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September 6, 2014

Open thread 200
Posted by Teresa at 09:33 AM *


In 1962, members of Apex, a private apa* that included some of the leading fan publishers of the day, addressed a remark to imagined future readers:

Fanhistorians fifty years in the future, reading this, should realize that we don’t all hate Bruce Pelz.*
In 1985, I wrote a letter addressed partly to that 1962 APEX mailing, and partly to the unknown future. I later incorporated it into my article Over Rough Terrain, which was reprinted in Making Book.

In 2012, Mark Plummer wrote an article for Strange Horizons about my letter, “Over Rough Terrain,” and what had been going on in Apex. He understood exactly what I’d been trying to say. Right on schedule, he stood revealed as the fanhistorian that Apex had invoked fifty years earlier, and a recipient of my note from 1985.

Well played, Mark Plummer.

I had forgotten until I looked it up the other day that Making Light’s first open thread, posted in January 2003, was an emergency measure. My service provider, Panix, was getting hit with a massive DDOS attack. I could barely post or comment, but I couldn’t see why that meant the conversation couldn’t continue. It could, and did, and has.

Welcome to Open thread 200.

Casting on into the future:

Consider taking a look at the energetic and resourceful, which is working to save the internet’s history from the internet’s bad habits:

And we’ve been trashing our history

Archive Team is a loose collective of rogue archivists, programmers, writers and loudmouths dedicated to saving our digital heritage. Since 2009 this variant force of nature has caught wind of shutdowns, shutoffs, mergers, and plain old deletions - and done our best to save the history before it’s lost forever. Along the way, we’ve gotten attention, resistance, press and discussion, but most importantly, we’ve gotten the message out: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.

This website is intended to be an offloading point and information depot for a number of archiving projects, all related to saving websites or data that is in danger of being lost. Besides serving as a hub for team-based pulling down and mirroring of data, this site will provide advice on managing your own data and rescuing it from the brink of destruction.

These are the guys who mounted an emergency effort to scrape GeoCities — a huge chunk of the early history of the Web — before Yahoo shut it down. One of their current projects is “preemptively archiving”

Check it out.

Comments on Open thread 200:
#2 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 09:53 AM:

Compuserve (remember Compuserve? It's still around) just pushed out new forum software. In the process, the Powers That Be casually mentioned, just a couple of weeks before the rollout, that only forum threads from 2011 and later would be rolled over into the new system; the rest would be discarded. Because, apparently, History Doesn't Matter.

Much to the Powers That Be's (Are?) genuine surprise and dismay, sysops all over Compuserve started scrambling to "bump" all the old threads back to 2004 (the earliest messages saved by that iteration of software)--a new message in an old thread renders it "new" as far as the migration was concerned, you see. And the sysops wanted to save their history, damnit. In a mad scramble, tens of thousands of old threads were bumped. Maybe hundreds of thousands.

And despite some pushback from the Powers That Be, the sysops, for the most part, succeeded in their quest to save their history.

#3 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:36 AM:

If only the courts were as concerned with timebinding...

(PACER, the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, recently announced that a whole bunch of documents that were formerly available aren't anymore--including everything from more than two years ago from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, aka the patent court. This is, ahem, patently ridiculous, and arguably against the law; groups like RECAP already thought PACER was flawed but this is beyond the pale.)

#4 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:51 AM:

I wish I had known about this last fall. The proprietor of the Catapult Message Board shut it down, with 3 days' notice, without backing up years of posts. I responded to his announcement by asking who was going to save them, but no one said a word. Now it's gone, as is the one that proceeded it. I am still kicking myself for not saving the posts, and the picture archives.
Someone has started a new message board--and I'm going to save the contents, at least the gist thereof, somehow.
Thanks for letting me know about this.

#5 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 11:17 AM:

How does the ArchiveTeam compare to the wayback machine /

#6 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 12:10 PM:

I am now having an interesting jumble of thoughts, in which the following have come up in no particular order:

- The type of hoarding characterized by the statement, "But we might need that someday!"

- My experience with helping a friend clean out a storage unit. Out of all the stuff in a 10'x20' space, which she had been paying on for 15 years, maybe a few dozen things did not go either straight into the dumpster or to Goodwill.

- Stories of people finding collections of letters or photographs of great historical value in somebody's attic, or an estate sale.

- The bean-counter at Warner Brothers who had an entire warehouse of old cels hauled off to the dump.

- The collection of old convention program books which is currently itching at me with, "I have better uses for the space they're taking up," and which I can neither bring myself to recycle nor find anyone interested in taking them for their historical value.

- A recent entry on LolMyThesis: "If you don't label your shit, you can't find your shit."

- My own collections of a couple of APAs I used to be in, which at one point I had started copying over my own contributions into my LiveJournal; that project stalled out, and I really ought to get back to it.

- The fact that I have both LiveJournal and DreamWidth accounts, which I basically use as mirror sites for each other.

- The conviction that my hard-copy book collection will be of value at some point in the future, which is not really borne out by research on Amazon and eBay.

I'm sure there's something coherent to be got out of all that, but it's too early in the morning for my brain to produce it.

#7 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 12:32 PM:

#6: It is complicated. And random.

A box of old model rocketry ephemera -- catalogs, newsletters -- that I kept around for 30 years? Sold the stuff for auction, got a few hundred dollars.

First edition "Old Man and the Sea" hardcover? Sold to Powell's for about $25.

Library-discarded, slipcover-less, musty "Star Beast" 1st edition hard cover? $65.

Nicely preserved copies of the first five dozen issues of "The Dragon?" Nobody will look at them. (So far.)

I have a dozen or so hardcover SF which I'll run past Powell's again. Maybe two or three times. But before my next move, anything left goes to Goodwill.

#8 ::: Dave* Twiddy ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 01:02 PM:

The Great Flood of Infoburn. Like Noah, except you're trying to save all the water.

Will there be a great generational notch someday, a few years or decades that will simply disappear when tech change renders the records of that time unreadable? All history will be divided into before and after that notch, like a natural disaster, and historians, used to a great stream of information, will be reduced to archeologists, trying to piece together a billion-piece jigsaw puzzle with no cover picture.

Or will there be bred giant-brained historians, floating in tanks to support their massive engineered craniums, only they capable of comprehending the saved data of the billions, reducing it to gnomic statements of explanation that their listeners will have to take on faith?

Anybody else strolled around an average-sized public library and gotten literally queasy at the thought of trying to absorb all the information around you, like you were trying to eat a 50-scoop hot fudge sundae with extra jimmies?

#9 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 01:07 PM:

I don't know a single thing about Bruce Pelz, but I suddenly have this desire to retroactively mythologize him as history's greatest monster so that when fan-historians another 50 years into the future find a note that says "we don't all hate Bruce Pelz" it'll seem creepy and foreboding instead of just vaguely puzzling.

Who's with me? I heard Bruce Pelz was the one who first introduced the practice of human sacrifice during the Hugo ceremonies at Pacificon II in 1964. Go!

#10 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 01:29 PM:

Lee @ 6: I suspect that unless one has been buying books specifically for investment purposes, and been keeping them pristine, the cost of keeping them around is greater than what you'll get by selling them. I also think that their value sold is going down due to ebooks.

I unloaded a LOT of books when I moved from Oregon to Pennsylvania, selling them to Powell's Books. It quickly became apparent that hardbacks had the least value. The buyer said that once the paperback is available, people don't tend to buy used hardbacks. My first edition hardback of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" might be worth $25 or so (I kept it) but for the most part, the hardbacks ended up at Goodwill. Fourteen boxes of paperbacks netted about $600 -- and that was as credit. Cash would have been less. Bookcases to hold that many books cost at least that much, and space in a house or apartment isn't free either.

Mind you, I still moved a hella lot of books. I now have two tall bookcases in my living room, 2 on the second floor, and 7 short ones under the sloping dormer edge of ceilings on the 3rd floor. I'm glad to have some physical books. When the neighbors were over for dinner, the 13-year-old girl ended up in the living room browsing the comics/graphics novel bookcase. She left with the full run of the new Ms. Marvel, Faith Erin Hicks "The Adventures of Superhero Girl", and Vera Brosgol's "Anya's Ghost". That can't happen with ebooks.

However, I shy away from buying paper books now. Ebooks don't get dusty, don't need space. (Says the woman who bought "Digger: The Complete Omnibus Edition" a month ago. Exceptions happen.)

#11 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 01:30 PM:

Of course, Tom Whitmore knows far more about the value of books that I ever will.

#12 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 02:21 PM:

Evan @ 9:

Oh dear, no. For maybe two decades Bruce Pelz was one the the major Movers & Shakers of Fandom. Such people don't retain that position for that long without making some enemies... or with making many of them.

I'm not sure if I'm remembering "Apex" or "APA-X" -- both, IIRC, involved Bruce's statement that he remained a Member of some APA not because he was intererested in it or wanted to contribute anything to the intellectual/emotional discussion but because he wanted to add the Mailings to his Collection of Fanzines. Some of us were Indignant about this Attitude, and even hated it, but this didn't (necessarilly) mean that we hated Bruce himself. (I might add that Bruce's Collecion of the Mailings of that APA ended up at The Eaton Collection, which -- if the UC Library Administrators are honorable -- should preserve them For All Eternity, give or take a few months).

#13 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 02:40 PM:

I recently attended a presentation on clearing out paper. The session was aimed at people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, thinking about moving to smaller houses/apartments.

In many cases, for paper magazines/fan-zines/etc., the best archivist is the publisher. Helping them find the financial resources to preserve it, is much more efficient than a series of private archives. I do not know if this is also true for electronically distributed media.

It is useful to check auction websites and auction houses for relative values of some editions of these paper magazines. A very few are extremely rare, the vast majority have more copies than there is demand for.

For most of the audience, their collections were of mass-media, for example, Life magazine, Time magazine, and National Geographic. In my case, I have an overwhelming number of issues of the Economist magazine.

#14 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 02:41 PM:

The Archive Team folks are really awesome. I had dinner with a few of them at DEFCON a couple years ago who had inherited a more-or-less complete set of Pac-Bell technicians' manuals (whose storage was measured in pallets) and were trying to digitize them.

Speaking of digitization, I was recently clued into the existence of 1dollarscan, who do what they say on the tin. (They cut the binding off the book, though, so don't send sentimental copies.) Might be of interest to some folks here.

#15 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 02:43 PM:

The real challenge nowadays of the cardboard-box-show-and-tell-from-the-future thought experiment (as described in Over Rough Terrain) is finding things from the future that will still be show-offable in 1956. Most of the coolest things my tablet computer can do (beyond glow, respond to touch and voice commands, store thousands of books with full text search ability, and display amazing graphics, of course - which while all commonplace to me would still be mind-blowing then) require attachment to the modern Internet and all its servers, or to GPS satellites, etc.

#16 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 03:08 PM:

"How does the ArchiveTeam compare to the wayback machine /" is an automated spider. Archive Team is a bunch of volunteers taking ad-hoc action. What they collect generally winds up on, but not directly in the Wayback Machine database.

Also, I've hung out with Jason Scott. He is one of those unstoppable force people.

#19 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 03:50 PM:

Speaking of filk, does anyone have a representative set of lyrics for Spaceport Singer? I know only a couple of verses (and it's the sort of song that accumulates more and more over the years, like Give Me That Old Time Religion). It's the one that starts

Heading out from Venusport, I made a stop at Mars,
There I met a woman who was fair to see,
Singing for her living in the little spaceport bars,
This is the song she sang for me.

and has chorus parenthetical lines "Ah, but singing's hard when my throat is dry," and "Oh, give me love, and give me wine."

#20 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 03:59 PM:

Beautiful comic from Boulet here:
Kingdom Lost -

And a new Subreality comic here - SFnal, beautiful as usual, and very poignant:
watching -

#21 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 04:03 PM:

A friend of mine recently divested himself of probably, literally, 99% of his collection of books, comics, CDs, and DVDs. He's lived in South Korea for the past five years, and all of his stuff was in storage in the US. He recently realized that he is almost certainly not going to move back to the US in the foreseeable future (there is a likely move to Ireland) -- and that it would cost significantly more to ship his media collection overseas than it would cost to just replace the important bits of it outright.

So on his last visit to the US, he fetched all the boxes out of storage and invited all of his friends over to raid the collection. What we didn't take, he attempted to sell to the local used book store; what they didn't buy went to Goodwill. He kept only a very, very few items that were genuinely irreplaceable and had sentimental value.

He reports that no one, but no one, wants used CDs. The used bookstore used to buy and sell them a few years ago, but they've stopped, because there was no market anymore. Apparently, absolutely everyone buys their music online these days.

They didn't want much in the way of used DVDs either, although they still buy and sell those. I think that market is shrinking, too, as more and more people switch to Netflix/Amazon/iTunes/etc.

So for the foreseeable future, he's switching entirely to e-books and digital copies of music and movies. It's simply more practical when you are likely to up and move around the world and then live in a small apartment.

Meanwhile, most of our book and DVD collection has been in boxes for the past few years. I … actually haven't missed most of them. That feels strange to admit, since I love the thought of living in a library. But there are really only a few things that I've especially wanted to read or watch and thought "Dang, that's in a box."

So much of it is "in case I want to read or watch that again." And I just … haven't wanted to. Even though they're things I love, I haven't felt compelled to dig them back out. I re-read things constantly, but there has been enough of a stream of new books that I haven't needed to pull out the ones in boxes to re-read. And there are more new-to-me movies and TV shows on Netflix and Hulu that I really want to watch than I even have time for, so I haven't needed to pull out the DVDs.

Most of them aren't anything that couldn't be easily and cheaply replaced -- a lot of classics that are perennially in print. So I'm starting to actually consider unloading them. They're in boxes in the first place because I got overexcited and thought I would be graduating and we would be moving sooner than actually occurred, and started packing them. But now that we actually might be moving sometime in the relatively near future -- depending on how far we move, it might not be worth moving them.

(For the record -- I did, finally, successfully defend my dissertation!!! We're not moving yet, because I'm still looking for a job. So if you hear of anyone who wants someone who knows from computational cardiac electrophysiology, and/or general computational modeling of biological systems [because many of the skills are very transferable], please let me know? I'm looking at private industry rather than academia, because the U.S. academic job market is pretty dysfunctional right now.)

#22 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 04:35 PM:

Evan @9, the immediate problem with that idea is how many people you know who were friends of Bruce Pelz.

#24 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 05:21 PM:

Huh. I expected @23 to make a stop with the Gnomes, given that it has rather more than seven links.

Anway, I am richly amused at the title of the OP. How...relevant.

#25 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 05:29 PM:

Name after name recorded on the wall,
a sombre history of the long crime
against us all, now fading into time,
made by those giants who to us seem small
through urgent years when little could appal
our fervent thoughts, when worlds were at their prime
(so we believed) yet we feared the dark slime
that seemed to lurk awaiting our long fall.
Now it’s the turn of those who would proclaim
a better day and shout it very loud
so even the ancestors could rejoice.
But we who are uncertain of our flame
no longer urgent, and no more as proud,
are not so eager to exalt our voice.

#26 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 05:33 PM:

I've just watched an episode of Doctor Who that involved the Doctor being sceptical about Robin Hood. Since Robin Hood shot an arrow into the TARDIS, this was somewhat warranted. Falling into streams was definitely involved.

#27 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 05:37 PM:

So I've just pulled out my copy of Making Book so I can (re-)read "Over Rough Terrain". And I've just stumbled on this sentence:

"I won't tell you that a new Canon tabletop copier goes for $769.00...down in the Village – far less than a new mimeo or ditto machine, or a month's rent on your old apartments there."

So I had to go look at prices online. I find that rents for an apartment in Greenwich Village have more than tripled that $769. And Canon personal tabletop copiers have gone down by an even larger factor.

#28 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 05:47 PM:

janetl, #10: Ah yes, the dead-tree vs. e-book question. Both sides have pros and cons.

I do like the ability to carry a small library around on my belt, so I have a significant number of e-books. Some things I want are only available in e-book format. But... if my phone is lost or stolen, or gets fried by an EMP or a lightning strike, all those e-books are gone. The ones I've bought from Amazon can be deleted at whim and without warning. And I don't want to try to read an e-book in the loo. :-) Also, you can't get an e-book autographed.

Hard-copy takes up a lot of space, yes. And gets dusty. And is heavier to hold (I have the Digger omnibus in hard-cover, but if I want to read the stories I pick up the much lighter paperback graphic novels). And is vulnerable to house fires or hurricanes opening up holes in the roof. But they don't just disappear, and lot of mine are autographed, and for most of my reading habits they're more convenient.

Overall, I still tend to prefer hard-copy -- but I'm slowly putting my Desert Island Books into the phone as well.

#29 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 05:57 PM:

I think that a good system for causing rereads would be to take a random shelf and put it on the coffee table or wherever you might see it. I found myself desperately wanting to reread a few books because I lent them to an acquaintance; I normally don't see them and so don't think about them.

I remember when our old Inkspot YASF board got wiped, I think post-merger. That was ragemaking. And long ago, now.

#30 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 06:00 PM:

And here's another rather interestingly different SFnal webcomic: Decrypting Rita.

#31 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 06:01 PM:

Em @199/1010: there is a piece of writing (by Spider Robinson, I think) in which aliens look at life on earth and take a median of various attributes

That doesn't sound like SR. If it is, I want to read it! (I probably want to read it anyway but: Spider!)

duckbunny @1011: I didn't notice that that mode of communication was taking place at all

My dad read a popular book about body language back in the mid-late '70s, I think (can't find a specific cite right now), and was on about "body English" for months afterward. But it wasn't until I studied NLP starting in 1982 that I actually started to tune into this stuff.

However, it wasn't until years later that I started to consciously perceive this stuff. See, with alcoholics, the verbal cues are often (usually?) incongruent with the physical cues. So, if you're on the bottom of the pecking order, you have to pick one (1) to pay attention to, in order to (a) stay out of trouble and (b) retain your sanity.

So in my case, I went with the verbal side. Given how good my mother was at detecting even unconscious dissent, I couldn't afford to be even subliminally conscious of nonverbal cues.

Lee @199/1019: When I'm stringing a necklace and I want a random-looking pattern, I have a pseudo-randomization algorithm.

Heh. There was an episode of NUMB3RS wherein Charlie's expository lecture goes into exactly that phenomenon.

Cassy B. Flags Down the Gnomes @199/1022&1023: Jacque @ 1021??? has a message in the message list (after Xopher's; before this one), but nothing's in the thread. Server error? ... Never mind; Jacque's message showed up.

Turns out that, in Safari, if you back-arrow from the server error page, you can (as far as I can tell) just re-hit post and bypass the server error without posting a duplicate. I don't understand, but there you are.

#32 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 06:34 PM:

Hm. Random thought not (entirely) unconnected to the timebinding discussion:

Stephen Fry points out that huge numbers of languages are threatened with extinction. It seems a good bet that many of those don't have written forms.

Now that we live in the future with all this marvelous new tech, it seems to me that it ought to be possible, with a modicum of investment, to computer-generate orthographies (or at least syllabaries) for languages that have only oral traditions.

Now it could be that a lot of that might be obviated by the ability to easily audio-record, and (obvy) there's a lot more to language than just the words that come out of people's mouths. But it's a thought.

Or is somebody aready on this, and I'm just not up to speed?

#33 ::: Dave* Twiddy ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 06:49 PM:

Caroline @21: Congratulations! May you find a job soon.

#34 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 06:50 PM:

@Caroline, the FDA is looking for someone with skills similar to yours.

#35 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 07:26 PM:

Charlie: I just finished reading that one from the beginning up to the present. A lot of neat stuff going on there. Unfortunately the author seems to be on a rather irregular update schedule.

#36 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 07:33 PM:

Bruce could be intimidating on first acquaintance.

I have to say that it was amusing when LA had the secession election, in 2002: there was a guy running for the office of mayor-potential whose last name was Bruce. The first time I saw a 'Bruce for Mayor' sign, my first thought was 'But he's dead!'

#37 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 07:41 PM:

Jacque, #31: I remember that episode. The perp was trying to make it look like a random pattern, but it was too even -- there were no clumps.

#38 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 07:47 PM:

Jacque @23: What a useful thing to do!

Thank you very much.

#39 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 08:24 PM:

Lee: "...I have a pseudo-randomization algorithm." I use those too when I'm stringing necklaces. How does yours work?

One of my favorites is interlocking stairsteps. Example: I recently had to mix up three groups, each consisting of 27 Czech glass beads (= 81 total beads). The colors of the three groups were congenial, but different enough to make clumsy groupings visible. I broke each of the groups into three groups of nine, and distributed them as follows. The three colors are @, =, and |.

@@@ | @@ || @ ||| = || == | === @ == @@ = @@@ | @@ || @ ||| = || == | === @ == @@ = @@@ | @@ || @ ||| = || == | === @ == @@ =

When I'm working with natural stone beads that contain multiple mixed colors -- say, with a variety of jasper that can include Siena brown, seal-brown, dark green, sage-ier green, lavender-gray, and stormcloud gray-gray-blue -- I usually wind up arranging them in a big circle in which color groups shade into one another. Then I take every second or third or even fourth bead in the circle, and move it outward a couple of inches to form a second, larger circle. Then I rotate all the beads in the larger circle a few positions "forward" (widdershins, more often than not, though I can't tell you why); consider whether the new arrangement looks right; and if it does, move the outer beads back inward to the original circle, where they fill the places of the beads that have moved further along.

I hope that makes sense, because I really, really don't want to have to describe it again.

If Lisa Spangenberg is reading this: Yes, your necklace does that.

#40 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 08:33 PM:

Jacque @31: "Heh. There was an episode of NUMB3RS wherein Charlie's expository lecture goes into exactly that phenomenon."

Mathematicians have a lot of anecdotes about random vs. pseudo-random. Mike Farren once taught me a trick for testing the randomness of a supposedly random number sequence. You assign a color to each of the digits from 0-9, then use your "random" sequence to specify colors, pixel by pixel, on the screen of a large monitor. If you run out of numbers before you fill the screen with pixels, start over at the beginning of the sequence. If what fills up your screen has perceptible patterns in it, the sequence you're using isn't random.

I've always liked that one.

#41 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 08:41 PM:

Reading about "numb3rs" brings back fond memories. Thanks.

#42 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 08:52 PM:

Teresa (39): Lee describes her pseudo-randomization algorithm for stringing beads immediately after mentioning it in 199/1019.

#43 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 09:06 PM:

Thank you, Mary Aileen and Lee. I have a project where that should work very well.

I think the weirdest scatter-pattern algorithm is the one I used during the first Iraq war, when I was watching a lot of CNN. To keep my fingers happy, I strung what is still the longest necklace I've ever made -- a spool and a third of tiger tail, strung with little Japanese seed beads that were sold already mixed. My local shop sold the mixes, but also sold containers of single component colors, and the mixed versions were congenially related. I had a bowl I worked out of, and a small silver relish spoon to add more beads. I started out with several spoonfuls of a basic mix, then gradually increased the percentage of bridging colors when I refilled my working bowl, until I'd shaded into the next color mix. If you take the resulting necklace and wrap it around and around a cylinder -- say, a one-liter soda bottle -- you can see it gradually shade from color group to color group.

I insist that I am not obsessive about this: not, not, not. It's just a way to save the time and effort of figuring out which bead will look properly random if you use it next.

#44 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 09:14 PM:

Teresa @38: ::curtsies:: :-)

#45 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 09:41 PM:

Teresa @38: That was the way to prove the Applesoft RND() function on the Apple II wasn't very random.

20 X=INT(RND(1) * 280)
30 Y=INT(RND(1) * 192)
35 print X;" ";Y
50 GOTO 20

The above program would produce a diagonal striped pattern. (Note that some emulators use a modern random source for RND() and won't show this.)

#46 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 09:45 PM:

WRT pseudo-randomness: Back around 1978-80, Jon Singer was tinkering with one of those old build-your-own-computer kits, and was playing with a random number generator. (Which, with the level of garage-tech available at the time was, of course, a pseudo-random number generator.) He was doing the thousand-monkeys-with-typewriters exercise, and was so tickled that the first actual word-word it would come up with (after he'd made you stand there watching it for half an hour waiting for it) was "penis."

#47 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:00 PM:

Wouldn't the first word have been 'pen'? Or were spaces counted as letters?

#48 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:02 PM:

Teresa, #39: I went on to describe my method in that comment, but I'll take another shot at it because I'm not sure how clear it was.

Assume for the purpose of the illustration that I have 7 different colors of otherwise-identical beads, and I want to make a strand that looks "random".

Step 1: Pull out 1 bead of each color and put them in the workspace. Pick them up individually without looking at them and string them.

Step 2: Pull out 1 bead of each color and put them in the workspace. Select one to string which is not the same color as the last one strung. Then repeat step 1 for the other 6 beads.

Step 3: Repeat step 2 until necklace is long enough.

This gives a very good random-looking irregular mix in which no 2 beads of the same color are ever next to each other, and all the colors are evenly represented.

To do ombre, I kind of invert that procedure. Let's say I've got a strand of amethyst beads that range from fairly dark to very light, and I want to make an ombre necklace which will be darkest in the center. I put all the beads in the workspace, and pick up the one I perceive as the darkest. It goes in the middle of the strand. From there I work out, alternating sides, always picking the one that looks darkest from the beads which are left. Makes for a very nice gradual transition.

I like your "stairsteps" pattern, and may try that for something!

I find myself working in "alternating 3s" a lot. If I have 4 types of beads/spacers, I'll use a repeating pattern of ABA CDC ABA CDC (where B and D are larger beads, A is a spacer, and C is a smaller bead). This is partly because I don't like the predictable bead-spacer-bead-spacer pattern very much, and look for ways to vary it.

#49 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:06 PM:

Alan Hamilton@45: Hm, I somehow never tried that when I was a kid. I will have to remember it the next time I'm in the presence of a real Apple 2.

(...This coming Tuesday.)

#50 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:07 PM:

Diatryma: Yes, there were spaces intersprinkled amongst the letters, forming "words."

#51 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:11 PM:

janetl back at !! -- thank you, I think. These days it's relatively easy to get a sense of the range of prices people are asking on most books using the internet. That doesn't mean that you can get that price for a book: it just means that those copies have not yet sold at those prices. Which sort of gives a good upper limit on the price you can expect to get, but there are usually mitigating factors.

And of course, I also show up in Over Rough Terrain.... One of the very best things I ever did in fandom was to put Bruce and Teresa in charge of being the door-dragons for the Hugo Losers party at MilPhil. I was so chuffed to see how much fun they were having with it! I'm immensely proud of that one.

#52 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:35 PM:

I am fascinated by the beading discussion, but have little to add on the matter of styles of randomness, as I most commonly work on a loom with either sharp-edged curves or lace patterns. I'm now working out how best to produce a similar shading effect to Lee's ombre, dark to light, centre to ends, in an eleven bead wide strip (which is conveniently about an inch and my default width (because it's much easier to do both curves and lace with an odd number so you get a central bead in the row)).
... I'll get back to you. I can do it, and it'll look gorgeous, but it'll take me an hour or two. Of course, the matching bracelet pattern will have to be entirely different. Working out which lines to take to produce a gradient three times as fast will be the trick.
...I wonder, would two sets of pattern work, one pseudorandom, one obviously patterned? With the two colours - to make it with seed beads you'd obviously shade one consistent colour into another - having symmetrical geometric patterns that tessellate head-on? Could I do one set which tricks the eye into perceiving a smooth gradient, and one which wears its artifice openly?
... And then, you could do very short gradients, over an inch or so, and repeat to produce pulses of colour around the piece.

I think this discussion just gave birth to an entirely new way to design my loom work. Thank you!

#53 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:49 PM:

Re pricing: I have a handy tip on getting actual selling prices for things which may be sold on eBay; unfortunately (?) this doesn't help much for books as for the most part they are not. However, for other things...

Go to eBay search and fiddle with terms until you've found a description which gets enough of the actual item in question; then go to the "Advanced Search" and there should be a checkbox which says "Sold listings". Check that and do the search, and you should see only the past listings which actually sold, and for how much.

This filters out both the wildly optimistic asking prices which don't sell and the wildly low numbers from unfinished auctions.

#54 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:54 PM:

As far as pseudorandom numbers go, most old systems (like the Apple ][ cited above) used a method called a "linear congruential generator" (LCG), which basically worked by computing

nextvalue = (oldvalue * a + b) mod c

for some fixed values of a, b, and c.

LCGs are cheap, fast, "random enough" for a lot of purposes, and as such made their way into a lot of standard libraries in the '70s and '80s. Some of those libraries are still being used today.

It's become standard practice to never trust the system library random function precisely because they tend to be LCGs, and thus not very good.

"Modern" pseudorandom-number-generators tend to be of the form:

state = F(state)
value = G(state)
return value

where "state" is kept purely internal and tends to be much larger (in bits) than the size of the value. In an LCG, the F function is the formula above, and G is the identity function.

The Mersenne Twister algorithm has a complicated state update function (F, above), but it only calls it when it has "used up" it's internal state, after roughly 2500 random bytes have been generated.

I suppose you can see why the makers of machines in the 70's working with 4096 total bytes were willing to go with an LCG that used 4-8 bytes of state rather than something like the Mersenne Twister which uses 2500 bytes of internal state.

#55 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:56 PM:

#27 David Goldfarb:

Thirty dollars pays your rent
On Bleecker Street...

#56 ::: Buddha Buck requests a nym cleanup ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 10:58 PM:

My browser forgot my personal info, and I forgot whether I was using my real name (Buddha Buck) or my nom-de-net (Blaise Pascal) here. I don't care if they are linked, but it's probably nice to be *consistent*, at least on one site.

Can someone fix the previous post?

#57 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2014, 11:06 PM:

Wasn’t Open Thread 9 the one about Pope John XX?

#58 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 12:10 AM:

Avram: Well, there's this old Electrolite post...?

#59 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 12:12 AM:

...Oh, wait. That's John Paul XX. *nevermind*

#60 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 12:13 AM:

...Finally Googles John XX...

Oh. Right.

I'm a little slow....

See also: ignorant.

#61 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 12:33 AM:

Things I had totally forgotten:

#51, Tom Whitmore, the fact that TNH and Bruce Pelz door-dragoned the MilPhil Hugo Losers' Party.

#58, Jacque Marshal, that Electrolite post. Indeed, I haven't thought about "Jeanne D'Arc" in ages. I wonder where she is, and how she is.

#62 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 03:15 AM:

Lisa Jardine writes a piece for the BBC on the significance of fiction in understanding history.

Specifically, plays about meetings we know happened, but we don't know what was said. What do such plays tell us?

#63 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 05:45 AM:

Re ebooks and physical books, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has a hierarchy of authors that determine whether they get bought in hardback, paperback or ebook? I just took down the last two physical David Weber books in the latest reorganisation of my bookshelves, since I had them digitally as well. The same thing with my Robert Jordan books, since Tor was so nice to provide them all digitally for the Worldcon. That's half a bookshelf cleared...

#64 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 07:36 AM:

Martin Wisse @63

Both Weber and Jordan have been around long enough that they published a lot of books before the Kindle era started[1]. It's a different situation to a relatively new author.

Would you start on any new author by buying paper books. I suppose it depends on the price. But what is the alternative to the second-hand paperback? Will those dreadful digital pirates replace librarians?

[1] November 2007

#65 ::: Jim Bodie ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 09:01 AM:

I wish I had not culled my '70s sf collection so severely. I still have a couple hundred titles but I miss many more. I sold off a bunch of my comics back then. My favorite sell off was when I had shipped my silver age titles down to Georgia in '79 and sold them wholesale to a comic store in Athens. The same store had a Ticketmaster booth and I used the majority of the slim proceeds to buy a pair of tickets to a John Prine show at the then newly opened Georgia Theater. That was a classic date where we ended up dancing to Onomatopoeia in the aisles. No regrets on that exchange.
In the 80's, I gave away a lot of comics to some young kids I knew in memory of kids my own age in the 60's who had given me their collections. What is left of my comics are on a shelf and I delight in smelling them if not looking at them. My family will just have to dump my APA 50 collection after I die.
I feel the need to preserve previously banned authors like B. Traven and Celine.
I've also kept my underground comics thinking that with smaller print runs they may be more scarce.

#66 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 09:39 AM:

I've been culling my books lately too. I find most of what's going into the sell/donate boxes are classics (if I choose to reread them, I can get them off Project Gutenberg), certain authors that I adored as a teen but now make me wince (Piers Anthony), and a handful of things that I can't remember why I kept. Even if I've successfully transitioned from one Nook to another and B&N has committed to keeping things running for at least another cycle, I'm still wary about going digital only (being of the era when people believed that if you didn't watch something on tv when it aired, you'd never see it again). And a lot of my books are the sort of ephemera that publishers don't think of when they're digitizing their backlist - I've found that a lot of the 50s/60s/70s authors I grew up reading are either unavailable or only have a small portion of their backlist available as ebooks. Though there seems to be a small but growing niche market for publishers who buy up rights to long out of print titles and release them as ebooks (and sometimes as print on demand too).

On a related note, I'll draw people's attention to Open Doors, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works (the folks who brought you AO3). It's a committee dedicated to importing fanfiction archives into AO3 to preserve them. I'm a member of the tagwrangling staff on AO3 and one of my jobs has been to go through tables of tags to add the equivalent AO3 tags as the works are imported. Among the archives imported this year was the pre-AO3 Yuletide archive.

Lastly, I'd be remiss in my duties as one of the Yuletide mods if I didn't point those of you who might be interested to the the Yuletide brainstorming post. There have been some tweaks to the eligibility rules this year and those can be found on LJ and on Dreamwidth

#67 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 09:42 AM:

Sorry about the duplicate post. I errored out both times.

#68 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 10:09 AM:

Jim Bodie @ #65, come back down sometime--the Georgia Theater recently reopened after a disastrous fire, and is apparently going great guns.

Hilary Hertzoff, ditto on Piers Anthony, and I would like to encourage people to consider participating in Yuletide. It's great fun, and has restored to me a lot of the excitement of a season that had begun to pall after my kids were grown.

#69 ::: Jim Bodie ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 10:11 AM: also hosts the live music archive.This is a collection of mostly soundboard tapes of live performances of bands who allow that activity. So it is all free source material. After Jerry Garcia died, some of those tapers started following one of my favorite New Orleans bands The Radiators. Although to be sure, the taping started way earlier. I go there to listen to obscure originals and swinging covers.

#70 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 10:35 AM:

Something I did just before my move to Oregon. Literally days before.

A friend was in town, GOHing at a furry convention. He was also demoing a software project to some VCs, to which meeting I was invited.

Walking through the lobby on the way to the meeting, it struck me that this was a very fannish crowd.

The next day, I went back to the hotel with a big box of SF (mostly) hardcovers which I'd been planning to drop off at Goodwill. Set it down by a line of fans and pointed at it. "Go for it!"

It was probably empty by the time I got back to my car.

#71 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 10:35 AM:

Clifton (53): I do something very similar, except I check off Finished Listings rather than Sold. That way you also see what *didn't* sell, and at what prices. If two of that item recently sold for ~$15, but another 20 that were listed for $10-$15 did not sell, then there's not a whole lot of demand for the item, even though the people who do want it are willing to pay. On the other hand, if everything listed for up to $15 was sold, but the listings for $20+ did not, then you know where the ceiling is.

#72 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 11:49 AM:

I've been moving almost every year since 2008, so Annual Book Cull has become a tradition. I think this year I'll resign myself to getting rid of a lot of stuff I'm attached to that's available as an ebook -- to be replaced as necessary.

The problem is two whole bookcases of Japanese books. Japanese publishers are starting to get on board with ebooks, but they're very wary -- it's hard to buy Japanese books from the Kindle store unless you have a Kindle registered with the store (so if you already have a US Amazon registered Kindle, you need a new one), a Japanese mailing address (this is not a huge problem -- I just use my dorm address from when I lived in Japan), and a Japanese IP address. (They'll allow a couple of purchases from a US IP, but after that they start to get suspicious.)

It's much harder to get rid of the Japanese books than the English ones (and let's not even talk about the Chinese ones) -- I can't get over the fear that I'm going to get rid of something that I'll need later, and won't be able to replace.

#73 ::: Adel ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 11:51 AM:

Jacque @23

Oh that was a wonderful, awful, beautiful thing you right did there. I'll be lost for days...

I've already unearthed treasures from the deep past though: RSS feeds for both Sidelights and Particles!

#74 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 12:34 PM:

Speaking of Random, has the post-merger name been agreed upon? I rather liked 'Random Penguin'.

#75 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 12:38 PM:

Serge (74): It's Penguin Random House.

I also was hoping for Random Penguin.

#76 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 12:46 PM:

What I fear will happen with books and related materials:

Storing and maintaining large collections doesn't cost all that much, considering what you get for it; but it does take some, and right now the people who have the power to allocate budgets feel they can safely impoverish libraries.

I think library and archive administration will increasingly fall into the hands of the kind of fast-talking self-interested careerists who use terms like synergy, creative, explore, and best of breed when they really mean "We're going to strip your operation to the bone, keep the yummiest bits for ourselves, and liquidate the rest."

They won't describe their plans for the archives and collections in plain clear language. They may not even call it deaccessioning. Instead, they'll talk about the information explosion and how fast the world is changing, and say they're working now to meet future needs. Then they'll get rid of as much of the actual physical collections as they can without provoking a general outcry.

A figleaf of respectability will be maintained by scanning and digitizing some portion of the material being dumped. This work will be done by the lowest bidder. Books will have their spines cut away, and their loose pages will be scanned by machines that use automatic feed mechanisms. The binding, jacket, cover flaps, cataloguing information, pagination, running heads, troublesome page formats, and very likely much of the frontmatter and backmatter will be discarded as nonessential. Material used by permission -- photos, for instance -- may be left out due to vague, ill-informed fears that they might cause legal problems.

This will destroy huge amounts of irrecoverable information about the book's context, retail presentation, critical reception, intended audience, and actual use. Most people never stop to consider how much they know about a book just from looking at its packaging and binding, and flipping through a few of its pages. In a very real sense, it's become part of the book for us. But technically it is not part of the book. It also has different copyright constraints and different owners than the core text. This makes it very easy to discard, if no one's paying attention.

OCR conversions will not be proofread by human beings. Corrections will only be made if enough people with clout complain long and hard. The original image scans may be thrown away. If the physical book is also thrown away, it will be difficult to determine what a patch of munged text was supposed to say.

The software for digital editions will not take notice of older conventions of typesetting and bookmaking. Any information conveyed by these systems will be lost in the conversion process. Footnotes, indices, and superscript and subscript characters will be hard-hit, especially if they're set in typefaces that have pronounced thick-and-thin variations.

If the software automatically assumes that all books are broken into chapters, books that don't have chapter breaks will have them forcibly imposed. This may be done by workers who don't speak the language in which the book is written.

Pre-digitization cataloguing and indexing systems may not be preserved, and are very unlikely to be cross-referenced to items in the digitized collection. Information on who did the digitization, when they did it, and the equipment and protocols they used, will also not be preserved.

