/in the right self-place to be able to read. I think I've read all currently available Stross, save Neptune's Brood which is currently 'in transit between libraries' to me. :->

Joseph M.: I hadn't heard of Harkaway, and by the blurb/summary on CPL's site, I wouldn't have picked up Angelmaker; it's on the list now, though. I can handle evil; I can even handle sad (I'm amidst a Fullmetal Alchemist rewatch and if THAT isn't SAD …!) I'm just really allergic to bleak and, um, lots-of-grey-murk? I was enjoying Defiance but it's hitting too many of those squids for me so I had to take a break.

I'm currently searching books on CPL's internal site (which looks amazing and functional … for a 1996 website. It went live a bit after 2002) and putting bookmarks of the book-itself-page in a folder in my Firefox so I can put them on hold quickly and not forget what they were, as my hold queue develops capacity. I really wish they had an internal "works I have checkmarked so I can see them in a list later" function of some kind, but they don't.

At least I can put books on hold myself from my computer at any hour of day or night; I remember 3-4 years ago when in order to do so I had to call a library on the phone or visit and have one of the librarians do it for me. BOY HOWDY were my local library's staff happy I could do it myself. :-> I should note that my former local branch (before we moved away) had opened while I was living near it, so I marched cheerfully in their first day open all but chortling, "Library library TWO BLOCKS FROM MY HOUSE library library books yaaaaay!" under my breath. I then instantly became, and remained till we moved, their heaviest adult borrower -- and the fact that I used the hold system to suck books from all over the city through their branch made their statistics look good. What looked even better was when I'd tell her about a new Seanan book or Ursula book or Bujold or whatever three months before it went on sale so she could set the acquisition machinery in motion and have a copy for me to read … that also would quickly get REQUESTED on hold from various other branches all over the system, because often it was one of only a few copies total. That made their stats look freaking amazing, and got them more acquisition budget.

Now I live equidistant (1.3mi, boo) from three smallish, established branches, none of whose librarians are particularly interested in going back to catering to my very specific reading tastes. And in none of them am I their heaviest adult user. Ahh well. First World Problems. :-> They say the CPL's backend (the database and such that the website talks to) will soon go live with its first major overhaul in over 15 years, and WOW would that be welcome. It might even start getting things that were cutting-edge functionality in 2002! Which would be a significant upgrade from how it is now ...

#646 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 06:57 PM:

Elliott: Oh yes, I've had that experience with books not hitting me at the Right Time -- it wasn't until the 4th time that The Lord of the Rings actually got me to finish it! I'd bet that you now know enough to know when it will be the right book for the moment. And if it isn't -- well, it'll be the right book for someone else reading this thread. If I hit 4 out of 5 on recommendations for books, I think I'm doing well.

#647 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 07:01 PM:

Tom Whitmore: to me it's a Swallows And Amazons problem, because I quite literally used a copy of that to induce sleep when I desperately needed to go down for the night NOW but was NOT SLEEPY, when I was 7-10yo. Until suddenly one night when I knew I had to be up at an unBobly hour I got it out, cracked it open, and the next thing I knew it was 3AM and I'd finished it. Then I chased down all the others in the series I could get (not easy, at the time there was not a US publisher or an internet, so I was cruising the local hardcopy used bookstores) and devoured them.

#648 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 07:10 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 645: I loved Harkaway's "The Gone-Away World". There's a flavor of P.G. Wodehouse in the prose, and there are ninjas, and there is friendship, romance, and satire of academia (or at least the young adults therein). There is sadness, too.

#649 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 07:13 PM:

Possibly of interest to other ML folks (as well as Tor readers): Mick Farren has died. As someone a little too young *(41 currently) to read his best-known non-fiction as it was published, I first encountered him as a sci-fi writer (Phaid the Gambler, Vickers), and only discovered his more famous side when the internet came along and helped me connect the dots. A bunch of his works -- fiction and nonfiction -- remain in print (or at least e-print), according to Amazon.

#650 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 07:20 PM:

janetl @648: Any book that can be described by combining "PG Wodehouse" and "ninjas" makes me do grabbyhands.

#651 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 07:24 PM:

Elliot @625, for a funny and fascinating look at the discovery of DNA and genetics, try Sam Kean's The Violinist's Thumb.

#652 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 07:36 PM:

Cassy B. @651: An enthusiastic seconding of the recommendation for The Violinist's Thumb! Also, anything else Sam Kean has ever written, as he has a gift for chatty interesting humanized nonfiction, so if you like one of them you'll like more (like The Disappearing Spoon, which is a bunch of short anecdotes about every single element in the periodic table).

#653 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 09:23 PM:

Oh, for an army of twitter "moderators" to do this to all the misogynistic trolls!

#654 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 09:53 PM:

I *finally* found out what happened to my tuckerized counterpart in James SA Corey's space opera "Abaddon's Gate".

Yes, I'm the guy in the episode who dies to prove how serious the situation is.

#655 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 09:53 PM:

CHip @ 576: "the literature on the Prius says it has a Continuously Variable Transmission (IIRC, first generally available in Audi)."

Like most other technologies, CVT had several "firsts", but the one you're probably thinking of is the Variomatic transmission invented by DAF of The Netherlands. (Their passenger car division ended up being swallowed by Volvo.)

I have to say I've never been a fan of slushboxes, but it's not at all bad in my current car which wasn't even available with manual gearbox. (Buying aging luxury cars makes sense if you're weird and can put up with doing most of the maintenance yourself.)

#656 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 10:46 PM:

Somewhat Distant News:

So my wife gets on a plane at 8:30 EDT to fly to Great Falls, MT, change in Denver. Well. First she ends up in Colorado Springs because Denver is having bad weather and everything is being diverted to CS, including the plane that she needs to get on. It leaves for Denver first, however, and therefore it leaves Denver before she gets there. The next flight to GF is cancelled outright, so they put her on a flight to SLC to catch a flight from another airline. I'm looking at this through United's flight monitoring site, and it doesn't look good: her flight keeps slipping, and the Delta flight she needs to catch keeps saying "on time". So finally she gets in the air, with an arrival time four minutes after her connection is supposed to leave. A look at the SLC map discloses that her connection almost literally traverses the whole airport; even OJ in his prime couldn't have done it, assuming everything was on time. I keep checking, and finally the United flight says "landed", ten minutes after its projected late arrival. I look at the Delta flight: "in flight". Damn.

So here is how bad United's schedule is screwed up: There is one last flight from Denver to Great Falls. It is already hours late because its plane just left Denver-- to go to Bozeman and return. The plane she presumably just got off of is going back the Denver, so if they just put her and her luggage back on the plane, they could still get her to Great Falls by morning if there were a seat left. She has now officially exceeded two out of my three worst trips ever, one of which involved a hurricane.

#657 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 02:45 AM:

PJ Evans @644

I can see some point to stretch limos in general, just as there is a point to a micro-bus or the modern "people-carrier" class of vehicle, seating more than the usual car. And a Hummer rather than some other base, that fits with the general idea of emphasising the passengers are different.

You can even hire a limo-standard double-decker bus from one British company in Manchester. That's something a football club (soccer) might use as a team coach for an away game. Team Sky has what is essentially a stretch-limo bus, carrying the team between cycle-race stages.

But I can't escape the feeling that these things can also scream "F**k you, Jack, I'm all right."

#658 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 04:38 AM:

MinaW @639: can't replace the carpet.

Not without removing 18 feet of floor-to-ceiling bookcases -- fully loaded -- plus a full filing cabinet, sofa, desk, and my entire office suite. Which would cause just a little bit of disruption to my work.

(Maybe next time I go away for a month and have the spare cash to pay someone to do it for me.)

#659 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 04:40 AM:

PS to 640: Driveway, garage, ha ha.

(This is a fourth-floor walk-up apartment with no elevator, overlooking a major road. Garages are in very short supply in this city ...)

#660 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 04:57 AM:

Dave, apropos @657 -- here in Edinburgh there are a couple of stretch Hummer limos. Pink and tartan stretch Hummer limos. They service the hen night market, and don't go down certain streets for fear of grounding the chassis.

PPS to @640: a garden/yard is something I can rent a key for and share with a few hundred other households. Very nice for picnics, not so much for drying out wet carpet. (They're basically small private parks.)

I live in the city that invented the high-rise apartment in the middle ages. Architecture and furnishing methods are so different here from your typical American suburban style that stuff that would be a no-brainer in one setting is a bad joke in the other, and vice versa. (Three foot thick stone walls, single-glazed sash windows with wooden shutters by law, and doors that are parallelograms because the floors are uneven because the building settled during construction in the early 19th century.)

#661 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 06:25 AM:

A photo of Charlie's apartment building.

#662 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 08:04 AM:

Re Flight Troubles: I was just talking about 'the good auld days' with my husband. When I was flying to cons a lot. Firstly, I had a good corporate job, with lots of vacation time and money in my pocket; that helped. Also, it was pre-9/11, so I could buy a $90-110 round-trip nonstop ticket from Chicago to almost any other North American city I might want to go to a con in, as long as I booked 8 months ahead. We quite helpfully (for historical reference) took a transpondian flight (via Dublin to Edinburgh) for a family wedding in June of 2001, and EVEN THEN I was thinking with amazement of how little what-I-would-now-call-security-theater we had to go through on the EU legs of it.

Now, the airlines seriously don't want you buying your ticket more than 8 weeks out; there are no price breaks for doing so in any description. And even that 'far' before the flight, they really can't make you any guarantees that their schedules are going to be stable. My mother-in-Law lives in Toronto and has grandkids in Chicago and Modesto, CA. She is taking advantage of her financial stability and control of her own schedule (family practice doctor; owns her own practice) to go see her grandkids or fly them to see her, more-than-several times a year. Because she is an organized kind of person who likes things settled and arranged, she buys her tickets 8 weeks out. More than half her flights are changed, often in the last two days. Sometimes to DEPART up to 5 hours EARLIER than scheduled, which just strikes me as really strange.

What on earth is going on with North American airlines that their schedules are so chaotic? This can't be good for them as businesses, even aside from the massive PITA involved for the passengers.

#663 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 08:43 AM:

Speaking of huge unwieldy vehicles: I bring you--the AmbuBus.

If you've got to evacuate a nursing home, one of these bad boys could really come in handy.

(Brought to my attention by Joe Palfini in his recent lecture on the response to the West, TX fertilizer plant explosion.)

#664 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 08:43 AM:

C. WIngate @656--Yikes! I hope that by now the situation has resolved satisfactorily, for values of "satisfactorily" that do not include "slept on airport floor".

I've flown in and out of Great Falls before--I have relatives in Big Sandy and Havre (did you know all of US 87 between Great Falls and US 2 is called Broadway?). The floor of the main entry area of the airport is a terrazzo map of the Upper Missouri River basin. It also has the pleasantest TSA people in the US (or they did). I saw them apologize to the very elderly lady they had to help totter through the metal detector in the manner of men who are well aware they're dealing with someone who will complain to their mothers and grandmothers if they aren't nice.

#665 ::: Lila is gnomed, alas ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 08:44 AM:

possibly for a URL pointing to a bus conversion kit.

#666 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 08:56 AM:

joann @ 642... The parade was filmed in SF? I didn't know that. Heck, today, they'd do it with CGI. Heck(again), the movie's X-1 was a model, but ten years later, "Apollo 13" did shots of the Apollo XIII with CGI.

#667 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 09:54 AM:


ISTM the whole point of a stretch limo is to say one of about three things:

a. Hey, I'm getting married!

b. Wow, I got a date to the prom after all!

c. I've got mine, Jack.

#668 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 09:57 AM:

Here's a way of thinking of things: "Pundit Suckitude is a feature."

(While I'm here: LOVE that Pacific Rim particle!)

#669 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 11:16 AM:

Open threadiness: homeowner's edition

I just discovered that my 30 year old house actually is wired for interconnected smoke detectors. It's set up for hard-wired AC smoke detectors (with battery backups), but as far as I could tell, the detectors weren't interconnected--testing one alarm didn't set the other off. Also, in our three-story townhouse, there are only two alarms.

I figured out the problem when I went to change out the upstairs smoke detector. Whoever wired it was an idiot--they wired the neutral return from the alarm to ground, didn't bother connecting the red interconnect wire, and the black wire from the detector had popped out of the wire nut. It was probably an hour to fix everything (I didn't trust any of the connections in the box till I checked them, and I wound up redoing the hot and neutral pigtails in the box.) At the end of this, I suddenly, magically, found that I had interconnected alarms.

Along with the HLN aspect of this, I thought it might be interesting to point out to the rest of the fluorosphere that this feature exists, and was wired into my 30 year old home. If you're not getting this, you might want to check to see if your alarms are hooked up right. It seems like that might make a big difference if a fire started a couple floors away from where you were sleeping at night.

I'll make a separate post with a couple questions for Jim or anyone else who knows about some fire safety stuff.

#670 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 11:21 AM:

She still stuck in SLC; she had to share a room with one of the other passengers at the local Residence Inn when they discovered that nobody from the airline had informed the hotel they were coming. Theoretically she gets to fly out early in the afternoon.

I remember that floor; we flew in directly to GF once. Really it seems anywhere out in the midwest/mountains they are very solicitous except at the biggest airports. I had to fly in and out of Lincoln a bunch of times and on the last trip they called ahead from check-in and held the plane for me when I was running a bit late. I've been through Havre on the Empire Builder but otherwise we've pretty much stay along the front or up into the Rockies.

#671 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 11:25 AM:

So, I've recently got my smoke detectors interconnected, but there were still only two. I also had (and have) a battery powered one on the main (middle) floor, ever since we had something catch fire in the microwave, the main floor fill with smoke, and neither smoke detector make a peep.

Now, I want my alarms interconnected. I found that Kidde makes some battery powered alarms with a wireless interconnect feature (I think some other brands do, too), and managed to install a battery powered alarm in our laundry room in the basement. (It has the washer, dryer, water heater, and the indoor part of the heat pump, so there's a lot going on in there, and it usually has the door closed.) This does seem to interconnect with the wired alarms, so the smoke detector going off in there should wake us up in the middle of the night. I wanted to know if any of the fluorosphere has any experience with these wireless connection alarms. I'm thinking of getting another one to put on the main floor.

This leads to a different question: What's the difference between ionization and photoelectric alarms in terms of actual safety? For some reason, the wireless interconnect Kidde alarms are all ionization alarms. I'm sure either one is a lot better than nothing, but what I've read suggests that maybe the photoelectric alarms (or more expensive combination alarms) are better. But I'm hoping someone here knows more....

#672 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 12:13 PM:

Nial @661: out by about 1.5 miles, but yes: that's the local architectural style.

#673 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 12:28 PM:

Here in Los Angeles, we have regular, stretch, and superstretch limos and hummers. 'Superstretch' means it's as long as the law allows, and goes around corners ... not very well at all.

#674 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 12:46 PM:

Smoke detectors! I'm not an expert, but I know something about them.

Your ionization detectors look for the gasses associated with combustion. They work by having a small amount of a radioactive element in a chamber, and an alpha-particle detector. Gasses associated with active combustion tend to absorb alpha particles, so if the alpha particle level drops, the alarm sounds. Unfortunately, slow, smouldering smoky fires, particularly those in synthetic materials, don't tend to produce the kinds of gasses at first that absorb alpha particles.

Particulate detectors have a beam of light inside, with a photo cell perpendicular to the beam. If smoke gets into the chamber, it scatters the beam so some light strikes the photo cell, and the alarm sounds. Unfortunately, fast, active fires tend to produce little particulate smoke at first, so the particulate detectors don't sound.

You can get false alarms off of steam from your bathroom with a particulate detector, so pay attention to where you mount it.

The combo detectors get both the smoke and the gasses.

Since only the ionization detectors are available in wireless interconnected models, that's what you're going to use. But I'd throw in one particulate detector somewhere, just to cover all the bases. Smoldering fires (e.g. cigarette into synthetic-upholstery couch) while the house occupants are sleeping, which may not trip an ionization alarm until after active flames break out, do happen, and a particulate detector can increase your alert time significantly.

FWIW, I have combo detectors in my house.

#675 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 01:14 PM:

HLN: Area woman, by dint of following on-screen menus, returns her wonky-acting printer to full functionality. Test sheet of labels bearing her website logo look beautiful. Area woman is ridiculously pleased by this development, and looks forward to sending inscribed bookplates to her friends.

#676 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 01:45 PM:

Niall #661, Charlie #672:

While being fairly convinced that this was not Charlie's actual apartment, I did use Google Maps to figure out (since it's been almost 30 years since I've been in that fair city) what angle that photo was taken from. Imagine my confusion when I checked the Castle at higher resolution--it seems to have acquired half, just half, of somebody's footie stadium at the Royal Mile end.

Given that you guys would be better able to describe both what I'm seeing and what I should be seeing, perhaps one of you would be so kind as to furnish an error report to the Panopticon?

#677 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 02:08 PM:

Hmm, Among Others is checked out plus a hold on it in local library.

I suspect other Fluorospherians in the neighborhood.

(Not saying that no-one would be reading it otherwise, just that this is a small town...)

Just realised that this is the one I have a copy of. Time to reread.

#678 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 02:19 PM:

joann @676: the half-a-footie-stadium is not some bizarre Google maps error. It is in fact the viewing stand setup for The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Which is in fact a mega-performance and not an ink-on-skin thing, despite the name. It recurs annually, usually throughout most of August.

#679 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 02:42 PM:

Jim Macdonald @549: As annoying as I find the thought, I may have to go back and see Pacific Rim in 3D. I mostly find 3D superfluous, but PR's visual composition is so busy and low-contrast, especially in the beginning, that I suspect they're depending on that third axis for their visual composition.

#680 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 02:59 PM:

...and more in response to @549: I've been pondering the idea for a while that film-and-video is actually an extremely young medium, especially when compared to the history behind text.

Up until, say, the '60s, it manifested mostly as New and Improved! Theatre (which, of course, is probably at least as old as writing).

But as the body of F&V has grown and, in particular, has become disconnected from place and time (constrained by location, as in, you had to be in a movie theater to see movies and, as also with television until very recently, you had to be there when it was showing, and length was limited to, basically, bladder capacity and butt endurance).

But now that we have multiple generations of F&V-makers behind us. F&V is building its own lexicon independent of the written word. Also, with the advent of asynchronous video, story length is now far less constrained.

I think we are really at the dawn of a whole new art form. Still in conversation with the rest of our culture, but it'll be fascinating to see what the next fifty years bring to F&V's evolution.

#681 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 03:03 PM:

oliviacw #678:

Thanks for that reassurance. I knew what the Tattoo is, I'd just never connected it with requiring a supercolossal viewing stand--or remembered that now was when it was supposed to occur. For shame on me. I feel much better.

OTOH, it does not improve my state of mind to realize that the Panopticon is that up to date.

#682 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 03:06 PM:

...and another thing. I'm always fascinated by my experience of going out into the world after watching a movie in a theater.

The houselights go down, and there is nothing but The Movie. In the movie, Every. Single. Thing. is chosen. Designed. For a specific reason or effect. When the movie is over, and I go back out on the street, I've still got that filter running, and so the experience of the color of the pavement and the walls, and their placement, and the echoes of the sounds off of them, and the sounds of traffic, and the behavior and timing of street lights, and ...

... all becomes Meaningful. And being on the street, instead of just being on the way to home, becomes an Experience.

#683 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 03:12 PM:

Interview for job I may or may not want, with current manager and former supervisor has been scheduled. I'd say I feel ambivalent, but the prospect of trying to find a plus-size business suit in Los Angeles within 48 hours is tipping me over to the "annoyed" side. I really hate this interview drag stuff where you wear impractical formal clothing you won't pull out of the closet until the next interview, ESPECIALLY since these people already know me. But I think that's paradoxically one of the main reasons I have to do the drag.

#685 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 03:52 PM:

PS to 667 Yep, Sam Kean is checked out and on hold too... Hello Fluorospherian? Sounds like just the kind of non-fiction I like too.

Charlie Stross 658-660
Yes, I kind of guessed from what you said. We lived in Southern England the year I was 10. On sabbatical. In a 1600s farmhouse with walls a foot thick.

I live in an old house, but not that old — Grandpa had it built in 1917. No paved driveway either. Garage usually full of firewood.

With all that furniture, if you have carpet stretched over pad, the option of moving one piece of furniture, pulling up a corner, cutting out the pad, cleaning subfloor and carpet, replacing pad, and tacking carpet back down again is not on either. Because the carpet would need to be restretched with nothing on it in the room.

If you have glued-down carpet with no pad under it, cleaning the carpet potentially works better. But the rental kind of carpet cleaners are still going to put moisture in without taking it out. Which as you've discovered, is not good. (#218) Maybe the rental place also has a wet-dry vacuum?

I don't know if you have the carpet-cleaning companies which come around in trucks, and vacuum back out a lot of the moisture? Even if so, doubt they have hoses long enough to get to the 4th floor. Worth asking.

Ever since working at the flooring store, I have been very glad to have Grandpa's old wood (very used softwood) floors and rugs. Much more cleanable. If I were ever living elsewhere, I'd go for lino, or varnished plywood, like folks living in the woods around here do.

Guess I just wanted to say, if you ever do get it replaced, especially if you're away, you will want to arrange to have the subfloor cleaned too, and be sure to replace the pad.

#686 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 03:58 PM:

Joann @681: The google pic of Edinburgh Castle may well not be taken in the past week or so -- for events that happen regularly, Google Maps is known to save a pic of it 'in progress' whenever they get one, and swap it in when relevant. So the photo of the Taste of Chicago steamrollering our big downtown park underneath acres of tents and tourists that was up this year was actually taken two years ago (deduceable with very careful specialized knowledge of the layouts of the tents in given years). So as long as they have *A* photo of the Tattoo stands up, they can plonk it in when the Tattoo stands are there in real life and look, well, relevant.

Of course, the footage of my old house not only still shows my current car parked out front in the Streetview, it shows my old car (have not owned it in 5+ years) parked out back on the concrete pad when you zoom out. And on differing zooms, my current house has either the old roof it had when we bought it or the new one we put in a bit over a year ago, so they're clearly updating their satellite footage asynchronously between the different zoom levels.

#687 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 04:14 PM:

Albatross re 669 671 Interconnected smoke detector alarms - a cautionary tale.

When this old house was rewired in about 1990, code required interconnected alarms.

A new person had just moved in on the main floor. She'd spent the evening cleaning her old apartment, and gotten to bed about midnight.

At 1:00 am all the alarms in the whole house went off. My housemate at the time and I on the top floor checked all our alarms, then we met out in the yard with the woman from the main floor and the guy from the basement. There were no problems on any floor that we could detect. But somebody said spiderwebs could set them off.

Finally, swiping at the one in the attic apparently got the spiderwebs out of it and they all shut off. We were all deaf by that time, and the newly-arrived cat was permanently freaked.

The code would not let us do anything different than interconnect all the alarms. But I thought that all that confusion was a danger rather than a help.

What I thought would work better would be to have one designated interconnect alarm on each floor.Then if only that alarm goes off, you have a clue that the problem is likely to be on another floor.

In case of an actual fire that could be important.

#688 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 04:17 PM:

Charlie Stross @658: I have a similar problem with my home office - which includes three rows of back-to-back bookcases in addition to the 13 ft wall of bookcases, the other wall of filing cabinets, the two desks etc. etc. When the carpet got too worn in the section that gets most traffic (from the door to my desk, surprise, surprise) we bought a strip of carpet offcut and put that down on top; it doesn't match but we don't care, and it's functional. When we finally decide to get the carpet replaced we'll have to take a week off, do some serious book and furniture shuffling, probably borrow a small marquee to put the less weather-sensitive furniture into out on the lawn (not an option for you, in a flat), move everything, paint the walls, put down a decent layer of insulating underlay (the floor is concrete) and then some seriouly hard-wearing carpet, then move everything back again - and probably immediately add carpet strips/rugs in the areas most subject to wear and tear.

But at least there wasn't a smell problem - that's harder to cover up!

#689 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 04:21 PM:

Jacque @ 682: I do that, too. So nice to know that I am not the only one!

#690 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 04:34 PM:

nerdycellist @683--good luck with everything, including the shopping.

#691 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 04:47 PM:

Charlie Stross @658

I had a similar pet-sadness-based odor problem at my parents house. My elderly cat lost the ability to use her hind legs during her terminal illness, and thus would frequently not make it to the box. About 1/3 of the sitting room had problems, and it was especially bad when the sun hit the carpet. Fortunately it wasn't a room that was used much... unfortunately it was full of furniture that didn't fit anywhere else in the house. It didn't seem worthwhile or feasible to replace the carpet.

The solution we eventually found was Nature's Miracle - TONS OF IT. It comes in large jugs for a reason, and sick old cats are that reason. After trying to spot treat with spray bottles to little result, I bought one of the larger jugs and just poured it out on the floor in the problem area until the carpet was soaked through, then left a fan and the sunlight to dry it out, and finally vacuumed the area. Since then, the smell has been gone.

Hope this helps.

#692 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 05:48 PM:

cajunfj40 @551: heat treat the steel so you get the bluing and other color change effects in a steady progression from nose to tail, so it looks like at some point the vehicle was going so fast (ie, atmospheric reentry?) that the sheetmetal changed color due to it. It would need to be stainless steel or be clearcoated afterwards to protect it, though.

Actually, you maybe could do a plausible fake with the following process:

Rustoleum primer.* (I recollect that their metal-primer is rust-colored, and is basically Rust-In-A-Can, with binder added.) Then base-coat of bland neutral blue/gray, coat of clear, thin coat of silver (so it's translucent-ish), coupla coats of clear, then thin coats of rainbow color. Then clearcoat to seal. If you do it all within the paint's specified drying-but-still-adherable interval, you should (I think) get a stable surface. (IANAP for any values other than acrylic and polyurethane. I expect that for a car you probably want a lacquer base.)

I've been playing with these effects with acrylics, and come up with some remarkably believable mother-of-pearl and opal fakes.


Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Rusty Metal Primer: stops rust and prevents corrosion. Apply to heavily rusted metal (use Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Clean Metal Primer on clean or lightly rusted metal). Bonds tightly to rust to form a surface top coats can adhere to.
#693 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 06:10 PM:

JOann #676 - I suspect that photo is from last year, or else they are cropping things carefully, because I think it is the new stand, new a couple of years ago, replacing the 30 year old old stand with one which was quicker to put up and down and had bigger seats for normal sized modern people, rather than people as they were 50 years ago.

The reason I think that is the lack of safety barriers at the bottom of the castle rock on the south side of the castle. It was certainly there a few weeks ago, because they're awfully worried about falling rocks from the castle rock. I'd have to check the tent configuration in George street as well to judge how new they are, but the tents went up in George street a week or so ago.

#694 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 06:42 PM:

Elliott #686:

Around my house, built four years ago, there are all sorts of Google peculiarities, many having to do with how the land had been a closed airport. Different levels of zoom get my house pretty much as current, my house without solar panels and with no one else between us and the end of the block,somebody's house just getting its forms built, runways, and any combination of the above.

#695 ::: joann finally got actually gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 06:44 PM:

First time in ever. I offer up the prospect of brisket to be bought at the new cafe up the main road.

#696 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 06:48 PM:

guthrie #693:

Speaking of safety barriers: the thing that really weirded me out and convinced me that something odd was going on was the incredibly clean edge on the left side, making it look more cut off than anything else. I was convinced that, if real, a lot of people would be falling off that edge.

#697 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 07:20 PM:

Joann - I guess that's another example of people seeing things differently, since I vaguely recall the old stands also having a fairly steep edge, and these new ones would therefore not be too much different. And if you zoom in close enough you can see the barriers at the end.
What I find weird instead is the extreme sun on the castle and the darkness on the gardens etc to the left of it, maybe that's where they cut and pasted it in.

#698 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 08:52 PM:

Jacque @ 682... Ginger @ 689... And then we realize we're in a Mel Brooks movie.

#699 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 09:15 PM:


More than half her flights are changed, often in the last two days. Sometimes to DEPART up to 5 hours EARLIER than scheduled.

That's strange. Haven't got a guess why this happens. Apparently some routes on some airlines are a lot more unstable than others. Could it be some quirk of flights from/to Canada or have you noticed this sort of thing more generally?

#700 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 09:27 PM:

Michael I @669: It's not the Canada part; the Canada part moves smoothly. She does a lot of flying to Sacramento (because of the grandkids), and those flights regularly get screwed up somewhere in a connection, inside the US. If she's coming to Chicago she gets a nonstop on Porter Air, who are wonderfully civilized, have great customer service, and run to schedule precisely (barring weather, etc).