Archives containing items which are unbound, irregularly formatted, color-coded, or noncommercially produced, or are made of material other than standard-sized paper, or are identified and catalogued by their real-world physical organization (for instance, "all the little handwritten slips of paper stored in this envelope made from old wallpaper") may not even get scanned before they're thrown out.

When books and archives fall into uncaring hands, the controlling factor in their survival isn't their importance or the rarity of the contents; it's who's paying attention and can do anything about it.

#77 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 01:27 PM:

In my work with I am frequently reading from a text generated by OCR. Errors are frequent and annoying, and heavily dependent on the particular typeface in which a book is set. Luckily, I have a .pdf of the actual book to check against (so, for example, revealing that the OCR omits underlining in capitalized passages, as in Harriet the Spy, or consistently reads "cl" as "d", or omits commas after the letter y, or whatever).

The answer to "why aren't you reading from the .pdf, since you have it?" involves the software that syncs the recording to marks at the beginning of each paragraph, making it much easier for the reader to find a particular place--overcoming one of the difficulties of using a commercial audiobook in a class.

#78 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 01:42 PM:

Sheckley's Protection.... with the end ruined by inappropriate spelling correction.

#79 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 02:22 PM:

I worry about the obsoleting of technology more than the loss of paper...all my early writing, including some quite dreadful novels, was on Amiga disks, and later Zip disks.

The only reason my first published novel was even around for a small press to find (and edit and edit and edit...) was because I had thrown it onto an internet archive nearly a decade prior. Otherwise, I'd have shrugged and said "eh." There's a hard copy in a box somewhere, but for all I know, that box is in my ex-husband's attic.

Most of that stuff is better left to the ages, I'm sure, but I wish I at least had the option to cringe over it now.

#80 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 03:22 PM:

Re. Teresa #76 - some of the nicer/ more useful books in my library have come from public libraries in the UK and USA who have been liquedating older stock. In some cases the books are definitely out of date. In others, they are not. I am horrified by the thought that many books will be digitised but the images not permitted, which will as you say remove so much useful information.

In fact here in the UK some libraries have dumped many of their old books in skips, and bibliophiles have rallied round to rescue them because many of them were actually worth something. I have the impression that council libraries in the UK are in an unhelpful bind - they spend lots of time doing childrens literacy with books for children and young adults, but often the adult sections are neglected because you can get everything online nowadays.

I read a fair bit, but don't have e-books, because I like paper books, I like to actually own a physical handleable thing; many of the books I have simply are not available in ebook format, or might be soon, but then I'd have to search them out and buy them again. I'm talking about books printed 30 or 60 or 80 years ago, or academic books. The older I get the more non-fiction I buy and read. And when I want to know things I can turn to the books, they aid my memory. The internet simply isn't accurate or sufficiently searchable and available enough for my purposes.

The internet can be altered without you knowing about it, paper books are a more permanent record.

Also, for the record, I learnt about TImebinding from A. E. van Vogt's books, after reading them I bought Science and Sanity, 5th edition, and read it. I wonder if more fans learnt about it from him than from Heinlein. There was a third SF author who mentioned/ used some of General Semantics in a book, but I can't remember whom.

#81 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 03:34 PM:

Is General Semantics one of the Foundations of the Genre?

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 03:51 PM:

I think they're the people you go to when you need to buy a language, or a bigger set of grammar.

#83 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 04:11 PM:

Once again, somebody claims to have identified Jack the Ripper.

#84 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 04:12 PM:

Speaking of Jason Scott and most of that Internet archiving work is blatantly illegal. The Wayback Machine runs on a figleaf of "If you don't have a robots.txt, we'll ignore the rest of your terms of service." Archive Team's jobs are straight-up piracy and are often treated as such by their targets.

Teresa wrote: "A figleaf of respectability will be maintained by scanning and digitizing some portion of the material being dumped." But this can't even be done respectably, right now.

Our notions of archiving come from the era of physical artifacts, which can be collected and owned. Our current copyright regime, and the entire handling of information on the Net, was designed to fix that problem -- and did. The only reason we have online archiving of post-1923 texts, at all, is because Google threw their full weight at the problem and budged it slightly.

#85 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 04:21 PM: digitizes the entire book, including cover, front matter, and images. This is how it should be done.

#86 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 05:29 PM:

@83 Erik Nelson. A DNA match was allegedly made from an artifact of uncertain provenance to a mitochondrial sample known to be related to a suspect. The artifact is much more uncertain than the mitochondrial DNA.

@21 Caroline. I regret to say that the position listing closed sometime between mid-August and now. That doesn't mean that it has been filled, but that the expiration date for the listing passed.

#87 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 05:44 PM:

I think I might have been gnomed...
I have some end of season strawberries. Will that do?

#88 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 05:49 PM:

guthrie @80: Quite possibly H. Beam Piper for the other SF General Semantics author -- IIRC, it was a major plot item in his mystery novel Murder in the Gunroom. Don't have a copy to hand to check.

#89 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 06:06 PM:

@83 Erik Nelson, @86 Lady Kay; This is very dubious circumstantial evidence, but I have to admire Russell Edwards for actually finding something new that's even close to evidence rather than just coming up with a theory.

#90 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 06:50 PM:

Randomness: One thing I liked in Robert Charles Wilson's The Chronoliths was the subplot of the narrator's research into real vs. perceived randomness -- I especially liked the idea that when you ask people to make a list of "random" numbers between 1 and 100, they'll mostly come up with a list of *inconspicuous* numbers -- avoiding ones too close to either end of the scale, or ending in zero.

Books: We've been clearing out the storage room with the intention of turning it back into a bedroom; this has been successful despite, and to an extent because of, Spouse's OCD -- now that he's decided to get rid of stuff, he wants to see the back of it as fast as possible. However last night we came up against a book he knows he owns, wants to keep, and can't seem to find. After multiple searches I caved and agreed to order a new copy to stop the itch in his brain and restore the balance of the universe. He still went looking for it one last time, jeopardizing his lower back again by moving boxes without my assistance.

Jack the Ripper: I was torn between being dubious about DNA evidence regaining uncontaminated after so long, and considering it a point in the theory's favour that it didn't try to pin the crimes on anyone famous for once, but someone suggested this afternoon on Facebook that the story is getting at least some of its traction from the Daily Mail being keen to place the blame on an immigrant.

#91 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 07:19 PM:

TNH @76: I'm saying prayers for the continued existence of university libraries, myself, particularly the ones for major research institutions. One of the things that took far too long to get through younger-me's head was that public libraries were in the business of lending books, not storing/saving them, while university libraries, on the other hand . . . there were volumes in my graduate school library that probably hadn't been looked at since they had been put on the shelf, and the university's response to running low on shelf space was to build another library.

Well, okay, they didn't exactly admit that that was why they built that library, the fifth major library with a separate building on campus--but I'm convinced that it was an unspoken motive. I hope.

#92 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 07:31 PM:

Outstanding takedown of the Ripper identification claim. Salient points:

- Provenance of the item is completely unverified. Somebody said somebody else picked it up from beside a victim's body 3 generations ago. This is FOAF-level stuff.

- The technique supposedly used for the DNA analysis is unknown -- it's called "vacuuming", but no definition or description is given.

- If there was indeed a mitochondrial-DNA match on the suspect, it would equally be a match for either of the two brothers with whom he was known to have been living.

As I said on Facebook, I could do a better job than that with a Ouija board.

#93 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 08:57 PM:

Teresa 76: That's terrifying and distressingly likely.

#94 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 08:59 PM:

OT: Would an encyclopedia of characters (1) be considered fiction?

Asking for a friend.

1: from a series of fiction books, frex.

#95 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 09:09 PM:

Perceived randomness: If you ask a hundred people to pick a "random" spot on a square, and you overlay all the spots, you get a nice X shape.

(Also the phrase "17 is the first random number" delights my heart.)

#96 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 09:16 PM:

cajunfj40 @94, no, not unless it were written as fiction.

#97 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 09:33 PM:

Someone referred, on FB, to a fictional writer. They meant a fiction writer.

Kilgore Trout is a fictional writer. Kurt Vonnegut was the fiction writer who wrote Kilgore Trout into his story. (I believe someone later took 'Kilgore Trout' as a pseudonym, which muddies the waters further.)

It's another example of how English has attributive nouns, and they do not, by being modifiers, become adjectives. They still very much have the sense of the noun, but beyond that, they keep its form even when there's a corresponding adjective. Til now my best example was that a secure desk is not the same thing as a security desk, but I like fiction/fictional even better.

#98 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 09:57 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden@76, Xopher Halftongue @93:
See Vernor Vinge's "Rainbows End" for one treatment of the issue involving UCSD's Geisel Library in 2025.

Good book, but oh, what they want to do to the Library....

#99 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 10:00 PM:

Xopher @ 97... I think that was Philip Jose Farmer.

#100 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 10:10 PM:

Serge @99 -- confirming that it was Farmer, for the novel Venus on the Half-Shell.

#101 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 10:10 PM:

Serge, you mean the pseudonym's user, not the character's creator, right?

#102 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 10:32 PM:

I don't know; given that they say they got a bloodstain mitochondrial DNA match for a female-line relative of the victim the shawl was allegedly found beside, and an apparent semen stain mitochondrial DNA match for a female-line relative of Scotland Yard's own prime suspect, a paranoid schizophrenic who was permanently hospitalized after the last classic Ripper murder, it doesn't seem all THAT farfetched.

The main difficulty with accepting this new evidence as gospel is, besides the vagueness of the method used to gather DNA samples, that the suspect's psychiatric hospitalization took place three years after the last of the "classic" Ripper murders (though some other possible Ripper murders did happen in the next three years, they didn't have the full Ripper signature), leading one to wonder why, if he was the Ripper, he didn't just keep killing. Perhaps his need to murder somehow went into remission? Or, of course, perhaps it was someone else after all.

#103 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 10:35 PM:

Yes, it was Farmer who wrote Venus, and he used the pseudonym of Trout. Later, I believe, it was actually published under Farmer's name.

#104 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 11:09 PM:

Any recommendations for overviews of secret histories?

I recently read and liked Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore and am currently reading The Marks of Cain (and am dubious about whether I like it, exactly, but am interested in where the story is going to go), and it seems to me that secret histories didn't used to be nearly so common.

#105 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 11:10 PM:

But the character Kilgore Trout and his novel Venus on the Half Shell both appeared in a Vonnegut novel long before Farmer did that.

#106 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 11:19 PM:

Indeed so, Xopher. We are all agreeing. And I agree with your discussion of the difference between a fiction author and a fictional author, and consider Trout the latter. Rather like John Watson, M.D. -- another fictional author whose name was used as a pseudonym upon occasion.

#107 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 11:21 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @104: I think the rise of Tim Powers has given a lot more people the courage to write secret histories. Most of his novels fall into that category, IMO.

#108 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2014, 11:49 PM:

fictional writers: the only ones I can think of offhand are Kilgore Trout and Christopher Plover. (I don't think Doctor Watson quite falls into the same category as those two. i e he does not appear in stories that are about the fact (or fiction) that he is a writer.)

#109 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 12:21 AM:

"Frederick R. Ewing" probably counts as a fictional author:

The I, Libertine Hoax.

Theodore Sturgeon filled in as Ewing when Ballentine actually published the non-existent novel.

#110 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 12:55 AM:

I'll disagree right back at you, Erik Nelson. Watson is continually referred to by Holmes as his biographer; they talk frequently about the appearance of his stories in The Strand; he's incontrovertably treated as the author of the stories.

Other fictional writers include the writer whose name I've forgotten in Jonathan Carroll's The Land of Laughs (Marshall France -- thank you, M. Google); and there's a whole raft of fictional authors hiding under the surface of fictional books, from Abdul Alhazred in the Cthulhu stories on up. There are a lot of fictional writers out there. L. Ron Hubbard's Slaves of Sleep; Fredric Brown's What Mad Universe -- they have fiction writers in their framing sequences if not as the hero. S. Morgenstern in The Princess Bride -- and that's just a few off the top of my head. The author of the poem "Pale Fire" in Nabokov's novel of the same name is an interesting mainstream example. I could go on, I'm sure, but the concept isn't particularly uncommon.

#111 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 02:47 AM:

#107 ::: Tom Whitmore

I'm not sure that Tim Powers is especially well known outside the genre.

I'd expect that the most recent current impetus is The Da Vinci Code, though that doesn't explain why it was so popular.

#112 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 04:39 AM:

My snarky explanation for The Da Vinci Code is that all the readers think they they could have written a better book, and so feel superior.

#113 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 04:57 AM:

#64, Dave Bell: But what is the alternative to the second-hand paperback?

Here in the Netherlands a startup is trying to establish the right to sell ebooks secondhand, helped enormously by recent EU court case (Usedsoft vs Oracle) that said, yes, digital goods (with exceptions) do fall under the doctrine of first sale (massively simplified and INAL).

They've so far survived the first court case against them because of this, with the judge ruling that, yes, ebooks fall under the sort of digital goods which enjoy this protection, though argued from a more specifically Dutch jurisprudence.

Basically because the ebooks were sold originally without DRM, the original seller has, just as with a paper book gotten their money and the seller had taken adequate measures to ensure that what was sold through their site were the actual ebooks and not just copies, there was no infringment of copyrights and hence it was legal.

So there could be a market for secondhand ebooks, at least for DRM free ebooks.

Link in Dutch.

#114 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 05:12 AM:

Fictional writers? Well, poets: William Ashbless.

#115 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 06:22 AM:

Its strange, but I'd be less suspicious of the Ripper results if they'd fingered someone completely unknown rather than Kosminski, who has been associated with the case (without much real evidence other than Melville MacNachten's anti-semitic suspicions) for over a century.

Someone once said (I think in relation to JFK, although it applies to the Ripper as well) that the likelihood of a new theory being true is inversely proportional to the number of names you already recognise.

#116 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 08:03 AM:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is paved with fictional writers on the subject of magic in England.

And then there's Harriet Vane, in Sayers' mysteries.

#117 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 08:09 AM:

@Lila: and along the same lines: Ariadne Oliver in the Poirot books.

#118 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 08:23 AM:

I'm well past fictional writers. I'm into fictional countries, of which, I note, there are a great abundance in SF/F.

During my childhood, I invented my own and drew many maps of them. Unfortunately, I never wrote any stories and the ones I made up in my head were pretty banal and derivative.

#119 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 08:34 AM:

Fragano, reading historical romance means quite a lot of fictional lords and dukedoms and such. Beyond rolling my eyes at particularly cliched names-- Blackthorn! Ravenscliff! Sexyabs!-- I have discovered that while I will accept any number of fictional counties and overlapping estates (I don't know where anything *is* in England) when it comes to countries... no. Just no. I don't care about no. It is no all the way down.

Fictional writers: there's Mary Russell, who ostensibly sends Laurie R King manuscripts of her memoirs involving Sherlock Holmes, who in King's fictional universe is real and overlaps slightly with other works of hers. And that's without getting into Supernatural fandom and fanfic, which I don't follow but understand to be a gigantic holyshit of meta.

#120 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 09:01 AM:

Diatryma #119: I'd just put my mug down, fortunately. Otherwise I'd have done a spittake at the idea of a Duke of Sexyabs.

I've read some of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes stories. She does some interesting things with overlapping fictional worlds (Wimsey gets a look in, so does Kim).

I love the phrase 'gigantic holyshit of meta'. You win the internet for that.

#121 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 09:03 AM:

I note that Nicaragua has come under alien attack today. Has anyone seen Serge?

#122 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 09:17 AM:

Fragano @ 121..

It's not *my* fault.

#123 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 09:51 AM:

Serge @74, Mary @75: it may officially be Penguin Random House on the letterhead, but everybody I've spoken to at Ace/Roc (from VP level down) refers to it as "Random Penguin".

#124 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:02 AM:

Fictional writers? The library is full of them. Philip Roth alone has created several: Nathan Zuckerman, David Kepesh, even "Philip Roth" (in Operation Shylock). There are more than a dozen in "Robert Galbraith"'s The Silkworm.

#125 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:04 AM:

Serge #122: No puns about the iguana of Managua?

#126 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:05 AM:

Fragano @118
Fictional countries: the first to come to mind are Islandia and, of course, Ruritania.

#127 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:17 AM:

Fragano @ 125... the iguana of Managua

I suffer from a lacuna.

#128 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:41 AM:

Fictional writers: Darius Just in Asimov's Murder at the ABA.

#129 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 11:02 AM:

Charlie Stross @ 123... Glad to hear that the silly name prevails.

#130 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 11:40 AM:

Charlie Stross (123): Good to know.

--Mary Aileen (not Mary)

#131 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 12:06 PM:

Adel @73: I live to serve. ::evil cackle::

Xopher Halftongue @97: Further, I think it could be said that Kilgore Trout was a fictional fiction writer.

Fragano Ledgister @121: Has anyone seen Serge?

In which capacity are you thinking of him: victim or perpetrator?

#133 ::: Cadbury Moose spots a kahuna ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 12:11 PM:

in the lacuna by the iguana of Managua.

#134 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 12:16 PM:

Jacque #131: Hmm....

#135 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 12:17 PM:

Serge #127: I'll have to monitor that.

#136 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 12:33 PM:

I have a fondness for the iguana of Guyana.

#137 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 12:42 PM:

Me, I want to study iguana on Inagua.

#138 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 12:44 PM:

Lacuna matata. (The worries are missing.)

#139 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 01:11 PM:

cajunfj40 @94: Who's Who in Opera*: a guide to opera characters, second edition published as A Dictionary of Opera Characters, is considered to be a reference book on opera.

Charlie Stross @ 123: Oh good!

*I pointed out pre-publication that this should really be Who's Who in Operas but OUP wouldn't change it.

#140 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 01:15 PM:

Fragano Ledgister @118: there are several atlases of imaginary countries, including ones on single countries like Oz. My google-fu is weak this morning, so I'm not digging out titles -- but trust me, there are several.

#141 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 01:19 PM:

Lee (132): Long Island had one of those last month, too, after a record rainfall dumped 13 inches in a few hours, badly flooding local highways.

I hope everyone is okay in Phoenix.

#142 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 01:19 PM:

Lila @138, *snorf*

#143 ::: Joseph M. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 01:38 PM:

Regarding fictional authors, the first place my brain goes is the works of Flann O'Brien: one of the main characters in At Swim-Two-Birds is an author (struggling mightily), and there is the wonderful de Selby in The Third Policeman--which, if you haven't read it, I heartily recommend.

#144 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 01:50 PM:

Other fictional countries that spring to mind are Fredonia, from Duck Soup, and Elbonia, from Dilbert. I don't see it as anything out of the ordinary, actually. It's sort of strange. I'll accept fictional countries as a standard storytelling device, and fictional small towns or neighborhoods as a narrative convenience, but someone making up a fictional US state or a large fictional city in a country I'm reasonably familiar with would trip my suspension of disbelief. Why am I more willing to accept a fictional country in the Balkans or the Pacific but not another state in New England? (Wikipedia's list of fictional states mentions that fictional states are much less common than fictional countries or cities; I have no idea whether that's the cause of my reticence or the result of other people sharing it.)

#145 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 02:08 PM:

There's always Fantasia.

#146 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 02:35 PM:

Diatryma @#119: And that's without getting into Supernatural fandom and fanfic, which I don't follow but understand to be a gigantic holyshit of meta.

It's the show's own fault.

First there was the plotline with the books. There was an author who was writing books that were about the two leads. He was getting visions of them, see, and decided he might as well make some money. (This led to the hilarious conversation that involved the exchange: "They do know that we're brothers, right?" "Doesn't seem to matter.")

Then? Then there was "The French Mistake", an episode in which Sam and Dean get transported to another universe in which they're the lead actors on a TV show about...Sam and Dean. (Jared and Jensen playing Sam and Dean pretending to be Jared and Jensen playing Sam and Dean. It was complex.) That was pretty much when the show decided to set fire to the fourth wall.

And also, Misha is an amazing troll.

#147 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 03:29 PM:

Ruritania, of course, is somewhere Germanic. Germany was split into many small countries, and a few large ones, until the 1860s, and I suppose that the stories could have happened before the development of the Prussian Empire. But the book was published in 1894. The last chapter confirms that several years have passed, but leaves unclear its independence of the Empire. Rupert of Hentzau suggests a date in the 1870s.

The war of 1866 was lost by Austria, and led to a shift of Bavaria to the Prussian side. So why does Ruritania seem unaffected? And why is it seen as a plum diplomatic posting?

People maybe knew of Bavaria and just put Ruritania in the same vague class, a far-away country of which they heard little and knew nothing.

#148 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 04:09 PM:

Lee @132: The I-10 Regatta is in Phoenix this year.

Flashbacks, we haz dem.

Carrie S. @146: Jared and Jensen playing Sam and Dean pretending to be...

"I'm Christian Bocher. I'm portraying the character of Raymond Gunne, who portrays the character of Dr. Levant which is based on the character, uh, Daniel Jackson, portrayed by the actor Michael Shanks, originally portrayed by the actor James Spader in the feature film.... Are you okay?" —Stargate SG1, "Wormhole X-Treme!"

#149 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 04:11 PM:

lorax @144, I'm with you on finding a fictional state less plausible. Maybe it's a question of ecological niche. With the small towns, or neighborhoods, I accept them, as you say, as a convenient narrative device. Faulkner got away with Yoknapatawpha County. I assume that, as similar devices, gave the writer the freedom to populate the territory with characters of his own imagining without having to defend to his neighbors (or in a court of law) that such-and-such character is not libelous.

Bu towns or areas that overlay something existing don't distort the surrounding territory. A state or large city would have to displace something else to have room to exist, or make so much difference that they turn the tale into alternate history.

#150 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 04:26 PM:

There are fictional cities as stand-ins for real cities--Gotham City, Metropolis, et al.--and there is always Grand Fenwick.

#151 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 04:27 PM:

Ruritania is also used in hypothetical examples in the SCA ("Ruritanian burghers in the mid-1490s began wearing pale blue lace at the cuffs").

#152 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 04:36 PM:


#153 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 05:09 PM:

The intense rainstorms seem to be hitting most anyplace. Golly gee, it's almost as if dynamic climate change is really happening, and a warmer atmosphere is holding more moisture...

I'm improving some of my house's gutters, and just replaced my sump pumps with ones that have backup batteries -- though I recall a story here of their batteries going out after an hour. Should I share that fate, at least I'll have had that hour!

#154 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 05:30 PM:

The thing I've always liked about Ruritania is that it becomes an entire subgenre of fiction, the Ruritanian romance. Not bad for a fictional country.

#155 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 05:38 PM:

#138 Lila

Lacuna matata. (The worries are missing.)

Oh, my. I don't suppose I could have that on a t-shirt?

#156 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 05:58 PM:

Similarly with Graustark, Mary Frances.

#157 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 06:00 PM:

Second the t-shirt idea.

#158 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 06:19 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 56: True. And I love Graustark and the Graustarkian romance for the same reason, as well as for the racehorse of that name. But Ruritania was first! I think.(Runs quickly to check pub dates--apparently yes, by about 7 years. Must have been something in the air . . .)

#159 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 06:33 PM:

Wait, Ruritania is made up? I just assumed it was something I didn't know much about, which I supposed it still is.

Fragano, I really enjoyed the Mary Russell books, though not all of King's work does it for me. There's a mystery trope of just ending the book before any of the consequences happen, and I hate that. Sayers followed through with Wimsey. Other mystery writers should do the same.

That said, I haven't read much Holmes, nor more than the child-oriented Kipling. (And then they met Dashiell Hammett, didn't they? When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, possibly not yet Sir, visited San Francisco? And the book just went FWOOM because I knew I knew Hammett's name, but couldn't remember if he was a real detective, a writer, or what.) I'm sure some of the jokes go right over my head.

#160 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 06:35 PM:

Jacque, #148: Don't forget "Visit to a Weird Planet" (the Enterprise crew accidentally beams down to the Desilu shooting set), followed by "Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited" (Star Trek actors are accidentally beamed onto the Enterprise and have to fake being their characters, aka the same plot device as Galaxy Quest but a couple of decades earlier).

Lila / Cheryl / PJ: The suggestion has been passed along to my partner. I make no guarantees -- he's the one who ultimately decides which ideas to put into print.

#161 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 07:06 PM:

janetl: Can you hook up a car battery to your sump pump when its own battery runs out? I'm just wondering out loud; I don't have a sump pump of any sort.

#162 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 07:20 PM:

Diatryma @159: Hammett was both a real detective and a writer. One of the few mystery writers with an actual detective background (Joe Gores is another, and I recommend his DKA novels unreservedly -- detective agency procedurals!). So you weren't wrong to wonder which -- just a little narrow!

Much of Kipling is very under-rated these days. I find him better in short stories than novels. and there's probably a lot of his teenage fiction that you haven't run across -- KIM and CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS are templates Heinlein used for some of his juveniles, and both are worth the read.

#163 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 07:38 PM:

Cally @161, theoretically, yes; they both run on car batteries. Practically, you'd either need to remove your car battery and risk running it down and stranding you, or have ridiculously long jumper cables and keep your engine running....

#164 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 07:54 PM:

lorax #144: It's sort of strange. I'll accept fictional countries as a standard storytelling device, and fictional small towns or neighborhoods as a narrative convenience, but someone making up a fictional US state or a large fictional city in a country I'm reasonably familiar with would trip my suspension of disbelief. Why am I more willing to accept a fictional country in the Balkans or the Pacific but not another state in New England?

Probably because you got trained in the list of states as a child (US-educated, right?), but you don't have the same firm knowledge of what countries are out there. So it's plausible that there might be another little country nestled (or squished) among Germany, Bavaria, Austria, etc, especially in a different era. Likewise in spy thrillers, for plunking a ringer among the Soviet states.

#165 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 08:10 PM:

Martin Wisse @ #114: Fictional writers? Well, poets: William Ashbless.

Sarah Binks!

#166 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 09:14 PM:

Anyone who wants to make t-shirts, knock yourselves out. I can never get CafePress to let me make anything I can actually sell to anyone but myself. (Though if you're gonna take the idea and run with it commercially, I'd like one free one, size medium, as my royalties!)

#167 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 09:44 PM:

My large sweater project for my mid-sided husband is nearly done. I am making a large amount of i-cord for the finishing decorative touches. This is the first time I have made i-cord, and it is quite easy.

#168 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 09:48 PM:

I used to think Sherwood Forest was made up.

#169 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:22 PM:

"So it's plausible that there might be another little country nestled (or squished) among Germany, Bavaria, Austria, etc, especially in a different era."

Lichtenstein comes to mind here.

Actually, it's pretty fascinating to see the changes in the map in the last couple of centuries. I was past college, for example, before I found out just how long Poland had been absent from the world stage... and I'm of Polish descent. (And knowing about *that* leads to why there are such things as Polack jokes, which is entirely backwards from the reasons I thought they existed. Polish mercenaries were apparently pretty scary folk, because they wanted their country back...)

#170 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:33 PM:

Does it seem to you-all that there's a standard accent, in movies and TV, for (basically) High Fantasy, and it's vaguely English? If so, what *kind* of English is it? Received Pronunciation from the first talkies, or the IPA English drama schools teach, or an echo of Douglas Fairbanks, or what?

Maybe it's the diplomatic language between Ruritania and Graustark.

Vaguely related, AJ Hall writes fanfic in the Brontê's Gondal (wild enthusiasm!) but with the Sherlock and Watson very like those of the recent BBC reboot as main characters, which works pretty well but has some theory of innate personality that seems unlikely to me. I guess it's a back-transplantation into the serial dramas that bridged Ruritania and the original Conan Doyle stories.

#171 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:47 PM:

Lee@132: Fine here. I don't normally drive along the regatta route. 3+ inches of rain at Sky Harbor - wettest day on record. Over 6 in a few places to the south and east. And all between 2 and 8 in the morning.

#172 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:50 PM:

I give you the Invisible Ficathon 2014: Fanfiction for stories that never were. Note that some of the stories were tagged with both the invisible and the originating fandoms.

It was successful enough that I believe the mod will be running it again next year.

#173 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 10:50 PM:

Serge@168: These days Sherwood Forest is pretty much made up. I refer to the Forest Preserve near Nottingham. A shadow of its former self, though still quite nice.

#174 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2014, 11:07 PM:

Patrick Connors @ 173... I'm not surprised. By the way, I also used to think Nottingham was made up.

#175 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 02:59 AM:

If as part of my job I have to warn my cow-orkers to be careful overseas, I refer to Bereznik or sometimes Elbonia instead of anywhere which might take offence with nukes.

#176 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 03:18 AM:

Jacque #23:

Wow. Just, wow.

#177 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 05:47 AM:

re 114: Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Sussex.

#178 ::: hedgehog ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 06:55 AM:

re: Fictional writers

Paarfi of Roundwood

(just about finished /Sethra Lavode/ as part of a Brust binge.)

#179 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 06:55 AM:

Serge, #168:

I used to think Doctor Beddoes's Pneumatic Institute was made up.

#180 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 07:13 AM:

Different subject, but: Friends of ours who we've taken to iconic Brooklyn restaurant Junior's over the years may have heard news stories about the restaurant selling its air rights and decamping elsewhere for the next several years. All such deals are evidently now off.

A good thing. As Teresa points out, a successful restaurant is a stable complex pattern; disrupt it and what you get is never quite the same.

#182 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 07:43 AM:

Just back from glorious holiday in Tuscany, where I did some timebinding of my own on my previous self by rereading Zelazny's Lord of Light. It's been a long time since I first read it, but I do love the wonderful "WTF is going on here?" sense of reading that book, even stronger than Dune, the Hugo winner two years previously. I still love Zelazny and miss the sense of otherness in his writing.

#183 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 09:00 AM:

James Harvey@182:I'll second that.

#184 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 09:14 AM:

David Harmon @164, that may be right for some people, but not for me. I was a geography nerd as a kid, and still could rattle off a list of all the countries of the world (though I might miss a couple Pacific island nations, or flub some Caribbean entities that aren't actually independent). It's not uncertainty about whether Elbonia actually exists; I'm just more able to suspend my disbelief in that case. It could be that the list of US states has been fixed for considerably longer than my lifetime, while the set of nations has been in flux, so it's a seemingly smaller AU to slip in another bit of the Balkans than to make an East Dakota or some such.

#185 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 09:33 AM:

Rob Paulsen? Is that you?

(Paulsen, the voice of basically every '90s cartoon character but especially Yakko Warner from Animaniacs, can still, to this day, perform "Yakko's World" from memory.)

#186 ::: OtterB sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 09:33 AM:

Here, and several other threads. Looks like yet another flood, darn it.

#187 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 10:17 AM:

Bill Higgings @ 179... Why would a person have thought that? :-)

I also thought that Bodega Bay was made up.
No Tippi Hedren when I got there though.

#188 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 11:40 AM:

More imaginary countries: Guilder and Florin.

And here's something that I thought was made up in _The Marks of Cain_ but which turned out to be true: Cagot.

Has anyone here heard of them before now?

#189 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 12:13 PM:

lorax @ 144 and 184: Could your unwillingness to suspend disbelief regarding US states have something to do with the way US States are counted and consistently referred to by number? "The Fifty States," "The Lower 48," etc.? When we know not only the states but think it matters how many they are--see the stars on the flag--that might make it difficult to accept a new one. Subconsciously, at least. I don't think it would bother me, specifically, but then, I tend not to pay much attention to numbers in general. (I also find that I can't offhand think of a story with a made-up US state, so maybe I've just never run across the problem.)

As for large cities in familiar areas, though--maybe because major cities warp the culture and even the landscape, in ways that relatively small, unimportant nations do not? That does tend to bother me: Ruritania, Graustark--they aren't likely to change the history of Europe or even their part of the world all that much. A major city in the wrong place likely would . . .

#190 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 12:15 PM:

Soon Lee @176: Wow. Just, wow.

::giggles:: I started building that back in January when I'd drained the fresh comments dry for the week and was casting about for something else to read. Being a lazy sot, I wanted a quick reference for the OTs. So: voilà!

#191 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 12:20 PM:

Jacque @190, and how delightfully on-topic for this particular Open Thread....

#192 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 12:26 PM:

Cassy B.: I know, right? Not all that surprising. The OP comes out of much the same impulse, and I posted it here because, well, 200!

(It's even more mind-boggling when you think about it: approximate 1K comments/thread, and you have two-hundred thousand comments in ML in the Open Threads alone.

That's a lot of comments.

#193 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 12:51 PM:

I would argue that the most famous fictional country is Atlantis, or maybe Shangri-La.

The ones that come first to mind for me are Latveria and Wakanda, because I've spent too much time reading wiki articles on the Marvel universe. I knew L'Engle's Vespugia was fictional, but the status of Patagonia has always given me trouble. (Real region, not actually a country, for anyone who may be similarly confused.)

As a Pacific Northwesterner, I am also fond of Cascadia, although that's an alternate country rather than a fictional one wedged in amongst the real ones.

#194 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 12:55 PM:

Mary Frances @189: Tangentially, the studio developing a video game based around Alaskan folklore has named themselves "Upper One Games". (The game is Never Alone, if you're interested.)

#195 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 01:31 PM:

Jacque (132): The early Open Threads had a lot fewer comments (says the woman who just started re-reading ML from the beginning*), so two-hundred thousand is a bit high. But only a bit.

*I'm up to October 2003.

#196 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 01:42 PM:

Situated between Austria and Serbia, pre-WWI, there's the Kingdom of Lutha, with its mad king.

#197 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 02:50 PM:

The time, it bends.

Back in 2003 one of the Nielsen Haydens sent me an unsolicited note about how to properly link to a post on Making Light, for an online project I was doing for my Master of Library and Information Studies degree. Did I thank you all properly? It was a kind and thoughtful thing to do.

I finished the degree, but have yet to work in a proper library (for money), though I was lucky enough to work in the rare books collection of my University while I was there. I find myself watching the ongoing corrosion of physical media in our society (CDs? Anime DVDs? Comics? Any collector's hobby?) and libraries (Teresa's comment at #76 is bang on) with a kind of helpless horror, like some warrior monk who trained for a war that's being lost who was never called on to serve.

It takes all my energy to work at my English teaching job to keep my family kind of fed. The future is more draining than I imagined it would be. But I'm glad at least some people are fighting the good fight. And I'm glad to be able to read you all. This site and this community are a treasure.

#198 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 02:59 PM:

wrt the upthread beading discussion, I've been floundering through ever-complexifying indecision about what to do with my bead stash: 10kg+ of mostly Czech glass-- some stones and crystal, lots of uranium glass, and associated findings/cordage. First I stopped beading because of macular holes, and then the bead wallow had to be mostly boxed up for babyproofing, and now there's going to be a cross-country move. I'm starting to think about selling off the stash, but I just don't wanna.

Just in case, though: any suggestions about quantities/sorting? I bought most of my stuff in wholesale quantities (usually a minimum of 1/4 mass), but I assume that most people don't need 300 of a single bead type. Mixed lots based on shape? Color?

#199 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 03:03 PM:

#147, Dave Bell:

People maybe knew of Bavaria and just put Ruritania in the same vague class, a far-away country of which they heard little and knew nothing.

Book tip: Vesna Goldsworthy's Inventing Ruritania.

#200 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 03:07 PM:

Wrye #197:

I have enough difficulty keeping track of my own electronic media, the physical objects. My ability to access the originals erode over time. I still have an old PC that can read 3.5" floppies & the Iomega Zip drives (remember the click of death?) are dead. The data has been transferred to portable hard drives. I sometimes think I should just delete them but I struggle with throwing out stuff.

The archival stuff is a worry; seems like the most durable medium is still graphite on (acidfree) paper. But that's not as easily shareable as electronic media.

#201 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 03:19 PM:

Huh. I thought my friend John Y. invented Graustark ("a Central European banana republic"). Half of the Graustarkian characters had Spanish-sounding names and spoke with South American (ish; we were amateurs) accents, and the other half had Slavic names and spoke with Slavic (pretty good) accents.

But that was in All My Avatars, the Pagan Soap Opera. Good times.

#202 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 03:53 PM:

Xopher @201: you might want to look up the original Graustark works of George Barr McCutcheon -- they're minor, but fun.

On a sadder note, the excellent fantasist Graham Joyce has died. I was very pleased to meet him when he came over to teach for Clarion West -- a no-nonsense, competent man who wrote brilliantly.

#203 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 04:15 PM:

The comment about l'Engle and Vespugia reminded me of Orsinia, Ursula Le Guin's Eastern European country which has been the setting both for some of her SF (a story or two in The Compass Rose) and some of her mainstream fiction (ditto, plus Orsinian Tales).

#204 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 04:21 PM:

Don't forget Malafrena, which also takes place in Orsinia in the early 19th century.

#205 ::: Dave* Twiddy ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 04:43 PM:

Avram Davidson's Scythia-Pannonia-Transbalkania, which borders on both Ruritania and Graustark.

There should be a way, in these steampunk days, to increase Davidson's posthumous reputation.

#206 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 04:56 PM:

There's also Sherwood Smith's Dobrenica (first book Coronets and Steel).

#207 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 05:30 PM:

Mary Eileen @206: Coronets and Steel is highly recommended, especially to fans of The Prisoner of Zenda. (The sequels, somewhat less so, but hey: sequels.)

It occurs to me that I may need a name for a fictional country for The Attack Novel. It's one of the fission fragments of the UK, circa 2030, after a disintegrative process beginning with Scottish independence and culminating in the City of London declaring UDI. Capital: Newcastle. Territory: running from Berwick-upon-Tweed south as far as Scotch Corner and no further west than the Lake District. Population: about 7 million dour northerners. It's the home of thelast-ditch stand of neoliberal austerity politics, thanks to a surfeit of crony capitalism and machine politics, and is generally ultra-dismal and gloomy. Any suggestions?

#208 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 05:39 PM:

United Kingdom of Northumbria? Northumbria PLC?

#209 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 05:43 PM:

Charlie, I would say Northumbria is the obvious answer, perhaps slightly modified in the formal name. Maybe the "Northumbrian Democratic Republic" but, a quarter century after the end of the Iron Curtain, I'm not sure what weight that would carry in the reader's mind.

#210 ::: Buddha Buck requests a nym cleanup ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 06:28 PM:

With regard to fictional states, my company sells software to State-based energy agencies and utility companies. To avoid pitching software sales with systems accidentally configured for a different agency (and to give us something realistic to develop and test against), I suggested we configure it for the East Carolina State Energy Agency, complete with logo in state colors, state icons, etc.

My boss's didn't go for it.

#211 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 06:37 PM:

Charlie, I was trying to work out something connecting the color umber (though it comes from Italy, not the Humber) and your description of "ultra-dismal and gloomy", when I came across a mention of "border drab" (a yellowish-white and black tartan). I'm not sure how to turn it into a name, but perhaps it might at least show up in the flag somehow? The best name I could make from it was "the Drablands", which sounds more like a nickname than an official country name.

#212 ::: Dave* Twiddy ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 07:12 PM:

@207 Charlie: The Transactional Union of Deira and Bernicia?

#213 ::: Dave* Twiddy ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 07:17 PM:

@207 Charlie: The Most Austere Republic (i.e. like Most Serene Republic) of Deira and Bernicia.