#701 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 10:25 PM:

Serge @ 698: It could be worse. ("How?") It could be raining.

#702 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 10:46 PM:

Ginger... :-)

#703 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 10:58 PM:

Jim, is there any such thing as a smoke detector that won't go off when I burn incense...which I do for about ten minutes every morning of my life?

#704 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 11:21 PM:

I expect that depends on how much incense you burn. But I'd also expect that the ionization-type smoke detectors would be less likely to give you an alarm from incense.

#705 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2013, 11:58 PM:

Jacque @692

some remarkably believable mother-of-pearl and opal fakes
Oh, shiny! Can you write a bit more about these two? There's a particular sky I'd like to paint for which m-o-p or opalescent is the right adjective, and have-never-succeeded is also a descriptor.

#706 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 01:29 AM:

Jacque @692:
Thanks for the suggestion, but my particular aesthetic (muse?) prefers (demands?) actual heat-based color change. The idea is to get the few folks who know about heat discoloration in metal to do a double-take and get a big grin on their face when they get the joke. My ideas tend to the impractical yet possible. If I could rig it so the metal actually was hot enough to glow near white at the front while driving, that would be even better. Then there's the flaming skull hood ornament idea - I have a mold and a bronze cast skull that I considered using for that one. Oh, for sufficient shop space, funding and free time!

#707 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 02:39 AM:

"Time" seems to have continued for about half a dozen frames after it said "The End", but I've been looking at it for the last while and it seems to be not changing at all now, so I'd say that it's definitively over.

#708 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 03:08 AM:

Google Earth image dates can be off by several months sometimes. I know this because they sometimes record very specific events. When you can see the County Agricultural Show running, round here it's mid-June, yet the image date is several months wrong.

Use the historical imagery option for the showground north of Lincoln in the UK (junction of A1500 and A 15). and for April 2005 the show is running, carparks full. You can see the agricultural machinery, the queue at one of the showground entrances. and you can tell the time of day from sun shadows. Is that date early or late? There's enough layout variations, year on year, that if you had a show catalogue you could probably pin it down.

The most recent imagery around here is messed up by cloud.

#709 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 08:20 AM:

"The data suggest that publishing business models make books disappear fairly shortly after their publication and long before they are scheduled to fall into the public domain. "


I know, copyright is a bit of a dead horse around here but it's good to have data.

#710 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 08:30 AM:

David Goldfarb @707, yes, Time has ended. There was a blag post by Randall about writing Time:

(It's the most recent one, for 1190: Time)

#711 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 09:08 AM:


Saw Pacific Rim in 3D last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. What I'm less happy about is that the cinema effectively forced us to watch it in 3D (and charge us an additional £5 for the privilege) by offering only one 2D performance at midday on weekdays.

Del Toro specifically did not make the film in 3D and apparently initially resisted conversion*, so I resent the cinema forcing me to watch it that way. Which is a long way to say it probably isn't the case that they're depending on the third axis for composition, as it was never intended to be there.

I loved the beautiful shot when Raleigh arrives at the new base and there a lots of people milling around in various greys, but Mako is standing still in pure black.

* "I didn't want to make the movie 3D because when you have things that big... the thing that happens naturally, you're looking at two buildings lets say at 300 feet [away], if you move there is no parallax. They're so big that, in 3D, you barely notice anything no matter how fast you move... To force the 3D effects for robots and monsters that are supposed to be big you are making their [perspective] miniaturized, making them human scale."

#713 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 09:44 AM:

Serge: I'm kind of curious what the bold Japanese text says. I presume something like "Shocking! Thrills! Spills! Spectacle!", or at least the cultural analogues thereof.

#714 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 09:55 AM:

Serge, that is awesome.

I was thinking about book clubs the other day, and I realized why they have no appeal to me; because what I want is not a conversation ABOUT works of literature/drama, but a conversation AMONG works and creators. Fanfic. Fanvids. Homages. Riffs. References.

Sure, I'd love to sit around squeeing about Whedon's Much Ado. But I'd rather sit around doing a live reading from the play.

#715 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 10:04 AM:

Lila @714: If you are not already following Mark Oshiro's read-alongs and watch-alongs, I think you would greatly enjoy them. Also his comment threads.

#716 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 11:15 AM:

Elliott: OH yes. I've been following him since he read "Shadow War of the Night Dragon". I'm LOVING his read-along of Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series.

#717 ::: Crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 11:49 AM:

Serge, that was brilliant and Elliott Mason, this won't be a hard contract, but I'm going to do my best to chase down the written titles and give translations sometime further in this Open Thread. Because, having studied this stuff for awhile, I see that I can. (I declare this to be GUILT FREE - It won't be horrible amounts of work, mostly just concentrating on some of the more wild-calligraphic forms until I see what they actually are supposed to be in standard script, sometimes with the help of an electronic dictionary to test preliminary hypotheses...)

Crazy(and the spoken stuff might be longer - having discovered sound-processing issues during the initial phases of my Japanese language study)Soph

#718 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 12:11 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 713... Lila @ 71... Crazysoph @ 717... I wouldn't be surprised to learn that del Toro loved this.

#720 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 01:08 PM:

#709 ::: Sandy B.

Remember that the extreme length of copyright isn't publishing's idea. It's Disney's.

And for Disney the vanishment of works after 1923 is a feature, not a bug.

#721 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 01:28 PM:

I hear that Pat Cadigan's surgery has removed all traces of her cancer.

#722 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 01:52 PM:

Re Patrick's sidelight about gold:

I'm not really convinced by Noah's analysis. Obviously, there's gold as an inflation hedge and as a speculative investment, but he's talking about a hedge against some kind of widespread social disorder. But I think you have to untangle that more than he did to get to an interesting conclusion.

First, I don't believe a new electronic currency is going to rise to replace the dollar during the kind of crisis for which gold is a hedge. It's possible, but I don't think it's likely.

Second, unless you have a collapse in the value of dollars (massive inflation or massive counterfeiting making paper dollars unworkable), dollars are going to be the right hedge for most kinds of social unrest. If you need to buy a train ticket out of town, bribe someone to let you across some checkpoint, or buy food or medicine, dollars are going to be a hell of a lot easier to use than gold.

Third, if you assume a collapse in the value of dollars, I think gold is as reasonable a hedge as any. The alternative is some foreign currency, as the Euro or something becomes the new world reserve currency. In this case, what you're wanting is simply something that other people will accept in exchange for a bottle of amoxicillin tablets or a can of spam or a box of 20 gauge shotgun shells.

Which currency we all use is a coordination problem. Right now, we all (in the US) have a clear answer--we use dollars. People mostly keep using the local currency even when it's being inflated heavily, because the coordination problem of switching is hard, so the most likely outcome of serious inflation or widespread counterfeiting is that we just keep using dollars even though they suck. And storing something as a hedge against needing to find a new currency is risky, because you might guess wrong. Assuming dollars stop working and you still need to buy spam or bribe your way past checkpoints, you want to have some of the next currency on hand.

My prediction, based very much on seat-of-the-pants reasoning and observing popular culture, is that in the very unlikely event that dollars stop working, the practical alternative money here in the US will be gold. That's what informal markets will converge on as the alternative, when the price of a can of spam in dollars doubles every two weeks. Lots of people already have gold, there's a widespread ideology that says gold will be the unit of exchange in this situation, and few people in the US have any foreign currency on hand. (Most Americans never leave the country, and I imagine it's a minority that would even recognize a 20 Euro bill.)

However, if your plan is to try to get out of the US in such circumstances, gold is better than nothing, but you might want some foreign currency. Anyplace that has a working currency is going to prefer their bribes in the local currency, and if they take gold, you're going to pay a premium for the service.

And all of this is super speculative. Even when you have really high inflation and widespread social unrest, I think people still mostly stick with the local currency. Maybe many of the people in the market would rather be paid with gold, diamonds, silver, bitcoins, Euros, Yuan, or Yen. But if most everyone will take dollars, and each merchant also will take one or two alternatives, your bet bet is usually going to be to go to the market with a pocket full of dollars.

As an aside, any hedge against widespread social unrest and devalued dollars tends to be something worth stealing. Widespread social unrest is just the time that the police are liable to be rather slow to respond to your personal call for help. So if you are using such hedges, you should probably keep quiet about it, and bring them out and use them very sparingly.

#723 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 01:52 PM:

So I got a question for folks who find it easy to go to bed "on time." What prompts you to start getting ready for bed?

#724 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 02:39 PM:

Based on memoirs from people who lived through total government collapse/fiscal collapse/loss of value of previous money (e.g. just-pre-defeat-WWII Germany) the item to stockpile isn't gold, it's bars of soap.

Small, light, easy to store, easily obtainable now, but afterward folks will trade almost anything to get one.

#725 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 02:51 PM:

Jim MacDonald @ 724

The other traditional small, easy to store, and very valuable as quasi-currency item is cigarettes.

#726 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 02:56 PM:


I believe in prisons and prison camps in the past, cigarettes worked pretty well as currency. Those have some advantages--they're standardized, they keep in the package for awhile, they're widespread (now less than in the past, thankfully), it's easy to identify that the things I'm offering you are real manufactured cigarettes (though I'm sure there are scams that are the equivalent of shaving gold off lots of coins), etc.

#727 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 03:10 PM:

So apparently NPR has solicited input and compiled a Top 100 F & SF Books type list, some entries of which are series-as-a-whole and not individual novels.

I've read 64; I'm only giving myself credit for a series if I've legitimately read well over half the works comprising it (your standards may vary). Further behind-the-scenes discussion about how the list was compiled etc etc on Monkey See, a pop-culture blog from NPR.

Personally, there were several fairly recent works I was pleased to see included (because I enjoy them a lot); also, several things usually shelved in "Fiction" but counted here as SF, including Cormac McCarthy's The Road and The Time Traveller's Wife. I think the list is an interesting mix of "everyone interested in SF has already read this" and "if you want to say you know about the shape of SF, you should consider reading a lot of these". Even the ones I haven't read (or have read and didn't like, or have read and think are probably only entertaining if you read them before the age of 15), I see why they belong on the list with the rest.

#728 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 03:46 PM:

And you thought the gnomes were overworked already... check out Your Email Autopilot! :-)

One of those jokes that's just plausible enough to be scary....

#729 ::: Jennifer Baughman ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 03:49 PM:

joann #694: I love that area! I especially love how they've set aside a number of homes for lower-income families, to encourage home ownership. It's a beautiful community.

Jacque #679 and Russ #711: Just saw Pacific Rim (2D) myself, and absolutely loved it. I disagree with people who complain that the dialogue was stilted. To my ear, it was spare, but functional--it carried what it needed to carry, and not one bit more. (I have other thoughts, including a few on the problematic-science front, but I'm really sleep-deprived today, which saps my brain juices.)

Tendo Choi is totally a love letter to Buckaroo Banzai. Also, I have no words to describe Hannibal Chau, other than to say that Ron Perlman steals every scene he's in. (True story: Husband whispers to me, "Can I have those shoes?" And my response: "No. People who wear those shoes trg rngra ol onol xnvwh. And totally deserve it.")

#730 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 03:51 PM:

Lila, #714: That's interesting, because one of my friends who was at the Discworld con found the programming entirely unsatisfying because there wasn't any meta-discussion about the books. Mileage varies.

Serge, #719: Talk about unintentionally-appropriate metaphors! As my friend Dusty says, you can't make this shit up.

#731 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 04:04 PM:

Elliot @727: my score is 89. Or perhaps 88. There's one that I'm not sure if I read the exact series it references, but I've certainly read books by that author...

#732 ::: Clarentine ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 04:10 PM:

Jacque @723 - the phrase I've heard is "sleep hygiene," where you program your body to go to sleep at a certain time by always going to bed at that time. Additional sleep hygiene practices are outlined by the National Sleep Foundation -

#733 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 04:20 PM:

Jennifer B #729:

The affordable homes program is a Good Thing, but it's hard to keep going; my contact at one of the builders says that it's a *lot* harder, takes considerably more time, to get full sell-through for affordable construction because of the difficulty, even with the foundation, of getting qualified applicants through the loan process.

The affordable rentals for over-55 are working out great, and the woman who built that 200 units is now getting another going, this time for younger renters, to be built across from the grocery (which is a total delight except for needing more parking lot--I'll start walking there more as soon as it cools down).

#734 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 05:59 PM:

Changing the Creepy-Guy Narrative.

Writer. Trope analyst. Hero.

#735 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 06:46 PM:

Clarentine @732: Sadly, sleep "hygiene" is, for various reason, a non-starter for me. Going to sleep isn't the issue. Once I get my carcass in bed, I usually go to sleep fairly promptly. (And when I don't, there are Other Factors that can be adjusted to fix that.)

It's going to bed (or, more accurately, start getting ready to go to bed) at [desired time] (which, innevitably, varies) that is at issue.

I've had good luck recently with installing habits that rely on particular, outside-of-me cues. (Like, do yoga when I get home from work. Or, get groceries on Monday and Thursday on the way home from work.) (And, in fact, the tendancy to stay up indefinitely is a product of certain unavoidable cues, as well.) So I'm looking for some sort of trigger to initiate the start of my spin-down routine. I figure an obvious place to start is people who already have that skill.

#736 ::: kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 07:27 PM:

albatross, et al,
When it comes to alternative, post crash-currencies, I would think that distinguishing between physical disaster scenarios and economic disaster scenarios would be a good place to start. Post-Katrina, in isolated areas, for a day or two, people didn't need currency, and instead relied on goodwill trades because of a mutual understanding of "we are all in this together." Maybe we should find out what people used in the days after that?

In the event of a U.S. currency collapse - perhaps caused by digital counterfeiting (i.e. the central banks and clearinghouses get hacked and can't be audited back to normalcy in less than 48 hrs) I would think that the global system would start to self-heal in hours. Oral and written agreements for services-for-services to keep the lights on and trade going between CEOs, even on basic levels, such as agreements for container ships to be refueled based on some currency-to-be-determined would spring up right away. Businesses couldn't hope to pay their employees in Euros right away, but they could promise the same. The operational problem would be what to give the grocery store. Here even devalued dollars would seem useful, since they are inconvenient to counterfeit on a large scale, and within a day or so an agreed upon exchange rate could spring up. Our retail banking system would provide the necessary infrastructure to swap them for dinars or pesos or whatever.

The larger problem would be that all the businesses that run on leverage - which is most of what the middle class spends its money on - would cease to function. What would happen if nobody paid their mortgage for three months? If Verizon stopped getting checks? What would this be, a bankruptcy-in-practice for an entire country? That would depress the value of the dollar for a long time to come, and wreck all kinds of things outside our borders.

#737 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 07:31 PM:

76 or 77 out of 100 here, depending on whether you count me as reading the Thomas Covenant series, having read the first six but not the later two.

#738 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 08:49 PM:

Elliott Mason @713

Here's a quick-and-dirty translation of most of the on-screen text, omitting credits-type stuff:

On an unprecedented scale
A threat that could destroy humanity approaches

Fearful giant monsters from space
Crush the world underfoot

Spectacle and thrill
A decisive counterstrike

A monster-killing weapon appears.
Can they save the world's armies?

Such destructive power!


The definitive kaiju movie

#739 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 09:08 PM:

Chris @ 738... Thanks.

#740 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 09:08 PM:

Chris @ 738... Thanks.

#741 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 09:22 PM:

Jacque @ 735

I go to bed at about the same time every night but not quite; it ranges a little bit.

I wish I could say it was based on a particular trigger, but it's mostly that I'm sleepy enough that by the time I get done with my routine, I'll be sleepy enough to conk out right away.

That said, there is a rhythm to my evening: dinner, start kid on slow but usually steady bedtime routine, read or knit for about an hour after his lights out, then start my bedtime routine. I tend to start feeling the beginning stages of sleepiness around 9:30 (it's 9:20; I just yawned).

I do generally keep a vague eye on the clock so that if I haven't started the bedtime routine by 10:30, I'll go then. Maybe a timer would help? Or would that be too artificial?

#742 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 11:19 PM:

A mere 35, which I am posting to let others check out the list @727 and feel OK about lower scores than the folks in the 80's!

#743 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 11:23 PM:

#655 (Roy G. Ovrebo): I have at least disliked every automatic I've ever rented; the Prius was the first non-stick I bought, after 37 years of driving sticks. I didn't buy it until I had given it a severe test (short ramp from underpass onto a steep uphill highway -- 9 eastbound to 128 (I-95) southbound, for anyone who knows Boston) and was satisfied it would get me into heavy traffic safely; I don't know how it would do towing, but I'm more likely to rent a microtruck than tow a load.

#662 (Elliot): I suspect that too many airline managers have bought into the con that continual tweaking can improve load factors or other efficiencies. Or maybe the con artists realize this is an NP-complete problem (if I've got the polarity right) and are juggling to keep themselves employed?

#727 (Elliot) ff: I score 73. (I shouldn't expect to shine in this company.) However, there are at least 7 I am dead certain never to waste my time on. (Let's not talk about what I \did/ waste my time on.) "eclectic" is a polite word for that list.

#744 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2013, 11:36 PM:

#727ff (Elliott)

63, and most of the ones I haven't read I have at someone point considered and decided against [though that's also true of some of the ones of I have read]

#745 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 12:17 AM:

Elliott Mason @ 727: 69 on the NPR list for me. I did count a series even if I haven't read the whole thing. For the most part, the ones I haven't read don't appeal to me. It is a funny list—but, of course, all lists are uneven.

#746 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 12:26 AM:

Due to circumstances beyond my control*, I have not seen "Pacific Rim" yet, but I did get to "RED 2" today. Oh, it is a confection of nonsensical mayhem and killer** comic timing!

Several times since the movie, while walking along in public, I have held my arms straight out to either side, index fingers pointed, and laughed like a loon. My sweetie is being very tolerant of the spectacle. I don't suppose that Dame Helen Mirren was knighted for her turn in "RED", but I'd be fine with it if she was.

*forest fires.
**pun intended.

#747 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 12:30 AM:

Only 38 for me. I thought their list was a bit odd, but maybe this just shows that I'm out of touch with the modern genre or something.

#748 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 12:36 AM:

Jacque @723: I (and my spouse) sometimes have similar difficulties. Sometimes it helps to have someone else to say "Hey, we should go to bed", unless they've also gotten similarly engrossed in something for "just another minute" (... i.e. another hour or two).

There's one thing I've been using at work, that I'm thinking of trying at home. It's trivial to do in Linux, I haven't yet determined how to do it on the Windows laptop I use at home. At work, I have one "can't miss" meeting, and some days I have a "can't miss" departure time. I have software timers (cron jobs, if you know the jargon) that blank and lock the screen at the appropriate times. I can unlock it by typing in my password, but that tells me that I'm on borrowed time; so far, I've been pretty good about telling myself "oops, I guess I'll finish that later/tomorrow" instead. I'm pretty sure you could do the same thing in OS X; I'm less certain about the various versions of Windows.

Of course, if you're engrossed in non-computer things, that won't help; maybe setting an alarm clock, or an alarm on a smartphone? The advantage of the alarm clock, if it's loud enough, is that it could force you to walk into the bedroom to turn it off; the advantage of the smartphone might be that it's always with you, even if you're out of earshot of the bedroom.

#749 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 01:01 AM:

I counted 55 on the NPL List, and that might be a little generous.

#750 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 01:04 AM:

Mea, #742: Heh. I got somewhere in the 20s, although to be fair I didn't count individual books once I'd counted the entire trilogy or series. But my tastes are very different from those of the people who vote on lists like this, even when we share the experience of SF fandom. And several of those books you couldn't pay me enough to read -- life is too short!

#751 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 01:25 AM:

The LoneStarCon 3 concert schedule has been posted, subject to change. This may impact the choice of date/time for the Gathering of Light.

So far I have the following:
Paula Helm Murray

with the following at least attending the con:
David Goldfarb
Tom Whitmore
Michael I
Serge Broom

Corrections and additions are in order.

#752 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 01:54 AM:

I got about 70 on the NPR list, and most of the ones I haven't read were ones I'd started and not finished. I counted a series if I consciously stopped after the n-th one, for values of n that varied, even though I didn't count that for novels. Some of them I may get back to. There were no titles I didn't recognize, and I really liked that for most of them they pulled out the covers of the first editions to show -- some decidedly scarce covers there! I wonder why they didn't on Dragonflight and a few others. Can't be because they couldn't find copies; probably just oversight and not realizing it. (That's not even the first hardcover on Dragonflight -- Walker did one -- but it's the prettiest cover by far IMO.)

Probably the oddest omission would be the Harry Potter series; and why include only individual Diskworld books when (for example) they list the entire Xanth series?

#753 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 02:12 AM:

Lee at 750 and others: oh yes, I only counted the ones I have read. there are probably around 15 that would count as "I have heard of it and avoided it or started reading but stopped" list.

Some books I intentionally avoid, but others I just hit at the wrong time.

But there are still a good number that I am not familiar with. And given that I have a "loved this one, hated that one" reaction, I have no idea which of the new ones I would enjoy reading.

Before looking at the list I wasn't aware that Wicked was a book as well as a play.

#754 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 04:12 AM:

Re: Avram's particle on Moe Berg & Werner Heisenberg.

Asimov's had two stories in the last year on that ("Uncertainty" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch &"Something Real" by Rick Wilber). Is there something in the water?

#755 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 06:42 AM:

"Now that's Evil Science."

For Abi's son and for Benjamin Wolfe...
An animated film...

"Atomic Robo: Last Stop"

#756 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 07:34 AM:

64*, with 15 others on that list that I Will Never Read. Most of the remainder were already on the Need To Read list, but there were a couple I hadn't heard of.

And, yeah, they screwed up with Discworld.

(*66 if Threw Against The Wall is included.)

#757 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 08:17 AM:

Jacque @723: A tool we use in our house is maintaining a (very short!) list of Things I'm Allowed To START Doing After 10PM. It does not include reading email, new projects, just ONE more exciting thing … etc. If it's not On The List, then bedtime supersedes. It does include certain personal care tasks (take a bath) and eating, if eating feels necessary at the time.

#758 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 08:28 AM:

50% with a note that I need to read some of the other books on there. GoT and the Stephen King boos excluded.

#759 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 08:41 AM:

79 on the NPR list, but mostly in the older books. I have not been reading enough SFF in recent years, clearly.

#760 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 10:28 AM:

47 on the NPR list, but having read ALL the Discworld books and ALL of Bujold's and LeGuin's SF/fantasy works, I can claim I'm substituting depth for breadth.

#761 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 11:36 AM:

iamnothing #751:

Unlikely I'll be at LonestarCon, unless I can get myself into a gear I'm not sure I possess. (Co-writing the second ed. of a tech book, and there keep being those deadline thingys.) If it did happen, it would be very ad hoc and very last-minute.

#762 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 11:42 AM:

Jacque @723: I'm going to second the alarm clock idea. What I actually found useful was two alarms. Namely:

1) Alarm #1 goes off. It tells me, "It's time for bed in about an hour. Stop starting new projects. Start wrapping up existing ones. Detach yourself from interesting conversations. Find a save point in that game, or reach the chapter's end in that book."

2) Alarm #2 goes off. It tells me, "Bedtime in ten minutes. Say goodbye to people and shut down the computer. Brush your teeth. Make sure the dishwasher is ready to run. Then GO TO BED."

This is somewhat complicated for me these days since there's also a dogwalk before bed, but the two-alarm process helps me immensely. (I use it for heading out in the morning, too.) The first alarm warns me that the second one is coming, which means when the "real" alarm arrives, I'm a lot less likely to be in the middle of something complicated/engrossing/unpausable. And I find I'm, I guess? at my schedule when I had fair warning of it.

#763 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 12:26 PM:


#764 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 12:27 PM:

joann @761: OK. One hopes that at least you'll have time to attend the gathering of light.

#765 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 12:36 PM:

Re sleep triggers: one of the lamps in my living room is on a timer; it goes on at 7:30 pm and off at 10 pm.

I set it up so that there would be a light on inside the house when I arrive home late at night, but to my surprise, it functions as an effective bedtime reminder. It's especially helpful when I'm reading something really really interesting.

#766 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 01:04 PM:

61 or thereabouts on the NPR list - most of the older stuff, I haven't been reading a lot of new SF for the past 6 or 7 years. The balance of individual/series did seem off, though. It felt like there were a lot of Neil Gaiman books, but certainly when you look into some of the series by other authors they had just as many books in total. It's just that Gaiman mostly writes stand-alones, so they couldn't all be merged into a single entry in the same way.

#767 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 01:12 PM:

Your NSA surveillance state at work: Google Pressure Cookers and Backpacks, Get a Visit from the Cops

It's clear that this incident could only have been made possible through PRISM data.

#768 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 01:46 PM:

I only scored 53 on the NPR list (and that only by stretching the definition for series to "I've read it if I finished any one book"). The things I hadn't read mostly fell into one of two categories, though: either it was normally shelved as "literature" or "mainstream", or it was by an author whose work I (for whatever reason) avoid.

Did anyone else think that Neil Gaiman seemed a bit overrepresented?

#769 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 02:40 PM:

Cadbury Moose @763, Ok, now I really need the BBC story that link came from. What is it made of? WHY did they make it...?

#770 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 02:45 PM:

iamnothing #764:

I'd be a lot more optimistic if there wasn't this 90-mile drive each way!

#771 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 02:51 PM:

Cassy B @ #769

No attached story, it's just part of the "Day in pictures" from the BBC News website: (towards the bottom of the page).

As for the other questions:

1) Straw (plus I suspect some prefabricated metal bits).
2) Because they could? (Or to frighten the crop circle aliens away?)

#772 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 03:02 PM:

Cadbury @ 771... Ex-ter-min-hay-te!

#773 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 03:02 PM:

Cadbury @ 771... Ex-ter-min-hay-te!

#774 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 03:07 PM:

Charlie Wingate #767

I've promoted your link to Diffractions.

See also: NSA chief: Snooping is crucial to fighting terrorism

How many of those terrorist plots they've disrupted were by delusional people who wouldn't be able to carry out anything if you gave them a million dollars and a road map, and how many wouldn't exist at all if FBI agents-provocateurs hadn't gotten involved?

Remember the Fort Dix Six (convicted!) where one of their number was so alarmed by what the undercover FBI guy was saying that he went to the Philadelphia police to report it....

#775 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 03:28 PM:

CHip @ 743: "the Prius was the first non-stick I bought...."

And now I am imagining cooking an omelet on the hood of a Teflon-coated Prius.

janetl @756: Oh, I'm glad to hear RED 2 lives up to RED in terms of comedy and, well, all things Mirren. I have been meaning to see it on the strength of having thoroughly enjoyed the first movie for no very virtuous reason. It may require another trip down to the Alamo Drafthouse for maximum enjoyment.

#776 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 03:52 PM:

C. Wingate, #767: From the article: They mentioned that they do this about 100 times a week. And that 99 of those visits turn out to be nothing.

Which strikes me as a prime example of lying with statistics. The next question that needs to be asked is, "And of the other 1%, how many of them STILL turn out to be nothing on further investigation?" But the implication they want us to draw is that once a week they turn up an actual terrorist plot. I call shenanigans. This is real life, not Seven Days.

#777 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 04:21 PM:

#765 Lizzy L re Jacque @723

I got a light timer for a bedroom lamp for that reason exactly! I then discovered it was great for reading in bed with more ambient light without having to get up to turn off a light.

And, it cues me to not read much longer, and the not-as-bright, over-my-shoulder-not-in-my-face bedside light is better for just before falling asleep.*

But I also started using it as part of the wake-up in the morning: first radio, then light, then alarm.**

*I do have an alarm on the computer too — it's better to be away from that light well before trying to go to sleep.

**Far prefer to wake up to birdsong, Bach, and dawn when possible.

#778 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 05:10 PM:

joann @770: Oh I see. I thought you were closer. Even in Texas, 90 miles is a non-trivial distance.

#779 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 05:17 PM:

iamnothing #778:

And I regard I-35 as the work of a thousand devils.

#780 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 05:25 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @703: Jim, is there any such thing as a smoke detector that won't go off when I burn incense...which I do for about ten minutes every morning of my life?

Jim Macdonald @704: I expect that depends on how much incense you burn. But I'd also expect that the ionization-type smoke detectors would be less likely to give you an alarm from incense.

I have a similar issue: I usually broil my meat for dinner. Absolutely always kicks off the smoke detector. I even bought a "kitchen grade" smoke detector. Same problem. (Smoke doesn't even have to be visible—which, of course, is normally a feature in smoke detectors.)