#214 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 07:50 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 188: Has anyone here heard of [cagots] before now?

Yes. (I read about them in Graham Robb's The Discovery Of France.)

#216 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 08:08 PM:

Clifton @203 and Abi @204: Talking about Orisinia reminds me that no one yet has mentioned Orciny (and Ul Qoma, and Beszel). Even if they are fictional cities rather than fictional countries. Orciny is considered fictional even by some of the fictional residents of the other two cities!

#217 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 08:15 PM:

Another fictional author: Atlanta Hope, author of Telemachus Sneezed, a book which included a 900-page long speech by character John Guilt. (From the Illuminatus! trilogy.)

Another fictional country - the Rongovian Embassy was a bar near Ithaca NY back in the 70s.

#218 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 09:19 PM:

Bill Stewart @217:

The Rongovian Embassy was a going concern until last year, I think.

#219 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 10:19 PM:

I missed the previous reference to the cagots on the past thread. I'd never come across them anywhere in my reading.

It's particularly odd that the segregation and discrimination was so similar to that of the burakumin or eta (derogatory) in Japan, particularly the restrictions to some of the same specific professions - butchers, tanners and leather-workers, and undertakers in the case of Japan.

#220 ::: Errolwi ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 11:00 PM:

Dave* Twiddy @212
Currently being 'up to' the year 655 in The British History Podcast, Northumbria, Deira and Bernicia all came to my mind!

#221 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2014, 11:40 PM:

Northumbria even has (or had) its own Gaelic (a dialect of Scots Gaelic, I believe). The song "Chi Mi Na Morbheanna" is in Northumbrian Gaelic.

(I picked the nicest version of the song I could find. Some of his pronunciations strike me as a bit odd, but hey, he speaks the language and I don't.)

#222 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 12:52 AM:

Losing Louisiana.

Since 1932, an amount of land equal in area to the state of Delaware has slipped under the water along the coast of Louisiana, and the process shows no sign of ending. Solid land becomes marsh; marshland becomes open water. But powerful interests are committed to pretending the process isn't happening -- even though in the long term it could threaten large segments of our national economy.

#223 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 02:47 AM:

The particle on Foxe's Martyrs shows an all-too-common pattern of bigoted lunacy.

It's a fair point that the book changes over time, and some of the changes are questionable.

But it is still obviously a hatred of the Catholic Church that drives the piece. There are no examples of how the original text was modified, just a frothing diatribe at the inclusion of later Catholic missionaries as martyrs.

Foxe was a Protestant, describing the religious turmoil of England and Scotland, and what amounted to a war between Protestants and Catholics, and there is an argument for saying that the inclusion of later Catholics, not even from the British Isles, is a distortion of his work. It's a biased account, picking and choosing from the records to present a case, much as a barrister would work.

And the original book was far more than the list of trials and shocking executions that it is known for. The common current title is not that of the original.

The best that can be said for the loonies is that they have noticed that some new things have happened since the 16th Century. But they probably think that the old solutions still apply.

Who would they burn at the stake?

#224 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 06:06 AM:

@212 Dave* Twiddy Hmm: but Bernicia goes all the way to to the Forth. The Most Austere truncational Union of Bernicia and United Deira?

#225 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 07:53 AM:

Morphine from yeast...

This won't change the drug war quite as much as I'd thought at first glance. The drugs themselves still need to be distributed, and can be intercepted as before. And large-scale production will still need a certain amount of infrastructure... but it won't need a plantation, or to be shipped internationally.

#226 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 08:31 AM:

Errolwi @220: I have recently passed the halfway mark on episodes of the History of English podcast ... Which means there are finally Angles and Saxons involved. :-) considering the author started with Proto-Indo-European and worked forward mostly chronologically, it makes sense, but it still amuses me that we're not QUITE into Old English proper yet and he's already gone 20+ episodes.

#227 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 09:42 AM:

I find it really weird, what the Cagots were allowed to do. People who were supposedly so corrupt they were given the Host on the end of a stick, yet the good people of the town let them, the Cagots, prepare their, the good people's, meat. (I seem to be trapped in a P.G. Wodehouse sentence construction. I apologize to the editors among you; it's early.)

#228 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 10:17 AM:

When I saw abi's parhelia about the Labour Party, I realized I'd finally gotten my wish for a party in the US that resembled the Labour Party in the UK. I just didn't realize how it would come about.

And while we're on that subject:

A yes vote in Scotland would unleash the most dangerous thing of all - hope

#229 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 10:35 AM:

From the Particle "100 Actual Titles...", this one struck me as something that might be a bestseller today: The History Of A Dog. Written By Himself, And Published By A Gentleman Of His Acquaintance. Translated From The French. It would need a catchier title; that's just the description.

#230 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 11:14 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 43

I guess I'm lazy when it comes to stringing seed beads. A friend of mine introduced me onto a bead spinner. (It was marketed as a toy, of all things, but was made of quality hardwood and brass components.) It's really easy to randomize with it, just mix the colors and let the device/needle do all the selecting. It's fairly easy to do an ombre mix your way - by adding spoonfuls of new beads to the tray as you string them up. (But it sounds to me that you really like the pseudo random designs.)

My favorite work to date is five 30 inch strands that I wear together. I can tie them in a knot about 2/3rds the way down, let them hang free, or twist them up in a rope and use a brooch as a clip and wear them like a choker. (I was given a 1.5 cup container filled with a teal aurora borealis finish seed beads.) The first strand I mixed 5:1 with copper, the second 5:1 with clear amber, the third with 5:1 with bronze, the fourth 5:1 with black and the fifth was all the leftovers mixed together. It looks a lot like liquid aged bronze.

Next up, I want to go for a sea-like mix of colors.

duckbunny @ 52

I've done seed bead weaving both with a loom and in a free hand tube so it looks like a cord. I still can't get the peyote stitch to start out correctly. (Perhaps if I string it on a very thin needle to get the spacing down?) Thinking out loud (?) here. The tube is started on a pen/dowel rod/knitting needle for the foundation rows. After the first four rows are done, no more core is needed for the tube to keep it's shape.

On the one hand, free hand beading weaving it is very portable. On the other hand, it's really easy to make a mess. (Most of my long-term hand work projects need to have a fairly high level of portability.) I never know when my figits will strike. I have emergency needle tatting in the tool case that never leaves my side.

#231 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 11:49 AM:

TNH @ 76: there's a horror story somewhere in that list of woes. (IIRC, Tenn already did the satirical version, in which actual data storage takes less and less space; the bulk is indexes, but everything falls apart when the pointer to the primary data ]molecule[ is broken.) I am watching the first stages of this in the Boston system, where books are losing space share in most of the buildings; I asked about this at a display of the work on the main building, but didn't get a clear answer about what would happen with all the books that would no longer fit on open stacks. (Much of the argument against space loss has pointed to the serendipity provided by open stacks.)
      I'm curious about one thing on your list. Does any physical book really reflect the entire critical reception, rather than the approval tail of the curve? I suppose a survey could get some idea by discrediting quotes from people who quote for the largest numbers of works, but it still seems to me to be a weak link.

cajunfj40 @ 94: I'd say works about fiction aren't fiction, even if they just organize the information in the fiction rather than discussing. Your example probably isn't a concordance, so I can't think of a one-word description.

cajunfj40 @ 98: Vinge claims the books would be fully electronically reconstructed from the shreds -- but Teresa's discussion reminds me that images could be much harder to reassemble than text.

Fictional authors: Leiber's The Silver Eggheads probably takes the prize, since it is about "authors" who pose for jacket photographs of work written by computers, then try (badly) to write when the machines are sabotaged. And for the HHGttG citers, note that Paula etc. became Paul etc in some version; IIRC, Adams tacked together a name he thought was too complex to exist, but didn't check....

More recent fictional countries (or at least polities): Aravill and Galazon in A College of Magics (which I suspect was deliberately set in the neighborhood of Ruritania et al); highly recommended. Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy -- not genre as I recall them, but much in the Ruritania/Graustark line (as I've read of it -- I've never read the ur-works). I'm blanking on the country that Tepper's Marianne (, the Magus, and the Manticore et al) comes from, but it's another genre entry in the small-countries-with-long-histories set. The Duchy of Grand Fenwick, from The Mouse That Roared et al, also has genre connections; the 2nd book is a variation of the Flubber meme.
      The recent mutations in the map of Europe leave lots of room for the imagination, although hopefully with less blood than some of the edge cases. It also gives a personal quandary (from a long boring backstory); I say I've been in N countries counting the late Yugoslavia as 1 -- but am certain I was in >1 of the pieces it has broken into. (Uncertainty because I was 10 at the time and have no maps of our route; Croatia was one of the pieces, but I'd have to guess how we got from Dubrovnik to northern Greece while avoiding Albania.)

While we may have a solid idea of the 50 United States, there are plenty of alternate-history forms: Callenbach's Ecotopia, Deseret (Modesitt et al), and the loose collections of pieces in Steven Barnes's Lion's Blood and Card's "Alvin Maker" books come immediately to mind -- and that deliberately leaves out all the variations on what happens to the rest of the continent if the Civil War goes differently.

Tom Whitmore @ 162: where do you see Heinlein using Kim? Citizen of the Galaxy seems nearest, and it's very removed; Anderson's A Game of Empire is much closer (even though I didn't realize this until the last line -- I didn't know on first reading who Saint Barbara patronized).

B. Durbin @ 169: cf also the Duchy of Grand Fenwick?

Buddha Buck @ 210: Your management is No Fun -- and not utile either. I remember my boss's mandate that several of our classified collaborators were to be referred to as "our Springfield contractor", because Springfield was the most common city name in the U.S.; this was before The Simpsons put a spin on the name.

Dave Harmon @ 225: IIRC, morphine is not a very effective intoxicant; would acetylation labs (to make heroin) spring up within various countries' borders? If so, it might reduce the amount of street "heroin" that is actually many different stews of toxic ingredients.

#233 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 01:01 PM:

When discussing fictional countries, we really shouldn't forget California.

#234 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 01:10 PM:

For Teresa: No Hipsters?

#235 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 01:27 PM:

CHip, Teresa, cajunfj40, et. al.

"Planned Obsolescence and the Read By Date" is the summary/title to a rant I have regarding data storage in all its forms physical and electronic. Mostly because I have to deal with it at my Day Job (at a state university) and with my own personal library.

As a rule, I prefer paper. I will never have to upgrade the system or pay for a new release as long as water leaks, predatory critters and natural disasters stay away from said paper. And that I have enough space to store said paper where I can get at it all times with minimal effort. If I can't access it easily at any time, I really don't want to need it, but well BOOKS.

As a rule, I prefer the convenience of e-documents and e-storage because it's very portable and very dense. However, I don't like the fact that I have to pay to upgrade my device/software/storage formats every other year on average to keep up with professional standards. (Because: new and better and faster and more dense and more "more".) I didn't trust cloud storage even before the celebrities got hacked. (Because the only thing standing between the determinedly curious and an effective security hack is time and minimal access. And the cloud is designed to give access at all times and in all places, which makes it only a matter of time.)

As a rule, I am a proponent for the download of conscious minds for the sole purpose of data mining at need. Because all necessary information does not always make it onto paper or into electrons. However, that future is not here yet. Which is a very good thing.

Unfortunately, I have no widespread solutions to the current issue and developing crisis. Only frustrations with my own competing rules and mis-mash of solutions.

#236 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 01:38 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @228: don't get me started. I mean, just don't. I could bore for Europe on the subject of the Scottish independence referendum, and I suspect boring is exactly what 70% of the folks here would find it.

#237 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 01:44 PM:

Charlie @236:

I find it very difficult to discuss, myself, because I feel so very strongly about it that I am, in a strange way, fragile on the topic. I actually suspect the community here would find it very interesting, but I haven't the spoons to try to explain it.

(Want me to start a thread on it? Would you be willing to come in and talk on the subject if I did? You're a busy man, I know, so it's totes OK if you don't.)

#238 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 01:50 PM:

I strongly suspect that the site for Teresa's Particle about "corrupted Catholic texts of Foxe's Martyrs" does referrer checking, since I'm getting a 403 FORBIDDEN response when I go there. I suspect they had an uptick in traffic, came over, and decided that they didn't want to be the droids we were looking for.

#239 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 02:13 PM:

CHip @231-- Citizen of the Galaxy is indeed what I was thinking of. And yes, Kipling was more of an influence on others than he's given credit for being (he and his friend H. Rider Haggard are pretty much responsible for Robert E. Howard's literary successes, for example).

#240 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 02:34 PM:

Did you know that yesterday was the 59th anniversary of Elvis Presley's first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show?

#241 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 02:49 PM:

Abi, @237: alas, I'm still suffering from con crud picked up at Shamrokon two weeks ago(!) and I don't have the spoons for it. (As it is, I've trucked in the heavy guns to guest-blog for me for a couple of weeks ...)

#242 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 03:37 PM:

Radley Balko on local small municipalities in St Louis funding themselves mainly out of fines.

Funding a government out of fines and/or property seizures is so obviousy, inherently corrupting that it's amazing that it's become sp widespread. I can't imagine anyone starting out saying "hey, let's fund the police department on the fines from the traffic tickets they collect," yet that's the system we've built across a *lot* of the US. This creates awful incentives (like the setup described in the article, where you get extra fines piled on for failure to appear or overdue payments.) But I guess it's easy to evolve your way into this sort of system, because a local government can always bring in a bit more cash in a pinch by writing more tickets, imposing more fines, towing more cars, or seizing more cash or valuables as part of the war on drugs.

#243 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 03:38 PM:

I did my very very best to start trouble and have been stopped by biological warfare. What a century!

#244 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 03:41 PM:

abi @238, I get through to the site okay clicking on Teresa's link (though I can't bring myself to, y'know, read it).

#245 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 03:47 PM:


I think the hoped-for ideal is that in a smaller town or county or whatever, your vote and voice aren't so diluted. But in this case, the small towns are largely putting the screws to *outsiders*--speed traps and no-trial property seizures are mostly done to people who don't vote in your local elections. And probably most of the people who get ticketed just pay their fines, and the town gets a little extra revenue to distribute as they see fit.

But people at the bottom get utterly screwed to the wall--they can't come up with the money for the ticket, and so they can end up in a loop where the lack of $100 today means they end up paying $1000 for the original fine, plus all the extra fees that got tacked on at every level. It sometimes seems to me that a huge amount of cleverness has gone into the task, all across the country, of extracting pennies from people who have damned few to spare. As a policy, this is nuts, but it's locally profitable for the people wringing those pennies out. I figure we're about another decade or two from reinventing full-scale debt peonage.

#246 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 04:02 PM:

Many of the cities doing this are small, and in states where revenue doesn't get shared. So you end up with someplace like Ferguson, with 25000 people and 50 police officers, where a more normal city of that size would have maybe ten or twelve.

It's an argument for consolidation.

#247 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 04:24 PM:

albatross, #242: Collinsville, IL (just across the river from St. Louis) is one of the places that's become notorious for stealing cash from drivers on routine traffic stops. What's different about them is that they don't confine themselves to drivers of color -- at least not on Archon weekend, when there are a lot of gamers traveling with cash to buy new stuff.

We do not go thru Collinsville on the way back from an event, no matter how much more convenient it might be to do so.

#248 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 05:06 PM:

CHip @ # 231

...And for the HHGttG citers, note that Paula etc. became Paul etc in some version; IIRC, Adams tacked together a name he thought was too complex to exist, but didn't check....

I refer the honourable member to my previous post... # 181

#249 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 05:23 PM:

HLN: Local woman has scheduled interview for employment! In medical statistics! For 6 days away!

Also, local woman has exceeded her introverted ability to talk on the phone. Spoons are long gone.

#250 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 05:28 PM:


I imagine the police running shakedown operations care a lot less about race than about easy targets who will have some cash worth stealing, and who won't have the resources to make it painful to rob them.

#251 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 06:08 PM:

Lee @222: Interesting article. I think they should distribute peel-and-stick decals of the revised boot, sized to fit the standard image on Louisiana's highway signs.

All my life I've been reading articles about how the Army Corps of Engineers is badly behaved, pursues dubious agendas, has been messing up the continent's hydrology, and is generally out of control. It never changes.

Sea level's an increasing mess, of course. The newest wrinkle is right-wing Republicans in affected areas having to come up with ways to talk about the problem without admitting that they've been lying their heads off about climate change.

Another long-term problem I've been wondering about is the effect that increasingly extreme weather in the Missouri/Mississippi watershed will have on the lower reaches of the lower MIssissippi. It was already a willful river, which is why there are all those water-control structures. The prospect of increasingly extreme weather opens up the possibility of extra-heavy rainfalls at multiple locations in its watershed area. I can't see any way that can fail to make flow levels more variable on the lower Mississippi.

I'm thinking about the kind of damage we saw in 2011 when Hurricane Irene moved inland, and dumped all that rain on New Jersey, New England, and upstate New York.

One reason it did so much damage in the uplands was because the high volume of runoff was smashing through their water control structures. When a river flood breaks a dam or culvert, it generally doesn't just overflow. If there's a lot of water backed up, or if the water's moving down an incline, the flow moves faster and exerts more pressure. Most often that means it scours out and enlarges the failure point, then chews up everything else in its path. You can see this process in pictures of the Gilboa Dam in upstate New York: (1.) Before Irene. (2.) At the height of the flood. (3.) The flood begins to subside. Here's the same process on a smaller scale on a dam in Londonderry, Vermont.

Repairs are much more difficult and expensive after that kind of blowout, because the places where the water control structures were anchored are gone.

The Missouri/Mississippi has some mighty works of engineering along it, but enough water will get around anything. So, let's say that during one concentrated period we get 3-4 major rainfall events within the Mississippi/Missouri watershed. It's not impossible; just extreme.

The water duly runs downhill. No one has the nerve to start flooding farmland north of St. Louis, so there's now just too damn much water for anyone to handle. Control structures that fail get eaten by the river, and the infrastructure behind them gets eaten too.

So: epochal flood, lots of damage. Nothing new there.

What I'm actually wondering is what happens if we get a flood so big that we take more damage than we can repair before the next flood comes along. If you lose control of the upper river, you can't hope to control the lower.

It's easy to spot the MIssissippi from the air because its old meanders are so big, and there are so many of them. The river has never been inclined to hold still. We don't like that because it messes up our stuff, so we try to control it. This takes a fair amount of hubris, but you know, we can sometimes get away with hubris. What I doubt is our ability to get away with two major pieces of hubris at once -- the second piece being climate change denialism.

#252 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 06:34 PM:

Albatross @242: I emphatically disapprove of funding government by any means other than my taxes, as allocated by my duly elected representatives. It's corrupting, certainly. It's also dangerous, because refusing to approve their annual budget is one of our last-ditch defenses against rogue operations. Look at the CIA running drugs, or NYC's own Robert Moses funding his megalomania with bridge tolls.

Power without responsibility: never a good arrangement. I'm just surprised it takes profit-making officials as long as it does to realize that they can do anything they can pay for, or make pay.

#253 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 06:59 PM:

Teresa #252:

If Government is to be funded only by taxes, and fines continue to be used as punishment, then where should the fines go? What alternative to fines should there be?

What is your opinion of Government agencies being funded through fee-for-service (like the USPTO charging to examine/grant patents, or the DMV charging for car registration/license renewal, or the various agencies charging filing/application fees), or for import duties? What's your opinion of the USPS charging postage?

#254 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 07:20 PM:

Buddha Buck @ #253

Fines & penalties should go to the _central_ government, of course. (Thus reducing any incentive for localised corruption.)

Simples! <Squeak>

#255 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 07:57 PM:

Buddah Buck:

I'm not sure where the fines and seized things should go, just that they should never go back to the agency that collected them, and that they should never become a large part of anyone's operating budget. I'd prefer to see all the fines and seizures used to fund some charity-like operation.

Fees for a service seem like a fundamentally different thing than fines for violating a rule or law. If the post office collects money each time it delivers the mail, it has an institutional incentive to deliver mail. If the post office starts seizing packages sent through the mail (contraband, cash that can't be fully accounted for, imperfectly addressed letters) and funding itself partly from that, soon it will be unsafe to mail anything valuable.

#256 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 08:15 PM:

Bereznik? We have a Thunderbirds fan here.

#257 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 08:30 PM:

albatross, #250: I'm not going to lecture you about the intersection of "race" and "easy targets" and "lack of resources to fight back" because I shouldn't have to. But I don't think you fully engaged your brain before writing that sentence.

#258 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 09:29 PM:

#229, Mary Aileen:

Which of those titles strikes you as Least Likely To Become A Best-Seller If Published Today?

I don't suppose The Adventures Of An Irish Smock, Interspersed With Whimsical Anecdotes Of A Nankeen Pair Of Breeches is at the very bottom, but it's down there. Reviews are not good.

Although not badly written, "The Adventures of an Irish Smock" is a flimsy and trivial work; the smock and breeches are used, as is the guinea in "Chrysal," but the invention is clumsy, and serves only to trammel the author, and embarrass the story. Story however, properly so called, there is in reality none, the book is made up of a series of loose adventures, and digressions, which have no proper connection; the adventures are all licentious, although obscenity is invariably avoided. A glimpse is now and then obtained of peculiar customs then in vogue; at p. 32 a good and minute description is given of the "E and O" gambling tables; the use of umbrellas is ridiculed at p. 48; and at p. 38 the state of the book trade in Ireland, and the way in which English books were then smuggled into that country, are sketched.
One of those pernicious incentives to vice that are a scandal to decency. A common pander, who confines his infamous occupation to the service of the stews, is less injurious to society than such prostituted miscreants as devote their time and attention to corrupt the imaginations of youth. The most ignominious punishment prescribed by our laws is infinitely too slight for offences of so heinous a nature.

#259 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 09:33 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ 251: I read John McFee's book, The Control of Nature, years ago. His description of the "control" of the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya rivers left me very much not wanting to own real estate anywhere nearby. I think this article from the New Yorker is that section of the book: Atchafalaya.

#260 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 09:52 PM:

In my #259, I forgot to add "and that was BEFORE these sudden, heavy rainfalls we've been having."

#261 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 09:54 PM:

Bill @258: sounds like a similar conceit to that in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, or for that matter of The House At Old Vine.

#262 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 09:56 PM:

janetl: You are correct, that New Yorker article is indeed what got printed in the book. Well worth reading for anyone who hasn't already. Katie and I once took a road trip to New Orleans, and I wanted to drive north and see the site...but there just wasn't time.

Here's a useful visual aid: a Google Map of the most important area referenced by the article. John McPhee didn't have that available to add in 1987, of course.

#263 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 09:59 PM:

I think Old River Control Structure would be a goner under those conditions. They already nearly lost it once.

I keep thinking of the California Delta and all its levees, which go on north past Sacramento, and which developers want to build right up to.

#264 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 10:12 PM:

I'm trying to remember any occasion when I was sure Albatross had written a comment with brain disengaged.

Why not ask for a fuller explication first?

#265 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 10:18 PM:

Bill Higgins (258): I'm not sure, but that's definitely a contender. So are Memoirs Of An Old Wig, Nothing New, and No Enthusiasm.

#266 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 10:34 PM:

P J Evans @263: I think it'd be a goner too. I feel about that in light of climate denialism the way I feel about Bush 2 gutting FEMA a few years before Katrina: the people making the decisions may not have known exactly who the victims would be, but they knew there would be victims, and that they would suffer; and they went ahead with those decisions anyway.

Buddha Buck @253: I have no problem with a paying a standardized personal fee for a standardized personal service. Fines should go into general funds, and neither department nor employee should be graded on how much they bring in. Their job is to correctly enforce laws and regulations. Levying fines should be a mechanism for encouraging good behavior. It should never be the point of the exercise.

In general, I disapprove of practices that tend to bring law and government into disrepute. In my experience, people who believe they've been ticketed and/or fined to fill an officer's quota will feel alienated from both of those institutions.

#267 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2014, 11:11 PM:

On fines and where they end up: The administrative law judges have ruled that PG&E owes the state a fine of $1.4 billion because of their disregard for regulations involving safety and record-keeping, leading up to San Bruno (but that wasn't the only time their record-keeping got them into trouble). State law says it goes into the general treasury, but there's one legislator who wants a one-time change to put the money into upgrades and repairs.

#268 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 12:45 AM:

Edgar Pangborn used a fictional state New Essex as the setting for his non S F novel The Judgment of Eve.

#269 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 01:08 AM:

Another fictional writer: Mr. Earbrass, in Edward Gorey's rather meta The Unstrung Harp.

#270 ::: David Langford ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 03:22 AM:

#231 CHip wrote: TNH @ 76: there's a horror story somewhere in that list of woes. (IIRC, Tenn already did the satirical version, in which actual data storage takes less and less space; the bulk is indexes, but everything falls apart when the pointer to the primary data ]molecule[ is broken.)

Isn't that Hal Draper's "MS Fnd in a Lbry" (F&SF Dec 1961)?

#271 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 06:24 AM:

#237 abi

I'd be happy to discuss the Independence Referendum in a thread. My position is also quite ambivalent: now quite settled on Yes, despite the fact that it makes me very unhappy to contemplate it.

#272 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 08:33 AM:

#214 ::: Tim Walters :

Thanks. I ended up reading the whole burquini thread, which was very good.

Observations from someone who's spent five years travelling the world with no home base

#231 ::: CHip

That would be "Ms Fnd n a Lbry" by Hal Draper.

#232 ::: CHip

Sometimes small government is worse, sometimes big government is worse.

#273 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 08:59 AM:


I think the bit about eroding trust in government is a very big deal. Specifically, I'd say you get

a. Eroding respect for the law and police when they're plainly being used to raise money by frivolous speeding tickets.

b. Damaging the legitimacy of local governments when they are behaving in a corrupt way, as with funding themselves by speed traps, extra fees and fines on everything, or worse, no-trial property seizures.

c. Setting up a situation where people at the bottom are constantly being ground up and hassled and exploited by local govenments. This sets up a situation in which lots of your population rightly sees the police and courts, and sometimes the whole local government, as being actively hostile to them, the enemy.

I think (c) is especially poisonous. Also, it's of a piece with state lotteries and those awful schemes by which prisoners are charged fees for their time in prison, and the way that all kinds of antipoverty programs are so complex and bureaucratized that it's almost impossible to navigate them or avoid violating some obscure rule now and then. Partly, this is about extracting some money from poor people, or saving a little on the medicaid budget. But the effect is to set the government up as the enemy, even when the government is providing you with money or services.

#274 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 09:48 AM:

albatross #273: a situation in which lots of your population rightly sees the police and courts, and sometimes the whole local government, as being actively hostile to them, the enemy.

Yes. When a government betrays their people, they lose the trust, and ultimately the loyalty, of those people. This is how governments fail.

#275 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 09:48 AM:

@266 and @267. One of the points of fines is to restore what has been violated. For example, medical bills of people injured by the violation. Now, medical expenses being what they are in the US, this is a quick road to penury for the violator. But keep this idea in mind when cancelling all fines or allocating them to the general fund.

On the idea of things that are funded by user fees, the FDA (food and drug administration) and the USPTO (patent and trademark office) were able to continue working during the shutdown of October, 2013. I am not sure how true that was during the shutdown in December, 1995.

#276 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 10:50 AM:

In the case of PG&E - they've already been fined for the damage. Also they're being sued over it, and criminal charges may still be involved at some point. San Bruno was a Big Mess: a lot of houses (plus a couple of streets) damaged or destroyed, seven or eight people killed. (The administrative fines are only for not following the rules.)

It's also a good example of regulatory failure: the people at the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) who were supposed to be doing the regulating were, and are still, mostly former employees of PG&E. (The commission chairman is, too.)

#277 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 11:00 AM:


#278 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 11:10 AM:

Lady Kay:

Are fines used to pay medical bills of people injured in a crime? Maybe that happens somewhere, but I haven't heard of it. Certainly, that's not what happens with traffic ticket revenue in general. Isn't that usually something that would happen as a result of a legal settlement or judgment?

An issue here is that local governments need to raise some money, and yet taxing their local voters is often not too popular[1]. So there's a tendency to look for ways to extract money from people who don't vote. People passing through town are great targets for this sort of thing, which is one reason why speed traps are so common--you get to use the force of law to extract money from people who can't really vote you out of office or anything. Special taxes imposed on airport concessions and hotels are another version of the same idea--it's a lot easier to impose a tax on out-of-towners than on locals, since out-of-towners don't vote in your local elections.

In the US, poor people don't vote much, so they're another good target for extracting some money. In a lot of states, felons can't vote. Illegal immigrants, even those who've lived in the community for a decade or two, can't vote. And these are all great targets for a little revenue enhancement.

And there are all these little things you can do to make the revenue enhancement go more smoothly. Make it costly and inconvenient to come to court and contest the fine. Set things up so that you put people in jail for a few days if they can't come up with the cash right away, as a way to encourage prompt payment. Make sure the judge and prosecutor understand that their continued employment depends on getting enough revenue from fines.

[1] And that can be for good or bad reasons. Maybe it's just reflexive anti-tax-ism. Maybe it's knowing that the local government mainly exists to distribute goodies to the cronies of the city councilmen, and not having any great desire to given them more goodies to distribute. Having the local government be visibly corrupt in some areas (like running shakedown operations on passing motorists who look to have some cash) can't possibly make voters respect that government's honesty more.

#279 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 11:54 AM:

I know that many (most) fines are associated with victim-less and damage-less crimes, like speeding. Just for the few that aren't, it is useful to remember the idea of restitution to the person injured or the property/environment destroyed. Another example might be the funding of the cleaning of Superfund sites.

I understand the idea of small fines for damage-less violations adding up, I just wanted to bring up big fines for big damages.

And the legal system (Judges, trials) are always referred to, speeding/parking tickets list a phone number/address to apply for a court time. In theory, paying those is a settlement in lieu of trial, I think.

The night did not restore enough spoons, dammit!

#280 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 12:00 PM:

How about victim-funded billboards* on the outskirts diverting passers-through to safer routes? The wider version of what Lee tells people.

The local politicians and businesses would go nutballs as it went viral. Residents tarred with the kind of reputation Ferguson is now enjoying might just vote some revenue.

*Totally impractical, not to say illegal.

#281 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 12:19 PM:

Carol Kimball @280, why would a billboard in City A that says "Warning: City B (5 miles down this highway) has a documented record of speed traps and confiscation of property of drivers. Consider going around it via (route)" be illegal? If the billboard was factual and not libel, isn't it covered by the First Amendment?

#282 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 12:24 PM:

Legality aside, I'd give it about a week before it was vandalized. Community disapproval is a tangible thing, and it takes real sanctity for the forces of law and order to aggressively defend criticism of themselves against it.

In other words, high school seniors on a Friday night when there's plenty else for the police to do.

#283 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 12:28 PM:

Abi @282, that's what electronic billboards are for. <grin> You may not have seen them in Denmark; think massive outdoor widescreen television which show advertisements in rotation, maybe thirty seconds each.

#284 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 12:35 PM:

I live in the Netherlands, not Denmark. Very different place.

And we have a lot of regulations and control over how much advertising can clutter up the landscape, so there aren't really a lot of billboards of any sort here. Which means there's not a lot of money in making what we do have that fancy, I guess.

#285 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 12:44 PM:

So if a scavenger race boarded the Enterprise, only took over the bridge, and used it to store their food, would their motto be Xrrc Pbzz naq Pneevba?

#286 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 01:08 PM:

Teresa, #264: I was giving albatross the benefit of the doubt, after reading a sentence in the form of "I think it's less race and more [multiple factors all of which are intimately entangled with race]." I'm used to seeing that sort of logical disconnection on right-wing sites, but not here and (as you note) not from albatross.

The fact that these theft-of-cash rackets do not normally hit white people (and hence, that Collinsville is unusual, and even then it probably only happens on Archon weekend) is telling.

#287 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 01:32 PM:

Lee @ 286: What you did that bothered me was associate racist effect with bigoted intent.

#288 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 01:42 PM:

Lee, I think Albatross may be right in #250 that "the police running shakedown operations care a lot less about race than about easy targets who will have some cash worth stealing, and who won't have the resources to make it painful to rob them". He's saying that police shakedowns would be a racial problem even if the police themselves were perfectly colorblind, because structural racism would still determine who's likely to be an easy target.

Though I suspect there's probably also a pretty high racism factor in these police departments, and of course race is a really quick handy heuristic to evaluate how easy a target someone is likely to be.

#289 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 01:47 PM:

John A., #287: Do you really think that race isn't a major factor in the evaluation of who's an "easy target"? These things are not separable.

On a cheerier note: Happy Birthday, Xopher!

#290 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 01:53 PM:

re: billboards being impractical

The funding and organization would fall on the victims, who are victims largely because they're (perceived as, usually correctly) marginal in terms of income, knowledge of how the systems work, time and energy. To even reach them you'd need access to the offending communities' databases.

Getting a zoning permit and setting up an electronic billboard (yes, destroyed almost immediately) in the limited legal places is a fabulous fantasy.

Maybe a more viable "solution" would be the flagrantly illegal* hacking of electric interstate signs?

* NOT advocating. No, not the kid.

#291 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 02:03 PM:

#284 ::: abi @284, <headdesk> Netherlands. Netherlands. I *knew* that... <headdesk>

#292 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 02:11 PM:

Carol Kimball @290, Perhaps my perception is skewed, living in Chicago, but I see electronic billboards *everywhere*. So I wasn't actually arguing that the victims should buy and erect one; merely that they buy time on one (which should, I'd guess, be cheaper than erecting their own). And the billboard security would devolve onto the billboard owner, but it seems less likely to me that someone would spraypaint or shoot holes into a sign that mostly is advertising insurance and the local car dealer, and only occasionally warning about corruption five miles up the road... (Maybe I'm just naive.)

#293 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 02:26 PM:


I understand that there's a correlation between being black/brown, poor, and unable or unwilling[1] to successfully fight back against having your cash taken by a cop after he stops you for "driving suspiciously." But the point of the shakedown isn't primarily about hassling someone for being black, it's about getting some money. (Contrast this with towns where the cops really do hassle blacks passing through town with the goal of making out-of-town blacks avoid the town or leave as soon as possible. Different goals, different operations.)

The police in towns that run this kind of shakedown operation do this for a living. I imagine they get a pretty clear picture, over time, of the kinds of people who are likely to have cash and aren't likely to make their lives hard via fighting the seizure out in court. And I expect that they use this knowledge to get as much money as they can with minimal work and trouble.

In a similar way, there are tourist-oriented places where a lot of pickpockets and muggers operate. It may well be that the pickpockets and muggers, as a group, really dislike the tourists. But mainly, they pick the tourists' pockets and mug them because that's where the easy money is.

Another similar situation involves speed traps that focus on out-of-state drivers. Maybe the cops just don't like people from Illinois or New Jersey or whatever, but even if they are indifferent to what state you live in, they'd prefer ticketing out-of-staters who almost never could come back to fight the ticket in court.

Frankly, I put all three of these groups into broadly the same category. And that's the most destructive thing of all about this way of funding your government. You don't actually want to live in a place where most people see the police as just one more rival gang.

#294 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 02:44 PM:

289: oh yeah - you're right!

Hoppy Birdy, Xopher!

#295 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 02:49 PM:

Lee @ 289: What albatross says @293 pretty much covers what I was thinking. That said, racial profiling does figure into who gets stopped. But so do Grateful Dead bumper stickers.

#296 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 03:31 PM:

#292 ::: Cassy B.

The problems don't tend to be in the hearts of big cities, but in spaced-out* rural communities.

*cut it out - you guys know what I mean

#297 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 04:36 PM:

Lady Kay @275:

Many Federal agencies have found ways to access a non-appropriated* funding stream (see HHS and Medicare) that can at least keep some offices open and working during a "shut-down." These mechanisms were put into place after the 1995/6 shutdown.

*Appropriated funds are the ones Congress approves, in thirteen bills, which are supposed to be done every year before Midnight, September 30th.

#298 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 04:37 PM:

One of the things that pops up in the Balko article is the matter of identifying "outsiders" upon which to prey. The obvious situation in someplace like Ferguson where there is a a strong racial/class imbalance between the police and the residents, and where the police aren't residents, is that the residents become the perceived outsiders and are thus proper prey.

#299 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 04:39 PM:

Carol Kimball/Cassy B

In Richmond, it was not uncommon common to see signs warning "Turn here to avoid police checkpoint" - usually obviously homemade and cheap (AKA disposable) or else mounted on vehicles.

The police disliked it, but it was legal and CopBlock has a significant presence, so it happened anyway.

#300 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 04:55 PM:

SamChevre re: Richmond residents' solution -

This is a bright spot in the day. I shall carry on with hope.

#301 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 05:10 PM:

I've seen a billboard put up by someone a few miles away from a locally-famous speed trap town on a moderately busy highway. I have no idea if it was vandalized later, but when I saw it, it was in perfectly fine shape. My guess is that you have to be pretty annoyed about your speeding ticket(s) to pay a bunch of your own money to pay for a billboard, and so it's seldom done.

This story made me wonder how much of the push for stricter traffic laws (lowering the BAC to 0.8, strictly enforcing seatbelt laws, no-hands cellphone laws) comes from the desire to have more pretexts for pulling drivers over and giving them tickets. There's a safefy argument for each of these laws, but there's also a profit motive in some cases.

Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous, and it strikes me that a couple widespread apps could make both speed traps and shakedowns under no-trial property seizures a whole lot harder to do, by warning people about where they're likely to get ticketed or have their car searched for valuables worth taking. Sooner or later, this will probably happen, and a whole lot of little towns will have financial crises. And then, I wonder what they'll do for revenue.

One part of the Washington Post story I found particularly ugly was the way that all kinds of stable financial arrangements had grown up around them, with local law firms and presumably other local businesses plugged into the revenue stream from the spped traps and fine-farming.

There is a big class of people--policemen, lawyers working as prosecutors and judges, clerks handling the paperwork and the billing, and all the employees and contractors for these small municipalities--who are dependent for thelr livelihoods on this system of raising money. If it starts to go away, they're going to fight very hard to keep it around. Before it goes entirely away, I expect to see some extremely ugly behavior by those local policemen and judges and prosecutors, backed up by the local powers that be, trying to hang onto their current way of operating.

As more and more people know that they're driving through a speed trap town and watch their speed carefully, there will be more pressure on the local cops to *somehow* write some tickets. That will probably push them to stuff like that remote-control traffic light they described in the article, or even to stopping people looking for valuables to seize under some pretext of criminal behavior. And yet, the more they turn the screws, the more people will know to be careful, or to avoid the town entirely. And the more they will have to hammer people who *do* have the resources and the pull to fight back, and the more their corrupt behavior will have to happen in public.

In the end, many speed trap towns (and especially many of the little tiny ones in St Louis County) will lose, because there are alternative routes for most trips that don't go through the town at all. If I know that out-of-town drivers who go through town X *always* get pulled over, I'm willing to go quite a ways out of my way to avoid it. And then, we'll see a bunch of municipal bankruptcies, probably with other interesting and ugly consequences.