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @705: mother-of-pearl and opal fakes" Oh, shiny! Can you write a bit more about these two?

Well, I'm still fiddling with my recipe, so caveat pictor, but here's what I've got so far:

I'm using Liquitex paints: pthalo blue, dioxazine purple and (transparent) brown (sorry, don't know the pigment offhand), iridescent gold, copper, and silver, and gloss medium & varnish.

This is how I (somewhat accidentally) got my first workable opaloid:

1. Paint a thin layer of medium on a plate (to cohere the whole business and make it peelable-off).

2. Section plate into sixths. Paint half-circles of blue, purple, and brown, each 120° off, so you have blue, b+p, purple, etc. Paint a thin layer; you want color but not opacity. Use a fingertip or a rough brush to get slightly uneven application.

3. Paint on three layers of medium, going for an uneaven or textured surface.

4. Dilute gold with water so it's quite thin; paint over colors such that the gold can settle a little bit into the texture of the medium. (Be careful; if you layer this on too deeply, it'll cause the underlayers to buckle, which can be an interesting effect, but is a different thing.)

5. When dry, apply another couple of layers of medium for body.

6. When dry (give it a full couple of days, for the polymer to fully, er, polymerize.), peel it off and flip it over.

7. To apply to another surface, paint desired base color, then apply several layers of medium. When medium is starting to thicken, but is still milky, apply opaloid skin.

To get a more mother-of-pearly effect, use silver instead of gold.

Or: eschew the colors altogether, and blend gold and silver onto uneven-surfaced medium. (First medium base-layer side is the "right" side.)

To get a completely different effect, paint peelable-off surface with gold, first, then apply colors in thicker layers. When stretched over a shape, this will make a nice shimmery-color-metalic.

Start with a uneven metalic base-coat, cover with a mixture of color, metalic, and medium for a plausible fire-agate fake.

I'm still playing with this and don't have a lot of control, but I've come up with some interesting stuff. I hope to have pics up Some Day Real Soon Now.

cajunfj40 @706: Maybe attach fins and then hire a Chinese rocket to lob into LEO? (Well, okay, maybe not. :)

Russ @711: Del Toro specifically did not make the film in 3D

Ah! Thank you! You've just saved me three hours and fifteen bucks!

#781 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 05:25 PM:

Lunch is split-pea soup.

#782 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 05:45 PM:

HLN: Newly-relocated local woman discovers that her new locale contains an Indian restaurant that will not only deliver food to her, but will allow her to order it online. "This," she said, "is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

#783 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 06:04 PM:

Going to bed on time:

I'm giving the alarm thing a try. (First instance last night. Worked well.) (My initial idea was to use my alarm-clock/CD-player, and have it burst out with the Star Wars theme when it was time, but I think I gave that widget away.) Only one evening, so far, so it's impossible to say if it's effective. As it happens, I have not one but two alarm clocks in my living room, so I'm using the one on the other end. The act of getting up and crossing the room may be enough of a break-state that I can use it to close down whatever $Project I'm working on. Also, this is one of the few instances where the snooze button is actually useful. Will report back in a week or two when I have more data.

The timed light thing has potential, too.

On the topic of triggers, I discovered an interesting thing last weekend.

I've had an ongoing issue with some sort of "resistance" to doing tasks just based on "I've got time now." Set out to clean the guinea pig cages Friday afternoon. Caught a glimpse of "but it's not dark out" in the back of my mind. Apparently I've conditioned myself to clean their cages after the sun has gone down. Which is a problem, in the middle of summer.

But it's also the first time I've caught the subroutine that runs that "resistance" in the act, which I'm really happy about, as that is the biggest thing that gets between me and getting stuff done.

#784 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 06:38 PM:

Just had interview for Job I May or May Not Want. I dressed up in Interview drag, put on some make-up and even blow-dried my hair this morning (!). Turned out to be the shortest interview ever - about 15 minutes. Like a trial verdict, that's either very bad or very good. They said they got a lot of resumes, so I guess it boils down to whether they want someone who already knows 50% of the systems inside and out, or someone new who has not yet been heard bitching about the people they'd be working with. They did mention they had been considering how to parse my current job out to other team members, so that's hopeful. I forgot to ask what the timeline was for hiring. So I guess now all I have to worry about is whether they can offer me 11% more than I make now (that's what I figured the difference was between 401K contributions and insurance payments I do not currently have to make as a Union employee).

In other related news, we had an all-hands meeting with everyone in our division. It was interesting hearing how we all fit together, as each department was given part of a presentation. Then the VP, in introducing a "new hire" who had actually come out of our department mentioned that she considered our department a great one to start in if you wanted to get a good idea of how things worked, and that if you were a intelligent and a good worker, you got to move to a different department. Look, I don't ever need recognition for doing my job, but I'd really appreciate if the Powers That Be didn't treat us like we were a bunch of window lickers.

#785 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 06:50 PM:

Lee @734: Thank you for that link (now re-linked for others' convenience!). It made my day, while simultaneously reminding me of my two big "creepy guy on the train" experiences. (And I feel eternally lucky that I have only two such stories to tell. One I told here on the "The Sky's Not Evil" thread; the other happened recently and I rant about it here.) Chris really gets it. Also, if I ever needed proof that "homophobia is when a man is afraid that another man will treat him the way he treats women," Chris's story is Exhibit A+ Would Link Again.

Have tweeted it for wider impact.

#786 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little's been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 06:51 PM:

I have inadvertently displeased the gnomes with, at a guess, an overabundance of links. I have tea to offer. The pot is now at a boil.

#787 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 07:29 PM:

Of course, if you had looked for pressure cookers and laundry bags, they wouldn't have noticed a thing.

#788 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 07:47 PM:

Nerdycellist at # 784: From my experience on the other side of the interview desk, the hiring timeline is often a couple of weeks longer than they say it will be.

#789 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 07:58 PM:

Re the Google search: This is what an effective mechanism of social control looks like. It's not that there is a *law* against searching for the wrong stuff on Google, or reading the wrong Wikipedia pages, or reading the wrong kind of political or religious material online. There is no law against posting the wrong kind of political or social opinions online, or making the wrong sorts of comments in emails, or saying stuff on the phone that might be taken the wrong way. Certainly, there is no law against reading the wrong books or academic papers, or listening to the wrong podcasts or online media.

It's just that people who do those things, well, you know, sometimes stuff just *happens* to them. Policemen come and ask them hard questions, and search their houses, and whoa, look at that, they find some pot or an unregistered gun or one of those paper books that isn't exactly technically illegal, but only guilty people have them in their homes. It's just that they end up on some kind of watchlist and get searched everytime they fly, or get audited, or have some kind of investigation started on them that ends up wrecking their marriage and getting them fired and ostracized.

#790 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 08:40 PM:

C Wingate @767: It's clear that this incident could only have been made possible through PRISM data.

Or, alternatively, through an employer’s IT department.

#791 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 09:06 PM:

C Wingate, there's an update to the Google search story here. From a press release:

Suffolk County Criminal Intelligence Detectives received a tip from a Bay Shore based computer company regarding suspicious computer searches conducted by a recently released employee. The former employee’s computer searches took place on this employee’s workplace computer. On that computer, the employee searched the terms “pressure cooker bombs” and “backpacks.”

#792 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 09:11 PM:

I just did the dishes. After all, I've been posting about rice cookers and, if Homeland Security comes to visit, I don't want to be embarrassed by patriots seeing a sink full of dirty dishes.

#793 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 09:53 PM:

In the days of the USSR:

A judge enters his chambers laughing. And his fellow judge, sitting there working on some papers, says, "So, Yuri, what's so funny?"

"Ah, Dmitri! I just heard the funniest joke!"

"Well, share it."

"I can't. I just gave a man five years for telling it."

#794 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 11:47 PM:

Fuck you, Russia. And IOC? You too, you liars. And you too, NBC Sports.

#795 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2013, 11:56 PM:


Hey, hey, daloy politsey!
Daloy samederzhavyets v'rasey!

#796 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:09 AM:

NBC Sports? What did they do/fail to do?

#797 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:45 AM:

Serge, but what about your bathroom? Is it breeding Bolsheviks?

HLN: Area woman repeatedly refreshes web page starting at 12:01, waiting for her book to tick over from "pre-order" to "Now Available". "We were fixing things in the .pdf at 9:30 PM," she says. "Bless my editors for caring as much about page layout as I do."

#798 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 01:46 AM:

Jim, essentially they announced that they'd cover the anti-gay laws of Russia IF they were "still controversial at the time of the Olympics." As if they were something we'd all forget about! And the wording the guy used implied they'd cover them as "oh, look at the quaint customs of this country!"

(Keep getting Internal Server Error when I post this with the Russian version of "Down with Russia. Down with Putin. Down with the International Olympic Committee." So here's the English.)

#799 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 02:20 AM:

iamnothing (#751): I am also planning to be at LoneStarCon, and in particular will attend the Sassafrass performance (what with having helped fund the Kickstarter, I'd really not want to miss it). With luck, the GoL will also be achievable. (I managed to make it to both the Reno and Chicago ones, after all.)

#800 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 02:55 AM:

I learned how to drive a manual transmission through necessity—knowing I'd have to drive it less than a month after I got my license, in order to pick up my glasses (for the first time; I have a stable and very mild nearsightedness, so while I can drive without glasses I do not feel comfortable doing so, now that I've got them.) This meant I got to also learn how to drive a manual on snow and ice, when it turned out nobody else could play designated driver for somebody's car. (He called for a pickup, with a wistful hope that someone could bring his car home too.)

Right now I have a Ford Freestyle with CVT, so if I drive someone's car with an automatic transmission, I get thrown by the shifting of the gears. Really, I love the smooth ramp of the CVT, though I know some folks have had issues with them.

Question: In the UK, which side is the gear shift on? I think I could handle just about everything about switching sides except for having the gear shift on the left (in the middle.) I'd have to play dumb American and rent an automatic.

#801 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 03:39 AM:

B. Durbin: You must shift a manual with your left hand in the UK (and Ireland). I often hire an automatic when abroad for that reason: I have no trouble driving on the other side of the road, but I do find myself reaching for the gearstick with the wrong hand in a manual.

#802 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:37 AM:

The combination of pressure cookers and backbacks is bad enough, as a sign of police nervousness. It looks as though the police officers who investigated may not have been clear about what the tip was. Maybe a belief that it's just NSA/Google scattergunning them with suspects is better than the knowledge of a specific tip-off from an employer.

Humans are flawed. They can be malicious. But does a human have more weight than computers?

There are things I wouldn't do on a work computer, even in the UK when there are privacy laws. Pressure cookers and backpacks are hardly that sort of controversial, challenging your reputation. It's almost a stereotype that the office worker gets a call to pick up something on the way home, and if there wasn't a specific item already arranged, it would be natural to check that a store has something in stock.

Nobody would think of clearing their browser cache on account of something like that.

Until now.

#803 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:58 AM:

Cassy B @ #769

All is now clear: It's been built by the Snugburys ice cream company in a field in Nantwich, Cheshire to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr Who (and the end of the wait to see who will be the 12th Time Lord).

The have also produced a DaLick cone as part of the celebrations.

(Courtesy of the "Metro" - the daily free "news"paper also known as "Yesterdays news today" and "The Two Minute Hate".)

#804 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 07:43 AM:

Dave Bell @ 802 ...
Humans are flawed. They can be malicious. But does a human have more weight than computers?

Well -- given that the tip came from the former employer, one has to wonder about the sort of human flaws and malice that might well have been involved in calling the police in the first place.

#805 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 08:19 AM:

Here is more on the Cheshire dalek.

#806 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 10:32 AM:

Cadbury Moose @803, that sidetracked me into trying to figure out what flavor DaLick Ice Cream would have. Frankly, I'm stumped...

#807 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:10 AM:

Slightly metallic, with a hint of ozone, and an Ommminous Hummmmm?

#808 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:19 AM:

Cadbury Moose @807 Are you sure that's not Schlock flavored...?

#809 ::: Dave Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:28 AM:

Dave Bell #802: The combination of pressure cookers and backbacks is bad enough, as a sign of police nervousness.

It's also "fighting the last war" as usual.

#810 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:40 AM:

Jacque, when I was in grad school, I realized that I had a great deal of trouble eating before dark. Dinner happens after sunset! That's how I know to be hungry!

#811 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:50 AM:

Cassy B. @769, Cadbury Moose @771 --

According to io9,

It's the creation of an ice cream shop called Snugbury's, which does giant straw sculptures every year. And apparently it could have been a giant Royal Baby instead.

I for one am extremely thankful that they decided to go with the Dalek.

#812 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:54 AM:

Debbie @811: it should have been a giant royal jelly baby. With a bitten-off head. That much royal jelly would probably fix the bee shortage in one go ...

#813 ::: odaiwai ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:09 PM:
Cassy B. @806: "Cadbury Moose @803, that sidetracked me into trying to figure out what flavor DaLick Ice Cream would have. Frankly, I'm stumped..."

I don't know about the flavour, but the recipe starts with:

#814 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:11 PM:

Really, I do wish Jim would post one of the follow-ups to the "Google Pressure Cookers and Backpacks, Get a Visit from the Cops" story to particles. The techcrunch follow-up is pretty good.

The original story, at least the parts that make it more than a "Local Cops, Employers are Officious Busy-Bodies" story, has been shown definitively to be false. Even before the Suffolk county PD released that press statement, I thought it was false. (at least, everything beyond "cops visited, asked to search, talked for an hour")

But more than that: for that story to be true requires some very, very dark things to be true about a large number of employees at Google. I suspect that people on the outside might not realize how grave an insult the original author casually weaves into her story's background. For any lawyers, or anyone who knows a lawyer, it's as much an insult though the author casually assumed that attorneys break client privilege routinely for no good reason at all. It's like just assuming a medical practice must be running something like the Tuskegee syphillis experiment because that's how doctors are.

And it delivers that grave insult as assumed backdrop without evidence. (and, as we now know, without truth either)

I wrote more on this over on Google+. (that's a public link to my post that you can view without signing in)

#815 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:13 PM:

Odawai @813, you win the internet.

#816 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:30 PM:

Cassy B @ #808 (808 was ICI Nobel Plastic Explosive, back in the day....)

Yes, it does have more than a hint of schlock.