#302 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 05:10 PM:

I've seen a billboard put up by someone a few miles away from a locally-famous speed trap town on a moderately busy highway. I have no idea if it was vandalized later, but when I saw it, it was in perfectly fine shape. My guess is that you have to be pretty annoyed about your speeding ticket(s) to pay a bunch of your own money to pay for a billboard, and so it's seldom done.

This story made me wonder how much of the push for stricter traffic laws (lowering the BAC to 0.8, strictly enforcing seatbelt laws, no-hands cellphone laws) comes from the desire to have more pretexts for pulling drivers over and giving them tickets. There's a safefy argument for each of these laws, but there's also a profit motive in some cases.

Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous, and it strikes me that a couple widespread apps could make both speed traps and shakedowns under no-trial property seizures a whole lot harder to do, by warning people about where they're likely to get ticketed or have their car searched for valuables worth taking. Sooner or later, this will probably happen, and a whole lot of little towns will have financial crises. And then, I wonder what they'll do for revenue.

One part of the Washington Post story I found particularly ugly was the way that all kinds of stable financial arrangements had grown up around them, with local law firms and presumably other local businesses plugged into the revenue stream from the spped traps and fine-farming.

There is a big class of people--policemen, lawyers working as prosecutors and judges, clerks handling the paperwork and the billing, and all the employees and contractors for these small municipalities--who are dependent for thelr livelihoods on this system of raising money. If it starts to go away, they're going to fight very hard to keep it around. Before it goes entirely away, I expect to see some extremely ugly behavior by those local policemen and judges and prosecutors, backed up by the local powers that be, trying to hang onto their current way of operating.

As more and more people know that they're driving through a speed trap town and watch their speed carefully, there will be more pressure on the local cops to *somehow* write some tickets. That will probably push them to stuff like that remote-control traffic light they described in the article, or even to stopping people looking for valuables to seize under some pretext of criminal behavior. And yet, the more they turn the screws, the more people will know to be careful, or to avoid the town entirely. And the more they will have to hammer people who *do* have the resources and the pull to fight back, and the more their corrupt behavior will have to happen in public.

In the end, many speed trap towns (and especially many of the little tiny ones in St Louis County) will lose, because there are alternative routes for most trips that don't go through the town at all. If I know that out-of-town drivers who go through town X *always* get pulled over, I'm willing to go quite a ways out of my way to avoid it. And then, we'll see a bunch of municipal bankruptcies, probably with other interesting and ugly consequences.

#303 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 06:06 PM:

@297. Yep, although lots and lots of those were deficient when the day came. I live a stone's throw from the Washington Beltway and it dominated social conversations for weeks and months before, during and after.

#304 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 07:06 PM:

I see from the UK Telegraph that Bavarian separatists are hoping for a yes vote in Scotland. There is a small, but very vocal independence party in Bavaria.

Bavaria very nearly became an independent monarchy after World War II. The local were all ready to bring back the Wittelsbachs and go their own way, but the Allies vetoed it.

The House of Wittelsbach is very much respected in Bavaria. the present head, in his nineties, went to public schools and, being required to learn a trade, became a very good carpenter. Members of the family were members of the Resistance and were held imprisoned during the war.

#305 ::: Dave* Twiddy ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 07:35 PM:

If Scotland votes yes, it's going to be a huge morale boost for all kinds of separatists. Frisians, Sami, Karelians...

The question is where you stop. One of the ripple effects we never got to see in Quebec was: would non-Francophone parts of the province try to secede from the secession? The First Nations areas of Ungava and the north declared they would. From what I've heard, support for independence is weak in the Shetlands and Orkneys, which have little sense of cultural connection to Edinburgh. Will they try to revert back to the UK? We'll find out.

It's like the experience of Protestantism: once you've established "Come out and be ye separate" as a principle, the separations just keep on coming.

#306 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 07:44 PM:

albatross / John A.: Are we really arguing "intent is magic" here? ObStarTrek: "A difference which makes no difference is no difference."

Now, it's possible that I'm all wet, and that to the people in the hot seat, they really do perceive a difference in whether they're being hassled, threatened, and blackmailed out of overt racism vs. institutionalized racism. But I'm going to be much more willing to entertain that argument if/when I hear it being made by someone for whom this entire discussion isn't an academic exercise.

albatross, #301: From your keyboard to $DEITY's ears.

#307 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 07:55 PM:

Thanks, everyone, for the birthday wishes.

Hoboken has ridiculously convoluted parking laws and regulations. It's very difficult to figure out where you can park on any given day, and you have to move your car periodically because every street becomes "no parking" for two hours a week, ostensibly for street cleaning.

They make a TON of money off this.

#308 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 08:21 PM:

Happy birthday, Xopher.

Re parking tickets: don't get me started on San Francisco. They should just declare the whole city a car-free zone. When I lived there (1971 - 1983) it seemed ridiculous to own a car, though people did. Now that I live in the East Bay, if I can't take BART into the city, I don't go. Realistically, I know that San Franciscans who commute sometimes need cars to get to work -- BART, and its cousins, do not go everywhere. But the parking regulations are major awful.

#309 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 08:23 PM:

Here, Xopher, have a truffle [recipe]:

#310 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 09:10 PM:

Hippo birdie, Xopher!

#312 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 09:27 PM:

I'm SO glad I don't have to be concerned about Quebec independence.

#313 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 10:14 PM:

Back in @84 I wrote: "Our notions of archiving come from the era of physical artifacts, which can be collected and owned. Our current copyright regime, and the entire handling of information on the Net, was designed to fix that problem -- and did."

History smirks:

"A Member State may authorise libraries to digitise, without the consent of the rightholders, books they hold in their collection so as to make them available at electronic reading points"

(That is, at a dedicated terminal with no print/copy/download facility.)

#314 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2014, 10:59 PM:

Lee @ 306: I'm saying that he talked about intent and you talked about effect. If you want to claim that effect is more important to those in the moment of suffering or the night of fear, why, I'll agree with you. But if you want to understand what's going on and try to dismantle it, you need the most accurate understanding of your adversary possible. That's what I, at least, was getting at.

Some racism is planned out in a bigoted manner by bigots, some is bigots improvising, and some is non-bigoted people looking to exploit whoever is at hand.

Those are three different situations and each has to be dealt with differently.

It looks to me like Ferguson is somewhere between the first two situations. So are some highway stop locations. And some looting under color of law is cops just grabbing whoever comes by.

We have to understand it to defeat it.

(There's one of the things that drives me crazy about current activist currents: People seem to be more interested in dissecting suffering than in ending it.)

#315 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 01:24 AM:

Another shoe finally dropped:


I met a human from a time-lost land
Who said: “A woman bronze, with diadem
Sits broken, buried slantwise in the sand,
Her legs and trunk are gone: no sign of them.
A head remains, two shoulders, arm and hand,
A torch, long dead, and one piece yet beside,
A copper plaque in whose impassioned plea,
Corroded words bade weary travelers bide.
I traced their meaning; not an easy chore:
‘Give me your masses, yearning to breathe free…
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
My horse browsed nigh; the witness to my yell:
You blew it up! Curse you forevermore!
Mad hairless apes! God damn you all to hell!”

#316 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 01:55 AM:

Bravo, Kip.

#317 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 01:55 AM:

Bravo, Kip.

#318 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 01:59 AM:

I blame the double post on this stupid tablet that does not always display a busy indicator to show the browser is doing something about the button push.

#319 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 04:22 AM:

@273 albatross

I think actually your point about eroding respect in local government is a very good one. As a stodgy old British liberal I have a similar to belief to much of the US that power is better held locally than centrally wherever possible. I thought the counter arguments in this BBC blog were very powerful. My main political concern is to seek out centres of unaccountable power and make them accountable: localism is a means, not an end.

#320 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 04:25 AM:

I live about 25 miles south of San Bruno, where the PG&E gas pipeline exploded (because of years of bad maintenance and carrying higher pressures than the pipes safely could.) There's been lots of street construction on my block the last year or so, and my wife made the connection with some of it that part of that pipeline goes under our block, so some of this construction is the pipeline maintenance they put off for years. Jolly.

Along Rt. 101 between here and there are at least two large electronic billboards. One of them's too bright at night, and the other was really distracting for a while because it was malfunctioning, so the bottom third of it was totally out of sync, but they've since fixed it. I haven't seen one about speed traps yet, but some of the traditional billboards spent a while having nothing to sell except "Rent this billboard cheap", so they might have been willing to rent it really cheaply for a message like that.

#321 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 08:26 AM:

Late to Xopher's birthday party, but here's a gif:

#322 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 08:43 AM:

I turn on my computer this morning and find that Ian Paisley has died. I'm not sure what to feel.

#323 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 08:52 AM:

Lila @321, PUPPIES!!!!!!! <awwwwww>

#324 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 09:06 AM:

Happy birthday, Xopher!

James Harvey:

I don't know what the optimal balance there is. But one complicating factor is that it's common in the US to commute a pretty good distance. That often means that you live in one town, work in another, and drive through half a dozen more on the way to and from work. (And maybe you go shopping or take your kids to school in still another one.) And *that* means that you're subject to the behavior of a lot of small governments, but have no voice in most of their actions.

It also strikes me that there's a kind of coordination problem or game-theory problem here for the individual small towns. Suppose you live in a place where every town funds itself on traffic fines, and your town wants to break out of this pattern and fund itself on taxes instead. A lot of traffic fines are paid by outsiders, whereas property taxes are paid entirely by residents. If 50% of traffic fines came from outsiders, then by shifting $X from fines to taxes, you're raising the amount of money raised from your own residents (who vote in your elections) by $X/2. (That is, half the revenue from fines used to come from people who didn't vote in your elections, but now all the revenue comes from property taxes imposed only on peopel who do vote in your election. Your residents will experience an effective rise in how much revenue is being extracted from them, even though your town raises the same amount as before!) Worse, your residents still have to pay traffic fines from other towns, so doing the right thing by moving to funding your operations by taxes, you are also effectively subsidizing all the nearby towns who keep doing the wrong thing.

#325 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 10:07 AM:

albatross #324: That "game" issue is one of the big reasons for the existence of higher-level governments -- to remind the individual towns (forcibly if necessary) that they're part of a larger entity, and require them to recognize non-residents as fellow citizens.

And on the flip side, the appearance of these speed traps and other forms of highway robbery, is in itself a major failure of the state and federal governments. In this context, "localism" isn't just a tool, it's a weapon against the idea of a unified nation.

#326 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 10:14 AM:

Interrupting the serious discussion for some open-thready randomness:

This morning, after I squished an insect on my kitchen counter, my too-many-legs reaction suddenly made me wonder about treecats. The first exploration of Sphinx, if the first animals they saw were the local equivalent of squirrels or mice, did anyone go "Ack! Giant hairy bugs! Kill them with fire!"?

I suppose planetary explorers are too sophisticated for that.

(Also, if I remember the short stories correctly, the first wildlife they encountered was a charging hexapuma. Too big to trigger insect phobias.)

#327 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 10:20 AM:

In re Ferguson is racism vs. the Ferguson is generic human nastiness: As far as I can tell, the generic human nastiness model gets people farther on developing specific procedural solutions, while the racism model produces more passion.

Oppressive government is a *huge* problem, and I want both approaches to be encouraged.

#328 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 10:26 AM:

Mary Aileen #326: the first wildlife they encountered was a charging hexapuma. Too big to trigger insect phobias

But possibly sufficient to create a brand-new phobia! :-)

Seriously, those phobias are "prepared learning", and how many of those explorers had grown up with Earth insects? Also, it's not just six legs that sets off the phobia, it's shape and motion as well. A warm-blooded animal of even mouse size is simply not going to move like an Earthly insect. And, if it's furry, that will dominate its appearance anyway.

#329 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 10:48 AM:

David Harmon (328): You are correct, of course. I just went from "more than four legs is entirely too many" to "but what about treecats?"

#330 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:04 AM:

MaryAileen: #NotAllHexapeds ?

#331 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:15 AM:

My feelings about possible Scottish independence (I have a brother, a sister-in-law, a niece, and two nephews who are affected by the possibility) are that I would not object to a Europe of made up of regions combining to have a common currency, foreign representation, and defense. I wonder what it would be like to live in a world in which there were such things as London passports (of course, this would mean that Boris would be head of a national government not necessarily a good idea).

#332 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:26 AM:

One of the problems is that a widespread currency is actually kind of a bad idea. Basically, it gives the wrong feedback to any region that's doing significantly worse (or better) than the whole.

#333 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:35 AM:

Fragano @ 331... Boris would be head of a national government


#334 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:48 AM:

Mary Aileen @ #326:

Specifically "six legs" (and "not carapaced") is adorable. But I will happily confess to having over-read A fire upon the deep.

#335 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 12:08 PM:

Serge @ #333 (Half a beast):

Since he would be mostly London, perhaps "Commercial Boris"?

#336 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 03:06 PM:

Thanks, everyone, for the birthday wishes! It really made yesterday much less grim.

Kip 315: Magnificent.

Lila 321: As my late ex, David, would say (in a very high-pitched voice): OoooooooOOOO!! PUPPEEEEEEEEEEEZ!

Then he'd do a little happy-puppy dance.

Fragano 322: I can't help you with what to feel. I know what I'm going to say: "I note, with neither excitement nor regret, the passing of an evil man."

#337 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 04:05 PM:

Xopher, I hope your birthday went well. I can sing you the Williams family Happy Birthday song, which is to the tune of the William Tell Overture, as adapted by the Flintstones (for "Happy Anniversary") Ohhhh:

Happy birthday yesterday!
Happy birthday yesterday!
Happy birthday yesterday!
-py birthday yesterday!
Happy happy
Happy happy
Happy birthday yesterday!
Happy happy
Well, you get the idea. Both about the song and about my family. We care! We're just not efficient.

#338 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 04:25 PM:

Kip, LOVE it!

#339 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 04:53 PM:

Belated Happy Birthday to Xopher!

#340 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 04:56 PM:

Elliott Mason (330): Literally LOL.

#341 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 05:09 PM:


1. Failure of the Old River Control Structure might be the best thing for Louisiana's land loss, over a time frame measured in decades or more. Nothing else is going to bring anywhere near enough new soil, and the current configuration -- iirc -- has extended the Delta so far outward that silt from the river's flow is spilling over the edge of the continental shelf. Whether rebuilding the land is compatible with maintaining a port in and around New Orleans is just one of many interesting questions.

2. Wouldn't it be simpler to call the fines and forfeitures used for revenue purposes "tax farming"? Not that the agencies responsible for them would do that, but that is what the practice amounts to. Calling it by name might help to rein it in.

3. In regard to Patrick's most recent Sidelight, what reason is there to think that Daniel Lazare knows what he is talking about in regard to Central and Eastern Europe? His background and nearly all of his writing that I can find online is about domestic US issues and politics. Where does his credibility come from?

#342 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 09:20 PM:

Just got the sad-but-expected-and-welcome news that my father died. Comfortably, thanks to hospice care, with my sister Lilith on hand.

His timing was amazing; my mother & older sister had just called to tell Lilith that they'd made all of the "arrangements." And on a Friday!

Tonight, in his memory, I'm watching the first "Pirates of the Caribbean." While a bit of a movie snob, he let me take he and my mom to see it when it first came out, and I've never seen him been more entertained by anything. Literally slapping his legs in laughter.


Next: Dealing with my mother's really terrible case of caretaker burnout.

But I'm going for a long walk to deal with this.

#343 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 09:37 PM:

Stefan Jones (342): Condolences to you and your family.

#344 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 09:50 PM:

Stefan, I am sorry for your loss.

Seeing now what I can do for my oldest sister, who's been taking care of my increasingly complicated dad, to see if we can avoid her having caretaker burnout. I actually started in July, and like so many good ideas, I should have thought of it much sooner.

#345 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 10:24 PM:

Stefan: My condolences.

#346 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 10:29 PM:

Thanks all. I'm jittery, but mostly feeling relieved. So many close calls w/ previous crisis, so this almost feels anticlimactic, and my father was in such awful shape.

@Kip W: My sisters spent weeks rotating through visiting my father in rehab (before things got terminal) and helping my totally exhausted (mentally and physically) and uncharacteristically discouraged mother.

When I visited last month, my #1 priority was giving them a week off. I drove my mom to appointments, helped with arrangements for a 80th birthday party for my dad (which went fine!), sorted out financial papers, and so on.

That (and an aunt who arranged for local friends and relatives visit my dad, meaning more days off) made a huge difference, according to my sisters. A chance to sleep in their own beds, finish freelance projects, see my niece off college, etcetera.

Some regular respite for your sister would make a huge difference, and I hope you can arrange something.

#347 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 10:36 PM:

Stefan, my condolences.

#348 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 10:55 PM:

I'm sorry to hear it, Stefan. You and yours will be in my thoughts.

#349 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:09 PM:

Stefan -- condolences, and I know what you mean about "jittery but mostly relieved."

#350 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:13 PM:

Stefan, #342: Yeah, that's pretty much the definition of "mixed feelings". My condolences, and I hope your mother manages to recover her own equilibrium fairly soon.

#351 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:35 PM:

Stefan Jones #342: My condolences. And sympathies also on your mother's burnout. As my (paternal) grandfather got sicker and sicker, he almost took Grandma with him -- she was doing home dialysis on him, despite being half his size. (She did recover afterwards, and lived quite a few more years.)

#352 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:40 PM:

Stefan, let me add my condolences too. Here's hoping you and your mother, and your sisters, can help each other through this time.

#353 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:40 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @251: My, that looks familiar. And we don't even have the Arm Corps pretending gravity doesn't exist.

Yesterday was our 1-year anniversary. The weather was cool and damp and misty. Everyone was feeling rather...twitchy.

#354 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:41 PM:

...probably for a suspicious looking URL.

#355 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2014, 11:51 PM:

Stefan, I'm sorry for your loss, but glad for the peace.

#356 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 12:48 AM:

Thanks. My mother's mother lived to be 99. Even if she doesn't make it that far, I hope my mother gets a third act where she can travel . . . and really, do more than just keep house(s). But after 55 years it will be quite a change to live alone.

#357 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 12:49 AM:

Fragano Ledgister at 331:
There was a movie called Passport to Pimlico.

#358 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 02:51 AM:

Stefan: condolences for your loss, and the hope of rest and recovery and healing and grief.

#359 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 04:38 AM:

Jacque @354 (and everyone):

Please don't use URL shorterners. It makes it difficult to know where you're going before you click. There's no character limit on this blog; just put in the URL.

#360 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 07:02 AM:

abi #359: Please don't use URL shorterners.

That could probably go in one of the two infoboxes above the comment form.

#361 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 07:30 AM:

Stefan, my condolences.

#362 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 08:35 AM:

Stefan, sorry for your loss.

#363 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 08:48 AM:

My condolences, Stefan.

#364 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 09:43 AM:

Stefan: what Xopher said.

Your family sounds like they're exactly what a family should be.

#365 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 09:49 AM:

Stefan - lovely that your family did get it right, some of which is luck and some of which is paying attention.

Continued strength to your family, particularly to your mother.

#366 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 11:38 AM:

albatross @ 245: the obvious problem with the alleged advantage of small towns is that an established hierarchy of influence is harder to break; the influential stay and pass on their mana. In cities, the modern equivalents of the Family Compact find it harder to control every judge, to prevent upstarts from appealing directly to the people (cf MA elections earlier this week), or to roll lucky and never get to the tiny number of immigrants with enough vigor to break their hold.

Cadbury @ 248: a fair cop; I was skimming too fast and didn't follow the link.

Langford @ 270, Liebowitz @ 272: that was it. After a while one tends to mis-think that a certain snarky tone is always Tenn; I was probably crossing wires from "Brooklyn Project".

Lady Kay @ 279: I don't think speeding is a "victimless crime" as that term is commonly used. There is room for argument over whether the national limit put in during the first "energy crisis" was a major factor in reducing highway fatalities, and most of the time speeding doesn't cause an accident -- but sometimes it either causes or aggravates one. The speeder may die more often than their victims (does anyone have hard data on this?), but ISTM that speeding is qualitatively different from (e.g.) uncoerced prostitution or use of legally-barred drugs.
      This is not a defense of speed traps, which IME are too often placed where they have the highest yield rather than where they're most likely to reduce accidents.

abi @ 284: do the rules prohibit dynamic signs? ISTM that such could be favored as reducing the demand for discreet signs -- but that would depend on whether any signs at all are reasonable. (I know the Netherlands average much more crowded than the U.S., but not what the variation is.)

Dave* @ 305: IIRC, Quebec is especially interesting because the First Nations areas (a) weren't part of Quebec until ~1930, and (b) are the source of much of the hydroelectricity that the free-Quebec types are counting on to make it a viable country. (I'm especially noticing the latter, because Massachusetts is now arguing whether to support building another heavy power line on the grounds that hydropower is ]better than combustion and cheaper than local "renewables"[ or go more vigorously into wind/solar/....)

James Harvey @ 319: That was the link I brought to the discussion in #232 -- although given the above, I'm not well-placed to complain about links unfollowed....

The ride-along video in #242 raises an interesting issue. AFAIK, most interstates in MA (i.e., not just the state turnpike) are patrolled by the state police rather than by locals; this tends to make pursuit easier and enforcement more uniform, while removing local advantage. Does the federal government (which paid most of the initial cost of the interstates -- I don't know the upkeep fraction) have no control over how they're patrolled? Even if not, is the state of Missouri an inadvertent or deliberate co-conspirator to the abuse?

Xopher @ 336: Like Fragano, I have mixed feelings. Local news has been reminding me that Boston own, somewhat less violent troubles started about the same time the first joint-governance attempt broke down; Paisley at least contributed, in the end, to a solution -- if only by telling his mob that the new reality was what should be -- where AFAICR none of the people responsible for segregation in Boston schools ever even repented, let alone pulled their mobs into the 20th century.

Doug @ 341.3: I don't know the people involved, but I do wonder about the intent of Lazare's article. Slices of it read like another step in dividing the Ukraine situation on a left/right axis (unfortunately supporting the Russian position that the Ukrainian unionists are WWII-class fascists).

On the Scottish Question:
the Grauniad votes No
. A balanced-sounding editorial, but I'm not nearly involved enough in the case to judge their arguments (especially the suggestion that the Yes arguers have been as nasty as the Nos -- the news here is mostly about the obvious ham-fistedness of the Nos, such as the news break about the RBS decision that appears to have preceded the actual decision). Makes me wish even harder for a Paratime machine that would let us see which prophecies work out and maybe call out the failed prophets.

#367 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 12:07 PM:

On the Scottish Vote: the campaigning is getting so hysterical today that if you offered me a one-way ticket to Scarfolk I'd take it, just to get away from the paranoia and FUD. And that's saying something.

(Five days to go and it'll all be over ...)

#368 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 12:41 PM:

CHip #366: Even if not, is the state of Missouri an inadvertent or deliberate co-conspirator to the abuse?

IIRC, the state of Missouri is one of, of not the poorest states in the USA, and the state government probably can't afford to patrol their highways.

#369 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:04 PM:

David Harmon (368): Are you sure you're not thinking of Mississippi?

#370 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:12 PM:

Stefan Jones, my condolences.

#371 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:16 PM:

Xopher #336: On the one hand, Paisley was long the leader of the No Surrender mob. On the other, at the end of his life he was First Minister of a grand coalition with Martin McGuinness as his Second Minister.

#372 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:21 PM:

Stefan condolences.

#373 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:25 PM:

Condolences to Stefan and his family.

#374 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:37 PM:

@366, I am going to make a hyper-local comparison here. There are two different three-lane roads in my county. One is called Connecticut Ave. and the other is called New Hampshire Ave. On Connecticut, the houses are very expensive, have large set-backs from the road, and there is a tennis complex fully capable of hosting the US Open. The speed limit on this road is 30 miles/hour.
On New Hampshire, there are many apartment complexes (towers!), churches and schools. The apartment buildings have small set-backs. The speed limit is 40 miles/hour. People die on New Hampshire trying to cross. The population is transient (and not just due to the death rate on New Hampshire).

Speed limits are not unbiased. This situation reminds me every time that voting is important, but civic activism and political lobbying do important things too.

#375 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:37 PM:

Stefan: My condolences. Good wishes for all the necessary arrangements to go smoothly, and for your mother and sisters to recover well from the caretaking.

#376 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:43 PM:

Lady Kay @374, you don't happen to be in the MD suburbs of DC, do you? Because that situation sounds very familiar (though I think the worst parts of New Hampshire Ave are actually in a different county, which complicates matters.)

#377 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:45 PM:

Last night I heard from my buddette Pat Rogers that her boss George RR Martin once found himself speechless when an awed fan approached him. The fan?

Paul McCartney.

#378 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 01:58 PM:

@376 lorax. Why yes, yes I am.

#379 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 02:02 PM:

Stefan @346: I wish my family was close enough together geographically for the rotating caregivers setup to be feasible, but at two days' distance, I'm the only one close enough for it (in addition to which, I don't have my own health problems or personal poverty to contend with), so it's logical I should be the one to try and step up.

Dad's irksome, but not impossible, but I know she'd like to have the burden lifted once in a while. I fully intend to go up and take a couple of days sitting for him so my sister and brother-in-law can go off and celebrate their anniversary or something.

#380 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 02:04 PM:

abi 359: Does that include the short versions of YouTube URLs? I'm guessing not, because they begin with, which makes it pretty obvious where you're going, but I wanted to check. (I have a Twitter-spawned habit of using them.)

#381 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 02:06 PM:

Mary Aileen #369: Are you sure you're not thinking of Mississippi?

I might well be. Glancing at lists of state budgets I see Missisippi near the bottom for total budget. Though interestingly, Missouri is near the bottom per capita.

#382 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 02:40 PM:


>The speeder may die more often than their victims (does anyone have hard data on this?), but ISTM that speeding is qualitatively different from (e.g.) uncoerced prostitution or use of legally-barred drugs.

A quick look at this DOT document, table 5a and 5b, says that 30% of car crashes [with injury] are single-vehicle, and 66% of the people involved in car crashes are the drivers of the vehicles.

This implies to me that speeders tend to injure themselves more than other people, but that's not the hard data you specifically requested. (Incidentally, from that source, 0.8% of accidents where EMS was called had fatalities. )

#383 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 02:45 PM:

Condolences on your loss, Stefan. It sounds like he went as well as he could, but there's no way this won't be difficult.

#384 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 02:53 PM:

Stefan, condolences.

Xopher, happy belated birthday.

#385 ::: Bob W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 03:08 PM:

Torn from the headlines: a new-to-me misprision of a commonplace figure of speech.

Home depot is chalk full of these fine humans.

#386 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 03:10 PM:

HLN: Area woman and her better half decide to find out if they can do a "slow triathlon": a standard triathlon but with walking instead of running (we're really not runners). It's not an organized thing; we just decided to do it, not to make a particular time but just to see if we could.

So we went to the local swimming pool and did laps until we'd covered the distance. (Well, Martin did 2 kilometers, because he's awesome.) Then we got on our Dutch city bikes and cycled a 40-kilometer loop, ending at the nature reserve near our house. And last of all, we walked for 10 kilometers.

It took 6 hours and 22 minutes. It was rather a lot of fun, but we're somewhat on the tired side now.

#387 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 03:34 PM:

abi @386: Re. HLN, Having run a similar total distance previously myself, well done and you have every right to be tired.

Bob W. @385: Love it!

#388 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 04:33 PM:

abi #386, dcb #387: Meanwhile, my sister is heading off this weekend for something called Savage Man. (A triathalon.) But she's always been an athlete....

#389 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 07:36 PM:

Groundskeeper Willie votes "aye" in favor of Scottish independence.

#390 ::: Bob W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2014, 08:49 PM:

It's definitely in the class of mistakes which are superficially plausible as correct.

I chocked it up to a mental blalk.

#391 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 12:34 AM:

Re "Martial Arts and the Cycle of Bullshit" sidelight:

I have put my martial arts training to practical use exactly once, and it wasn't in a fight. When visiting Japan about a decade ago, I participated in a festival. I was having a horrible time trying to keep up with a dance, until the realization: the movements and rhythm were almost identical to some of the softer exercises from one of the styles of karate I'd studied. In that instant, the dance went from near-impossible to easy.

#392 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 09:30 AM:

I use my martial arts training all the time.

Especially when:

I fall. It happens to everyone. When my 2 minidachshunds wrapped their leashes around my ankles just as I was stepping down into my garage, I didn't get hurt.

I try something I'm not sure I can do. Hell, I got a black belt and medaled at Nationals starting when I was 40. How hard could this be? (So far it's gotten me through my AAS in Physical Therapy assisting and into a grad program in public health.)

I get angry. If I can respond calmly to being kicked in the face, I should be able to be chill about getting cut off in traffic.

Martial arts isn't, or needn't be, primarily about fighting. For me, it's about learning to handle myself in life. Mind you, it hasn't hurt my proprioception, situational awareness or reflexes any either.

As we say at the beginning of class: Courtesy. Integrity. Perseverance. Self-control. Indomitable Spirit.

#393 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 09:35 AM:

Chris @ 391... Everybody was Kung Fu fighting?

#394 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 10:47 AM:

David Harmon @388: Which distance is she doing? I'm the other sort of idiot - I don't do tri, I run ultra!

#395 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 11:35 AM:

An RAF pilot explains how motorists can avoid hitting cyclists (more work than you might think) and how cyclists can avoid being hit.

#396 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 12:05 PM:

That RAF article is pretty good!

To make the jump to really good, it could have included a section on what city planners, engineers and other people who put roads together can do to make them safer for all kinds of traffic.

A single caveat: the writer assumes goodwill on the part of motorists. This has largely been my experience in Europe, but is not what my bicycling friends in the US report.

#397 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 12:21 PM:

It does seem like a good article.

I confess that I have an allergy to "this problem we're currently having is actually insoluble because brain details" writeups in general. I come by it honestly, after too many bullshit evo-psych explanations about how there's nothing to be done to make adolescent males give a damn about their fellow humans, so we might as well suck up whatever they dish out. In short, I'm generally leery of this sort of thing.

But this didn't actually seem to be Reaffirming The Status Quo With SCIENCE! The recommendations seem to be concrete and balanced. So yes, probably.

#398 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 12:52 PM:

Assumes goodwill, or at least not malicious intent. I did have one jerk in a pickup truck run me off the road when I was cycling in Florida, but even there most motorists were more confused and uncaring, or hostile without intent to harm, than actively malicious. I saw very few cyclists while there, and those I did see were riding very slowly on the sidewalks, or had their bikes in the back of a truck on the way to a park. Confused and uncaring can still kill... so I was extremely careful.

I was interested to note while reading that article that I already do most of the things described in it. Some of it is the way I was taught to drive and ride (assume the other person is going to do something stupid), some of it was inherent in the equipment I used when learning (more vertical windshields in older vehicles have much smaller pillars, so when I started driving a modern car with a sloped windshield and a pillar you could lose a cube van behind, I *hated* it and always always leaned forward to see what the pillar was hiding from me), and some of it I learned elsewhere (do not enter heavy equipment's swing radius until you've made eye contact with the operator and got permission to approach or pass by = do not step in front of a moving car until you've made eye contact and you know they aren't going to come to a halt *on* the crosswalk instead of behind the stop line like they're supposed to).

I've been not seen by cars many times. I've been hit twice now, both low speed and nothing more than bruises and scrapes for me and a bent wheel for my bike. I usually ride in a reasonably bike-friendly city. I've also not killed people while driving because I watch out for other road users, motorized or not. The most dramatic, I think, was the time I was approaching an intersection that was placed at the bottom of a cross-street's hill, and I caught a glimpse of a skateboarder roaring down the hill. I slowed down even though I had the right of way. My passenger asked me why I was slowing down, and a second later the skater crossed the intersection right in front of me, close enough that I could see the whites of his eyes. (I had slowed enough that I wasn't going to enter the intersection until skater-boy was clear, but was still moving, and I don't think he saw me until it was too late for him to stop. I hope he got enough of a scare to treat intersections with more caution.) If I'd continued on, I might have cleared the intersection ahead of the skater, but I might not have; if he had plowed into the side of my car at the speed he was going, that would have caused him some serious injury.

I agree with abi about "status quo because brain wiring" reasoning, but this one doesn't throw up its hands and say there's nothing we can do, it points out our biological limitations and offers ways to compensate. It kind of reminded me of the "you are not so smart" series on cognitive biases in that way. These are things our senses and brains do; here are things we can do to make sure we aren't trapped by that.

#399 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 06:16 PM:

AKICML: Would anyone here be willing/able to offer voice coaching to a choral director for songs in Icelandic and/or Catalan?

The choir is called Just Voices. It's in Atlanta. My sister's the director. I think Cyllan sings with them.

Skype might be a possibility for non-local folks.

Don't know what sort of compensation might be offered, but credit in the program and announcements would certainly be part of the deal.

#400 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 07:05 PM:

Open Threadiness:

I was listening to Jonathan Coulton's "The Big Boom" and thinking about our upcoming Medical Reserve Corps meeting, so I wrote some emergency preparedness lyrics for it.

If it's 3 a.m. and you hear a sound,
And you see bad things when you look around,
Call 911 and then get some help rolling,
Grab your light and your go-bag, and then you're deployed!
Check the scene and if it's safe let's go
Find out who needs help and make it so,
Do some good,

Because you're training for the big boom,
No one knows how it's gonna be,
The big boom
Regional or local, it's
The big boom
It's some kind of emergency,
The big boom...

Go and check on neighbors who live alone;
Stick to text not voice when you use your phone.
Have some food you can eat without heating;
Water too, it's a gallon per person per day;
You'll need more than that for washing, too.
Don't forget your pets need drinks and food
Lots of food!

Now you're ready for the big boom
No one knows when it's gonna be
The big boom
Ice storm or tornado it's
The big boom
But we'll plan accordingly,
The big boom....

Watch for things that might fall on your head;
You won't be much help if you end up dead.
Get some training, some first aid and CPR,
Always carry some cash, keep some gas in your car;
Tell your family how to contact you,
They might worry if they can't get through,
That's just rude.

Now you're ready for the big boom,
No one knows what it's gonna be,
The big boom,
So we plan for everything,
The big boom,
And a fast recovery
The big boom.

#401 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 07:25 PM:

Lila, that is amazing.

#402 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 07:49 PM:

*blush* Thanks!

#403 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2014, 11:25 PM:

Lila @400, Not to put words in his mouth, but I think Jim will be very pleased with you....

#404 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 12:22 AM:

An upcoming LEGO release that our esteemed hosts may appreciate...

#405 ::: Bob W. ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 12:53 AM:

#404 ::: JC :::

Is it just me, or are the proportions of the depicted box slightly out of whack? Like a slightly incorrect isomorphic drawing of a parallelepiped as might be produced by somebody drawing a box in Photoshop.

Probably doesn't matter. Just it's late and it seemed to be making my head swim a bit.

#406 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 12:59 AM:

Serge Broom @377: Dueling squee, as one might say?

#407 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 03:55 AM:

Bob W @405

There is something odd about the box.

Look at the narrow vertical side and the alignment of the baselines on the lettering and the lowest edge. It suggests one vanishing point. The top and bottom edges of the Lego logo on that panel suggests a very different vanishing point, which doesn't seem to fit the lettering baselines. Yes, there could be a taper on the box, but that messes up the distribution packing.

I can't tell what the top edge is like, but it doesn't look like physical catalogue photography. If it was a CGI model I can see two different ways of forming the taper, and one of them could lead to that localised distortion.

My guess is that the model was made in a way to keep the lettering lined up right—a horizontal line stayed horizonal—which is a localised distortion that doesn't show in the plain-coloured area of the texture, while the texture artist corrected for an even distortion. Or maybe the other way around. If it had been a rectangular panel it would have been sub-divided into squares with all the horizontal lines parallel. But to get a tapered panel, do you alter just the end squares, or spread the length change through all of them?

And if there is a broad margin on the graphic, you don't need to distort it. But the red Lego logo looks too close to the top edge to do that.

Yeah, I'm guessing, but that's a split you can have with CGI that you don't get with a camera.

#408 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 05:05 AM:

To me it's the Confidential... box that looks wrong. But I have that vision thing where parallel lines converge. Can't remember the name for it. Francis Bacon had it. Astigmatism.

Wouldn't you need bricks with rounded ends to make that?

#409 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 09:28 AM:

Lady Kay @374: Good point about Conn Ave, although the beginning of New Hampshire is in DC (NE, the poorer side) and then into PG County, between Takoma Park and Chillum, before taking a leftish turn into MoCo. Then again, if you follow NH further up into MoCo, it turns into bigger plots with larger houses, and lots of trees, and more setback places. It's quite a lot nicer out towards Olney. (The Ukrainian Festival this weekend was on New Hampshire Ave.) Parts of Connecticut Ave also have more apartments/condos and smaller houses on smaller plots, out towards Aspen Hill. Still, there is a clear distinction as you noted, between the "good" parts of both roads, and the "poor" parts.

I live in a old section of Silver Spring, walkable to the downtown but not in it. The Purple Line will be very beneficial to all of us, despite middle-class alarms about Those People coming through or all the extra cars parking in the neighborhood.

Xopher: Belated Happy Birthday to you!
Kip W @315: Lovely poem.

Stefan: My condolences on your loss, and "good onya" for helping your mom. I hope she does have a chance to travel and enjoy life for a bit.

#410 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 09:29 AM:

The Economist has an article about recent technological advances in polder farming I the Netherlands, for those interested. A dairy farm run almost entirely by robots, with minimal human intervention, is an example profiled.

#411 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 10:29 AM:

In somewhat hyperlocal news, I just purchased a full membership to Sasquan.

#412 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 11:09 AM:

Stefan - my condolences.

Your Mom may need support for quite a while. When my husband died of terminal cancer, one of the most disconcerting feelings was that I had no purpose any more. I got myself past that by telling myself to wait it out - at some point I would either figure it out or stop caring about having a purpose. (The latter turned out to be true, for me.) But it's a potentially dangerous feeling.

I also could have used lots more social interaction than I got - I wasn't good at setting it up for myself, and other people tended to think, "John's dead - it's over". I hope your Mom will be better at asking for help than I was.

Living alone is also a huge change from living with someone entwined in your daily life. When my cousin came to live with me recently, I was surprised to realize how much I'd missed just having someone around.

Anniversaries and First-Time-Withouts can be particularly difficult. John died during the 2010 Winter Olympics. When this year's Olympics rolled around, I was surprised at the intensity of my sadness, four years after.

Your mother is a different person, of course, and not all of this may apply.

#413 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 12:53 PM:

So, Xopher, you're another Virgo, eh? "We're everywhere—for your convenience."

Stefan Jones: It sounds like your family was able to see him off in good order.

Nancy Lebovitz @395: Very interesting article on driver/cyclist safety. I was particularly interested in the linked article. I'd deduced a lot of that empirically over the years, but it's interesting to see it laid out formally. Especially the business of riding farther from the kerb.

I'd actually only started noticing that one a few years ago. There's a particularly iffy stretch of road on my way to work (that actually prompted a friend to decide to live somewhere other than Boulder!) where staying an extra foot away from the kerb will get you an additional three feet of clearance from the cars. Puzzled me, but this guy explains it: One is more visible, and from farther away.

Doug @396: goodwill on the part of motorists. ... not what my bicycling friends in the US report.

My experience* indicates general indifference; it stands to reason that motorists will be hostile to things that frighten or annoy them. Refraining from provoking either of those to reactions, and relations go much more smoothly.**

Interestingly, I have two acquaintances who report great frustration with traffic. I plan to share these articles along to them and see what they say; I'd be willing to bet money they both assume they are "right there, in plain sight!" when in fact they are doing things that make them harder to see, and/or are coming at cars in unexpected ways. I occassionally run into trouble with cars cutting me off and suchlike, but I can nearly always guage the degree to which I'm being invisible, for whatever reason.

Crossing threads: this is where I use my martial arts training the most: the "looking noplace in particular and everywhere in general" sparring trick at intersections to spot oncoming traffic***, and also for falling down.

* Which is heavily tainted by being in the PR of Boulder, I'm sure—a friend joked about bike racks on the noses of airplanes coming in and out of DIA.

** Not withstanding the occasional joker brought up on DUI and vehicular homicide charges for killing a cyclist after being a loud opponent of cycling accommodations in his town. (He was later deemed incompetent to stand trial.)

*** Which, I have also empirically verified, works much less well for spotting cyclists.

janra @398: Florida! ::shudders:: I cut my cycle-commuting teeth in Sarasota, in '74. Brrr!!

until you've made eye contact

I stongly suspect that my two acquaintances who complain about traffic have not yet worked out that traffic is a negotiation.

#414 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 01:04 PM:

Today's musical discovery - Shovels and Rope. I'm bad at categorization but I'd say something like "Appalachia" ?

#415 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 01:12 PM:

Hyperlocal news... Next year's Bubonicon guests are Tamora Pierce, Catherynne M. Valente, Mary Robinette Kowal and artist Ruth Sanderson.The con obviously wants to thoroughly destroy SF.

#416 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 01:14 PM:

until you've made eye contact

Mandatory driver training at work (mandatory for everyone who drove a company vehicle, including car and van pools, and the department manager insisted that everyone under him have it) had as one of its points 'make sure they see you'. I try to be visible to drivers when I'm crossing the street - but some drivers insist on not seeing anything but the traffic light and the street ahead. (The last time I almost got hit, I was in the crosswalk with the light, and a guy who wasn't paying attention almost drove right into me - and the light had been red for him for several seconds.)

#417 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 01:25 PM:

Hee hee:

Phone: *Rrrring!*

Me: "Hello?"

Caller with a strong Indian accent: "May I speak to the main user of your computer?"

Me: "This is me."

Caller: "Our user support company has detected an attempt to hack your IP address."

Me: "Can I ask you a question?" (Intending to go with, "Does your mother know what you're doing?")

Caller: *Click!*

Oh well. }:-) Have to say, I love the irony of his pitch.

P J Evans: And then there was the guy, in Minneapolis years ago, who damn well saw me stepping into the cross walk, damn well knew I had the right of way, and made that left turn anyway. Against the light, as I recall. Good thing I was able to dance out of his way.

#418 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 01:37 PM:

Next year's worldcon is opening the hotel reservation process as of tomorrow.

#419 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 02:44 PM:

Re. crossing the road, an interesting phenomenon I've noticed as a runner is that some drivers remove the label "pedestrian" from runners, so will not, for example, stop for a runner as the runner crosses on a zebra crossing. Other people in my running club have also noticed this.

As for cycling, I wear lots of high-vis - including on wrists and ankles and try to have at least one stationary PLUS at least one flashing light both front and rear (I have at least three rear lights, so if the batteries go on one I've still got two...) I may now look for more reflective/high viz bands to go on my knees and elbows as well.

I found the information about riding out from the kerb interesting. Probably easier* if you're cycling fast enough to be close to the speed limit. I do use this for short periods e.g. while passing parked cars, where it's really too narrow for the cars to pass me safely, but I try to get in once I'm past - and to raise an arm to thank the drivers for their patience. And if I don't get in, then I've got a good chance of drivers pushing past anyway...

* Less likely to get lots of honks and verbal abuse.

#420 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 02:44 PM:

@Lenore/#412: Yes, supporting my mother has been on our minds all the time my father was failing. She had been in really bad shape, struggling alone to keep a sinking boat afloat.

Help, professional and from family, is already underway. I am sure a move to a more visitor-friendly home is in the offing. (They were way out in the sticks, south of the Catskills.)

For now, she's switched to full-time Grandma mode, staying with my sister's family. Word over the weekend is that this is helping a lot.

#421 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 05:20 PM:

#413, Jacque: I stongly suspect that my two acquaintances who complain about traffic have not yet worked out that traffic is a negotiation.

That's an excellent word for it. Negotiation. I once had a conversation about cycle commuting with somebody who had enormous difficulty and frustration, and nearly daily conflicts, with cars at a particular intersection — that I also went through daily, but with zero conflicts. I never saw how the other person approached the intersection but what I did was match speeds with the cars (often slowing down) and place myself between two of them; the cars opened a gap for me to go straight while the cars ahead and behind made a turn through the bike lane but not through *me*.

#419, dcb: riding out from the kerb

I never had data to back it up, only personal observation, but my experience was that in the absence of a marked bike lane, riding out in the car lane was often the safest place to be. I had it down to a combination of things: fewer edge-of-road potholes to dodge means I can ride in a straighter, more predictable line; I am located out where they expect to see traffic so I am more likely to be seen; there is no way they can fool themselves into thinking that they can fit beside me in the lane to pass me, so they pull all the way into the other lane.

Riding in the car lane is *more* dangerous on a road with a typical speed substantially higher than one's cycling speed combined with a lot of blind corners, however. It's a judgement call.

#422 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 05:37 PM:

Serge Broom @418: I need to decide which hotel I want. There are surprisingly few total rooms and I expect that they will fill up quite soon.

#423 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 05:41 PM:

iamnothing @ 422... The Doubletree *seems* to have the best location.

#424 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 06:02 PM:

Serge @423, iamnothing @422: Sasquan has other hotels in reserve, if needed, which are quite near the Convention Center (most things in Spokane are near the Convention Center!). Which hotel you want depends a lot on what you want to do at the con. The big open parties are going to be at the Davenport (much nicer suites, and a really beautiful historic property) -- it's about half a mile from the closest entrance to the convention center. And the con is working on shuttles, but that's still in negotiation. The Davenport's also building a new building, but the con isn't counting on having rooms there -- it's scheduled to open next summer, and we all know how reliable such opening dates are. If you want more info, feel free to ask me directly -- I'm working on the con, and glad to answer questions. Or write to, and they should get back to you pretty quickly -- I've been surprised at how on-top of things they are!

#425 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 07:00 PM:

@409 Ginger--I was definitely thinking about New Hampshire where it crosses 29 (in Montgomery County), and Connecticut where the Beltway crosses it.

Sometime, you and I and @lorax could have a very small gathering of light here.

#426 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 07:13 PM:

When I was young and learning to cross streets, my father told me to never, never make eye contact with a driver. If they know you see them, they'll go. You'll never make it across the street.

This has been remarkably accurate throughout my life.

#427 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 07:19 PM:

re 409: Then again, if you follow NH further up into MoCo, it turns into bigger plots with larger houses, and lots of trees, and more setback places. It's quite a lot nicer out towards Olney. (The Ukrainian Festival this weekend was on New Hampshire Ave.)

...and the commenter's house. We live directly behind Cloverly Elementary. I believe it was the second Ukie festival that was all cooked in our kitchen.

#428 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 08:54 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 424... Thanks for the tips. We're more focused on being near the con facilities themselves. In that case would the Doubletree be the better choice?

#429 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 08:58 PM:

Diatryma @ #426, there are drivers and drivers. Behavioral norms seem to vary a great deal from place to place in the US (except for the USVI, I have no experience outside the lower 48).

When I was in Seattle, drivers actually stopped and waited for pedestrians. It seriously weirded me out. I didn't know what to do.

#430 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 09:21 PM:

Lady Kay @425 and earlier.

Adding another data point: I live off Wisconsin Avenue in Montgomery County, inside the Beltway. Wisconsin does not run through the big houses like Connecticut does, but the apartments and so forth are more expensive than the ones off New Hampshire. The speed limit from Georgetown out through Bethesda varies from 25 to 35, with most of the slower spots being sensibly in denser areas rather than more expensive areas (though some are both).

Should a mini-gathering-of-light be contemplated, count me in. Ginger, albatross, Michael I, and I got together a couple of years ago to see Lois McMaster Bujold at the National Book Festival, and it was fun.

Tossing out an idea - I understand Jo Walton will be GOH at Balticon next May. That's not exactly in our back yard, but not all that far.

#431 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 09:59 PM:

Serge @428: the Doubletree is definitely better than the Davenport under that criterion. The two Red Lions are a little farther than the Doubletree, but not much; they're just across the river, and there are convenient bridges. It's a beautiful walk.

#432 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 10:07 PM:

@430, I left out both Wisconsin and Georgia, because Wisconsin has actually sensible limits and Georgia has an access road in places that serves to protect the houses from the road.

Connecticut should be 35 and so should New Hampshire in the areas I'm thinking of. But complaints put Connecticut too low, and lack of complaints leave New Hampshire too high.

#433 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 10:21 PM:

Tom Withmore @ 431... Thanks again.

#434 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 10:47 PM:

Lila, #429: My partner and I visited some friends in Seattle a few years ago, and were told that by local law there pedestrians have the absolute right of way over any motorized vehicle. You can actually step out into the street, jaywalking, in front of oncoming traffic and it will stop for you without the driver even honking.

That seriously freaked me out. I can't help seeing it as an excellent method of training people on foot to be anywhere from "entirely incautious" to "blindingly arrogant". Traffic is indeed a negotiation, and in Seattle pedestrians no longer have to negotiate. I wonder how many people are killed in auto/pedestrian accidents when they move away from Seattle and have not yet re-learned (or learned to begin with) the habits of caution.

#435 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 11:22 PM:

I'd been snarking for years that non-motorized traffic should always have right-of-way over motorized traffic, because, you know, "virtue!"* Apparently the traffic ghods heard me because Colorado has lately developed these glorious mid-street crosswalks where you push a button, yellow lights start flashing, and traffic parts before you. About a year ago they added audio warnings "Cross with caution; vehicles may not stop!" Even before they did, I'd had a few hair-raising close calls, but traffic is by and large trained now so that you don't even have to push the button to get right of way.

I'm particularly conscious of the negotiated nature of traffic because Boulder is a college town, and every fall we have a month-long round of, "Okay, what's the local traffic style going to be this year?" with style "suggestions" from all over the world.

* :-)

#436 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2014, 11:28 PM:

Jacque @435: it's like sailboats having right-of-way on the water: they're slower and somewhat less maneuverable, hence more vulnerable.

and speaking of old poems, for Lee @434 there's always:

Here lies the body of Samuel Jay,
Who died defending his right of way.
He was right, dead right as he drove along
But he's just as dead as if he'd been wrong.

Replace "drove" with "walked" and it's more apropos, and perhaps more commonly true.

#437 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:00 AM:

My cousin died of suicide today. She was 26 years old. It was her fourth attempt. My family keep trying make sense, asking why today? What was the trigger? What made her so unhappy? And I don't know how to explain that depression is a fucking mean son of a bitch who wanted her dead and it got her.

#438 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:01 AM:

Cheryl @437 -- Depression is like that, and I'm very sorry it got your cousin.

#439 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:03 AM:

Cheryl: I'm so very sorry.

#440 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:08 AM:

First time WorldCon-goer with Sasquan (bought my membership last night! WOOHOO!) and ready to reserve rooms tomorrow. It looks like they're affordable enough that my roommate and I will be able to get our own rooms. We'd like to go with the Red Lion, which has both fridge-let and microwave in the room. We found that having the fridge in the room at DragonCon saved us lots of money and frustration.

So will we need to have our membership #s at the ready to reserve? Can I reserve with a visa atm card and not worry that they're going to put a hold on my account for the full amount?

#441 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 01:06 AM:

#437 :-(

I don't know if it would be helpful to your family now, in the depth of loss, but Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half biographical essay/comic about depression is a painful and informative look at the illness from the inside:

(And in preview I'm wondering if I should post this and I'm hoping I'm not being helpy.)

#442 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 02:00 AM:

I'm so sorry, Cheryl.

I think you're right; I don't think it matters so much to know what the specific trigger was, or even if there was one. Depression just goes on until you're worn out.

#443 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 02:37 AM:

nerdycellist @440: I am speaking not as someone who knows what Sasquan has negotiated, but someone who's had a bit of experience with hotels and debit cards: my information may not be accurate.

They almost certainly won't put a hold on the whole amount of your stay; they may put a hold of the cost for one night. That would be worth checking with the housing bureau about (if you can't find the e-address for them, let me know and I'll get it to you). However, be warned: they'll put a hold on the card not only for the amount of the room when you get there, but also for whatever they deem appropriate for "incidentals". Hotels vary, but this can be several hundred dollars for the length of a Worldcon stay.

If you have a friend with a credit card who can guarantee the room when you're there, that will save you and the other person getting a room a certain amount of anguish. Please note that you can pay at the end with the debit card, and not have the extra funds included (hey, you can pay with cash at the end if you wish and avoid any credit card hassles). But it can take significant time for the held funds to be returned to your account. This is a general Stupid Hotel Trick. It's not something relating to Sasquan, or Worldcon, or fandom at all. And you're not likely to get them to change. (Consider the rant about how those without credit cards are treated as second class citizens as given, okay?)

#444 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 03:28 AM:

Tom: I think "stupid" is putting it kindly. At Denvention, my credit card ran dry almost immediately. (I deliberately keep a low credit ceiling on my cc.) Thursday, the Hyatt put a hold on one night's stay. Friday, they put a hold on two nights'. At some point during the con, I was informed that my cc was refused, for insufficient funds.

I was perplexed; seems like $1.5K should be ample to cover the $600 weekend, no? Upon inquiry, they blithely informed me of their practice. When I expressed puzzlement as to why they didn't release the previous holds, they said, "Oh, those are released automatically after ten days."

I did manage to keep my temper with the service staff with whom I was dealing directly, but I was, um, livid. Apparently the idea that people might have immediate need of the funds they're tying up eludes them utterly.

(One has to wonder how much they manage to scrape off in the form of interest with this practice.)

#445 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 04:57 AM:

Cheryl, #437: My condolences to you and the rest of the family.

Can you make it analogous to cancer? It was a long hard fight, and today she lost? IOW, nothing necessarily special about today that "caused" it.

nerdycellist, #440: Yay, looking forward to meeting you! In answer to your questions, you don't need your membership # to reserve a room, but check the con website and see if there's a reservation code for the group rate. About the debit card, you'll have to ask the hotel people directly about their policy. I know that the triggering factor for me getting a "real" credit card was having a hotel do that to me and having a problem as a result, but I don't know if all hotels do it now or not. And we travel enough that I can't afford to deal with that on anything resembling a regular basis, so now all hotel reservations go on the Amazon card.

#446 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 06:34 AM:

CHip@366: sorry for missing your link. Every time I come back there are a hundred more posts, and sometimes I misapprehend where I left off last time! :)

#447 ::: cantabrigian poet ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 08:02 AM:

janra @421: not to mention that riding in the car lane will prevent you from getting doored.

#448 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 08:18 AM:

Jacque @ #435, we have those here too. People drive right through them. I'm kind of surprised the police haven't repeated their day-long exercise of triggering the crossing flashers in front of the restaurant where my daughter works, then having the squad car pick up the people who ignored it about a block further down the street--speaking of the habit of using fines as funding.

#449 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 08:22 AM:

Cheryl @ #437, I'm so sorry. And I second the recommendation of Allie Brosh's piece. IMO (as someone with a long history of clinical depression) she nails it.

#450 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 08:58 AM:

Lee #434: My partner and I visited some friends in Seattle .... You can actually step out into the street, jaywalking, in front of oncoming traffic and it will stop for you without the driver even honking.

I found this also true in San Francisco. However, you also are likely to find a cop at your elbow to scold or ticket you for jaywalking.

#451 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 09:02 AM:

Cheryl #437: My sympathies. My stock phrase for trying to explain this sort of thing is, "sometimes the dragon wins".

#452 ::: Fragano Ledgister sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 09:15 AM:

Cheryl, my condolences. Depression is a truly horrid bastard.

#453 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 10:03 AM:

Oops, no spam seen. Sorry.

#454 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 10:13 AM:

Thanks for the hotel advice, all. I will see if I can get my roommate to reserve under her credit card. Hopefully a room in our desired hotel will still be available after work today. Or I could just be paranoid; I'm used to the variety of idiocy DragonCon brings, with hotels selling out literally minutes after they go on sale. Heck, this year when we checked in they gave us vouchers so we could reserve for next year. By the time we gathered our stuff for early check-in on that first day, there were already people lining up to wait for the service desk to open so they could redeem their vouchers. Before picking their badges up for 2014, they were going to reserve their rooms for 2015.

I had a "real credit card" for awhile, and then kind of effed up. (the consequences of having a sick dog are going to take me years to clear up. And yet my only regret is not going into more debt. I am an idiot) So while I'm still getting the odd credit card offer here and there, I'd really not too keen on jumping at the chance. Maybe once I've paid off my car.

#455 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 10:40 AM:

James Harvey @ 446:

My trick for keeping track where I was last time (only works if you only read ML on one computer) is to click the date link at the top of every post (not the name, or the "view all by"; just the date) when I read it. That changes the link color to the "followed link" color, and I can see in the list of the most recent 1000 where the links change color.

#456 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:04 AM:

Cally Soukup (455): I do a variant of that where I click on the date link for the last comment I read in every thread. That achieves much the same effect without having to click every single link.

Unfortunately, I do use a variety of computers in the course of an average week, so I also have to remember where I left off when I'm going to change computers. I do that by memorizing (or trying to) the last three posters in the Recent Comments list. The combination is usually unique enough to take me to the right place.

#457 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:13 AM:

Stefan Jones@342: My condolences. I fully recognize the reactions you're describing. Best wishes for everyone going forward.

Cheryl@437: I'm so very sorry.

#458 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:17 AM:

Cally Soukup@455

Alas, I read on my work and home computer, and my work computer isn't a real computer at all but a Citrix link to a virtual machine somewhere, which means quite often my profile is "reset" and all the clicked stuff becomes unclicked etc. Oh well! I'll live, I'm sure!

#459 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:24 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden@76: The thing I found most disturbing about your description is that the future tense seemed too optimistic.

Serge Broom@174: I also used to think Nottingham was made up.

How about the sheriff? Or The Shire, for that matter?

I found it surreal the first time I had to go to Nottingham on business; not just "this is a real place", but "this is a real place with modern urban architecture".

Jacque@192: approximate 1K comments/thread, and you have two-hundred thousand comments in ML in the Open Threads alone.

But how many vowels?

Lady Kay@249: Good luck at the interview! Or, depending on when the interview is: I hope it went well.

#460 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:25 AM:

nerdycellist @454: Also: be cautious if you're inclined to use the hotel's website to make reservations. I got nailed by MileHiCon's hotel a few years ago. You get an extra discount for registering online. Only catch (which they take some pains to hide): the deposit is non-refundable.

Cally Soukup @455: My trick for bookmarking threads is to click the date link on the post I stop at, then drag the URL out of the address field at the browser's top into a special folder I keep for the purpose, replacing the previous copy. Again, only works for a particular computer, and one does have to remember to set the bookmark, but it's reasonably frustration free.

#461 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:33 AM:

The worldcon's reservation page doesn't work for people stuck with Internet Exploder 7. I'll have to wait until I get home to my wife's Chrome-using laptop. This is quite annoying.

#462 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:34 AM:

I second Fragano's comment about depression. (It's something that you don't choose. You can be born with it.)
At one point, a couple of years after my father died, my mother was very depressed and in a state of lump-on-a-logginess, not wanting to do anything but vegetate. Later she asked me how I'd put up with her then, and I allowed as how there were times when I'd considered taking her over to the local senior center and leaving her for the day.

#463 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:34 AM:

AKICIML: I'm trying to remember where this anecdote came from. I thought it was from Dream of the Red Chamber, but I'm not finding it in a quick search. It's the story of a funeral procession and an imperial procession meeting at a crossroads and having to negotiate precedence, with the deceased having precedence over the living and the emperor having precedence over all other people. The solution I recall was to have those carrying the deceased go first, then the emperor's procession, then the remainder of the funeral procession; although I can't remember whether the remainder of the funeral procession came before or after the remainder of the emperor's procession.

Does this trigger any memories?

#464 ::: iamnothing ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:41 AM:

Tom Whitmore @431 and others: The Doubletree was apparently already sold out at 11:17 (Eastern). I requested a reservation at the Red Lion River Inn instead.

#465 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:47 AM:

iamnothing @ 464... I am less than impressed by the worldcon's decision to come up with a web site that IE7 can't use. If there's nothing left but bad room choices by the time I get home, I guess I'll have to skip the whole damned thing.

#466 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:48 AM:

With all these stories about awful drivers vs. cyclists, I feel the need to mention a time when a driver's alertness saved my neck.

I'd forgotten that a street at an intersection was feeding in from both directions rather than (like most streets in the area) being one-way. So I charged forward without looking both ways.

It's a good thing the driver was paying attention. I could have been badly hurt.

#467 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:06 PM:

Lady Kay @ 374: your facts seem to buttress my argument that speeding is not a victimless crime; the higher speed limit is killing pedestrians.
Economic bias in setting limits is a separate issue -- and not surprising considering Maryland's mixed history. (I grew up in Potomac, back when it had a real-people section instead of being all Beverly Hills East; do you remember / have you heard of George Mahoney, to whom Spiro-the-crook was a reasonable alternative?)

Sandy B @ 382: that's what I was wambling around: speeders hurt themselves, but they can also hurt other people. The problem with table 5(c) is that it doesn't separate at-fault drivers from that 66% of involved people AND it doesn't discuss what fraction of the accidents involved cars with no passengers. (From what I've read, first- and second-year drivers have a massively disproportionate fraction of all accidents, and are more likely to have accidents when carrying passengers (due to simple distraction as much as provocation), but enough adults drive alone that I can't guess how the 66%-are-drivers figure relates to the odds of a passenger being injured.) That's an interesting link which I will have to look through over several days.

Lila @ 429, Lee @ 434: my experience is that drivers stop voluntarily for pedestrians at uncontrolled zebras in many places, but I'm croggled that a jaywalker has the right of way.

Cheryl @ 437: sympathies from someone who's been around for fortunately-failed attempts. We're learning bits and pieces, but I don't think we'll ever have enough reliable treatment options to protect both life and personal integrity.

Tom/Jacque on holds: I wouldn't assume that the hotel is either guilty or guilt-free; card processers have all sorts of ways of squeezing out extra fees/interest, and it's not clear when card accepters get any advantage from playing along (or picking a stringent processer in the first place). I especially doubt that a hold yields interest; probably the hotel is just stuck if the card fills up, and nobody on the take side is advantaged (absent consumer-protection laws, which we're not likely to see any time soon) by being responsible. I'm not unsympathetic -- I was bitten by this myself at a Loscon and couldn't even move money to unlock the card because eastbound phone connections were storm-damaged (this was a \long/ time ago) -- but IME the processers are more likely than the hotel to have the rapacity of the customs collector in "Make Mine Mars"

James Harvey @ 446: yes, the density of info can be very high here....

#468 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:18 PM:

local-historical bit: some years ago MLers were debating how somebody could find $15K/month insufficient to live on. Those were educated guesses following an overheard comment; the WSJ has real data on similar-to-larger amounts -- or at least as "real" as spending $150K/year on a wine club. Gives a whole new meaning to Shrub's "reality-based community", doesn't it?

#469 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:25 PM:

CHip @468: That first link is behind a pay wall. Any more info available?

#470 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:27 PM:

I'd been snarking for years that non-motorized traffic should always have right-of-way over motorized traffic, because, you know, "virtue!"

I think that non-motorized traffic should always have right-of-way because we have no motors, and it's thus more effort for us to get lost momentum back. If a car and a bike get into a wrangle about who has to wait, the car stands to lose a few seconds. The bike stands to lose a few seconds and the extra pedaling to get back up to speed.

#471 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:29 PM:

@467. Spiro Agnew is before my time--ish. I was an infant/child during the Nixon administration and you must be referring to his time as governor.

I was off-handedly using speeding to mean exceeding the set speed limit, not exceeding the reasonable for situation ideal speed.

I'm going to the interview now.

#472 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:33 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @466: It's a good thing the driver was paying attention. I could have been badly hurt.

Contrariwise, the only time I've ever been hit by a car (knock on wood), it was because I wasn't paying attention, and did a Stupid.

CHip @467:  hotel  guest is just stuck if the card fills up—the hotel was just fine.

The multilayered meta of financial "services" dimension hadn't occurred to me though. You're probably right about the interest. As I recall, the money doesn't actually go anywhere; it's just earmarked for the hotel's use until they let go of it. Which does mean that they're not collecting interest on it.

CHip: Oh, I could be so easily talked into "surviving" on "only" $1.5K/year....

(Your WSJ article appears to be behind a paywall.)

#473 ::: Danny Sichel ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 12:49 PM:

Cheryl@437 - awww fuck. I'm so sorry.

Do you think your relatives might understand "brain chemicals out of whack, not able to stop being sad"?

#474 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 01:50 PM:


How horrible. I've lost family to that disease, too. I think it's just naturally hard to accept that this person who had a lot going for them did themselves in, not because of some external source of unhappiness in their lives, but because of something doing wrong in their brain.

#475 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 02:09 PM:

Related to the Sasquan hotel-booking subthread: the conversation reminded me that my Amazing Girlfriend and I had discussed maybe going to Worldcon next year, since Spokane is decently close. We just talked about it, and since we are so going to need a vacation by the end of next summer*, we're now planning on going. We just booked a hotel room.

So, barring unforeseen complications, we'll see people there.

* If we're lucky, we will have actually gotten our degrees by then. The plan is to (hopefully) walk next spring.


Oh, and as of five minutes ago, there were plenty of lovely rooms available at the other three hotels. Since the plan is to go to Worldcon as a post-grad-school treat to ourselves, we opted for the Davenport.

#476 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 02:48 PM:

My partner and I visited some friends in Seattle a few years ago, and were told that by local law there pedestrians have the absolute right of way over any motorized vehicle. You can actually step out into the street, jaywalking, in front of oncoming traffic and it will stop for you without the driver even honking.

I was born and grew up in Seattle, and have also lived here for most of my adult life, and that does not match my experience. (And it is certainly not the law now, if it ever was, that pedestrians have an absolute right of way. See .)

It IS the law here that an intersection does not have to have a crosswalk marked in order for pedestrians to have the right of way. I have had drivers who didn't know that yell at me.

#477 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 03:27 PM:

nerdycellist @454: if the hotel you want is not showing availability for the dates you want, try a shorter period of stay (chop off the first/last day), and see if you can get a reservation. If you can, it can almost undoubtedly be extended by writing to -- send them your confirmation number. This tip has helped several people already. Last info I saw, there were still rooms at all the hotels -- but not for all the nights. And that's of about an hour ago.

#478 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 03:40 PM:

Thanks again, Tom @#477. My friend reserved a room for me under her "other" credit card. We got the rooms we wanted in the hotel we wanted for all the days. Guess we lucked out! I really appreciate that the confirmation email lists the full total - including taxes and fees.

#479 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 04:36 PM:

Lady Kay @425: I'm all for a mini-Gathering of Light any time we can coordinate one.

C. Wingate @427: Are you indicating that your family contains Ukies?

OtterB @ 430: Balticon is an excellent suggestion!

Cheryl @ 437: I am so sorry for your loss.

#480 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 05:13 PM:

Cheryl, I'm very sorry.

#481 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 05:15 PM:

I mark my place with a bookmark. When I read down to the bottom, I get the URL of the last comment and edit it into the bookmark, which is a five-second process. Naturally, this only marks one thread, and it would take more bookmarks to mark more threads. (A tip o' the Hatlo Hat to "Uncle Lumpy" at the Comics Curmudgeon for suggesting it to me.)

#482 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 05:39 PM:

Cheryl @437: My condolences.

#483 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 06:44 PM:

Charyl @ 437: Condolences. I have two friends with depression including suicidal ideation, and know at least 3 more who have it at lesser levels, including my husband. (Plus at least one bipolar and several anxiety disorders). It's a hard disease to explain, it seems, to we who are lucky enough to be neurotypical. Hyperbole and a half does well.

Emphasizing that it is in fact a disease, and like diabetes, one that does not go *away* even when the symptoms are treated helps some.

Getting past the barrier of what a neurotypical person calls 'feeling depressed' (IE, I'm down because Actual Reasons) and into the 'there doesn't need to be a reason, that's how the disease attacks' is the biggest hurdle, I think.

Hope something in there was helpful and not helpy.

#484 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 07:14 PM:

Cheryl: condolences. There but for Grace go I (or should I say my family). I don't know if my story helps understanding, or helps explain, but if it does, you're welcome to it.

My depression has been basically in remission for near 13 years now; but that's what it is, remission. If I stop taking care of myself, if too many things hit at once, if I get peopled out, if many a long list happens, it starts creeping back like a long-lost friend.(*)

Due to circumstances (mostly) completely in my control, I have been unable to take complete care of myself these past few months. It's the right thing for me to do, for my career, my life, and my love in general; but it does mean that I spent two weeks "vacation" in my room in "nothing seems worth doing right now" mode (which I know is my "you've pushed too hard, this is enforced recovery" warning). I'm paying for it, and I have been on better terms with Mr. Not Happy since about June than is really safe.

The difference for me between overdone and exhausted and in danger, and actual full-onset depression is really only, whether after a week of recovery, things are getting better, or whether is just The Way Things Just Are.(**)

Like other chronic illnesses, some days are better than others; like other chronic illnesses, "remission" doesn't mean "cured", and thinking it does is the fastest way to relapse; and like other chronic illnesses, it is occasionally fatal, even after many, many years of living with it.

Depression Lies. Depression Kills. Depression blames the victim, too.

(*) And like many another toxic friendship, it really can be a friend; it might be horrible, but it's comfortable and homely and nostalgic, even. Certainly, it can be less scary than the alternatives (until it isn't).

(**) To this day, I don't know what would happen were it to come back, and blah is my life again; especially since I now can remember what it's like to not be there (which wasn't the case the last time). Yes, that scares me, too.

#485 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 08:01 PM:

Tom Whitmore... The Davenport will be the official party hotel, but will it have a non-party floor or two for those of us who prefer quiet neighbors?

#486 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 08:30 PM:

Tom Whitmore... I found the answer. We'll be staying at the Davenport, but *not* on the party floor.

#488 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2014, 11:19 PM:

GACK. Cheryl. Cheryl. Deep apologies.

#489 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 05:25 AM:

For my son.

They used to say that we can be the toys
Of soulless things that cunningly attempt
To damn us; and their best way is to tempt
Us to despair, the worst of sins. The joys
Of life were freely given; this destroys
Them all, displays a bitter cold contempt
For joy, and makes a human soul exempt
From all redeeming. Those are demon's ploys.

But now we say our minds consist, in sum,
Of physics and of electricity,
And can be measured, mostly. There may be
Some dark, dumb, undefined residuum,
But demons? Well... it's undefined? And dumb?
And dark? And soulless? What else can it be?

#490 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 07:42 AM:

Dave Luckett #489: I was saying back in the Shrub administration that demonic activity would explain a lot of (then-)current politics....

#491 ::: Cath ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 10:35 AM:

Sandy B @414 Shovels and Rope! Aren't they great? I must have listened to Birmingham 20 times the week I discovered their first album. The video is charming - the two kids dress and move like their adult doubles.

Serge @418 Thanks for publicizing the hotel reservation opening. Like nerdycellist, I've booked the Red Lion in the Park, because of the fridge/microwave option. I need food Right There first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

I'm looking forward to a Worldcon I can drive to. The last one was Winnipeg in '94.

#492 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 11:13 AM:

Cath @ 491... Glad I could help. I'm still not sure how Sue and I will get there. We could drive, but it'd be a longuish ride. We'll probably fly although the direct flight to Spokane may be more expensive than flying to Seattle with a train ride from there to Spokane. Well, we still have time to figure things out.

#494 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 11:33 AM:

Scalzi is being very cute.

#495 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 12:30 PM:

It occurs to me that depression is like the stronger kid who grabs your arm and then asks you why you're hitting yourself, over and over.

Cheryl, I don't know if you're a hugging-person, but if you are, consider yourself hugged. I'm so sorry for your loss.

#496 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 01:15 PM:

I feel that the interview went well. We'll see hoe the interviewers feel about it as compared to the other interviewing they are doing.

#497 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 04:32 PM:

This is just to say that William Carlos Williams makes a bad roommate.

#498 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 04:59 PM:

Cheryl, I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for telling us about it.

#499 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 09:19 PM:

Cheryl, so sorry for your loss. The worst part is when people hide the cause to the point where depression is seen as shameful—there was an acquaintance of mine who lost to suicide earlier this year and I only discovered the cause by total accident. If I hadn't been trying to figure out what happened, I would have missed the half hour the information was up before somebody scrubbed it. (In contrast, I have a friend who is open about her treatment—ECT—because she is certain that the stigma needs to be overcome.)

Another resource for explaining depression is depression comix. Many varieties of depression and its effects are on that site. And there's another one with an owl... don't remember the name, but it shows up from time to time. Anyone remember that one?

#500 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 09:26 PM:

B. Durbin @ 499

Boggle the Owl on Tumblr, maybe?

#501 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 09:36 PM:

Tiny hamster in hot dog eating contest

Is it possible that some of the odder events in our lives are the result of vast, cool, unsympathetic, and rather peculiar intellects messing with us?

#502 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2014, 10:01 PM:

(Repeating something I said in the sidebar.) Reading this, I realized where my heart is.

#503 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 02:22 AM:

Things are very quiet on social media. Now the actual voting has started, I'm seeing a huge drop in the Scotland-related traffic.

It won't last.

#504 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 04:29 AM:


Have decided that New Zealand's General Election campaign has hit peak crazy*, and have gone ahead and cast vote in advance, instead of waiting until Saturday. Is hopeful of not regretting decision.

Meantime, best wishes to the people participating in the Scotland Referendum.


#505 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 05:04 AM:

In less pleasant election news, the result of the Swedish parliamentary election last Sunday is now unfortunately clear. SD (the "racist expletetive party") has managed to score roughly a sixth of the votes and is, by vote count, the third-largest party.

This unfortunately means they'll probably be balancing the scales for any large vote and pandering is almost sure to happen.

Me, I am sad and occasionally cry little sad tears for my former home.

#506 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 08:19 AM:

Cheryl@437: That is so sad. I hope you can all find some peace. :(

#508 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 01:07 PM:

I noticed today that Dixville Notch may lose its electoral fame.

While it may re-open in time for 2016, the Balsams resort is closed, and there are other places in New Hampshire that could try for a very early election result. Dixville Notch had the hotel as a fancy venue, but two or three voters now?

It needed special permission for the early ballot and count, and I doubt that there were ever any significant consequences from the result, but it looks like an era has ended.

#509 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 04:21 PM:

There's a certain amount of publicity forming about this year's NaNoWriMo, the annual challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Remember, they don't have to be good words.

It's scary but, wordcount per day, it's not crazy.

Writing wasn't something that we were taught at school. At most, we seemed to get told that exam questions were answered with essays that had to be written in a half hour, and we got nothing about content and organisation.

There's no single way to write a book, and 50,000 words would be very short today. We sometimes forget how short books were, even in the early Eighties, compared to today.

And I still recall the thrill of knowing I had told a full story, beginning, middle, and end, at such length.

Just knowing you can hit that target feels pretty good. It's even better to be able to face reading what you have written.

And now you know where all those Kindle books come from. Well, surely you canj do better than them.

#510 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 05:00 PM:

Dave: As a counterpoint, I did the International Baccalaureate high school program in English, and i was not only taught what an essay was, and how to organize one, but also how, with a 3 hour exam time, to use the first 10 minutes to set up the essay so even in that short a span and a handwritten off the cuff rough draft, I would be producing a formal essay with thesis and conclusion.

Comes in handy for a procrastinator, I tell you. University essays and exams went pretty smoothly even when I was doing research less than a week before the due date and assembling my notes up to the last minute.

Re Nano itself, despite knowing at least half a dozen of the locals who do try it every year or more, I used to say i didn't need to do it because I couldn't stop writing.

I changed my mind and tried (And won) last year (Although I have claimed about zero of the prizes and promotions I could have). Of course, I did it in a cheater form, Continuing a draft for which i already had about 40k words, and had stalled on the dreaded muddle of the middle, not starting something wholly new. But I had decided it was past time to shake that particular story loose of the mid-draft doldrums and just go with it. AND I was travelling during - which gave me some obvious dead times to get extra word count in, some people willing to take on the burden of minding JoJo so I could have some free time (We were seeing grandparents for most of those days) AND some times when I explicitly had to be up and social and not buried writing, and times when I wanted and chose to be off doing something else because lookie, things to see.

It took me about 2 hours a day, maybe 3, to get the amount of draft needed. with 16 hours awake that's not too much of a burden for a singular month -- if it's what REALLY you want to do AND your family is supportive and you don't have other life factors, of course.

(The actual book draft I finished a way into 2014, since to my chagrin (But not surprise) it's actually 150k.)

I'm editing that draft right now in hopes of being done in time for November this year, as I actually have two different possible story ideas to play with that popped up since. I'm amused how much I'm looking forward to that.

#511 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 06:32 PM:

Just as an open-thready aside, I'm finding it mindblowing to recognize what's going on in the UK right now (which may mean it not being the UK much longer, I guess).

I suppose it's just me getting old, but despite intellectually understanding that the world isn't obliged to remain the place where I grew up, it still blows my mind when things I always thought of as just part of the background of the universe change.

You'd think working in a very fast-moving field, working at a place where tentative chunks of the future are lying around being poked at in labs or discussed in workshops, or reading SF for my whole lifetime would make this seem less weird. Hell, you'd think sitting in a coffee shop writing a comment about this on an iPad, using a Bluetooth keyboard and a wifi connection to post to a blog, would make this seem less weird.

"*Every* day is anything can happen day," indeed.

#513 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 09:18 PM:

Lenora Rose @510: how, with a 3 hour exam time, to use the first 10 minutes to set up the essay so even in that short a span and a handwritten off the cuff rough draft, I would be producing a formal essay with thesis and conclusion.
Is there a way for me to learn this thing? I am very intrigued.

#514 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 10:27 PM:

C. Wingate's link @512 is glorious. A sample:

"Be advised that this election will not, however, go the full Blitzer, meaning there simply won’t be a granular detail in the results to warrant holograms of news presenters breakdancing on swing counties in Ohio. Worsening matters, the Scots have decided somewhat uncreatively to tally the Yesses against the Nos and declare whichever side has more the winner, instead of jerry-rigging an electoral college to spit out results that are not actually results. That said, if one side is really winning, that may become apparent as late evening falls in the United States."