Debbie @ #811 This moose was forced to buy a copy of the cyrrent Private Eye, simply for the cover:


Inside: Some other stuff

odaiwai @ #813 please treat your new internet with care, and keep it dusted.

#817 ::: Cadbury Moose is taking tea with the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:32 PM:

Chocolate Hob Nobs, anyone?

#818 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:33 PM:

Frisbie's technique was to keep his left hand on the gearshift until it felt comfortable.

After a month in the UK, he had trouble shifting with his right hand when he got back. *g*

#819 ::: Daniel Martin has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:35 PM:

Presumably because I linked to a post of mine on Google plus, and google plus URLs look suspiciously like spam.

Does this URL, which will find it, work?

it's a web search

#820 ::: Cadbury Moose is taking tea with the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 12:42 PM:

Chocolate Hob Nobs, anyone?

#821 ::: odaiwai ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 01:12 PM:
Odawai @813, you win the internet.

Oooh! Shiny! *fails save vs shiny*

Pj Evans @816

Frisbie's technique was to keep his left hand on the gearshift until it felt comfortable.

After a month in the UK, he had trouble shifting with his right hand when he got back. *g*

Many years back (around about 1993) I went from driving stick in Ireland/England) on the left to driving on the right, and the change in hand to operate the gear level was uneventful: It seemed like the loss in muscle memory by changing the hand used to select the gears was neatly counter balanced by the increased coordination of my right hand. (I'm right handed). It wasn't more than a few gear changes before I stopped thinking about it, and worried more about paying attention to the traffic. It probably helped that it was Saudi Arabia and rough gear changes were the least of anyone's driving worries. (The largest vehicle with the most devout driver had right of way...)

I wonder if going from stick on the right hand (plus muscle memory) to stick on the left hand (for right handed people) is forcing you to learn a skill completely from scratch and is more difficult than the opposite way?

(Mind you, I'd just also learned to ride a motorcycle, where you change gears with your foot, before this, so maybe I was just very mindful of all the automatic driving processes at that point.)

#822 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 02:06 PM:

Daniel Martin @817: I don't think it's quite fair to say "every sentence of the first paragraph is false". It's more accurate to say "every sentence of the first paragraph is intentionally vague, intended to make the story more dramatic".

#823 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 02:26 PM:

Google has a timer function which could be used for setting alarms, per Lifehacker.

#824 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 02:32 PM:

I drove an itsy-bitsy Daihatsu for the last six or seven months I lived in Japan. It had a stick, and the Japanese drive on the non-American side of the road, so that stick was on my left. As I recall (it was 1973!) I learned pretty quickly; necessity will do that to you. I had a harder time getting used to the Japanese driver's innate lack of respect for lane markings.

#825 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 02:38 PM:

#814 : Daniel Martin

I didn't see anything in her first paragraph that said, or even implied, that Google was actively involved in any way with the reported visit from the cops.

We know that the NSA actively engages in "Collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructre as data flows past."

We also know that the PRISM program combines that collected data with "Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple."

If we assume that the NSA has the ability to visit servers clandestinely, and I see no reason not to make that assumption, again there's no need for Google to have been knowingly involved.

I suspect that the author of the piece was using "Googling" as a generic for "searching," and would have said "Googling" even if she were using Bing. It's also possible that the cops, who were the people who told the husband why they'd visited, used the word "Googling" to mean "searching."

If they'd said, "We got it from your lawyer," that wouldn't mean necessarily that the lawyer had broken attorney/client privilege. It could just as well mean "from a bug we planted in the lawyer's office" or "from a black-bag job we pulled on the lawyer's filing cabinets."

If the NSA has in fact gotten clandestine access to Google's servers, I wouldn't expect them to say so. I'd expect them to say, "We got a tip from an ex-employer's IT department." That's what's called "plausible deniability."

Google does in fact provide user data to law enforcement.

This is the author's clarification and update:

We found out through the Suffolk Police Department that the searches involved also things my husband looked up at his old job. We were not made aware of this at the time of questioning and were led to believe it was solely from searches from within our house.

I did not lie or make it up. I wrote the piece with the information that was given. What was withheld from us obviously could not be a part of a story I wrote based on what happened yesterday.

The piece I wrote was the story as we knew it with the information we were told. None of it was fabricated. If you know me, you know I would never do that.

If it was misleading, just know that my intention was the truth. And that was what I knew as the truth until about ten minutes ago. That there were other circumstances involved was something we all were unaware of.

#826 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 02:45 PM:

Jeremy Leader @ 822:
I stand by my characterization. The bits of the post that were misleading because of vagueness for dramatic effect came later.

Let's look at the paragraph in question:

It was a confluence of magnificent proportions that led six agents from the joint terrorism task force to knock on my door Wednesday morning. Little did we know our seemingly innocent, if curious to a fault, Googling of certain things was creating a perfect storm of terrorism profiling. Because somewhere out there, someone was watching. Someone whose job it is to piece together the things people do on the internet raised the red flag when they saw our search history.

Okay, I guess the first sentence also contains some of the vagueness for dramatic effect evident elsewhere in the post. ("agents from the joint terrorism taskforce" apparently means "Suffolk County PD officers attached to the fusion center that Suffolk County has set up to coordinate with the JTTF")

But otherwise, there is nothing vague about that: most of the paragraph is establishing that her house was visited as the result of several innocent isolated events combining to appear in total more suspicious. The other sentences imply that their home internet activity was being monitored and that this mysterious someone who erroneously put distinct events that would mean nothing in isolation together caused the police to visit.

It's a nice bit of writing, and well establishes her thesis: that she, like every American, is subject to "1984" levels of constant monitoring in her own home and that this broad, scattershot monitoring was combining individual innocent actions to profile people and investigate them.

We now know that to be as false as the idea that vaccines cause autism. We know that in fact the search that generated a police visit wasn't captured by PRISM or some three-letter government organization, that it wasn't a search done on any home machine, and we know that the search in question had been for "pressure cooker bombs". No vast powers of collation and coordination at work.

I don't doubt that the author is sufficiently technically ignorant to have believed her narrative when she wrote it, but as a friend of mine said, there's a difference between a simple "Didn't know all the facts and didn't realize it" and "Thinking that life is a game of Clue and it's ok to say 'mr. plum KILLED SOMEONE! in the conservatory with the lead pipe' because only good things can result (you win! or you narrow down the suspects!)".

Now that we know with certainty that the narrative imposed over the raw facts is fundamentally false, I'm going to persist in calling it that.

#827 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 02:51 PM:

In case you doubted that Wisconsin has become a police state.

Yeah, an armed raid to kill a fawn. With intimidation and deleting of pictures and all that stuff.

It's the stupidity of an armed raid because people are violating the law by keeping a wild animal (in a no-kill shelter, not a private home) that makes it clear that it's a police state.

#828 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 03:13 PM:


So, if Google is collecting data on our searches and reporting the suspicious ones back to the feds, would the company even be allowed to tell us? If you personally were running the suspicious search reporting program, and you admitted it in public, you would go to prison. This makes it sort of hard to accept denials at face value. People within the organization who know the denials are false are forbidden by law from revealing that fact. There may even be people in the organization who feel it is their legal or moral duty to lie about what they're doing.

Now, I don't know that Google searches are monitored. What is monitored is secret, the laws and legal interpretations and court rulings and hearings on it are all secret. Companies from whom information is collected are often forbidden by law from telling anyone what was collected. Big, respectable companies have, in the recent past, turned out to be massively and illegally handing over our data to the feds. Nobody went to jail for that, nobody suffered any consequences at all. It is not some kind of crazy stretch to imagine that the same misbehavior that Verizon was susceptible to might also afflict Google. This is exactly the sort of situation that rightly erodes users' trust.

Now, according to the EFF, Google is pretty good about trying to protect its users' data, though it explicitly doesn't tell users about government data requests. But an environment in which there are massive secret domestic spying programs and secret laws and secret orders to turn over data, trust is gonna be hard to come by.

#829 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 03:21 PM:

Oh, for anyone who wants to watch xkcd #1190 ("Time") end-to-end simply, it's on YouTube now. You might need to be quick on the pause button to catch some of the dialog (or just enjoy the frame).

#830 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 03:28 PM:

Christopher Davis @799: Excellent; I also will be attending the Sassafrass performance.

Here's a question for all attendees: Is it too early to start thinking about a date/time for the GoL?

#831 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 03:47 PM:

Immediately bookmarked and tweeted the Tres Riches Heures Particle. I spent a significant chunk of money on a slipcased reproduction coffee-table book, and it's a thing of beauty, but that doesn't mean I won't love looking at the online version, too.

#832 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 04:03 PM:

From the Scottish Independence Parhelia:
"The United States expanded to occupy the entire northern part of the American continent."

Excuse me?

#833 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 04:36 PM:

Yeah, just as England occupies the entire isle of Britain, right?

#834 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:05 PM:

re 826: We don't know that it's "as false as the idea that vaccines cause autism." There's a lot of positive verification the the latter case, whereas here all we have is confirmation that such monitoring isn't necessary to explain this incident. But the lingering problem is that the existence of the monitoring that we do know about made the scenario plausible because what we do know about the existing monitoring doesn't contain anything that makes such an incident impossible. Indeed, perhaps the biggest problem in all of this is that NSA's accountability seems to be next to nonexistent; one can only take on faith that, if the y didn't set off this incident, they might not set off another like it.

At any rate the "officious busybodies" aspect of this is not unproblematic. It's hardly unreasonable that after such an incident, a lot of people searched for "pressure cooker bomb" for reasons beyond thinking about making one themselves. I'm tempted to do such a search myself, just to see what kind of stuff turns up if I exclude the Boston context. I have a big problem with the police showing up just because I was curious.

#835 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:17 PM:

I am suffering from severe WTF.

I thought I'd download some news-podcast-related "apps" on my new tablet. I started with NPR's.

When I hit the Install button, a little window popped up explaining the facilities the app would need to access. Most of them were common sense, but . . . my phone calls?

Now, ignoring the fact that this isn't a phone tablet, why would a news streaming app need to know about who was calling me and vice-versa?

I checked a bunch of other news apps. Fox News, NBC, the local NPR station's app. All required "Phone Calls" access.

For cripes sake, WHY?

#836 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:21 PM:

NSA says it can't search its own emails.

I'm hoping they actually mean won't rather than can't.

#837 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:29 PM:

The usual reason is 'in case you lose your password'.

#838 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:39 PM:

So Reddit had a little competition for two-line horror stories.

There was one particularly scary one.

I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.”

Man, that one made me shiver!

Two Lines

#839 ::: Steve C. was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:41 PM:

Probably for the links.

#840 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:43 PM:

Here's a puzzle I made up. I don't think I really need to ROT13 these, since they're not spoilers for recent movies, but I will just out of courtesy. How many can you name? (Just give the number.)

SPOILERS. Ebfrohq jnf n fyrq. Vg'f Rnegu. Ur'f fgvyy va Ivrganz, naq qlvat. Gurl'er nyy nfcrpgf bs gur fnzr crefba. Ur'f orra qrnq nyy nybat. Gur fuvc fvaxf. Uvf zbgure vf qrnq; vg'f uvz va qent. Vg jnf gur nagvdhrf qrnyre. Vg jnf nyy n qernz orpnhfr fur ohzcrq ure urnq (bar bs gur fghcvqrfg zbivr raqvatf RIRE). Gur zbafgref jrer sebz gur sngure'f vq. Fur'f n ercyvpnag (fb vf ur, va gur bevtvany irefvba). Gurer vf ab Fnapghnel. Vg'f znqr bhg bs crbcyr. Vg'f va n gvzr ybbc (lnja). Ab, ur'f ernyyl ba Znef. Rnegu ivehfrf xvyy gurz nyy. Gurl trg njnl naq n ornhgvshy sevraqfuvc ortvaf. UR-VF-ABG-N-THA. Gurl arrq n pbafragvat fnpevsvpr (gur pbafrag vf cerggl shpxvat qhovbhf). Vg'f gur pbaivpg, abg gur byq ynql. Vg'f n pbybffny snvyher, ohg Fnagn svkrf rirelguvat. Ur svanyyl oernxf gur ybbc ol orpbzvat jung ur'f orra cergraqvat gb or. Gur whqtr jnf oruvaq nyy bs vg. Ur pna'g vzcevfba uvf bja fbaf, ohg ur fraqf URE onpx gb cevfba. Ur ybirf ure, ohg ur fraqf ure gb cevfba naljnl (qvssrerag zbivr). Ur'f npghnyyl gur evtugshy xvat. Gur zntvp ynaq VF gur Fgbel. Vg'f ABG Rnegu; gur nyvraf ner zrffvat jvgu lbhe urnq. Ab, fur xarj ur jnf thvygl!

#841 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 05:58 PM:

15 definite, 2 guesses I think are fairly likely to be right.

#842 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 06:11 PM:

Xopher: 20, I'm pretty sure. The others I have not even the faintest clue.

#843 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 07:01 PM:

16 with a few possible more if my guesses are right.

#844 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 08:03 PM:

I got 13 I'm pretty certain of, and 4 more guesses. Of those, I've only actually seen a bit more than half (I'm not that much of a movie-goer, I guess!), but the others are big enough pop-culture touchpoints that I've heard about them.

I couldn't specifically identify #25, but it's a stock ending of innumerable films noir (including, in a sense, #11). Likewise, #26 strikes me as a fairy stock fantasy resolution.

I've been watching a cable TV series (via Netflix) that matches #4, but I assume you're only dealing with movies.

Am I correct to assume that each sentence is for a different movie?

I'd love to see the correct answers, Xopher!

#845 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 10:23 PM:

C. Wingate@824:

I will agree that the "busybody" aspect of this is problematic, but will also say that it started before the police were involved. From what we know, it appears that the employer was going through the web history on the work computer of a former employee. Why on earth would you do something like that? Why not just wipe the machine and re-install, as has been standard practice everywhere I've ever worked? Since the employer was described as "a computer company" I've got to believe they had the technical expertise to do so. So it starts with the employer, who seems to have made a fuss to the cops, and the cops seem to have taken care of the visit quickly and without serious over-reaction. (e.g., cursory search done only after asking if they could during which they left a door unopened because they were told a child was sleeping in that room)

On this though:

But the lingering problem is that the existence of the monitoring that we do know about made the scenario plausible because what we do know about the existing monitoring doesn't contain anything that makes such an incident impossible.

I disagree that the scenario was plausible even before the Suffolk county PD released a statement that it was the husband's former employer. "Impossible" is an unclearable bar, so I'll go for "unreasonable".

Adapted from a facebook conversation I had at the time:
1) The original blog post seems to jump to the idea that this was the result of internet searching and news reading without any evidence beyond the policemen asking "did you ever look up online how to build a pressure cooker bomb"
2) Local police don't have the level of access to Google necessary for this without a warrant so specific they'd already have a warrant for the house. They not only didn't have such a warrant, they clearly had no suspicions of the kind they'd need before they'd even think the word "warrant" in a serious manner.
3) Local police don't have the kind of broad "find us everyone who searched for this" access in any case.
4) Contrary to what TV shows you, neither does the FBI
5) Or, in fact, the NSA, probably. What the NSA almost certainly does have is network taps that would allow them to see unencrypted search traffic. All Google search traffic defaults to SSL these days. Whether they've gotten a mole inside to steal Google's SSL keys is a constant area of dispute. (The broader theory that the NSA has cracked SSL in toto and wouldn't even need Google's SSL keys to snoop on https traffic is really far-out conspiracy stuff, like "the X Files was a documentary" level)
6) The NSA and FBI do have various unspecified arrangements with Google where certain individual's search traffic will be copied off into an NSA-controlled system in near realtime. However, again, that's targeting of individuals already of interest, not a broad "sweep up everything matching A, B, and C". (This system - the NSA-controlled one Google transfers data to when appropriately served - is almost certainly the "Google" data source mentioned in the leaked PRISM slides)
7) The author of the blog this is sourced from did, for three days in July, make her publically viewable facebook cover photo a whole bunch of M-66 firecrackers. (the 4th through 6th) Now, I don't think there is anything any more suspicious in this than in the Google searches which the blog post blamed for the visit (I mean, 4th of July and firecrackers are kind of a thing), but if I believe that local cops are going to come visit for the bizarre google search coordination coincidence the author suggests they'd visit for, I'd also have to believe that they'd visit if they saw that cover photo just to be sure it was a stock photo and she wasn't hoarding a stockpile. Stupid? Yeah. More stupid than what was initially alleged? Not really. After all, maybe some officious busy-body in Canada saw the cover photo and called the police.
8) The couple apparently has a nearly adult son living with them. Young men sometimes have friends with sick senses of humor.

Given all that, I found the "I was caught in an internet dragnet" explanation a totally unreasonable one to consider before the Suffolk County PD said that they visited because the former employer made an issue of the web search history on the husband's former work computer.

After the Suffolk County PD statement? I really can't imagine what shred of possibility you're still holding on to.

As an aside, yes, it's scary any time police knock on your door to talk to you. But if they're going to do it this is just about the lightest touch I can imagine that includes an in-person visit.

#846 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 10:48 PM:

Jim Macdonald @724: Based on memoirs from people who lived through total government collapse/fiscal collapse/loss of value of previous money [..] the item to stockpile isn't gold, it's bars of soap.

Inspiring a new hedge fund based on Palmolive Gold (we said we were investing in gold; we didn't say what kind. Stop complaining, you'll thank us later...)

#847 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:26 PM:

Xopher @840
13 I am fairly sure of, 13 I don't know.

I hope you will eventually give the list of titles, perhaps in a day or two, so we can check ourselves.

#848 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2013, 11:47 PM:

Xopher, #840: 6 that I'm sure of, plus another one that might be (there are 2 clues which fit this movie). My partner contributed 3 more.

You've missed this one, which I think is worthwhile: Fur'f ernyyl n ur.

#849 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 01:46 AM:

Here are the answers (the ones I had in mind, anyway) in ROT13:

Ebfrohq jnf n fyrq - Pvgvmra Xnar. Vg'f Rnegu - Cynarg bs gur Ncrf. Ur'f fgvyy va Ivrganz, naq qlvat - Wnpbo'f Ynqqre. Gurl'er nyy nfcrpgf bs gur fnzr crefba - Vqragvgl. Ur'f orra qrnq nyy nybat - Gur Fvkgu Frafr. Gur fuvc fvaxf - Gvgnavp. Uvf zbgure vf qrnq; vg'f uvz va qent - Cflpub. Vg jnf gur nagvdhrf qrnyre - Qrnq Ntnva. Vg jnf nyy n qernz orpnhfr fur ohzcrq ure urnq (bar bs gur fghcvqrfg zbivr raqvatf RIRE) - Gur Jvmneq bs Bm. Gur zbafgref jrer sebz gur sngure'f vq - Sbeovqqra Cynarg. Fur'f n ercyvpnag (fb vf ur, va gur bevtvany irefvba) - Oynqr Ehaare. Gurer vf ab Fnapghnel - Ybtna'f Eha. Vg'f znqr bhg bs crbcyr - Fblyrag Terra. Vg'f va n gvzr ybbc (lnja) - Fcurer. Ab, ur'f ernyyl ba Znef - Gbgny Erpnyy (gur ERNY bar). Rnegu ivehfrf xvyy gurz nyy - Jne bs gur Jbeyqf (gur byq bar). Gurl trg njnl naq n ornhgvshy sevraqfuvc ortvaf - Pnfnoynapn. UR-VF-ABG-N-THA - Gur Veba Tvnag. Gurl arrq n pbafragvat fnpevsvpr (gur pbafrag vf cerggl shpxvat qhovbhf) - Gur Jvpxre Zna. Vg'f gur pbaivpg, abg gur byq ynql - Terng Rkcrpgngvbaf. Vg'f n pbybffny snvyher, ohg Fnagn svkrf rirelguvat - Gur Avtugzner Orsber Puevfgznf. Ur svanyyl oernxf gur ybbc ol orpbzvat jung ur'f orra cergraqvat gb or - Tebhaqubt Qnl. Gur whqtr jnf oruvaq nyy bs vg - Jub Senzrq Ebtre Enoovg?. Ur pna'g vzcevfba uvf bja fbaf, ohg ur fraqf URE onpx gb cevfba - Gur Yvba va Jvagre. Ur ybirf ure, ohg ur fraqf ure gb cevfba naljnl (qvssrerag zbivr) - Gur Znygrfr Snypba. Ur'f npghnyyl gur evtugshy xvat - Fgneqhfg. Gur zntvp ynaq VF gur Fgbel - Gur Arireraqvat Fgbel. Vg'f ABG Rnegu; gur nyvraf ner zrffvat jvgu lbhe urnq - Qnex Pvgl. Ab, fur xarj ur jnf thvygl! - Jvgarff sbe gur Cebfrphgvba.

#850 ::: Xopher Halftongue has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 01:48 AM:

My "answers" comment was gnomed. Must be that the ROT13 of something was a Word of Power.

[It was a punctuation issue. A question mark immediately followed by a period. -- Rocir Buess, Duty Gnome]

#851 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 01:53 AM:

Ah. Should've checked. I used a formula to put periods after the titles. Should've cleaned up the title that ended in punctuation.

#852 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 02:03 AM:

Spammers apparently have the same forumla: we get exclamation-point-period, question-mark-period, and comma-period all the time. We also get period-period, but I haven't figured out a way to filter on that without getting too many false positives.

#853 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 02:40 AM:

Okay, so both my "guesses fairly likely to be right" in fact were, but one of my definites was wrong.

"The judge was behind it all" could also be Ten Little Indians (the Agatha Christie one), btw.

#854 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 03:07 AM:

Lee @848, (a) that’s the twist, but not the ending, and (b) I think that particular phrasing might be insulting to trans-people. (The latter is one reason I don’t wear my copy of this shirt anymore.)

#855 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 03:19 AM:

Well, to be fair not all of mine are endings. Some are just twists, or sometimes not even that ("The ship sinks" is a joke, for example).

#856 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 08:44 AM:

Avram, #854: a) Xopher originally only said "spoilers", and that's a pretty major spoiler, if I remember the buzz about the movie correctly. b) You may be right -- I haven't seen the movie myself, so I don't know* -- and if so, I'm sorry.

My partner says that the "consenting sacrifice" one would be equally applicable to Joe vs. the Volcano. Again, I haven't seen it, so I wouldn't know. I did think about Xopher's answer for that one, but from what I know about the movie (again, not having seen it), that consent was well beyond dubious and straight into non.

* For example, your caveat would not be applicable in the case of Tootsie, which I have seen.

#857 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 10:40 AM:


I got 16 right, of which I've only actually seen 6; the rest I knew by osmosis.

Which means that the number I've seen and recognised is actually smaller than the number I've seen but didn't recognise (7). Some of those weren't particularly specific ("He's actually the rightful king"); others were specific, but not how I guess I would have worded it.

#858 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 02:20 PM:

I've been distracted by other things for a couple weeks, and am catching up for the moment.
I'm planning to be at LoneStarCon.

I don't get all the dislike for driving the Hana Highway, other than the problem that the driver doesn't get to look at the scenery as much as the passengers, and the scenery is the point of the drive. My wife had lived on Maui as a kid, and my sister lives there now, so we get out there occasionally. They re-graded and paved the road back in the early 60s; before that it really did deserve the reputation, but I find it's easier to drive than the winding bits of Highway 1 in California. These days they've even paved the other half of the road quite decently (there's 100 feet or so of gravel to say "it's unpaved past here!", but then you get a small but adequate country road that goes around to Kula. Less scenic, and probably faster.

I've never owned a car with a manual transmission. My parents drove automatics because that leaves you a hand free to deal with kids, and my wife thinks that steering and speed belong in the user interface but that a car ought to be smart enough to decide what gear it wants to be in. The last time I drove a US rental car with a stick was in the mid-80s, and even by then they'd pretty much switched to automatics for everything but sports cars and trucks. (This was a "last-car-on-the-lot-at-night" choice.)

I learned to drive a stick with my brother-in-law's car out in Hawaii. He was about the fourth or fifth owner, and somebody had previously decided that a floor shifter was a lot cooler than a column shifter, so they converted it. Part of learning to drive it was getting the hammer out from under the front seat to unstick the linkages under the car when they jammed. That's easy when you're switching between reverse and 1st, which is when it usually happened, but I had to drive about 20 miles through the hills stuck in second one day.

#859 ::: dancingcrow ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 04:16 PM:

When making the Da-Lick flavoured ice cream,
after the


must come:


#860 ::: Carrie S ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 04:20 PM:

17 I was sure of, plus two guesses that were right when I checked the key. The ones I was missing I was totally in the dark on.

#861 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 04:58 PM:

Paul 857: Yeah, this started out as a response to someone on FB saying "some people still don't know that Rosebud was his sled," and I just decided to give a spoiler for all the movies I could think of that have them.

It was only after I realized that I had quite a set that it occurred to me that it might be fun as a puzzle. If I'd been thinking puzzle from the very beginning, I'd've made them less ambiguous.

#862 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 06:05 PM:

Xopher @ 861... someone on FB saying "some people still don't know that Rosebud was his sled,"

"Soylent Green... It's a *cook* book!"

#863 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 06:58 PM:

Bought "Mist" earlier today. Around 3/4th of the way through it. It appears likely that I'm going to add ANOTHER series to my "watch for new releases" list.

Oh darn. Darn, darn, darn. :-)

#864 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2013, 07:13 PM:

Michael I @ 863... Sue, who's furiously working on Book Two as we speak, is quite happy to hear that.

#865 ::: MinaW ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 12:06 AM:

re driving on mountain roads:

The first time I was behind the wheel of a car, my grandfather and I had been picking huckleberries up on the logging road on the hill above the cabin in Idaho.

I was early teens, had not taken driver's ed yet.

I don't know why he would not take "no" for an answer.
Long parts of the gravel or dirt road were cliff up on one side, steep hill/cliff down on the other.

He put out a hand a few times to keep me from driving into the up-cliff in my terror of the down-cliff.

When I learned he had taught my mother to drive in a flat cornfield, I was very envious.

Probably explains half of my lack of interest in driving. (Other half is lack of money to fix car.)

#866 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 05:58 AM:

At 7pm tonight, in the UK, the BBC will reveal the actor who will replace Matt Smith as The Doctor. (At 6.59pm you can say "Who's on next.")

There has been speculation and betting. I don't know enough to judge the names which the bookies have listed, but I suspect it will be easy money for them.

Remember, we will know the new actor. We will not know the new Doctor.

#867 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 12:02 PM:

Jim Macdonald #674:

You can get false alarms off of steam from your bathroom with a particulate detector, so pay attention to where you mount it.

You can also get false alarms due to fruit moths crawling into the detector.

(They came in on a contaminated batch of dried fruit, and we ended up with quite a population of them for a while, and there was a smoke detector in the “pantry” room. Every so often there'd be brief chirps.)

#868 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 02:28 PM:

Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi

#869 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 02:35 PM:

Peter Capaldi will be the Twelfth Doctor. My first thought is that I'm going to be imagining the Doctor saying "I'll rip your fucking eyes out" for the next few months.

#870 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 03:26 PM:

Maybe they'll cast Paul Higgins as his companion. That would be a wonderful thing. (Warning: link contains swearing. Oh so much swearing.)

#871 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 03:35 PM:

Anybody here know anything about Fort Worth, Texas? Since my wife is a professional illustrator, I'd like to make her a flat file to store paper/prints/et cetera--she has a couple of metal ones we lucked into courtesy of a friend, but this is something that no artist can have enough of.

In checking on the web, I've found a mention of an instruction book on making flat files with cutting and assembly drawings for two different from 2001. It was offered by a Sally Jackson of the Jackson Studios, but the e-mail address I've found is dead, and I've found a couple of different postal addresses.

Since I don't trust book pricing or phone numbers which are twelve years old, and since my new job has hours that would put any calls I'd make either before or after they'd be open, does anyone know where I could find contact info that's not written in Jell-O so I could see if they still sell the plan booklets?

#872 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 04:58 PM:

Or "They deserved it!", re Atlantis, from Neverwhere.

#873 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 05:33 PM:

Bruce, I'd say your best bet is the address on Vega Court - it was current last December (Chamber of Commerce site). The one on Sandage is now a guitar place.

#874 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 05:52 PM:

Off in the morning to Rome and northern Italy for two weeks.

I doubt I'll have the time, but is there anything with geek appeal in Rome, even if it be a comic book shoppe?