#515 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 10:28 PM:

dcb @ 469, et al: the WSJ link works in Foxpro (for which I didn't \think/ I had a WSJ cookie) but not in IE; however, (where I got the pointer from) works with a blivet about the generous sampler they're giving me -- maybe it's just sharks-not-eating-lawyers.

Jacque @ 472: the hotel was fine because it put on a hold; it could be out massively if the card were used to its limit for other tourism expenses before the hotel bill was settled. This is not a defense of the excessive size or length of the hold....

Ingvar M @ 505: The BBC said the winners were vowing not to deal with the racist jerks. Do you figure that delaminating the previously-ruling coalition will not be possible?

albatross @ 511: I don't know whether that's the difference between evolution and revolution, or between being involved with something and watching it.

Following on to discussions of surplus military equipment abused in (among many others) Ferguson: the Washington Post observes that schools are also receiving ridiculously powerful military gear. I wonder whether the idiot responsible for accepting a grenade launcher will even be found, let alone chastised.

#516 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 11:03 PM:

estelendur @ 510: Mostly it was just the simple demonstration of how, if you took ten minutes and did a rapid point-form outline for your planned points on a piece of scrap paper, you'd come out with a more coherent essay in 2 hours and 50 minutes than you would in three hours of set pen to paper and write-as-you-go. And for the last half term we were doing a short essay on short notice either every week or every two weeks (Alternating with other big homework) so LOTS of practice.

I'm not always the best at organizing ideas in my brain without setting them on paper, anyhow, so while the technique is in some ways more organized than I tend to be, I have found it makes a difference.

It's harder to apply to novels, alas; the significantly extended timeframe involved kind of kills it.

(I have written drafts with and without outlines, and I think i have enough experience now to say it's not really the same process at all. Outlines tend to be so that I can trap and pin down inspiration so I can follow up and recognize my own thought processes weeks to years later; essay prep points don't need to even make sense 4 hours after the fact, and usually don't. If anything, the novel outline is more like the "Write this essay right now" part of the process.)

We were writing essays on foolscap mostly, so you were given an unlimited number of pages, using one for scrap was a non-issue. For university exam booklets I used a separate piece of blank paper if they allowed us one, or the inside front cover of the booklet if they didn't, one of the "do not write your essay here" pages, and as far as I know nobody docked me marks for having "the professor obviously doesn't need to read this" notation there.

#517 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 11:28 PM:

I did Impromptu in high school speech. I got much the same training-- take thirty seconds to figure out what you're going to say for the next seven minutes, then you're off. Between that, the ability to read very quickly, and general speech-team training, I can walk into a presentation with no prep and still do all right. Certainly better than anyone I presented with in the last few years.

I miss speech team. I rocked that.

#518 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 11:41 PM:

The essay part of the graduation writing test (the one that demonstrates you write English well enough to get out of college, as opposed to the one that gets you in) was like that: they handed you a one-sentence (or thereabouts) topic and gave you something like 90 minutes to write an essay on it, in a blue book, using the inside covers for scratch paper. I passed.... (Topic I got: 'Why I believe [blank]'. 'Why I believe science fiction is good for you' is what I handed back. If they didn't like it, tough.)

#519 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 11:43 PM:

Re: essays, particularly for literature classes, I always wrote down titles, authors' names, and character names first. This wasn't something anyone taught me, it was just the result of an essay in which I wrote "the author has the protagonist do this thing" for pages because I couldn't remember a single name. I don't recall what my mark was for that particular exam.

#520 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2014, 11:51 PM:

I learned a little bit about pre-organizing or simple outlining for essays in school. What I never learned was how to edit beyond spelling and grammar checking. Write, hand in, maybe look at marks, maybe look at annotations, but already moved on to the next first draft. When I finally had a novel draft that I thought was worth working into something I could maybe submit to a publisher, I had to teach myself how to edit. It's been an adventure. Hopefully I have taught myself to be reasonably competent at it, and the next one won't take five years.

#510, Lenora Rose: I used to say i didn't need to do it because I couldn't stop writing.

That's exactly what I told myself when I first learned about NaNoWriMo! The next year I realized that I wrote constantly but I had never actually *finished* anything, so I set myself a goal of 50,000 words and a story that ends. It was terribly rushed and not a great ending, but it did end, and for the first time ever I had a complete novel first draft.

#521 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 05:23 AM:

CHip @ #515:

It's not strictly speaking necessary to have a majority to form a government, it just is enough that you can get the biggest block of cooperating members of parliament (Sweden has certainly had 44% governments in the past). It is a bit confused this time, because Feminist Initiative managed to get 3.42% (cut-off for getting any seats is 4%, for hysterical raisins). This actually means FI is the second party to have MEPs, but no MPs (the first was the Pirate Party).

However, a whole slew of things require a majority vote in parliament at large. And if you're a minority cabinet, that requires horse-trading with extra-cabinet parties. They're called "masters of the balance" or "masters of the scales" (loosely translated, the original term is 'vågmästare', "weigh masters") and looking at the results, we have the social democrats at 31%, the Moderates (think "conservatives", not "liberals") at 23%, then Racist F**w*t Party at 13%, with the rest filtering down.

This realistically means a coalition of the Social Democrats, the Environmental Party The Greens and maybe The Left Party (formerly "The Communist Left Party") at, roughly, 44%.

The gamble here is that taking on the classic match (social democrats and the left) will mean almost NO chances of cooperation from anyone but the environmental party. And that is simply too small a block to be sensible.

Of course, there's a chance that the traditional "right" bundle up. That'd be somewhere between 39% and 40%, so smaller than S+V+MP, but larger than either S+MP or S+V.

But, this still means that you have to convince multiple other parties or court RFP.

#522 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 05:59 AM:

Re essays, the method my daughter was taught in high school was called the "keyhole essay." The basic structure is a 5-paragraph essay: Introductory paragraph with thesis statement. Three paragraphs supporting the thesis statement, each with a different argument, weakest first. Concluding paragraph restating thesis statement. If you google it you'll find more.

This can feel very uncreative, but even when the rote nature of it shows in the final product, it at least produces a coherent argument. I think her practice with this form helped her college writing on longer papers because you can build something more complex on that basic skeleton.

#523 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 06:38 AM:


(Possibly NSFW.)

(I will have to say, Stephen Fry has introduced me to aspects of American culture that...I wouldn't have expected.)

#524 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 08:04 AM:

CHip @ #515, how long before someone figures out where all this shit is stored and steals it to sell to the highest bidder?

(Other appalling features of the program include arming untrained people with overpowered weapons they've never practiced with...)

How many interior walls will an M-16 send a bullet through before it gets stopped, by the way?

#525 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 08:20 AM:

HLN. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

I have learned to see privilege. And I am now seeing it everywhere and finding myself annoyed by professional colleagues (not in my own office, thank ghu, but in a recent symposium) and my husband's professional colleagues and their significant others (at a dinner last night).

And I don't want to call people out all the time, but neither do I think I can just ignore this.

I suppose it's making me a better person, if only I can figure out something useful to do with this new awareness, other than trying not to be a privileged asshole myself.

#526 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 08:34 AM:

Lila @ #524:

I don't have an accurate answer, but at least two.Or, at least 4 (later test, larger wall panels).

So, "at least 4 internal walls".

#527 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 08:39 AM:

OtterB, that sounds like the five-paragraph essay we were taught in junior high and early high school. Every single person I knew hated it... because we were not allowed to deviate from the structure.

Thesis Statement/Main Idea
Supporting Idea 1
Supporting Idea 1
Supporting Idea 1
Thesis Statement/Main Idea

Supporting Idea 1
Supporting Idea 1

and so on. The last paragraph was the first. All but thirteen sentences were restatements.

I would have been much better served to read and analyze essays about literature before I was expected to write them, or perhaps learn other essay structures, or at the very least be allowed to add sentences to that 5-paragraph monstrosity.

And freshman year, the Administration* decided that everyone had to take Cornell notes and be graded on them. They explained said notes. As they told us, you divide your paper in half, and on one half, you write a question. On the other half, you write the answer. No guidance was given in terms of what questions to ask or how to do this in either a completely unstructured art history talk by a non-teacher who rambled beyond all hope of throughline or how to do it in a world history lecture with an overhead outline to copy down.

Blech. I am not the target student for these, but that's kind of the point.

*My parents are both teachers. I learned young who the enemy was.

#528 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 08:49 AM:

Diatryma (527): That's awful. Especially the note-taking.

I learned, not a strictly five-paragraph essay, but a more flexible variant: an introduction, at least three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each paragraph had to have a topic sentence (usually the first one, but we were given examples that explicitly did not have the topic sentence first) and support for it. That was all. The keyhole essay that OtterB described in #542 sounds similar, if a little more formalized than ours.

I'm curious about when this was. I learned essay* writing in high school in the late 1970s.

*Although we never used the word 'essay'. We wrote 'papers', of varying lengths and types.

#529 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 08:56 AM:

Diatryma @527, I know students hate it, probably especially those who already write well and creatively, and I think teachers should make allowance for that. And it's certainly not the only valid form of an essay. But I still think it's a basic tool that should be in people's kits to respond to "quick, write something coherent" tasks (exams, yes, but similar things come up at work, writing letters to one's congresscritter, etc.):

What am I trying to say here?
What's my argument to support that?

#530 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 09:14 AM:

It's the 19th of September, so it's time for Sam Starbuck's annual Talk Like A Pirate Day post, which is pretty much the only part of Talk Like A Pirate Day that I pay any attention to these days.

("It's Talk Like A Pirate Day, not Talk Like Every Pirate Day.")

#532 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 09:48 AM:

re 479: At the time I was a member of the Slavic Male Chorus of Washington.

#533 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 09:52 AM:

A lifelong love story that made me feel warm and sniffly. Or, What happens when you found out the reason you even exist is because both your parents broke a vow to God. Photo essay.

#534 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 09:58 AM:

Shiver me timbers. Where be me parrot, matey?

#535 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 10:04 AM:

HLN: Area man has just recovered from bug that raised his temperature to 38.4 degrees C. Sweating what one swears must have been half a litre of fluid through one's night clothes and bedclothes is not the best mode of recovery one can recommend. Still one is now upright and above ground.

Non-local news: I note that the returning officer for the Western Isles gave the results last night in Gaelic first. I'm wondering if that's standard?

#536 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 10:29 AM:

In honor of Talk Like A Pirate Day, I jokingly said I'd wear my eye patch. However, it's becoming clear that my other eye is developing potential retinal issues, so I will be visiting the surgeons today and arguing for an early vitrectomy (why wait until the retina detaches/tears, after all?).

Shiver me timbers, mateys, and another round of grog for everyone, afore I go poke holes in my other eye!

#537 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 10:46 AM:

I tutor students for the SAT. I teach the 5-paragraph essay, and I apologize to them for that. I explain that I don't have flair, and that I couldn't teach it even if I had it -- but that if they have flair, they should certainly use it.

#538 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 11:21 AM:

Is the dead pirate pining for the fjord?

#539 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 11:43 AM:

Lady Kay @ 34: Would you happen to have more info about the FDA looking for someone with skills like mine? I've been doing some research, looking for relevant people to contact. Of course, I can't find anything listed on USAJobs, but that in itself doesn't prove much. I know that there's a lot of interest in using cardiac simulation to assess drug safety. I'm finding some of that on the pharma company side of things. Am having more trouble determining who to contact at the government agencies side of things, though.

I can be reached by email at snowmentality at gmail dot com, for Lady Kay and anyone else who might have thoughts, advice, or insight.

And Lady Kay -- yay for your interview! Fingers crossed for you.

I had one myself a couple of days ago for a pharma modeling and simulation position. I think it went reasonably well -- we'll see what they think. I'm mildly concerned that they may be looking for someone with more direct pharmacokinetics experience than I have. However, I highlighted the transferable parts of my knowledge and experience (of which there are many), told them about the PK reading I've already been doing, and expressed confidence in my ability to learn. Should hear back in a few weeks. In the meantime, I'm still looking.

OtterB @ 529, I agree with you about five-paragraph essays. I've always been a strong and creative writer, and I genuinely appreciated the drilling in five-paragraph essays that I did in high school AP English. It forced me to consciously structure an argument and lead the reader through my argument. Without conscious argument structure, I have a tendency to ramble. But with structure, I can really make myself understood. I got compliments on my clarity of argument in college term papers, and I told my professors I had actually learned it from five-paragraph essays.

Of course, structure without content is empty and pointless. If the five-paragraph essay is taught simply as a matter of checking boxes -- topic sentence, three examples, etc. -- with no attention paid to whether the argument actually advances, then it's annoying and pointless. But it doesn't inherently have to be that way.

However, I think the best course on writing is still The Sense of Structure: Writing From the Reader's Perspective by George Gopen. Its companion volume is Expectations: Teaching Writing from the Reader's Perspective. I had the opportunity to take a mini-course from George Gopen and found it mind-expanding. It's targeted towards adults; I'd love to see a version tailored for teaching writing at the high school level or even younger.

#540 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 11:48 AM:

Arrrr: the heatwave has finally broken for real. But not before we had outdoor temperatures of 114F.

#541 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 11:51 AM:

Serge at 538:
That's not dead pirate, it's dread pirate: The Dread Pirate Roberts.

#542 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 11:57 AM:

From the archives:

The names of these pirates, the Doctor thought, were not dissimilar to those of pigeons; a panoply of blacks and shades of gray, colourful in adjectives rather than hues.

As to the pirates as agents of political transformation, he had made some notes upon the subject, which indicated that their primary purpose was taking things from ships and trading them for rum and intimate favours, in places ranging from Tortuga to Whitehall. Some did affect views on individual freedom, though these would have rattled the brains of a Paine or a Wollstonecraft, and the notion that they were a seething mass of nautical Robespierres would not stand the light.

It was good to have an enemy, he reflected, and it was good to have an enemy who believed odd things that were incompatible with one's own views. He had encountered sailors from English towns that were fiercely proud of having been sacked by ships scattered from the Armada. While the only evidence of such pillage was here a stack of cannonballs and there a public house named "Ye Dead Spaniardo," every man from those villages stood ready, centuries later, to take the battle back to Philip II, with his dreadful religion and his incomprehensible consonants.

In Celebration of Talk Like Dr. Stephen Maturin Day

#543 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 12:01 PM:

Carol Kimball #541: Wouldn't a dread pirate have dreadlocks?

#544 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 12:29 PM:

Bigger than the Statue of Liberty, taller than the Eiffel Tower, this is awesome and I never knew it existed:

The African Renaissance Monument

#545 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 12:30 PM:

Fragano @ 543

I'm sure that's true! Jack Sparrow certainly carried on the tradition.

#546 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 12:34 PM:

Ingvar M, thanks. That's actually a bit worse than I anticipated. (Disclosure: when I was 4 years old I got hold of a pistol that I thought was a toy, and fired a shot that went through an interior wall and missed my brother's head by a couple feet. I had nightmares about it for many years.)

#547 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 12:37 PM:

If I were to take on the responsibility of care for a parrot (which is not going to happen), I would be hardpressed not to name it "The Dread Parrot Roberts".

Also, re 544, that's utterly amazing. I never knew it existed either.

#548 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 01:08 PM:

Pfusand, when I teach students preparing for the SAT, what bothers most of them is the time limit. Their assignment (if they choose to accept it, instead of hiding under the table*) is to write a coherent essay from scratch in 25 minutes. The time has to include deciding what position to take, finding supporting arguments, and proofreading. Using a pre-determined structure actually helps in a situation like that, even for people who might want more flexibility at other times.

*an awful lot of tutoring is coaxing students out from under those tables. "No, really, you can do it," and "It's not as scary as it looks."

#549 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 01:49 PM:

Lila @ #546:

When I was taught how to build fortifications to hold against (sustained) small-arms fire, the received wisdom was "half a metre of solid fresh wood, with half a metre of packed earth, both sides". Those are, however, not built to stop a single shot, but rater to stand up to days, if not weeks, of being fired upon.

#550 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 02:37 PM:

The basic structure* of the five-paragraph essay is not the problem. The problem is insisting that every paper written must have exactly that structure and no other, down to the smallest details (as outlined by Diatryma in #527).

*introduction, at least three** supporting paragraphs, conclusion; each paragraph should have at least three** points in support of its topic sentence
**if you have four or more supporting points, use all of them

#551 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 03:11 PM:

Mary Aileen #550 - and the irritating thing is that every news outlet I can find has adopted a variant for their news reporting. First paragraph is a summary of what happened and who started it. Second is a bit more detail, third is often another opinion, and fourth often repeat much of the first. By the end of it I've been told the same information 3 times, which is extremely irritating, and heard the unsubstantiated and often pointless opinion of two or three people.

#552 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 03:51 PM:

Fragano Ledgister@535: in the UK, if you're going to say something in both $other_language and English, $other_language tends to get used first. This applies at Cardiff Central station to railway signage and to the tannoy announcements, which have Welsh first. If you know the Welsh numbers and the Welsh name for your destination you might be able to cockily anticipate the rush for the right platform. It always used to be "Platfform Dim", or possibly "Ddim", for the Portsmouth train. (Platform Zero: Cardiff presumably stores its platforms in an array).

Instructions painted on Welsh roads seem to be a bit inconsistent wrt language-ordering but anyway everyone sees this one and learns what the Welsh for 'slow' is.

#553 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 03:58 PM:

The five-paragraph essay structure is what I was taught, but not with the rigidity of Diatryma in #527, so I'm in general agreement that the structure is good, but the rigidity is the problem.

I was given some other tips: the intro paragraph should give context, explain what the issue is (as well as introduce the thesis and the supporting points); the concluding paragraph should expand the consideration out to bigger issues (as well as reiterate the thesis and the supporting points). The final sentence of each supporting point paragraph should lead into the next supporting point.

I am sorely tempted to delete what I've written so far, and rewrite it as a 5-paragraph essay on the benefits of the 5-paragraph essay ;-).

One thing I was also taught is that the format effectively provides guidance on what makes a good argument: if you can't find three bits of evidence upholding a supporting point, perhaps it's not that good a supporting point. If you can't find three supports for your thesis, perhaps it's not a good thesis. This doesn't mean that I haven't written "5-paragraph" essays with 2 lines of evidence for a supporting point, or 2 supporting points, but it does make me think, and that's a good thing.

I feel it's made me a better writer, and better arguer for knowing how to do it, and having it ingrained in me.

Now if only I had been taught the "5-paragraph novel" format...

#554 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 03:59 PM:

Well, there's an upside. Scotland now has a new power source. They're hooking up a generator to William Wallace's spinning corpse as we speak.

(You thought I meant the hot air from Westminster? No, that's an English resource, so it mustn't be used in Scotland.)

#555 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 04:14 PM:

I don't think I was ever taught, formally, in my northern English schools how to structure essays. But then I chose science and language options at age 14 that meant I only had to write longish connected prose in English Language / English Literature / Religious Studies, and at 16 I just did maths and sciences. (I did have to write essay answers in my General Studies A-level; General Studies being a test of being able to come up with fluent bullshit on demand, I aced this brilliantly). Do a science at university and you have to write hardly anything longer than a proof of a formula, and maybe an end-of-3rd-year project. I understand things have changed a bit in recent years but compared to the US, we historically specialize very quickly and rather deeply (the first bit of Charles Stross's 'autobiography' is good on this), and there's little obligation on the geek to take any broadening humanities courses. And back in the day, there was no Internet access, so we didn't have that particular goad towards being able to express ourselves coherently. We could get away with writing virtually nothing.

#556 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 04:32 PM:

I learned the five-part form too. In AP English we had a test every Friday, and wrote two such essays, or sometimes three. Nine of us (I think that was more than half the class) got the highest grade on the AP exam.

That was in 1977, so I have no idea if that structure is favored today. Probably the AP exam is no longer distributed on paper and answered in pencil; a lot of other stuff has probably changed.

#557 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 04:32 PM:

guthrie @ 551: I have a vague memory of a class in college (about the media & politics, I think) teaching us that new articles are intentionally structured so that an editor can slice off sections from the end while leaving it still intelligible. That's how they fill up column inches while pushing around different stories and advertisements. I hate that style.

Steve with a book @ 555: I recall speaking to an undergraduate who was finishing a degree in electrical engineering that semester, who had to write a short paper for a class. It was the first one he'd had to write in 4 years. This was at the University of Wisconsin in the 1980s.

#558 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 04:33 PM:

All this discussion of essay formatting reminds me of the guidelines I've heard for giving a public speech:

1) Tell them what you're going to tell them;
2) Tell them;
3) Tell them what you told them.

#559 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 05:28 PM:

Diatom art

In hyperlocal news.... A woman signed up for a health study that requires her to wear an accelerometer* and keep a food log** that tracks every single thing consumed throughout the day. After less than a day of tracking stuff on the provided forms, she's resorted to the following: [dish name] [see attached recipe] [serving size]. Friends had been telling her "you're a foodie," and she refused to believe them. She's now rethinking that stance when recording a simple lunch took half a page worth of notes.

* Not a pedometer. An actual "you are at this altitude, going in this direction, traveling at this velocity" device.

** I note the example sheet is filled with what's considered to be a dieter's diet. I'd love to see an example like the following: "five fist fulls of plain potato chips" or "fast food burger and fries with medium soda" instead of "boneless, skinless chicken breast...steamed [random steam-able veggie name]....

#560 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 05:53 PM:

Doug @ 542

After some muppet-like swearing on my part yesterday, my office mate and I decided we need a Talk Like the Sweedish Chef Day today.

#561 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 05:53 PM:

There's a general principle of expository and (especially) instructional writing: "Tell them three times". I suspect this has been deified for the more rigid forms of 5-part essay.

The thing is, part of doing that in school is practice, trying to overtrain the habits of providing introduction, multiple points for each claim, and so on. Not going on to let the students out of the training pen, that's a problem.

#562 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 06:06 PM:

guthrie @ 551

Yeah, what janetl @ 554 said. I'll add that the style got started back during the American Civil war and/or telegraph days. "Start with the who, what, when, where, why and how" in case you get cut off during transmission.

Print journalism (formerly just newspapers) used it for the reasons janetl posed. Because newspapers are first and foremost about making money... the ads are always placed first so the news articles have to have "squish" built in. It's called "pyramid writing" for fairly obvious reasons. I've only read the first paragraph of news reports for decades because of that. I worked on my college newspaper for a while.

#563 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 06:22 PM:

Lee @558:

I'm having nightmares of that, written on a powerpoint slide, and having the presenter read it to me.

#564 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 07:59 PM:

HLN: Local man's house is infested with gnats. They aren't biting, but their swooping past the screen is driving him to distraction. Local man has so far managed to avoid breaking anything or even hurting himself with swatting attempts.

#565 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 08:00 PM:

Wire service stories go back a long, long way. (Actually, before the telegraph: newspapers would pick up and print stuff from other newspapers, without necessarily indicating it was from someplace else.)

#566 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 08:10 PM:

Life on the Island: Somebody hit a bear night before last. Judging from the evidence on the scene, the bear has pretty bad road rash, probably some superficial cuts and bruises, possibly a broken bone. The bear left the scene immediately. Meanwhile, the vehicle involved sustained about $1,000 in damages.

It's a Peterbilt.

#567 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 08:43 PM:

Picking up a missed reply from way back:

CHip #231: IIRC, morphine is not a very effective intoxicant; would acetylation labs (to make heroin) spring up within various countries' borders? If so, it might reduce the amount of street "heroin" that is actually many different stews of toxic ingredients.

Morphine is the feedstock for any number of derivative opiates, and IIRC it can "satisfy" the addiction for several of them. (Methadone is another likely target as well.) There's also the matter that if you can make morphine, you can make other things. Something like ecstasy or LSD (or heroin) might take extra research to re-implement the "chemical" steps in "biochemical" terms, but psilocybin and mescaline (not to mention THC and friends) are already produced by plants/fungi -- I'd bet they can be produced by yeast fairly easily.

I'm not sure what's involved in an acetylation lab, but if they can make amphetamine-type drugs, it would at least eliminate the firetrap meth labs. (Though as I recall, those have already yielded to miniaturized versions that can be toted in someone's truck. I don't know if the minilabs are still a public menace.)

Not so sure about the purity issue. It might reduce "cutting for bulk", but... given potential disruptions of the synthesis and purification process (even mutations), homebrew might be at least as hazardous, especially when it's not being done by "professionals". And of course, the real reason for the lack of quality control is secondary pressure from law enforcement -- I bet as this kicks in, the authorities will at least try to restrict access to whatever tools would be used for testing output (as well as, of course, genetic-engineering equipment).

#568 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 09:04 PM:

Steve with a book #552: Welsh has some interesting words in it, to say the least.

#569 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 10:29 PM:

#544, The African Renaissance Monument -- I can't see for certain, but the woman's hair looks straight. Did someone Europeanize an African monument?

#570 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 11:00 PM:

In our bedtime read-aloud of Number of the Beast, we have finally gotten to (somewhat elliptically described to avoid spoilers) the calm and welcoming familiar country, and John doesn't remember how the friendly rulers fixed their ship. We do that chapter next time. I am gleefully awaiting his reaction, after he Googled LogLan and discursed at length about What Bob Heinlein Did Not Know About Computer Programming.

All the gleeful anticipation. He is unspoiled!

#571 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 11:08 PM:

#569, Brenda Kalt:

Looks like straight(ened?) hair.

My first impression of the monument as a whole was that (except for the baby) it looked like the worst of bodice-ripper cover illustrations. At least the woman doesn't look like she's actively trying to escape, even if she is being dragged.

#572 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 11:43 PM:

What i was taught of essay format most closely resembles Buddha Buck @ 553, including many of the plausible extraneous portions and alternate options, and thankfully not Diatryma @ 527 (UGh). Also, if you have only two supporting points, but they're killer, that's better than 4-5 weak ones.

I don't think anyone teaches many alternates to essay format that aren't based on some version of the five-paragraph base, expanded or shrunken as needed. We were taught essays that didn't fit it exactly (The first non-fiction, in fact the first thing at all, we studied in the program proper in grade 11 was Ralph Waldo Emerson essays*, and we covered some of the Borges fiction-in-the-format of nonfiction later) but I don't remember a lot of suggestions of alternates.

I, at first accidentally and later on purpose, wrote a few which began with one thesis and ended with a reconsideration of the thesis and its validity and the proposition of an alternate thesis, which is a twist on the format I've seen used to effect elsewhere - especially in things which satirize the initial thesis, but also in earnest. But I wasn't really taught that as such. I tripped over it.

Of course, the humanities are where I have several core intellectual strengths, it seems. Don't ever ever ask me to be smart about sciences or numbers.

* The central one being "Self-reliance" This was a not very subtle, and surprisingly effective, introduction to the concept that the teacher did not want us regurgitating points, but making up our own minds and actually expressing our opinions aloud.

#573 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2014, 11:46 PM:

Dave Harmon @567: A clarification on CHip's comment: acetylation (adding an acetyl group) is the specific chemical modification which turns morphine into heroin.

No particular thoughts on your other points, except to note that at one point I was attempting to write an SF novel (kind of a dark comedy) on the general theme of common microflora modified to produce drugs. (I didn't get much past a terrifying blank page staring at me.)

#574 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 01:11 AM:

517 to 520 and many more: on the Essay Thing, and how we're not trained to write, I need to recommend again Howard S. Becker's Writing for Social Scientists, a seriously fun book on the process of writing at the graduate school level -- note that novels count as part of this. Becker is that rara avis -- a social scientist who writes really really well. Check it out.

#575 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 01:32 AM:

571: Having looked into the statue further, it looks like it was in fact designed by someone who was native Senegalese, though built by North Korea (!), and was more than a little controversial:

African Renaissance Monument

#576 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 02:24 AM:

David Harmon@567: Meth labs are still a hazard. Another house in the bad part of town blew up just last weekend.

#577 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 02:49 AM:

Clifton #573:

I assume you've seen this recent development of engineering Baker's yeast to make morphine? Potentially interesting wine, bread, and/or beer to come?

#578 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 07:42 AM:

Xopher @ #556, that's the format that got me a 6 (highest category) on the GRE just recently, so yeah, probably.

janetl@ #557, my husband was taught that truncatable-from-the-bottom style in journalism school.

Lee @ #558, I was taught exactly that, word-for-word, in several different classes. (On a tangentially-related note, I was excited when my epidemiology professor almost, but not quite, said "cheap, fast, good: pick any two" in discussing study design.)

#579 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 12:13 PM:

HLN: Area man is offered early retirement package at work, and after careful consideration of about 30 seconds duration, decides to take it. Area man is convinced he has the discipline to handle a gift of sloth.

#580 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 12:22 PM:

Soon Lee: Yes, that's what prompted this specific discussion topic. It was obvious (to me anyway) that it was going to happen sooner or later.

#581 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 01:05 PM:

Steve @552:

This more-or-less works when flying from Montreal to any Anglophone—or at least non-Francophone— destination (such as New York or Vancouver). The announcements are in French first, and it’s not hard to pick out the French for my flight number, or listen for “LaGuardia” in the French announcements.

Sometimes that just means I get a few seconds’ head start on moving to a different gate, but getting in line sooner can be useful if I’m trying to stow a large carry-on bag.
And I can certainly pick out my surname from the French, in case it's "passenger Rosenzweig please come to the podium." No, they don't pronounce my name right in French, but someone who gets it wrong in French is unlikely to do better in English.

#582 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 02:43 PM:

Or man might make the same discovery my father did, that he didn't know where he'd found time to work.

#583 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 03:26 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @153: I love it!

Ginger @536: Good luck!

Re: essays. At my northern English school I -was- taught how to prepare for (preferably on a separate piece of paper, jot your main points down, work out a logical order, add subpoints in the appropriate places), and structure an essay, but not nearly so rigidly as indicated by several people above: intro, main points in logical order, conclusion was about it. Worked at university as well. And absolutely when faced with a three-hour or one-hour (or however long) essay in an exam, you prepare for it with some notes before starting to write the essay - and then if you think of something else while you're writing you can quickly jot it down in the notes so you don't forget it by the time you reach that part of the essay...

#584 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 05:38 PM:

P J Evans @ #582 -

I was wondering about that. :) Others who have retired have told me the same thing.

#585 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 07:31 PM:

I'd like to go back to the original post, and note that used bookstores represent another "repository" that's progressively going away. The one I work for¹ has enough books to match a small library (the boss claims 100K, I've shelved enough to believe it)... but we're crammed into a finite space, three floors in one building. And business is tough -- any given month, Sandy basically hopes to make enough money to cover the electric bill. (If he didn't own the building outright, we'd have been gone years ago.)

Consequently, half my job is putting books on the shelf, but the other half is taking them off -- for various charity programs, the Free Book Table² or the trash.

The SF/F section I maintain has a bit more turnover than most sections, but even there, we've got a storeroom with at least six times as much stuff as we can fit on the open shelves -- decades worth of famous and lesser-known authors running back to the 30s and beyond. There's a few authors that get cleaned out every semester, and a few that get cleaned out anytime (Hemingway, Vonnegut, Pratchett, LeGuin), and sometimes we'll get a run on Steinbeck or Le Carre or somesuch ... but many others gather dust. The usual rule is that books get weeded when they've been on the shelf for 10 years, but I regularly pull books out of mainstream fiction that are marked from the 80's, and occasionally the 70's.

¹ Daedalus Used Books of Charlottesville. No link because no web presence. :-( Not to be confused with the Baltimore outfit.

² "Free Books, not Free Table". We write that on every replacement, ^$&@#%.

#586 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 07:40 PM:

And apropos of nothing: If Tamora Pierce is reading here lately, I just want you to know that I gave my niece Wild Magic for her 9th birthday the other month, and she's been mainlining your books since. I last saw her with what I think was the last of Alanna's quartet, and Emperor Mage.

#587 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 09:35 PM:

David Harmon @585: I've been to a couple of local used book shops which are disheartening — the bookshelves are mostly hidden from view by piles (or boxes or bags) of books stacked on the floor. With the stacks you can at least see some of the books, but working a book out becomes more difficult the further down the stack it is, and discourages browsing.

Another variation is books two deep on the shelf — you have to move the front layer out to see the books behind them.

It seems so disfunctional — more hoarding than bookselling.

#588 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 10:45 PM:

If you find something in a used book store, you have to snap it up, because you might not find it again.

#589 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 11:42 PM:

Rob Rusick #587: Yup, both of those represent accepting too many books for the store to hold. I am proud to say that Daedalus is better than that -- much as it pains him, Sandy (the owner) has gotten ever-choosier about the books he accepts, and has a strict rule of No Piles On The Floor, even when it means merciless weeding. Sometimes I have to tell him "every stack of books sent to that section means you get back at least one stack of culls, and we may need to bump the cutoff date". No double-shelving either.¹

There are a few piles atop shelves, but those are mostly oversized books that don't fit on the section's shelves, and even those often go horizontally in the shelves.² I think right now the only exception in the store is the paperback Burroughs collection he just bought, and that's stacked neatly on top of a low bookcase in the SF room. Lately, we've even been clearing piles out of the storeroom....

¹ At home it's a different story, I triple-shelve my own paperbacks. But still no piles on the floor. ;-)
² Those coffee-table books are a PITA... and we've got some that could be coffee tables if you put legs on them! The other issue is that he built the paperback shelves in 1973, before trade-format paperbacks got popular. Most of those get shelved with the hardcovers.

#590 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2014, 11:45 PM:

When I was small, there was across the street from the library (where, in the summer, you could take out ten books at a time instead of five! Oh bliss) a small strip mall containing a used bookstore. It had orange shag carpet and I had to squeeze past cardboard boxes full of records to get in, at which point the oldest man I'd ever seen would raise his eyebrows at me as if to say "oh, you again, is it?" and then go back to glaring at the front window, daring passers-by to come in.

It smelled of old books, which is a very particular smell, and every week I'd ride my bike across town to the library and load up my saddlebags; the saddlebags were under heavy strain as I had a sticker on my library card that meant I could take books from the adult section, and most of the books in English tended towards the massive. Once that was done, I'd pedal across the road and vanish into the murky, orange-carpeted, probably-hazardous-depths of the bookstore run by The Old Man. I'd usually pick two books, sit on the floor and read one, and then buy the other. Occasionally I would be treated to a lecture about how kids those days didn't read anymore, which I thought was particularly unfair given that I was a twelve-year-old, in his store, reading, and it wasn't like I ever saw any grownups in there.

I bought the entire run of Xanth novels in that store, and a bunch of Babysitter's Club books, and most of the Pern books that had been published by 1996, all one at a time - adult books were two dollars, which was the allowance I earned weekly in exchange for doing various household chores. Eventually I started poking around the record section, and bought the complete works of Styx, because I'd seen them at a free concert that summer and thought they were great.

One week I went in and there were these three books that hadn't been there the week before, obviously a trilogy, and the first one had a naked lady in space on the cover, and they all sounded great, and, miracle of miracles, I had four dollars that week. I don't remember why I had the extra money, but I was in serious pain anyway, because even double is tragically short when you need triple. I took the first two up to the desk and paid, lamenting to the Old Man that this was the worst thing that had happened in my entire life.

"Hungh," he said, and glared at me. He had a brilliant glare - one of those ones where the glarer's eyes actually bulge out of their sockets a bit - and eyebrows to match. "If it goes, it goes. Four dollars."

I rode home, and read both books that afternoon. Absolutely tore through them. The next morning, I washed all the windows in my house, and then all the windows in my neighbour's house, and all the windows in my other neighbour's house, and at that point I had two dollars and I have never pedalled so fast in my life since. I got to the strip mall, and there at the desk was a man in a suit and he was holding my book, and saying he'd pay triple for it, and my heart broke, because the Old Man didn't have a lot of customers and business was business and I would never find out what happened next and possibly my life would be over.

It's worth mentioning that the Old Man had a voice that matched his glare, and he turned both on Suit Man and said, "If it goes, it goes, and it's gone. Kid. Got my two dollars?"

I finished the book that night, and to this day that trilogy is my favourite ever. I've still got it, along with everything else by the same author. The bookstore closed about a year later - not much call for English books in general, let alone incursions into L-space.

Seven years later, though, I joined the local community theatre group in their production of "Into the Woods", and the director was the Old Man, who it turned out is one of those people who's looked eighty for about thirty years. I have no idea if he linked nineteen-year-old me with twelve-year-old me. I didn't mention it.

Anyway. That's my used-book-store story.

#591 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 03:05 AM:

On the morphine/yeast thing. I agree with Clifton that this is pretty much inevitable -- we know single cells can produce morphine, because that's how the poppies do it -- but the story is really overselling what's been done.

Their process starts with thebaine, which already has the complicated three-dimensional ring structure of opiates, and which has to be obtained from poppies. The yeast is making opium about as much as Ikea makes homes.

#592 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 05:22 AM:

David Harmon @589: coffee-table books are a PITA

OTOH, I the other day, I encountered a venue for which coffee-table books are an absolute inspiration: my dentist's waiting room. Someone seems (finally!) to have twigged to the fact that one generally (in a competently-run office) has neither the time nor the attention to, you know, actually read anything in a magazine (which is usually ancient, anyway)—even if one can find something sufficiently interesting.

Piles of perty pichers, by contrast....

We used to have the greatest bookstore in the world across the street from my house. It moved over across the other street. I never go in there anymore. Before it moved, it was owned by Linda, and it seemed like the odds were about 80% that it would have that particular book I went looking for that week (fiction or not); neatly shelved and alpha by author. After Linda sold it and it moved—I can't remember the last time I found what I was looking for there.

#593 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 06:17 AM:

Em @590, I love that story.

Re used book stores: I can remember two fairly disorganized ones I frequented. One was while I was in high school, in the early 1970s, when I was reading mostly SFF. Books were divided into sections but as I recall, not shelved in any orderly way within a section (though possibly the shelves were alpha but the stacks on the floor were not). But I was seldom looking for anything in particular anyway. I was looking for something interesting that I hadn't read yet, and so "random" was as good an order as any.

The second one was while I was in graduate school, in the late 1980s, when I became a romance reader for the first time and thus was devouring older category romances in addition to buying new ones each month. Their SFF section seemed to hold mostly things I'd already read and things I didn't want to read, but I dug through the romances looking for backlist of authors I liked. They were separated by publisher and line, and might even have been in numerical order within that, but I'm less sure of that. But again, overcrowded was part of the charm as far as I was concerned.

There's a bookstore in the beach town we visit each summer that has a new section and a pretty good sized used section. The used books are by genre and/or nonfiction subject, in order by author within that. It's in a lovely old house, and I usually manage to find something I want to read (and in fact stumbled across at least one good find in SF) but it's just a tad too neat to have the "anything could happen" vibe.

And of course the ability to find old books for sale online has been life-changing as far as I'm concerned.

#594 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 09:47 AM:

When I was growing up, there was a SFF/Horror/Gaming/Comic store owned by a local college professor in the town I went to high school in. It was in the late-70s/early-80s, so such a thing was somewhat rare. I was introduced to it by friends who would make the 45min-1hour drive (one way) to get there. I ended up moving within easy walking distance of the store, and became friends with the owner's kids, who were roughly my age.