#875 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 05:54 PM:

Xopher @849: Interesting. I had the wrong movie for the spoiler for several. Lbhe Wnpbo'f Ynqqre vf zl Ncbpnylcfr Abj; lbhe Vqragvgl vf zl Svtug Pyho; lbhe Avtugzner Orsber Puevfgznf vf zl Zvenpyr ba 34gu Fgerrg.

I should note that for all but the last of the ones I misidentified, I have not seen the one you think is the 'right' answer (but now I'm going to, in the second case).

#876 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 06:13 PM:

Elliott, please note I'm not claiming these were GOOD movies.

So, Peter Capaldi is the new Doctor. Well, I was hoping the new Doctor would be even younger than Matt Smith (continuing the pattern of younger and younger actors playing him), or a ginger (combining those two: Rupert Grint), or a person of color, or possibly a woman (Stephen Hawking was apparently saying he wanted the new Doctor to be a woman with a male companion).

Didn't get any of that. People on Twitter have been saying "yeah, he can be any race or gender and just happens to be a white guy twelve times in a row."

All that aside, Capaldi doesn't seem like a bad choice. I don't remember his turn in Torchwood, but he was good as the Pompeiian dad in DW. Don't know much more about him.

I predict he won't be as fun (for me) to watch as Matt Smith. Of course, Smith is eye candy in his very person, so he's already got an advantage there, but also he's very physical and flexible and his face is tremendously versatile and expressive. I don't know those things about Capaldi. We'll see how it goes.

I miss Matt Smith already, which is not actually a bad reflection on Capaldi (more that his naming makes Smith's departure seem more real).

#877 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 06:22 PM:

This Is A Warning

Summer's bounty
is here
and people
are giving

from their gardens and
to their friends

The plums in
the icebox are mine
not yours
mine all mine

(HLN: Just got back from a family work day. Normally, I get tomatoes or zucchini from siblings with gardens. Or siblings who have neighbors who garden. Not this time.)

#878 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 07:27 PM:

Xopher #876: I'd been hoping for Patterson Joseph. Sophie Okonedo would have been nice too or Freema Agyeman.

Re Capaldi: Look up In the Loop and The Thick of It for the character he plays, Malcolm Turner, a foul-mouthed Scottish spin doctor.

#879 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 07:32 PM:

Fragano, and Moffat said something like "Yeah, and I think the Queen should be played by a man" in response to suggestions 12 should be female. I think that was pretty dickish.

#880 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 07:50 PM:

And Paterson Joseph would have been terrific.

#881 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 08:12 PM:

(Late to the party after being away most of last week.)

Elliott Mason (625): For cozy mysteries, Sofie Kelly's "magical cats" mysteries are quite good. They sound too twee for words, but they're not. It looks like the CPL has them, too. (Four so far, #5 is due out this fall.)

#882 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 08:18 PM:

Jim, on the Moose Festival link: Do they really want to say that they have pictures from 2011, and that 2010 was one of the best festivals ever, when they're pushing the 2013 Festival?

Looks like their site needs a bit of updating....

#883 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 08:28 PM:

At least Capaldi has the nose for the role. My friends and I noticed somewhere around Doctor #5 that all of them have the same nose. Tennant's is a bit narrower than the others', but just as long.

#884 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 09:05 PM:

My favorite joke about the new doctor was this tweet from Richard Lawson (@rilaws): Charles pouts, turns off the TV. Camilla looks at him. "You didn't actually think they'd name you." Charles sighs. "I don't know."

Stefan Jones - That sounds soooo wonderful!

#885 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 09:18 PM:

Omigod - John M. Ford's How Much for Just the Planet? is available for the Kobo! My tattered paperback was barely going to make it for another read. Kobo also has The Final Reflection.

#886 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 09:18 PM:

Omigod - John M. Ford's How Much for Just the Planet? is available for the Kobo! My tattered paperback was barely going to make it for another read. Kobo also has The Final Reflection.

#887 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 09:20 PM:

...oops.... Too many open tabs, and too much enthusiasm. Sorry.

#888 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 10:54 PM:

P.J. Evans: thanks for the info. I'll try Vega Court.

#889 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2013, 11:41 PM:

#882 : Tom Whitmore

Tom, we make our own fun up here, and sometimes our own fun is looking at pictures from three years ago.

Frankly, my own Moose Festival posts here at ML are lots better than the official Moose Festival pages, and the North Country Chamber of Commerce could have just called me on the phone, but it is what it is.

We're still going to have lots of fun at Moose Festival. Because ... moose!

(Word in town is that the moose have started coming down out of the hills early this year, so an even better chance of seeing one.)

#890 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 12:06 AM:

Xopher @879, didn’t she used to be played by men for the first half of the 20th century?

How many regenerations does the British Monarchy have left, anyway?

#891 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 01:21 AM:

Xopher: You don't remember him from Torchwood because that was the Children of Earth serial and IIRC, you hate that one with a passion. His character—middle management—basically got screwed over every way possible. Well-written but brutal ending for him. (I am one of those people who will probably never watch that season again unless my tolerances for pain change.)

#892 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 03:05 AM:

Even the BBC has noted that, counting by years, he is the same age as William Hartnell was when he started. If you count the start date as the Christmas Special. William Hartnell will still be the older. Since the new Doctor has sometimes appeared right at the end of an episode (or at least the regeneration was shown), you might count the broadcast of the first full episode, which suggests Capaldi will be the older.

The hype seems unusual but once Capaldi started working on the show, too many people would have known for the secrecy to be sustainable. Even if the people working on the show had kept schtumm, the secret couldn't have lasted past the first location shoot.

Capaldi was playing the part of Cardinal Richelieu in a TV production of The Three Musketeers, which is apparently aimed for the schedule slot which was occupied by Merlin. I suppose Richelieu could make occasional appearances in future seasons of production, if a young d'Artagnan were chosen over Twenty Years After. He is more a Prince John than a Sheriff of Nottingham, which would help.

What would happen if the Master (or maybe the Meddling Monk) were trying to change French history, kidnapped the Cardinal to spoil some critical negotiation, and was foiled by the Doctor taking Richelieu's place?

#893 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 03:05 AM:

Even the BBC has noted that, counting by years, he is the same age as William Hartnell was when he started. If you count the start date as the Christmas Special. William Hartnell will still be the older. Since the new Doctor has sometimes appeared right at the end of an episode (or at least the regeneration was shown), you might count the broadcast of the first full episode, which suggests Capaldi will be the older.

The hype seems unusual but once Capaldi started working on the show, too many people would have known for the secrecy to be sustainable. Even if the people working on the show had kept schtumm, the secret couldn't have lasted past the first location shoot.

Capaldi was playing the part of Cardinal Richelieu in a TV production of The Three Musketeers, which is apparently aimed for the schedule slot which was occupied by Merlin. I suppose Richelieu could make occasional appearances in future seasons of production, if a young d'Artagnan were chosen over Twenty Years After. He is more a Prince John than a Sheriff of Nottingham, which would help.

What would happen if the Master (or maybe the Meddling Monk) were trying to change French history, kidnapped the Cardinal to spoil some critical negotiation, and was foiled by the Doctor taking Richelieu's place?

#894 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 05:15 AM:

Xopher Halftongue @876: Matt Smith [..] he's very physical and flexible and his face is tremendously versatile and expressive.

I would have liked to see Matt Smith in a Batman movie playing the Joker in the classic mode (i.e, nattier than the Heath Ledger interpretation).

Don't think it will ever happen, but it's fun to imagine.

#895 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 06:28 AM:

Xopher @ 879... "Yeah, and I think the Queen should be played by a man"

Cue in "Bohemian Rhapsody"...

#896 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 07:56 AM:

Fun note about Peter Capaldi.

Apparently he was credited as W.H.O. Doctor in the recent World War Z movie.

There has been some discussion about whether is a coincidence.

#897 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 11:15 AM:

AKICIML: what word do I use to refer to the mother of my Civil Partner? And how do I refer to myself other than "I'm her son's partner"?

Inventiveness is allowed. Encouraged, even.

#898 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 11:39 AM:

tykewriter: My mother, before I married He Who Is Now My Husband, referred to his parents as her "out-laws" and him as her "son-in-sin".

My mother is not known for her conventional and uptight ways. :->

#899 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 11:52 AM:

tykewriter: How about CohabitMom?

#900 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 12:00 PM:

tykewriter: I would probably say "mother-in-law." But I'm also planning to be a spinster forever, so I could be missing the point.

#901 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 12:22 PM:

There's a more serious side to this (although I welcome frivolity, generally and in this case). K, my partner's mum, is in hospital. When questioning hospital staff, they usually ask if I'm family. I say "I'm her son's partner", which meets with a variable response. I wondered if there was an accepted way of referring to this relationship.

She's recovering fairly well after a fall. I'm just off to visit again.

#902 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 12:34 PM:

tykewriter, 901: in that case, I'd definitely say "mother-in-law." IIUC, civil partnership makes you her son's next of kin, so you have a legal right to not get thrown out as unrelated.

#903 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 12:38 PM:

Thanks, Tex-Anne. I'll probably go with son-in-law.

I'm still open to other suggestions...

#904 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 12:38 PM:

Xopher #879: Dickish is le mot juste for an expression of that sort.

#905 ::: odaiwai ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 01:06 PM:
tykewriter@897: AKICIML: what word do I use to refer to the mother of my Civil Partner? And how do I refer to myself other than "I'm her son's partner"?

I'm fond of using "sister in common law" to refer to my brother's partner. (They've been together longer than the 13 years I've been married to my partner.) I don't think I've ever used it to her face.

#906 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 01:31 PM:

For those of you who like Gregorian Chant, may I please make you acquainted with:

Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles

Their music is gorgeous, and they could use the income from purchases of CDs to retire their current building debt.

#907 ::: Claudia ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 01:52 PM:

Tykewriter, a civil partnership is a way for the government to legally recognize your relationship. Your partner's mother is your mother-in-law. (And when the hospital asks "are you a member of the family?" the answer is "yes."

#908 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 05:28 PM:

I don't know what to think about Capaldi. I sure didn't like the episodes I've seen before where the Doctor was a cranky old guy, but there's nothing to say that Capaldi will be anything at all like Hartnell (and considerable reason to hope that he will not).

Wouldn't it be nice if his companion were of comparable apparent age? They won't do that, of course, because of their target demographic and blah blah blah, but I'm not sure where they're going with this anyway. Maybe they've decided they're done (at least for a while) with the "companion mooning after the Doctor" subplots.

I have to admit to a baser motivation here. Matt Smith is quite easy on the eyes and that added another dimension to my pleasure in watching DW. Capaldi isn't going to do that, at least for me. OTOH Tennant wasn't my type either, and I absolutely loved his time.

Avram 890: No, those were kings. Queens were certainly played by men in Shakespeare's day (for values of "men" that include boys whose voices haven't changed...but they were considerably older when that happened).

Now, if you take the position that The Monarch is a Time Lord, and regenerates whenever s/he dies, you could have a case. But what happened, then, to the Princess Elizabeth who existed before George VI regenerated? Did they kill her so The Monarch could take her place?

Let the retconning begin.

B. 891: Yeah, I'm not willing to try too hard to remember CoE. But I didn't hate it as much as Miracle Day, which made me decide not to watch any further Torchwoods they might make.

Rob 894: Oh, not the Joker.

The Riddler for sure.

Actually anything that lets me see more of him would be good. I'm not happy about his leaving.

Fragano 904: Thanks. It did seem appropriate.

#909 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 05:43 PM:

Xopher @ 908... Wouldn't it be nice if his companion were of comparable apparent age?

She's 41, which is nowhere near Capaldi's 55, but I'd love Claudia Black as the Companion.

#910 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 06:54 PM:

Serge, that's a dream I hardly even dare to dream.

#911 ::: Incoherent ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 07:52 PM:

Xopher at 908, re: Avram at 890:

As opposed to how Bujold handled something similar in _The Hallowed Hunt_?

I suppose that it all depends on whether The Monarch is a good TimeLord or a bad TimeLord. And whether he/she is specific to the UK or just supporting the time stream by impersonating/replacing ruling royalty when they become unavailable due to being kidnapped by aliens or falling through a space/time rift. (When was the last time a monarch of the UK visited Cardiff?)

#912 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 08:28 PM:

According to this, February 2012.

#913 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 09:00 PM:

In non-Whovian news, Russian neo-Nazis have been kidnapping and torturing gay teenagers, some of whom have died.

The Spectrum report says that no police action has been taken against the incidents, despite numerous victims, and that over 500 similar groups have been formed across Russia using the VK social networking site.
This is the real reason we should boycott the Olympics in Sochi. Not Snowden. And even if the US doesn't pull out (and I predict it won't), we shouldn't watch them or buy the products advertised during them.

Daloy Russiyu. Daloy Putina.

#914 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 09:45 PM:

I understand Stoli is made in Latvia.

#915 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2013, 10:17 PM:

The Stoli sold in the US is made in Latvia from Russian ingredients. But Stoli isn't owned by the Russian state anymore, and they've been very supportive of the gay community here.

#917 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2013, 12:51 PM:

"George W. Bush Has Heart Procedure"

Headline on Comcast's site.
Next, the brain...

#918 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2013, 01:30 PM:

"George W. Bush Has Heart Procedure"

"It took us three hours and a microscope," lead surgeon Silas McNeery revealed, "but we located it."

#919 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2013, 02:47 PM:

Scalzi is awesome again, and Horror Writers of America is not immune to WTF-level drama. If you're a professional writer, your reaction will probably be "point and laugh". Mine certainly was, and I'm not a writer at all!

#920 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2013, 03:08 PM:

Lee @919: Ursula Vernon also took on the same list of questions.

#921 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2013, 05:08 PM:

Hey, I've been a professional writer for years! Both technical writing and for reviews. I don't write SF, though, so it doesn't count (according to some people).

#922 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2013, 05:21 PM:

The conversation continues in Open Thread 186....

#923 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2013, 04:55 PM:

For the Colorado knitters out there with way too much time and money on their hands: Yarn Along The Rockies.

I won't be participating, as I already have enough  crap  stuff in my house, thank you very much.

#924 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2013, 05:03 PM:

Jacque, there's a new Open Thread, in case you meant to post to the current one.

#925 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2013, 05:27 PM:

Xopher: Yes, thank you. I am a potato.

#926 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2013, 08:49 PM:

Umm...I don't see you as a potato. But I will NOT noogie you during combat prep!

#927 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2013, 11:51 AM:

Well, at least I can reasonably claim to not be psychotic.

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