In addition to all the new material, they had boxes of used comics and a back room of used SF/F/H. They would take used books in for cash, or twice than in trade credit, so the used-book room became a sort of revolving library.

The rumor was that the owner (who I never saw in the store) started the bookstore because on a professors salary it was cheaper to support his family's habits at wholesale prices, even with the expense of running the store. His kids never denied that rumor.

My hometown was hit badly by the recession, and driving down main-street is depressing as hell, with all the closed stores and lack of people. But although it's moved twice, the bookstore is still in business, complete with the same surly manager it had 30 years ago.

#595 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 10:12 AM:

Rob Rusick (587): books two deep on the shelf — you have to move the front layer out to see the books behind them

Two deep isn't so bad--you can hold the books you pulled out while you scan behind, then put them right back. But the local (long gone) used bookstore had them *three* deep. Browsing was hell.

And I see that David Harmon (589) triple-shelves his own books. But I bet he knows what's back there. (To be fair, the bookstore owner did, too. But I'm rarely looking for a *specific* book in a used bookstore; I just want to see what catches my eye that I didn't know existed.)
The used bookstore that I frequented as a teen and young adult was a treasure trove. I actually got a job there one summer in college--heaven! And yes, the category romances were shelved in numerical order within their series. Made it harder to find specific authors, but was a big help to the ladies who came in every week or two to buy a big stack of category romances and trade last visit's stack back in for store credit.

#596 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 10:22 AM:

Em #590: That is a lovely tale! I can totally believe Sandy doing that, though he's more avuncular than scary. He regularly gives out free books, especially to kids.

Jacque #592: Ooh, I'll have to mention that idea to Sandy! Note that my "PITA" comment is strictly from the viewpoint of me-as-shelver.

OtterB #593: Some of our sections are alphabetized by author: Both mainstream-fiction sections, mysteries, poetry, SF/F, the main children's section. (Also the storerooms, for our own convenience: Mysteries, SF/F, literary journals.) Biographies are alphabetized by subject. The other sections are explicitly not sorted, and early on, Sandy scolded me when I tried to start sorted one. I assume this is to cultivate serendipity, but it does make de-duping difficult!

We do maintain "mini-sections" for selected authors (some literary families have their own sections, like the Sitwells), and also try to cluster authors even in unsorted sections: for example, in Science we have labeled sections for Darwin, Gould, Dawkins, Lewis Thomas, and several others, while in Religion we just try to keep Merton, Neibuhr, and a few others clustered. One tricky point is that we try very hard to keep all books by one author in the same place, so f'rex Mosley's SF is in with his mysteries, and L'Engle is in mainstream fiction. We're not completely consistent; Verne, Wells, and Vonnegut are all in mainstream, but Burroughs is in SF.

And we do regularly get people coming in who are all "OMG I've found Book Heaven!" Last week there were several -- one of the new freshmen was almost crying with joy.

#597 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 10:30 AM:

Mary Aileen #595: Just so -- I know my own books, but for a store environment, customers need to be able to scan. As it is, we often need to guide customers to the section they're looking for. (We're not kidding about the Labyrinth!)

#598 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 10:39 AM:

Addendum to #597: I also occasionally tap my hyperlexia to find books for customers in the unsorted sections.

#599 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 11:52 AM:

Em @590: That's lovely.

We have about a thousand shelf-feet of bookshelf space in our house. The fiction is shelved alphabetically by author, with a section at the front for anthologies and a separate set of shelves for hardbacks and large format paperbacks. The manga, graphic novels and RPG books each get their own section. The non-fiction is shelved by subject; books by the same author within a subject go together and there are a separate couple of shelves for oversize books.

Fiction paperbacks are double-banked through necessity. Of course, when we moved in 10 years ago, and put up all the bookcases and bookshelves, we thought we had plenty of bookshelf space...

We have considered labelling the rooms by subject.

Count me as another of those who dislikes it when perilous piles of books on the floor make it difficult if not impossible to see what stock the used bookstore has on the shelves.

#600 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 12:04 PM:

If you must double-shelf, laying a two-by-four under the back row will elevate those books and at least remind you that the row is double-shelved.

#601 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 12:16 PM:

I think in the future I'm going to pass on books that are reviewed as "important" and only look further at books reviewed as "good". (If they're described as both, then they qualify as "good" for the purposes of this filter.)

So, Sheri Tepper. I read her book "the family tree" years ago and quite enjoyed it. In fact, I read it twice and loved spotting the word choices that reflected the secret plot twist revealed in the last quarter-ish of the book without completely giving it away. I recently picked up her book "the waters rising" (which as I recall was described as important or some synonym).

People who have read multiple of her books, which of those two is more typical of her writing style?

Because I'm only about 60-ish pages into "the waters rising" and I'm tempted to return it to the library without finishing. It reads as incredibly clumsy, with repeated and frequent use of "as you know bob" for exposition including the antagonist monologuing(!) to their sidekick(?!). I can deal with a certain amount of infodump, but when I got 12 pages into a geography and history lesson that shows no sign of stopping and just introduced the subject of mythical figures... No.

Does this book get better?

Because I'm starting to wonder, if "the waters rising" is more typical, was the reason I found "the family tree" good because she was trying to keep a secret and so didn't infodump as much?

#602 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 12:20 PM:

Our abi's recent post about up/down voting is discussed over at Pharyngula:

You know, you can nominate abi for the Hugo's fanwriter category.

#603 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 01:02 PM:

janra: IMHO, Sheri Tepper's books vary a lot in quality, much more so than most established and experienced writers. I haven't read either of those books so I can't say which of the two is more characteristic of her writing.

I think some of her books where the writing suffers are Message books, where everything gets subordinated to the need to deliver an Important Message. Unfortunately in my reading of her the messages are often something like "Human beings are horrible" or "Most men are sexists!" which may be true (or true enough in certain lights, from certain angles) but not exactly life-changing revelations worth subordinating the entire story to. When she's good, she's good, though.

In other words, I think your filter is reasonable, and from your description, I'd be tempted to do the same thing with the latter book and look for a different one by her or someone else to freshen my palate.

#604 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 01:10 PM:

Brenda Kalt (600): When I double-shelved my paperbacks*, I turned the front row down (spine pointing up); thus, all of the books were visible and at least mostly identifiable. Now I use media shelves for the paperbacks; mass market paperbacks are almost exactly the same size as DVDs and VHS tapes.

*mass market; for size reasons trade paperbacks are on separate shelves interfiled with the hardcovers
By the time I was in college, my personal book collection had overflowed the single bookcase in my bedroom. Books were double-stacked on the shelves (back row invisible), plus two rows on the end of my desk and piles on top of the bookcase, behind the door, and on all of the windowsills. I did know where everything was, though! At one point, I needed two books for class that I already owned. I asked my mother to send them to me (I was in college four states away) and described the locations, "top shelf of the bookcase, back row, a bit to the right of center" and "stack behind the door, about halfway down"; she (or rather my sister) went right to them. Mom was impressed.

#605 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 01:47 PM:

Clifton: Well, "the family tree" definitely has a Message, but I suspect that the choice to maintain the mystery of who/when/where the non-modern-day storyline was as long as possible kept the Message to a quieter level.

It was rather overdone when the trees started talking. I already knew what the message was before that, thanks.

#606 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 07:14 PM:

Re janra @604: For anyone interested, it appears the ebook version of The Family Tree is currently $0.99 at the Big South American River.

#607 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 07:44 PM:

Magic-free Harry Potter "fanfic" in which we find the "Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles".

#608 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 08:20 PM:

Although an atheist myself, I found that fanfic to be intolerably smug in its anti-Christianity.

#609 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2014, 08:40 PM:

Actually I suspect that its author is JW.

#610 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 12:05 AM:

David Harmon @596: Note that my "PITA" comment is strictly from the viewpoint of me-as-shelver.

I'd have to concur, speaking as an owner. I have one shelf dedicated to picher-books, or any oversize format book that doesn't fit nicely with the mass paper or hardbacks. I've got one one coffee table book (Das Tourmaline) that is nearly as tall as that bookcase is wide, so it's laid sideways, and gets its own shelf.

Biographies are alphabetized by subject.

I guess I'm still not awake: I misread this as "Bagpipes are alphabetized by subject."

Serge Broom @602: You know, you can nominate abi for the Hugo's fanwriter category.

Say.... You know, one could....

#611 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 12:46 AM:

I have a commercial Rand McNally (salvaged from work, when they closed the physical library), that's big enough to turn into an end table. Really. (It's about 18x24 inches, and an inch and a half thick. But it shows railroads, and some townships....)

#612 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 03:47 AM:

Mary Aileen @604: I used to be able to do that for books in the back room of The Other Change of Hobbit after they moved from Shattuck down to Adeline in Berkeley, without actually having worked in the new version of the store, from Seattle. It still surprises me that I could do that.

#613 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 06:53 AM:

Jacque @ 610... Indeed. Abi's writing here definitely qualifies for a Hugo nomination.

#614 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 06:54 AM:

Jacque @ 610... Indeed. Abi's writing here definitely qualifies for a Hugo nomination.

#615 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 09:42 AM:

janra, I really like precisely two Tepper books, The Family Tree and The Gate to Women's Country. (Gate also has a fairly big reveal towards the end, which may help.) I think that the writing style in those two is closer to typical than the excessive info-dump you describe in The Waters Rising, which I haven't read.

I have to admit that the idea of keeping that secret for that long stretches credibility till it snaps, though.

#616 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 11:29 AM:

Em@590: that's such a wonderful story! (Very well written too - I can quite picture the scene).

#617 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 11:46 AM:

Squeee! Book delivery! Post-Loncon3 I'm filling in some of the more egregious blanks in my SF reading. Just in: Fred Pohl's Gateway and Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed

Since abi got me to read The Left Hand of Darkeness 20 odd years ago and I loved it, it's a mystery to me why I didn't take the obvious next step.

To be corrected...!

#618 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 12:56 PM:

Random Open-Threadiness:

We had some friends over Saturday, and given the season, Rosh Hashanah was on our minds (although neither we nor they are Jewish, both our family histories are partly Jewish.) So, a cocktail for Rosh Hashanah.

1 part honey
1 part water

Microwave warm and mix thoroughly.

1 tablespoon honey mix
1 oz lemon juice
2 oz applejack.

(A couple drops rosewater or vanilla is a nice addition).

This is (obviously) a Jack Rose variant, and is really good and fall-like (like the Jack Rose.)

#620 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 01:36 PM:

#619: I don't understand the question in the article. Public display and/or public performance is NOT public domain.

#621 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 08:16 PM:

Regarding the "squirrel-proof bird feeder", that batter has to run out eventually, which is a problem. My stepfather used to have a different model of squirrel-proof bird feeder, but when he first installed it, he did so incorrectly -- so the first squirrel did get some seeds. The squirrel not only came back and kept trying for years, but eventually brought his kids to try at it. (Not such a bad idea, as it was weight-activated.)

#622 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2014, 10:14 PM:

I'm reading Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen, and absolutely loving it. I'm bombarding all the helpless people around me with information. I had no idea Woodrow Wilson was such a creep. I'm pleased to learn that Lincoln was more anti-slavery than I'd heard. Still racist, but that's not the same thing as approving of enslaving people. I'm delighted to have just read that the Confederate states had trouble not just keeping the black people down, but that there were non-trivial numbers of white people who headed north to serve in the Union army, or into the woods to fight as guerrillas. I'd thought that reading 1491 and 1493 had me pretty well informed about the native Americans, but Loewen paints a picture of how much influence the Americans* had on the whites, over a long period of time, which is completely overlooked in what's taught to schoolchildren. I'm just babbling info nuggets here, but Loewen is a sociologist and examines how the language and images in the textbooks shape the information. Highly recommended.

*For quite awhile, "American" was used to mean native Americans.

James Harvey @ 617: I love The Dispossessed

#623 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 03:02 AM:

janra @620

That grafitti doesn't even need to be registered to be protected by copyright, although under US law it makes some significant differences.

I have a feeling that the article's author is a little bit confused about copyright generally.

Anyway, it's a part of a wider corporate trend to steal work on the assumption that public display is Public Domain, and this after decades of copyright-grab terms and conditions from ISPs and web sites which will transmit or display your work.

(The internet generally wouldn't work without copying, because that has to happen just to move your data from place to place, but for a long time the corporate world seemed unusually uncertain on the idea of a license for a limited purpose. Then they started using other people's images for advertising and news stories, without payment....)

#624 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 05:42 AM:

It should be noted that the Atlantic has had a run of late of click-bait headlines for articles which are rather out of joint with the text itself.

#626 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 10:20 AM:

#623, Dave Bell: it's a part of a wider corporate trend to steal work on the assumption that public display is Public Domain

Did that mistaken assumption come from the corporations who are trying to steal things and spread from there to the general public, or did it come from the general public and corporations started acting on what its officers and employees believed?

Either way, I think it's rather rich that a corporation will steal other people's publicly displayed work but still scream about piracy when it's *their* work being copied.

#627 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 02:26 PM:

I stumbled across this somewhat aggravated response to "Scorpion" this morning, and thought it would be amusing to pretty much anyone who's seen a subject they know well suffer slap-dash treatment in popular entertainment: MacGuffin.

#628 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 03:04 PM:

Although I now realize it would almost fit in with the "Unreflective pastoralism" thread, too.

#629 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 04:43 PM:

Jeremy Leader @ 527 -

"Scorpion" had one of the dumbest plots I've ever seen. The idea that 56 airliners are going to be out of communication with a tower and be unable to do anything about is insanely ludicrous.

One of my FB friends pointed out that someone named "Scooter" Braun is one of the people behind this. He's more well known as a talent manager who represents Justin Bieber.

I couldn't watch the whole thing. Fortunately, The Blacklist came on shortly after and it was deliciously wicked.

#630 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 08:57 PM:

Lila @ 524: thank you for that nightmare; I hadn't been thinking about the relative insecurity of schools compared with police stations.

Ingvar @ 526: I suspect that depends a lot on the material. Even a shoddy modern construction would have 2 layers of drywall to each wall (which still means a bullet could wind up 2 classrooms away), but many older schools would have real plaster. (My ~1940 house is plaster over ~1/8" wire mesh, which would probably eat a lot more of a bullet's energy.) But I wouldn't assume a bullet would stay in the room it was fired in.

Fragano @ 535: I've been there (thanks probably to a long-lukewarm quiche); it is Not Fun. My sympathies.

Lady Kay @ 471: a fair point re titular vs actual speeding; is the toffier street patrolled to enforce the artificially low limit? (Wouldn't surprise me, since it's still an artery and so doesn't have the solution tried by the toffs in the west quadrant of the River Road / Wilson Lane intersection -- they tried to shame people out of shortcutting through their roads.)

Steve C @ 579: congratulations on being able to be a gentleman of leisure; as noted, you may find it less leisurely than you expected. I'm on my 2nd Worldcon floorplan design since being booted 20 months ago, and I'm actually getting to read almost as much newish fiction as I want to.

David Harmon @ 589: my paperback shelves were originally for VHS cassettes. (The raw-furniture maker was between Boston University and Boston "College", and knew his market.) This means I measure each trade pb against those shelves, because I have bits of basement left for pb and no wall space left for hb.

Em @ 590: so what was the trilogy? (I have a strong visual memory but I don't remember \all/ the covers....)

I don't have a bookstore story per se; I was too far from town, then within bicycling distance of a county library(*), then walking distance of a city library -- and then I heard about MITSFS (which may still claim to be the largest lending library of SF, and may be right). I did catch up later, to get copies of the books I borrowed; came home from the 1986 Worlcon with 6 shelf-feet of books for less than $100. (That was when Glen Cook was still dealing a long way from his home.)

(*) Forbes (Northampton MA) -- a granite-and-sandstone heap that looked like bats should be flying out of the upper story, but SF was actually a category in the card catalog so I could find all sorts of authors I hadn't read, or sometimes even heard of.

#631 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 09:49 PM:

CHip @630 Lady Kay @ 471: a fair point re titular vs actual speeding; is the toffier street patrolled to enforce the artificially low limit?

I'm not Lady Kay, but I know that stretch of road. It has speed cameras on it.

#632 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2014, 11:07 PM:

"No, that's not it," said the Encore image. "I'm not a ghost. Encore is still alive, or depending on how you look at it, never was. How could I be his ghost?

"No, it's more like..." He thought for a moment. "It's more like I'm the scar tissue on the stump of a severed arm. Or maybe the phantom arm itself. But you know," he said, his bland expression becoming a scowl, "a hand you no longer have can still hurt, can still itch, can still be clenched in a fist for no reason at all.

"That's really it: I'm the clenched fist of Encore's missing hand."

#633 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 05:11 AM:

CHip @ #630:

Ayup. It is said that a 7.62 mm rifle round can go through thin (as in "about 2 inches or less") concrete. Or plastered brick walls.

I don't know how true it is, but I do know that the Swedish urban infantry resisted the switch to 5.56 mm assault rifles, keeping the 7.62 mm for quite a few years after the non-urban regiments swapped, with the motivation that "these shoot through walls, those don't". Apparently over-penetration can sometimes be an intended feature.

Although based on the fact that each of the "2 walls" in the initial test was two closely spaced sheets if drywall, I think the same can be assumed from the second test (the panels look kinda thick in the photo where you can see them side-on).

#634 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 08:25 AM:

I recall seeing an WW2 official pamphlet on adapting a room in a home as an air raid shelter, and one of the factors was what a bullet from an aircraft machine-gun could penetrate. The advice was that a wall needed to be three bricks thick to stop bullets and bomb splinters, and while some walls were built that way, usually the ground floor supporting higher walls, some were not.

This meant that rooms with outside walls were best avoided. One of the recommended tricks was the placement of a well-filled bookcase.

Tom Wintringham pointed out, in one article he wrote, that an anti-tank rifle was becoming ineffective against tanks, but was still effective against an enemy in a house. But he was a notorious revolutionary and one shouldn't listen to him.

#635 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 10:53 AM:

"While it’s no surprise that the publishing sector is overwhelmingly white, the lack of diversity is a bit eye-opening: of the 630 respondents who identified their race, 89% described themselves as white/Caucasian, with 3% selecting Asian and another 3% indicating Hispanic. Only 1% said they are African-American."

Survey by PW. Article.

#636 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 04:04 PM:

Something cool for map nerds (and visual perception and information display nerds, too): the "oilslick" approach to mapping elevation data.

I found it fascinating the way many coastal floodplains almost disappeared into the black ocean until I zoomed in closer, and his "texture" link (to the Himalayas and northern India) is also fascinating.

#637 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 06:43 PM:

I too don't have a bookstore story per se, although being friendly and a regular customer to one small locally run one when I was at uni meant I got a discount, which was nice.

What I have noticed, or re-noticed, is the memorial value of the price labels and bookmarks and suchlike. For instance, for no particular reason, I noticed my copy of le Carre's "The honourable Schoolboy" on the shelf a couple of days ago and thought of re-reading it.

The label on the back is from the Cancer research campaign charity shop, i.e. before it merged with Imperial cancer reaserch to make a charity called Cancer Research UK. It cost 50 pence, a reasonable price for what was then a 20 year old paperback.
Incidentally such a book would not now be sold by Cancer research shops, because it is too old and degraded by heat and oxygen. They went all modern sell sell sell a few years ago, which has led to the loss of a lot of more random books.

Anyway, also inside it is an envelope used as a bookmark by a previous owner, small white, plain, unwritten upon. I left inside it a Tesco reciept from 1998, showing that I bought some mince. So that'll be when I bought it.

Other books have bookplates, or inscriptions, or really old ones have small booksellers labels stuck on with some organically sourced glue, one I have is from the delightfully named "W. Whereat, bookseller, 7 Corn street, Bristol"

Another book I have has the stamps from being sent to a POW camp in Germany during WW2, as the owner wanted to catch up on some reading in English medieval economic history.

Some shops seem to leave the accidental inclusions in the books, but I suspect others take them out. I feel they are yet another part of the life of books, and of how they are included within our own, wider lives outside simply readership.

Hmm, this does make me think I want my own stamp to stamp my (current) ownership within the books, so that in a hundred years time someone can say "look, these books were all owned by one person, hmmmm"

#638 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 07:13 PM:

guthrie @637: that's part of why they invented bookplates, to allow people to keep track of who owned a particular book. Now, some bookplates are actually limited-edition prints by famous artists -- wish I knew who designed Achmed Abdullah's, because it's really pretty. Mostly, bookplates are not seen as enhancing a book's valye these days -- unless it's from someone well-known. People are caught up in "pristine", and even devalue inscriptions in favor of simple signatures. Now me -- I'm much more fascinated by the history you allude to. I even pay attention to who priced a book, and can often tell you what bookstore it came from in the SF bay area by the pricing inside (location, handwriting and the like). And the Strand's major pricer back in the 70s is really recognizable.

#639 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2014, 10:47 PM:

Chip #630 : I admit I kinda wanted to see if someone would guess it; it was (and still is, I suppose, it's sitting on the shelf behind me and slightly to my right) the Stardance/Starseed/Starmind books by Spider and Jeanne Robinson. I should read them again, it's been a year or so.

#640 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 09:27 AM:

Hyperlocal news... Local man begins reading "Good Omens" and berates himself for waiting so long.

#641 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 10:17 AM:

Serge Broom@625: Thanks for posting that. Very fun. And @640: Enjoy!

Yesterday's Rosh Hashanah-related cooking experiment: a shoofly pie made with honey for the holiday. (Shofar pie? Shoo-far pie?) Yum. Not as overwhelmingly honey-flavored as my favorite honey cake (which was, likewise, created by replacing molasses with honey in my favorite gingerbread cake).


Start with 9" butter-based pie shell, preferably made with a slightly raised edge. (I can give my recipe, but it's a standard butter crust.) Freeze shell for at least 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 425°F.

Crumb topping:
1c. flour
1/2c. light brown sugar
1/4tsp. salt
1/4tsp. cinnamon
6tbsp. chilled butter.

Mix dry ingredients, then cut in butter to make a fine meal.

1/2c. honey
1/2c. light brown sugar
3/4c. boiling water
1/2tsp. baking soda
1/2tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Dissolve sugars in water, then whisk in other ingredients. Pour base into chilled pie shell, then scatter crumb topping over the liquid. Put in preheated 425°F oven for 10 minutes, then turn heat down to 350°F for about 30 minutes or until whole thing is wobbly but not soupy. Let cool as completely as you can stand. Honey flavor comes through more the second day.

#642 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 10:48 AM:

Serge Broom @640, oh, how I envy you getting to experience Good Omens for the first time...

Open Threadiness: A Small Rewrite (or, why editors are a Good Thing.) I found this video very funny.

#643 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 11:09 AM:

Plain people of the Internet, and fancy ones, I'm here seeking advice for Mom. She has knee troubles, and it's clear that her days as a roof-running crimefighter are just plain over. She's going to need some kind of mobility help, and this is where your advice kicks in.

She might get a light-weight wheelchair, which Medicare would cover. She's very attracted to one of the models of narrow electric scooter, which Medicare wouldn't, but if it were as good in practice as it seems to her, would be a worthwhile investment.

I know that a bunch of us have either needed such things ourselves or are close to people who have. What's your experience been? Are there sources of information you'd recommend? Do you want to point at different alternatives altogether?

Help welcome!

#644 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 11:30 AM:

Me@641: I forgot the most important note (to me, at least), which is thanks to my spouse for coming up with both the shoo-far pie (including the name) and the honey cake ideas.

Also in Rosh Hashanah celebration news from yesterday: apples with manuka honey, for a year that is sweet, rich, and slightly spicy.

Tonight we might try the cocktail SamChevre posted @618.

#645 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 01:14 PM:

Cassie B @ 642... It *is* a nice feeling, which later had to be put on hold, due to the necessity of deserving my salary. By the way, I've heard that the BBC is preparing a radio adaptation.

#646 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 01:21 PM:

On the Rosh Hashanah subthread: my Amazing Girlfriend made a honey cake last night while I was off at services. This, after being an fMRI subject for a couple hours immediately before. Do I need to explain why she's the Awesome Girlfriend?

#647 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 01:30 PM:

Benjamin Wolfe@646: Do you get particularly good fMRI images from someone who's planning a honey cake?

#648 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 01:59 PM:

Bruce Baugh @ 643, I recently encountered someone using a "knee scooter", I'm not sure if it would be suitable to your mother's situation. I'd never seen one before. It has a padded platform, you put your weight on one knee on the platform, hold the handle bars, and push with the other foot. Apparently some models are steerable, while others look more like traditional walkers (but narrower) and just go straight (presumably you have to take your weight off it turn it).

#649 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 02:07 PM:

Odd. The Recent Comments list shows a comment by Jeremy Leader in this thread between dotless ı's at #647 and this one. But it's not showing here.

[Jeremy's comment was at the end of the thread when I hit Preview. I'm posting this anyway as a diagnostic marker.]

#650 ::: Jeremy Leader got an Internal Server Error ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 02:12 PM:

Mary Aileen: I got a "500 Internal Server Error" when I posted it, and it's been gradually showing up since. First I saw it in my "view all by" and nowhere else; then it showed up in the "last 1000 comments" page, and then in the Recent Comments list on the front page, and now finally here on this page. Hopefully now it'll stay!

#651 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 02:44 PM:

This is all a function of the way that Moveable Type works. When you post a comment, the software kicks off the following jobs:

1. Write the comment to the database
2. Build static pages based on the comment (I don't know the order)
a) last n comment pages
b) "Recent Comments" sidebar
c) discussion thread page

Any of the jobs listed can fail, as the dragon that sleeps at the root of our system shifts and writhes through its dreams of ice and gold. If the first job fails, your comment is a libation to the serpent, lost for good. Weep for it, and try the browser back button.

If any of the further jobs fail, the static page remains as it was before you posted, but the comment remains in the database. Then, when another comment triggers the same rebuilds, yours appears as well, in its proper place, on the newly-rebuilt page.

(view all by) is a different thing, generated on request from the database. I think. It's a mystery to me, and I'm not going to ask the Shining Suid From Whom It Cometh precisely how it works. Just take it on faith that it's different.

#652 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 03:02 PM:

Idumea (651): Thanks for the explanation. I figured it was something like that.

#653 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 03:08 PM:

Jeremy@ 648: Probably not, but it's interesting for the "in the right context" file. Thanks. :)

#654 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 03:09 PM:

Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads@651: Any of the jobs listed can fail, as the dragon that sleeps at the root of our system shifts and writhes through its dreams of ice and gold.

Two thoughts:
1) I now want to write a software system whose core architecture is somehow modeled on a slumbering dragon; and
2) perhaps that's already been done, and what's lacking is my understanding of dragons.

Quite likely the latter.

#655 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 03:10 PM:

Thanks, Idumea. I hadn't realized it was all static pages, but it makes a lot of sense that way.

#656 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 03:22 PM:

idumea @ 651... Pete's dragon? Kitty Pryde's Lockheed?

#657 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 04:39 PM:

Em @639: With your permission, I'd like to forward your story to Spider. I suspect he'd enjoy it.

#658 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 05:55 PM:

dotless ı @ 647: Not notably, but spending a couple of hours in the magnet is good for being a little out of it afterward. Which makes the fact that she made a honey cake for me even more awesome.

#659 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2014, 08:52 PM:

Jacque @ 657: Not a problem! Feel free. His writing (and Jeanne's, though I can't thank her) makes me happy, it'd be good to return the favour.

#660 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 12:40 AM:

My cat Denny died today. He was 18. I took him to the vet this afternoon, because I could see he wasn't feeling well. She told me he was not going to get better, but gave me some meds to make him comfortable. She said he would probably last a few more weeks.

When I got home, the meds seemed to make him high; he kept crying and falling over, so I put him in a basket next to me, wrapped in my sleep shirt. He was quiet for several hours that way, sleeping. I heard him cough and bent down to pet him, and realised he had stopped breathing. When I picked him up, he had no heartbeat.

September is a shitty month and can piss the fuck off and be gone.

Tonight, for the first time in my life, I will go to bed without a cat at my feet.

#661 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 12:51 AM:

He was probably happy, and you did everything you should have done.

I still miss my furry owners.

#662 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 12:53 AM:

i has a sad for you, Cheryl. I'll pet my cats a bit more tonight (after we give the deaf one her eyedrops).

#663 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 01:04 AM:

Cheryl, I'm so sorry for your loss. 18 is a long life for a cat, but it still hurts to lose one. You gave him a good life, probably one that was better and longer than it would have been had you not taken him on.

#664 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 06:59 AM:

dotless ı @ #654:

There is. You don't want to. On all the ones I am familiar with, one cost me 10 hours yesterday and (so far) has cost me 1 hour and another 3-4 hours spread over various colleagues today.

cheryl @ #660:

My thoughts are with you. I have, so far, lost 4 cats throughout time. It always hurts. But, in the fullness of time, you will have a preponderance of the good memories and no to only a small fraction of the sad ones.

#665 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 09:11 AM:

Cheryl @660: Sincere sympathies. It always hurts, but the times we have with our cats do make it worthwhile.

#666 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 10:14 AM:

Cheryl @660: I have an 18-year-old cat. I weep for you. May the memories be a comfort.

#667 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 12:16 PM:

Cheryl: I'm very sorry for your loss.

#668 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 12:18 PM:

Cheryl, you may not view it this way right now -- but in time you may see the way of Denny's departure a blessing.

He was there, beside you, wrapped in your love...

How many times have I devoutly desired this sort of ending for one of my furry companions, only to have to take them for that last trip to the vet? More than I wish to remember...

May the memories of the good times be often in your thoughts.

#669 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 12:54 PM:

Cheryl, my sympathy :(

#670 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 01:51 PM:

Em: Spider enjoyed your story. Says he'd enjoy meeting—and that old man—someday. :-)

#671 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 01:53 PM:


"meeting you—"

#672 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 02:02 PM:

Cheryl @ 660: I am so sorry for your loss. No matter how old he was, it's never enough.

I don't think I posted when I had to euthanize my cat on Sept 1st; he'd been fighting cancer for more than a year, and it had become clear that the end was approaching. It's been more than three weeks, and I still miss him, although all the other cats are a good distraction (and the dogs, too).

To our absent companions; may our memories of them comfort us.

#673 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 02:05 PM:

Ginger, I'm sorry for your loss, too.

#674 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 02:49 PM:

Ginger, I'm glad you're enjoying the cats you still have! And I'll join you in that toast.

#675 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 03:09 PM:

Cheryl, deep sympathies on your loss of your beloved cat. It sounds as though Denny died in the way and time that was happiest for him - near you, with your smell and presence around him, and temporarily free of pain. I hope that could be a good final memory of him. (I know that's little consolation for missing him.)

#676 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 03:35 PM:

AKICIML- changing cultural norms search edition:
I have memories that back in the 70s and before -- back in the nineteen-hundreds when I grew up -- it was often considered rude to ask people not to smoke, while now in the 21st century "not smoking" is commonly the default. Was it the case that it used to be claimed that non-smokers were going out of their way to be sensitive?(1)

If yes, I've been searching for quotes or essays that capture this attitude, but I'm not finding them. Any suggestions on keywords that were associated with the prior norms? I'm finding lots of interesting health-research data, lawsuits info, and the history of campaigns, but not so much the "oh, look at the tone those nonsmokers are using- such anger, no sympathy" articles.

(1) that nonsmokers were choosing to be bothered and smokers were just living their lives / that smokers could feel offended by being asked to stop because something was being done to them.

#677 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 03:43 PM:

Kathryn @ 676

Not specifically on the "rudeness" issue, but the most revealing of attitudes quote I know is from the Joy of Cooking.

Individual ashtrays and cigarettes may be placed on the table. Fortunately, a host or hostess is not required to press his conviction that smoking is injurious to either health or gastronomy. But if you are a strong-willed hostess, you may prefer to have the ashtrays and cigarettes placed on the table just after the dessert is served.
#678 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 03:57 PM:

Kathryn @ 676: I remember too and agree with you on that general sense, but it's going to be hard to find documentation on it. What comes to mind first is an old Steve Martin routine, off one of his comedy album, which you could probably dig up. The beginning of it, paraphrased:
When people ask me "Do you mind if I smoke?" I say "Not at all! Do you mind if I fart?" ...

The norm that comedy sketch was whanging away on was that smokers were supposed to ask those around them if anybody minded, but there was a very strong expectation that everybody else was supposed to say "Oh no, I don't mind at all" if they were anything short of fatally allergic, even if they hated the smell. For non-smokers to actually object on any kind of personal grounds seemed to be viewed, for a long time, as equally rude or more rude than smokers not asking their companions if they objected.

Eventually there was a sudden swing in the zeitgeist where people began feeling OK to actually object if they disliked smoke. (Late '70s? Early '80s?) Maybe it was when the health hazards of "second-hand smoke" started to be recognized, or maybe it was more a cultural shift.

As I recall this was all a matter of tacit norms, so you're going to have trouble finding it explicitly written down anywhere, except perhaps if it were captured in an etiquette book, or in fiction of the time.

#679 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 03:57 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @676: It was definitely the case in parts of the country, even up into the 80s. Carol Carr told the anecdote of visiting family in the Midwest. When she mentioned that she was quitting smoking, the family asked her, in a genuinely puzzled way, "Why?"

Here's one interesting website on the history of tobacco use in the US -- a timeline starting in the 1950s. I expect there's something useful there.

Here's a PDF on general tobacco use across the decades -- perhaps less useful for your purposes, but the graph at the start showing how cigarette smoking rises and falls in the 20th C is pretty amazing, and worth looking at.

Ah -- and here's a smoking gun! The first paragraph of the main article, under "Protecting bystanders", talks about how non-smokers just had to withdraw from public spaces if they objected to smoking.

Useful google terms: "right to smoke" and 1970. One can play with other dates, but "right to smoke" is probably the key term to play with.

#680 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 04:10 PM:

Well, I was clearly wrong. Tom has nailed it with that third link. Go Tom!

#681 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 04:25 PM:

Sam@677- thanks- that's a lovely quote.

My goal is to give some examples of "what we didn't used to notice and now we can't not see" or "what we always used to notice and now we don't care" norm changes. As a norm starts being changed, the people pointing out the problem are considered rude, and can internalize feeling bad about asking. I'm looking at non-civil-rights examples.

#682 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 04:46 PM:

Clifton @678, Tom @679
Tom's find is both quite good yet supports the difficulty in finding statements written from that attitude, rather than about that attitude. When I started looking I figured I could find some quickly, but didn't.

Did used bookstores used to not care about the smell of smoke? Now it's certainly a thing to be warned about.

#683 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 05:04 PM:

Kathryn @ 676: Not particularly useful, but, back when the ban on smoking in restaurants etc. was being suggested here in the UK, my husband commented that it was highly ironic that smokers were carping about how rude it was that they were being asked not to smoke - given that he could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times he could remember a smoker actually asking if anyone minded before lighting up.

Additionally, a friend of my step-father, the last time we met, said that he owed me an apology. Several years previously, he had been somewhat scathing of my statements regarding how much I'd hated getting kippered in pubs and restaurants - even in the non-smoking section - pre-ban and how much more pleasant it was going out in an evening knowing this wasn't going to happen. However, a few years post-ban, he'd visited a country where smoking in bars and restaurants was still allowed. Prior to the ban in the UK, the smell of cigarette smoke was so commonplace he hadn't noticed it. But on this visit he'd suddenly realised what it was I'd been complaining about.

#684 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 05:20 PM:

Smoking is a good example of how something once considered benign (or at least tolerable) changed over the course of a couple of generations until it came to be regarded as a social sin. Whenever people tell me that "people just don't change" or some other argument about unalterable human nature, I point towards smoking.

#685 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 05:57 PM:

An interesting parallel here in the video on this site: spittoons in the early 20th century. There aren't a lot of stories from the point of view of those who demanded the right to spit, either. The rest of the video is pretty good, too. It doesn't quite fit, either, but it seems closer to what you were asking for.

#686 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 06:02 PM:

Ah, even better: here's a debate site on whether smoking should be banned in public places. It doesn't quite have the vehemence I think you're looking for, but the comments on the "No" side show a lot of the attitude I think you're pointing to. Now, if we could find a survey from about 40 years earlier, it would definitely skew in the opposite direction and would probably have more of what you want....

#687 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 06:46 PM:

Tom Whitmore @685
Social parallels (at all levels of adoption/switching) could include spittoons, spitting, recycling, littering, burning garbage, burning agricultural waste(1), drunk driving, seatbelts, noise pollution, light pollution, perfume and body odors (2), the ones I don't know of because they were already gone locally before I noticed them, ones in other regions [wearing masks in public when ill in Asian countries], etc. Plus obviously all the human rights ones (3).

(1) used to be legal to burn rice straw in California, even though it has asbestos-like fibers
(2) all sorts of norms here
(3) which are too strong for my example. I believe it's easier to get people to sympathize with or be compared to "we thought smoking was normal" than with "we thought all-white juries were normal."

#688 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 07:44 PM:

My grandfather smoked cigars. But not in the house, only outside, or in the garage (where his workshop was). My grandmother wouldn't allow them in the house.

#689 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 08:16 PM:

Burning garbage is still viewed as "what's the problem? I know it's illegal, but if I'm on my own dawn land the police can keep their noses to themselves" by some subsections of the population, even in cities as large as Chicago.

#690 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 08:19 PM:

I attempted rather stronger language than "dawn" above, but my software keyboard seems of the opinion that my potty mouth should be uniformly corrected.

I rarely INTEND to type "ducking" either, but I end up doing so when I don't reread it carefully enough and override my bule-stockinged spill chicken. :-)

It once decided to correct "flamingly and obstinately gay" to "flamingos and obstinately gay," which was amusing. And annoying.

#691 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 09:20 PM:

Sorry to hear the news, Cheryl. I still miss out last cat from, gosh 20 years back.

* * *

Fume. I started a week's vacation a little after noon. Shortly before I left my manager called me in to tell me I was getting yanked off of the team I'd been on for going on 13 years, and working on the product I've been working on for a week short of 17 years. I should still be in the same desk, but working on recently acquired products, with people far away, via phone conferencing and coordinating with awful bean-counter work management tools. (The demo today was cancelled because the server, overseas, went down.)


I'm glad I have a job, but you know how I feel? The "splash" screen that appears when you start the afore-mentioned work management tool shows a bunch of abstract people, resembling the plastic pegs in "The Game of Life." Generic work units.

Expertise? Teamwork? Feh, apparently.



#692 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 10:17 PM:

I just saw a trailer for Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowskis' next film. It was exciting and full of surprises and sensawunda, and I am cautiously excited.

(I can't find a direct link to the one I first saw. Here is another: )

#693 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 10:20 PM:

So of course I turn up the trailer I first saw (and liked more than the one already linked) after posting and giving up...

Jupiter Ascending - New Trailer - Official Warner

#694 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 10:28 PM:

Stefan@691: That sucks. I once had a manager (I worked for an automotive company at the time) compare employees to sparkplugs, in that you can swap them between places, in what I think was meant to be a pep-up-the-employees meeting. He was surprised that we were unpepped. Being treated as interchangeable is an awful feeling, especially when a project has been YOUR project to the extent it sounds like yours has been. Yuck. All the sympathy in the world.

#695 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 10:58 PM:

Cheryl, I'm sorry for your loss. The small difference in weight on the cover of the bed makes a huge difference, especially multiplied by eighteen years.

#696 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 26, 2014, 11:00 PM:

Ginger, I'm sorry for your loss. We miss them so much.

#697 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 12:42 AM:

Re: Attitude Changes:

My uncle, as a baby, rode in a wicker basket on the back shelf of the family ford v8. (this would have been post WW2 era). We have a picture of this car, in Yellowstone, with a bear standing on the running board, nose to the window, begging for food.

It was noted with surprise that I was taken home from the hospital in a car seat. (early 70's) I remember sitting in the front seat of the station wagon a lot when I was little. Probably helped my sense of navigation.

When my first was born, we weren't allowed to leave the hospital without a check that the car seat was installed properly. My 5yr old still rides in a 5pt harness, and they only get into the front seat when the car seat doesn't work in the back. (like in the miata.) Boosters are required till the kids are larger than some small adults.

#698 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 09:37 AM:

The problem with (recommending) home-cooked meals

Talks about the limited resources poor people have with making home-cooked meals, and how much cooking is being done anyway.

#699 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 09:54 AM:

eric (697): My family had a station wagon in the 1970s, bought specifically because we could fit half a soccer team in it, with most of them loose in the back. My mother generally insisted that anyone in the front seat buckle up, but the back seat didn't have to (and of course the cargo area didn't have them.) For family camping trips, we put down the back seat and filled the rear portion level with the windows, then unrolled three sleeping bags onto the top. One kid sat on the bench seat in front with the adults, the other three reclined in back. I still remember my mother saying "Heads down!" when she needed to see to back up.

#700 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 09:57 AM:

Attitude change: it used to be normal for parents of 7 year old kids, on a nice summer day, to say "go play outside. Come home for lunch." Today, a parent who so much as asks a 7 year old child to sit quietly in the booth at McDonald's alone while the parent has a quick pee may well have the cops called on them for negligence.

Regardless of the parents philosophy or the individual child's maturity level, many bystanders in the US assume any solo child, even for a moment, is in deadly danger.

#701 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 10:04 AM:

Elliott (700): My mother had a cow bell that she would ring to call us home for dinner. We weren't supposed to go outside earshot of the bell without asking permission. This wasn't much of a hardship, as a loudly rung cow bell has a surprising range.

Starting in third grade*, we were allowed to walk down to the local not-quite-general store--three quarters of a mile, across two busyish streets--by ourselves**, although we did have to say where we were going. We could also take along a younger sibling.

*age 8
**that is, without being escorted by an adult or older kid

#702 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 10:24 AM:

My daughter's twelve now, and has been free to wander a reasonable distance. My sisters and I were pretty much free-range kids, capable of going some miles on our bikes and living in a setting with some appealing options (including ongoing construction, an abandoned quarry, a good sledding hill, and a prairie dog town), though boredom was my natural medium.

Sarah tends to seek amusement indoors a bit more than out, but gets plenty of outside time through team sports.

#703 ::: Carol Witt ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 11:03 AM:

Cheryl and Ginger, I'm sorry for your losses.

I'm afraid our cat is gone too. We moved again two weeks ago. Connie escaped a few days later, but came back late that night. My husband let her out again on the 19th since that went okay, and she hasn't returned. The only possible sighting was someone who posted a message he found on Facebook (which wasn't there when we checked the URL and group page) about a dead cat found a number of blocks to the north and west of us. There was no description, the cat was gone when we went searching the area mentioned, and all attempts to learn more have failed, including through official sources. She was wearing a collar with tags and had a microchip too, but there's been nothing.

Connie was around five (my husband found her abandoned without ID one February, and the vet thought she was 4-5 months old at that point). We're both devastated, and he feels quite guilty about letting her out.

This isn't the way I would suggest anybody meet some locals, who have been coming over to offer sympathy when they've seen the 'lost' signs. At least it's a nice community.

#704 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 11:49 AM:

Another cultural shift: there's been an increase in background checks before people can get hired.

#705 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 02:51 PM:

Cheryl and Ginger, I'm so sorry. Carol; I hope Connie finds her way back to you; I've had two sisters lose cats for a couple of weeks each before they returned. So there's still some hope.

#706 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 03:52 PM:

With the changes in the ways kids and employees are being treated, is anyone else reminded of Sturgeon's "Mr. Costello, Hero"? (Link is to a radioplay version.)

#707 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 04:59 PM:

Anyone here read "Existence" by David Brin? I mostly enjoyed it but not a much as I would like to have because of (rot 13'd) svefgyl gur jnl ovgf bs vg ernq yvxr uvf oybt cbfgf. V fhccbfr gung vf gb or rkcrpgrq; fbzrgvzrf Puneyvr Fgebff jbexf ernq yvxr ur fcrnxf va crefba naq V nz fher V pbhyq svaq rknzcyrf va bgure jbexf, ohg vg qbrf veevgngr zl fhfcrafvba bs qvforyvrs n ovg.
Gur frpbaq ceboyrz vf zhpu ynetre, juvpu vf onfvpnyyl gung vg fubhyq unir orra 2 obbxf. Whfg nf guvatf ner nyy hc va gur nve naq uhznavgl unfa'g svavfurq qrnyvat jvgu guvf znffvir pevfvf, vg whzcf sbejneq 26 lrnef naq vg gheaf bhg jr znantrq gb shzoyr guebhtu gur pevfvf naq trg fhpprffshy. Terng, funzr lbh qvqa'g fubj hf vg orvat fbegrq. V sryg purngrq. GUvf jbhyq unir orra n ybtvpny cbvag gb raq gur obbx, nsgre gur svefg pevfvf unf orra fhezbhagrq. GUra fgneg gur 2aq 26 lrnef yngre. Fb gur svanyl 30% be fb bs gur obbx fubhyq unir orra nabgure obbx V guvax. JUvpu va ghea jnf qvfnccbvagvat, nf vs ur ena bhg bs vzntvangvba va fbzr jnl be nabgure. Lrf, cyragl bs vqrnf, ohg gurve pbapngrangvba frrzrq ehfurq naq ynpxvat va gur qenzn bs gur svefg cneg bs gur obbx.
So I was wondering if someone else had noticed the same thing?

#708 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 06:58 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale:

I remember at a Worldcon (possibly Winnipeg in 1994) Spider Robinson telling us that non-smokers who claimed to be able to tell who smokers were by the smell of their clothes were liars who were trying to further some sort of terrible evil anti-smoking agenda. I should note that his clothes reeked of cigarette smoke, and I was physically unable to stay for all of his reading. I just went to Google, and found these reviews: several of which talk about what sound like jeremiads in the book against those horrible nazi anti-smokers. So Spider Robinson's "The Crazy Years" may have some of what you're looking for.

#709 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 07:36 PM:

HLN: Local man tries to make service appointment for routine maintenance on car. Appointment webpage does not work properly in either of local man's web browsers (Internet Explorer and one of the Mozilla browsers). Appointment webpage works fine using Safari browser on local man's Ipad. Local man finds this amusing.

#710 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 08:02 PM:

Cally at 708: Yep, it does. Looking at the TOC in my copy, there's at least a couple essays in there decrying the rise of anti-smoking policies.

#711 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 08:15 PM:

I've had people tell me they were non-smokers, when I could smell smoke all over them. They may actually not have smoked, but they certainly spent a lot of time in smoke-filled rooms. Some of them I had to hold my breath when they walked by.

I really appreciated the changes when the company I worked for made all their facilities non-smoking, back around 1990.

#712 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 08:55 PM:

AKICIML: One of the plot drivers of Growing Up Weightless is the irreducible need for 3.2 liters of water per person-day. A BBC story on would-be asteroid miners says that the International Space Station is going through 6 "tons" of water per person-year, at a cost of billions. Does anyone have evidence on whether Mike was making a wild guess (which he could have, for a hard number) or the ISS isn't using the best tech? Granted that Luna is not a space station, I wouldn't expect a factor of ~5 difference, given the cost of boosting that water from Earth in the absence of a MIRAGE drive.

#713 ::: Inquisitive Raven ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 08:57 PM:

On smoking, IIRC, the 1970s were the era of the anti-smoking PSA. This one was particularly memorable.

#714 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 09:16 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 701: My mother had a cow bell that she would ring to call us home for dinner. We weren't supposed to go outside earshot of the bell without asking permission.

My mother has a metal whistle.

#715 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 09:17 PM:

I remember the early days of non-smoking sections. Cathy and I went for a movie dinner at a cinema cafe in Phoebus, VA, and their smoking section consisted of the front 3/4 of the seating, so we sat in back. There was a guy back there, smoking away, and after taking our order, the waitress went to him and said something we didn't hear, causing him to bellow out, "I thought this was AMERICA!" Then he looked over at us, and apparently decided we had reported him (because the waitress surely wouldn't have noticed otherwise that he was smoking) and declared that maybe he'd sit at the back of the smoking section and just blow his smoke toward us.

Of course, this was the flaw of the two sections anyway, as the smoke tends not to obey injunctions about where to drift. I have sympathy for smokers — something I didn't think was possible, at one time — but assholes are everywhere.

#716 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 27, 2014, 10:48 PM:

#706 ::: Tom Whitmore

I'm constantly reminded of Mr. Costello, Hero, but mostly by the news where people say "We used to be neighbors. We didn't care if someone was Hutu/Tutsi...Sunni/Shi'a...whateever/whatever." Mr. Costello is pretty busy, all over the world.

You've got a point about the increase in suspicion, though.

The radio play is considerably revised from the original.

#717 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 12:06 AM:

#707: Many of the early parts of Existence started out as short stories; whole novelettes really. I'm not sure it they were all intended to be fitted together, leading to some of the dropped-thread feeling.

I too missed some of the characters in the latter parts.

#718 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 12:13 AM:

#712: There are probably many ways to answer the question "how much water does a human need?"

Enough to keep the body running?

Enough for that and to perform some minimum hygiene?

Enough for both of those plus the wastage associated with a cooling and filtration system?

Enough for all that and the wastage associated with even a really well-sealed hydroponic farm?

#719 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 01:01 AM:

I think the 3.2 liters is strictly for internal consumption. Add in the other uses for water, and it will be more.

#720 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 08:30 AM:

Hyperlocal news... Today local man and local woman celebrate the 29th anniversary of their starting to live together. Dinner may involve a trip to Holy Cow, which has excellent fries and burgers.

#721 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 11:29 AM:

@Serge: Congrats, and enjoy the meal!

* * *
A week of vacation begins tomorrow. I really need to . . . relax? No, I can do that. Sort of. I need to learn how to . . . use vacations better? Recreate better?

I don't know if I'll ever be able to really enjoy time off until I don't need to worry about having to go back to work. When I fantasize about winning the lottery, I fantasize about having just enough money to pay the mortgage and bills and insurance in perpetuity.

#722 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 12:13 PM:

From backpacking trips, I know that 3.2 L of water per person per day is the minimum for consumption - drinking and in cooked food. (4 is safer to allow for cooking with.) You can probably squeeze enough out of that to brush your teeth, cautiously. If you want to wash - at all - that's a whole lot more.

#723 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 12:23 PM:

Serge Broom #720: Congratulations!!!

#724 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 03:45 PM:

The ISS recycles its water extensively. But they do take showers and whatnot. (I remember reading, possibly here, that they launch dirty laundry to burn up into the atmosphere instead of washing it, for weight reasons.) I guess that 6 tons is the irretrievably lost amount ?

#725 ::: Errolwi ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 03:57 PM:

Water consumption: From the diary of John Brown, Wireless Operator RAN, on active service near the recently-captured German western Pacific colonies, 28th Sep 1914

We only get 3 pints of water per day for drinking, 1 bucket of water a day for 16 men to wash in, & we only get a bath once a fortnight...

#726 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 04:39 PM:

Congratulations, Serge and Sue!

#727 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 05:16 PM:

Thanks, abi, Fragano and Stefan!

#728 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 05:19 PM:

Serge at 727: Did your nym flip on you? I've been seeing spam elsewhere today, but not in this thread.

#730 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 07:19 PM:

Happy Anniversary, Serge and Sue! Many happy returns!

#731 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 07:24 PM:

#707, #717 - I agree. Existence started as a perfectly good near-to-mid future thriller, greatly in love with all it's various sub-plots. Then it transitions awkwardly into an equally good science fiction novel of ideas, dumping many of the sub-plots and associated characters.

I did notice a certain amount of things-Brin-wants-to-say in the novel. On the other hand in the 10 year (?) gap since I last read a new book by him I seem to have become a more critical reader so it might just be that I'm paying attention to it.

#732 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 09:13 PM:

Xopher... Thanks!

#733 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 09:55 PM:

Carrie S. and I had a micro-gathering-of-light today. We met up at the Pittsburgh Zine Fair, followed by a nice sit down in a coffee shop. Here's my haul. In a new-to-town milestone, one of the artists recognized me from a tabletop games meetup.

In other local news, kittens! We picked them up at the shelter on Saturday afternoon. I have no idea why the saying is "more fun than a barrel of monkeys" when that sounds like far less fun than two kittens. After much musing on names, we decided on Miles and Ivan. Part of the reason for that is looking forward to years of saying "You idiot, Ivan!" Miles almost got called Outboard, due to his purr.

#734 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: September 28, 2014, 11:00 PM:

Today is approximately my mother's birthday. Apparently there was a bit of confusion at the time; there were actually 3 dates written on her birth certificate, all crossed out. By the time anyone took notice, no one was sure whether the actual day was the 27th, 28th, or 29th of September. She would be 93 if she were still alive. The 10th anniversary of her death is coming up in December. I'm a bit depressed for that reason and others.

#735 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 04:52 AM:

Cheryl, #660: My condolences on your loss.

Ginger, #672: It takes time for you to stop expecting to see your cat in his or her accustomed places. When my Genevieve took her trip over the Rainbow Bridge, it was fully 6 months before I stopped looking for her on the floor at the foot of the bed every time I went into the bedroom. She had been old and arthritic, and had spent her last couple of years on a pad made from a folded-up twin comforter, which she rarely left except to eat, drink, or use the litterbox.

Kathryn, #676: Yes, everything you mention was definitely the case as recently as the 1990s. I remember there being huge arguments about the topic on alt.callahans, before I moved to Texas (which was in late 1998). I remember a huge brouhaha when Hickory Hollow Mall in Nashville went non-smoking -- of course, Tennessee is part of the Tobacco Belt, and it took a lot longer for that part of the country to catch up with the shift in cultural attitudes.

I remember that every few years, there used to be a human-interest story in the local paper about tobacco farmers, and at least one of them would always be quoted as saying something to the effect of, "Tobacco has been real good to me and my family." And I remember imagining a coca farmer somewhere in Central America saying the same sort of thing, and thinking about how differently that would be received.

@687: What about "We used to think that all-male symphony orchestras were normal"? You can find videos of symphony performances from the 50s and 60s online, and I'm always stunned by that sea of white male faces.

Stefan, #691: Sympathies. That sucks.

Mary Aileen, #701: I walked to and from school by myself from about the 3rd day of kindergarten (we're talking about 1961 here). As a young teenager (12-14), I rode my bike for round-trip distances of up to about 15 miles; I could go shopping by myself, or to the local park for a swim.

P J Evan, #711: I used to hate coming home from Chattacon because everything I had packed with me, and my hair, absolutely reeked of smoke. The issue persisted at Chattacon long after many other regional cons had gone smoke-restricted because everyone on the concom smoked, and they didn't perceive a problem. The mezzanine area at the Chattacon hotel -- which you had to go thru to get from any one programming area to any other one, or to the consuite -- was where everybody sat and smoked. It didn't stop being a problem until the city passed a non-smoking ordinance that applied to public spaces in hotels.

Kip, #715: I used to have a button about that. It said, "Having a non-smoking section in a restaurant is like having a non-peeing section in a swimming pool."

BTW, you notice the early use of one of the standard troll tropes in your example, with the "AMERICA! FREEDOM!" response.

janetl, #733: Kittenses!

#736 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 07:56 AM:

Lee @ #735, it was even more recently that we stopped thinking all orchestra/chorus conductors had to be male.

#737 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 08:25 AM:

I remember in the late '90s that in New York smoking bans were not state-wide, but individual municipalities and counties had bans. The county where I went to school (University at Buffalo) had a ban on smoking in restaurants, with a loophole for smoking sections that were completely isolated from the non-smoking section, including the ventilation system. I know of one Denny's in Buffalo that had a section completely walled off with glass walls, and you could see the thick smoke in there.

I remember a big political battle to extend the restaurant ban to include bars, which fought against it hard. Their concern was that without smoking, patrons wouldn't go out to the bars -- and everyone at a bar was an adult who got to make their choice to smoke on their own anyway.

New York passed a state-wide indoor-workplace ban in 2003, including restaurants and bars.

#738 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 09:06 AM:

Smoking on planes... While we were waiting to board our plane in 1985, it was announced that our flight *all* be non-smoking.

The announcement was immediately followed by very vocal rejoicing.

#739 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 10:02 AM:

"Mind if I smoke?" "--I don't care if you burn."
Ginger, #660, and all the others who have lost furry friends, my condolences.
HLN: Area person has just been given a magnificent opal [polished pebble, not cab; 50% matrix; crazing throughout the clear stuff; main color of iridescence is blue.] A past thread here is recalled in which the care and feeding of opals was explicated. Anyone recall what thread that was?

#740 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 11:08 AM:

Serge Broom@720: Congratulations!

Ginger and Cheryl: I'm sorry for your loss. And wishing the best to Carol Witt.

Stefan Jones@691: Best wishes for the vacation, and I hope things go as well as they on your return to work. There are so many things to dislike about that change.

Serge Broom@738: I clearly remember the transition to non-smoking planes, but I'm still occasionally startled by an in-seat ashtray in older equipment. Likewise, I'm startled when I see a dashboard cigarette lighter that hasn't yet been relabeled as a 12V power outlet. (I wonder if we'll hit a point where no one's really using USB for data anymore, but it sticks around as a standard 5V power connector. There are already plenty of AC+USB wall outlets on the market now, the best of which seem to be jumping through silly engineering hoops to get full power to as many devices as possible.)

#741 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 11:16 AM:

Lee (735): I walked to/from school by myself*, too, starting in first grade. That was about three quarters of a mile, with one traffic light (complete with crossing guard on school days). My mother walked me there a week or so before school started, to show me the route and make sure I knew how to cross streets carefully. And the first day, she and my little sister waited for me a block from home, very carefully *after* the last street, which I crossed all-by-myself.

*Now I'm not sure why I didn't walk with my older brother, at least on the way there. It certainly wasn't a usual thing, though.

#742 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 11:51 AM:

em @ 639: I could see the cover (complete with a pose that would require a supporter if it weren't in space) the instant you gave the title. The problem is that there were a \lot/ of ~nudes on 70's covers. (And some that didn't make it; the Chicon IV book cover is a Freas rough that was too rough for DAW -- the published version uses a rocketship as a figleaf.)

Serge @ 640: enjoy; I go back to it every few years because I need to see writers being brilliantly, funnily snarky about respectable insanities. (Ironic note about the Kappa Maki: you may not have heard that Gaiman was in a restaurant ~recently when it was busted for serving whale meat.)

Tom W @ 706: "Costello" was written in response to a specific madness (McCarthyism); what connection do you see to larger / longer-scale movements?

Cally @ 708: that sounds like Spider channeling Heinlein crudely, which happened all too often when I was paying attention (he dropped off my radar a while ago).

Kip W. @ 215: I sympathize; I was assailed by an airplane passenger after asking a stewardess to deal with the smoker in a non section. During the cutover, smoke could be ameliorated by proper ventilation; OTOH, I don't know how many fixed sites had such. (IIRC, airplane air circulation already ran front-to-back, so putting smokers in the back (or in a separate ventilation block of a jumbo) sometimes worked.)

@718 ff: as I read Ford, he intended 3.2 liters/day to be the total requirement in a system that was as closed as possible (e.g., no lossage from grain shipments as in its predecessor, but tourists take home ]moonshine[); it's used as a measure of how soon the system will fail absent new sources.

#743 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 12:52 PM:

Local news that really, really sucks: Someone's ripped up and removed pieces of the Quebec Girl Guide campground - stolen tents, heaters, destroyed doors, mattresses, etc. About the only thing left intact is the boats, and Fall Day Camp is scheduled for this coming weekend; there are a lot of girls from lower-income families where this is the only "vacation" they ever get (they don't get field trips with schools, etc.; Guiding has funds allocated so that girls get to do things regardless of family income), and I am so so angry right now.

Who the hell does that. Who the hell steals from kids. I can't imagine there's a huge black market in camping gear that would make this a giant score, and the local area is mostly this camp, a ski resort, and rich people's cabins; it's not somewhere where someone'd be stealing a tent for shelter (let alone a dozen), and even if they were that doesn't explain the vandalism.

#744 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 02:33 PM:

CHip @742: Specifically, the way people now think leaving kids alone is tantamount to "abuse" strikes me as directly parallel to the social engineering that Costello manages with making it necessary for everyone to go places at least in pairs. This was not actually a tenet of McCarthyism, directly (though there was some of that occasionally).

#745 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 02:40 PM:

Em @743, agreed, that really sucks.

On a more cheerful Open Thready note: abi did a post a couple of years ago about card catalogs and I thought of her when I saw the Unshelved Kickstarter that includes a USB drive shaped like a card catalog drawer.

#746 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 02:51 PM:

OtterB (745): I don't really want the Unshelved collections as ebooks (especially since I already own them in hardcopy), but it's very tempting to back that Kickstarter just for the flash drive. I mean, a flash drive shaped like a card catalog drawer--how could I *not* want that!

#747 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 04:44 PM:

Language geekery.

Lila, #736: I wasn't aware of any cracks in that glass ceiling yet. You can't do blind auditions for conductors the way you can for musicians.

OTOH, it's not unheard-of for the directors of all-woman orchestral or choral groups to be female. But mixed groups, especially ones with a national reputation? If you've heard of any such, I'd be happy to know about them.

Buddha Buck, #737: We had the same issue in Houston a few years back. Interestingly, bar and club business went up after the ban (and after a lot of places did smoke-residue remediation). Turns out that a lot of people didn't go to bars and clubs because they couldn't handle the smoke miasma, and now they do. Who knew?

Em, #743: That sounds suspiciously like a hate crime, with the targets either being women in general or those lower-income kids you mentioned.

#748 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 04:54 PM:

#744 ::: Tom Whitmore

IIRC, the podcast of "Mr. Costello, Hero" made the surveillance aspect more salient than the original print version did.

The two versions are quite a bit different-- does anyone know who wrote the script for the podcast?

#749 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 04:57 PM:

Lee @ 747: OTOH, it's not unheard-of for the directors of all-woman orchestral or choral groups to be female. But mixed groups, especially ones with a national reputation? If you've heard of any such, I'd be happy to know about them.

I went to the San Francisco Opera for the first time recently, and Karen Kamensek was conducting. (Not that your larger point is invalid.)

#750 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 05:06 PM:

Lee @747 : I admit the thought did cross my mind, but mostly in that Guiding (and Scouting, for that matter) is very much seen as an anglophone activity in Quebec - language being one of those things where, on both sides of the fence, 99% of folks are just fine, but there are some long-seated issues and the occasional raging idiot. I don't think it's an income issue, though.

#751 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 05:32 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @748: the social engineering aspects of getting people to mistrust each other, however, are very much in the original -- and that's what I was initially thinking of when I wrote the note to CHip. I hadn't heard the podcast, and linked to it because the text of the story isn't available free online that I could see. I did want people to be able to get a sense of it. Yes, the script is different, but there's a lot the two versions share.

#752 ::: Jeremy Leader got an Internal Server Error ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 05:37 PM:

Lee @747, Em @750: I could also easily imagine it being adolescent (generally male) "let's destroy something!" without much thought or ideology behind the choice of target. Maybe there's some vague thoughts about attacking authority, but quite possibly nothing beyond that, and opportunity. You see a lot of that sort of thing aimed at abandoned buildings, but also at mothballed facilities (e.g. camps during the off-season), and sometimes at schools.

On the other hand, the red dye on the Canadian flag does sound political, though I don't know enough about the political landscape of Quebec to have any idea what it might signify.

#753 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 06:00 PM:

Lee @ #747, well, the late lamented Atlanta Bach Choir had one (Porter Remington) and our local city symphony does too (Susan Dinwiddie). Nadia Boulanger was better known as a teacher, but she did a fair bit of conducting. Marin Alsop, Baltimore Symphony. JoAnn Faletta, Virginia Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Ulster Orchestra. Sarah Caldwell, Opera Company of Boston, NY City Opera, Metropolitan Opera. Simone Young (Hamburg, Vienna, Sydney). Jane Glover (Lisbon, Vienna, Hamburg, Covent Garden).

Women still haven't come anywhere near parity (they earn nearly half the degrees and hold less than 20% of the conducting jobs) but there used to be NONE.

#754 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 06:13 PM:

I’d love some advice from any professional singers – especially church singers - around these parts. But first some background.

I studied voice back in the day, majoring in vocal performance and then switching over to musical theatre. I’ve always sung in ensembles and have always been an alto - like a real, serious, honest-and-true alto, not just a second soprano missing a few high notes. I was in a couple of semi-professional choruses and auditioned and was accepted into the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus in an unpaid kind of way (I had to drop out before any performances due to some work scheduling chicanery so I can’t really use it on a resume). I stopped for awhile and then joined a church and choir and sang there for several years. My growth in the choir went hand in hand with my spiritual growth, and while I remained a volunteer as part of my own religious calling, they phased out their paid alto when I joined. The people in the choir and parish were marvelous, the music challenging and inspiring. Worship became intertwined with music for me. Unfortunately, changes were made or came to pass, or just “happened” in the passive voice, and I no longer feel comfortable worshiping in that parish. In fact, I decided to take a year off my voluntary singing commitments, maybe enjoy an actual holiday or Sunday flea market or farmers market like a normal person.

But I still want to sing. Last month I auditioned for a small ensemble that a (former parish-choir) friend recommended. It seemed promising, it was secular and didn’t require nearly as much of a commitment as singing in a church choir does and I thought I had a pretty good chance. Needless to say, I failed, possibly because my range or my sight-singing maybe? Or that there were only two open slots in my section, both filled by returning members. Either way, failure is instructive so it was pretty awesome when the world continued spinning on its axis.

Another friend who I met in that parish choir now volunteers at another church in a choir that she admits is probably too good for her. She tells me that they’ve lost a lot of strong altos and would I be interested in singing with them. I told her that this year I would only church-sing for cash, no more volunteering. She has spoken with her choir director about a paid position and he’s invited me to sing in rehearsal with them and then run through a quick audition afterward. Now I know I am the kind of singer you want in your choir for free. I think I’m a pretty damn good amateur. But I’ve never been a paid singer (assuming you overlook the couple of Dickens Xmas caroling things two decades ago) and I’m not quite sure how to handle this opportunity. Is there some standard repertoire I’m expected to know? What’s Professional Musician for “it’s not you, it’s me” when attempting to turn down an offer to volunteer again? Am I going to look like a total idiot asking for money when I’ve never been paid for this before?

#755 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 06:51 PM:

Ugh, @752 I did not get an internal server error. Sorry for the autofilled false alarm!

#756 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 06:53 PM:

Nerdychellist, at some point, every professional musician has had to ask for money when they've never been paid for it before.

At this point, the choir director has been talked to about a paid position, and still wants to see/audition you. That sounds promising, at least.

If he then offers you a volunteer position, he auditioned you on false pretenses, and you can feel free to say "I'm sorry, I thought I made it clear through that I was only interested in church-singing for pay."

If you need to ensemble-sing, and are willing to do it without pay for a secular cause, I'm sure there are opportunities in your area: Sweet Adeilines or Harmony Inc are two barbershop organizations which probably have chapters/choruses in your area (or, if I've guessed wrong on your gender, SPEBSQSA). If you are still in the Milwaukee area, you could try out for the Bach Chamber Choir, which seems decently secular.

#757 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 07:19 PM:

Lila, #753: Wow, that is progress!

More generally, think about how rarely you see "the first woman X" in news stories now, even when it's the case. For a while, that was the lead on every article about a woman being hired/elected/appointed to a job that had previously been done only by men. Now... it's generally not considered newsworthy, except in a few really high-profile instances. I expect, for example, to see a brief resurgence if Hillary Clinton runs and wins in 2016.

#758 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 09:41 PM:

Bruce Baugh @ 643, I don't have any current information about scooter brands. My late partner used an Amigo scooter for about a decade - mostly because they were the first to make this kind of scooter, or one of the first. They were also cheaper than most of the competition, though not necessarily in the long run. The model Marsha used had a front wheel drive, with the engine and front wheel in a drive head that is open underneath. That's great for mostly indoor use, but Marsha was a full speed ahead, damn-the-torpedoes kind of person. She drove it all over the place in all kinds of weather. We wound up replacing the drive head about every six months. ("All over the place" meaning all over the paved streets and sidewalks - her scooter had very narrow tires, impossible on soft ground, and difficult even on packed dirt.)

Scooters with a rear drive are better able to withstand bad weather (but more expensive).

Finally, one (social) advantage of a scooter over a wheelchair is that someone using a scooter will experience a bit less ableism as they go about their day.

#759 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 10:08 PM:

My mother was the first female conductor of the Freeport Park Band. She got to share her concert with another woman, who has since done a concert all on her own. It was important to Mom that she go first. At least one much less qualified man was invited before she was, and after, while she's had only that one concert.

I was still really proud to watch my mother with her papercut-sharp movements in front of the band.

#760 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 10:13 PM:

Rainy gloomy day. My mood has me wondering about those SAD lights. Do you think my health insurance would cover the extra electricity usage?

#761 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: September 29, 2014, 10:59 PM:

#739 Angiportus: On the care and feeding of opals, if this is for wearing, I'd talk to a jeweler to make sure the piece is of sufficient structural integrity to stand up to it, because opals are fragile. If it's for display, the basic variant I know is a sealed glass jar with mineral oil. I have some raw opal stored that way (though the glass needs cleaning; our kitchen stove hood does NOT work at all and anything stored within range of the kitchen—which is pretty much all of our public space—tends to get a thin film over time.)

#762 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 12:40 AM:

A poignant comment from a friend elseNet, which I think is too apt not to be shared:
Sad when the American Dream went from "a home for your family, vacation, and enough money to take care of the lot" to "not being so broke I'm on the street."

#763 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 01:30 AM:

Since this would be the place to put it, I just want to thank our moderators for shoveling the spam that seems to have been seeping in as of late. It can't be fun, what with shoveling rancid potted meat products, but I'm grateful that you do it for the Fluorosphere.

Also, the spam occasionally gets me to look at threads from the Archives that I've never seen, so there's that.

#764 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 08:12 AM:

OK: So now I've finished Pohl's Gateway, and am coming to the opinion that its very straighforward old school first person style is actually a nice piece of unreliable narration, full of self justification by a deeply screwed up, at times psychotic, anti hero. And my goodness, it is a bleak book. No sure I buy the Freudianism, but the main plot is a terrifying picture of humanity being ground up and spat out by a remorseless universe.

Next up: The Dispossessed

#765 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 12:21 PM:

Ah, card catalogs. The joy, as a kid, of knowing how to use one.

Around 1980, an ALA journal had a "1000 Uses for a Dead Catalog" contest. Mine showed hens contentedly sitting in upper drawers while the farmer took eggs out of a lower one.

Yale's big library has the most impressive vaulted room full of empty drawers. That'd be a lot a lot of eggs.

Cathy was in a hospital here for surgery a while back, and I wandered around and found the hospital's library, complete with a card-catalog that's still in use, though I think the cards were only taking up four of the six drawers. I just wanted to take it home with me.

#766 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 12:21 PM:

Ah, card catalogs. The joy, as a kid, of knowing how to use one.

Around 1980, an ALA journal had a "1000 Uses for a Dead Catalog" contest. Mine showed hens contentedly sitting in upper drawers while the farmer took eggs out of a lower one.

Yale's big library has the most impressive vaulted room full of empty drawers. That'd be a lot a lot of eggs.

Cathy was in a hospital here for surgery a while back, and I wandered around and found the hospital's library, complete with a card-catalog that's still in use, though I think the cards were only taking up four of the six drawers. I just wanted to take it home with me.

#767 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 12:23 PM:

Post once, read twice! I don't think I even pressed the 'send' button more than once, but sometimes my brain plays toasters on me.

#768 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 12:32 PM:

IN the '80s I hung around the main libraries at SUNY Binghamton. They were in the middle of converting from physical to digital card catalog. As such, the physical catalog was no longer being updated, and the digital catalog didn't have all the books. So in order to find anything you had to check both systems.

The procedure they were using was that when new books were acquired, they were digitally cataloged and barcoded. When books without barcodes were returned, they were diverted to the cataloger, and digitally cataloged and barcoded before being returned to the shelves. So over time, the circulating books would get digitally cataloged.

So not only did you have books in one catalog, but not the other, you had an increasing supply of books in both catalogs.

Of course, the joy of browsing the stacks is finding the books in neither catalog!

#769 ::: estelendur ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 12:56 PM:

Buddha Buck @768, the University of Rochester also has books that are not in the digital catalog, and I believe only has card catalog for the Chinese holdings - I assume they used that same process and a few things just slipped through the cracks.

#770 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 01:24 PM:

estelendur: I can believe that, especially for large academic libraries. I was involved in a bar-coding project for a small college library (SUNY Morrisville) where we walked the shelves putting barcodes (pre-printed with the name and call number of the book) on all the books. We, too, found uncatalogued and miscatalogued books in the process.

As a tip to someone considering a similar project: do not use Helvetica for alphanumeric codes. The visual distinction between I, l, 1, and | are slight, as between 0, o, and O. This project also had the problem of older librarians trained to type on older typewriters which did not distinguish between 1 and l, 0 and O.

#771 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 02:14 PM:

Buddha Buck (770): older typewriters which did not distinguish between 1 and l, 0 and O

It was even worse than that makes it sound. The manual typewriter I learned on did not have a separate key for '1'; you used the 'l' for both. (The exclamation point, now on the '1' key, was made by typing an apostrophe, then backing up and putting a period under it.) There were separate keys for '0' and 'O', but the symbols may have been--probably were--the same shape, or very close.

#772 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 02:27 PM:

Even with separate keys - I've seen people interchange 0 and O. Which wouldn't have been a problem, except that it was a situation where the difference mattered. (I grew up with a typewriter like that - it was from the 20s, and it also had a lever that adjusted the ribbon for black, red, or stencil.)

#773 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 04:36 PM:

@Stefan Jones 760

How much extra electricity would you expect to use?

My lights are 4 fluorescent tubes at 40 watts each. I sit 45 minutes a day, so the cost of the electricity is somewhere around 2 cents a day.

#774 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 05:39 PM:

Ja,es Harvey #764 - Maybe I've been unlucky, but every Pohl book I've read so far has been bleak and depressing, thus I don't read any of his books.

Hopefully the Dispoessed will be an antidote.

#775 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 07:27 PM:

Mary Aileen @771: Ha! That makes me think we had the same typewriter. I looked forward to typing exclamation points for that reason.
Actually, the one at my parents' house had an ñ key where the semicolon would be on the standard QWERTY keyboard because most of the typewriters sold locally at the time had Spanish keyboard layouts. (Where I grew up, there are still plenty of names and surnames with an ñ in them.)

#776 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 07:42 PM:

#774 ::: guthrie

Contrary to the cliche, Golden Age sf wasn't relentlessly upbeat, though I'd say that most of the grim stuff was in short fiction, not novels.

#777 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 08:23 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @776: Yeah, those great upbeat Golden Age novels 1984 (1949) and Brave New World (1932) spring immediately to mind....

There wasn't a lot of downbeat SF in the magazines, but there was a lot out there, even in novels.

#778 ::: MisterGeeky ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 09:21 PM:

t racing because you’ve dreamed something horrifying. Here’s the difference, if there is one: my nightmare last night wasn’t about some thing which won’t happen. I mean, I hope it doesn’t happen. But it may happen. That’s what made it particularly bad, I guess.

I’m used to lucid dreaming. Here’s how that works for me. I’ll be in the middle of a dream and I’ll realized somehow, “hey - this makes no sense. Ahhh! it’s a dream! Well, if it’s a dream, I can control what happens.” That’s usually very comforting. I can usually turn some weird-ass dream into something okay. My nightmare last night didn’t go that way because I didn’t realize it was a dream. It felt entirely real.

On September 11th, my wife (K) got a callback on her mammogram. On September 12th they did a repeat and saw suspicious micro-calcifications. They then did a biopsy.

The next day was so strange. We were supposed to be competing at a ballroom dance competition. Due to the biopsy, she wasn’t able to dance. She insisted that I dance my heats anyway - the ones with my pro partners. I’ve been doing these competitions for 10 years now, and yet I was so distracted I actually went out there and danced my cha-cha routine to a very jazzed up rumba. Ooops. She got the call from the doctor as I was out on the floor dancing. We’ve been together 30 years - so it took me exactly 10 milliseconds to see her expression and know that the news was not good.

My cancer was different. Actually - obviously - everyone’s cancer is different. My routine colonoscopy showed a large mass. The biopsy didn’t show cancer, but the mass was so large and positioned so such that they changed their surgical game plan several times. On December 31st, 2010 they removed it. It was only when the pathology came back that they found that it was, indeed, cancerous. Funny thing: if they’d found it was cancer on the biopsy, I’d likely have had a different operation entirely. I was lucky, I guess. Every six months I get to be reminded of how lucky I am - I get to check in with my oncologist. He’s a nice fellow. I’m the easiest patient he has all day. I hope I remain so. But my lesson from that experience is that whatever they see in a biopsy, they don’t know the whole story until they go in and see what’s what.

K’s diagnosis, based on the biopsy, is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) which is stage 0 and very treatable. Yay, think I. Except I can hear it in the surgeon’s voice - he’s not convinced. Her’s is a grade 2 - it’s grown fast and pretty large and there was no sign of it last year in her mammogram. So yeah - it’s stage 0, but it’s a very ugly stage 0. I realize it’s not the end of the world if it were invasive. But yeah. Nightmares. I don’t want to go and scare her and get her all wound up, but I also have this terrible feeling and I can’t get rid of it. And those feelings are reinforced at night with these effing dreams.

I wish I had more faith in modern medicine. My cancer went well so far. But damn. Soon after my surgery, I got a call. My uncle had been treated for bladder cancer 4 years previous, had a clean bill of health in December 2010. In April he was dead - the cancer came back hard. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer at that same time. She made it about 18 months - June 2012. My father had the same type of cancer I did - it was probably too late when he first showed up at the hospital, but he was dead a few weeks later - in January of 2013. I guess I can take solace in the fact that my mother had the good grace to die from something other than cancer this past January.

So - surgery is on Friday - doing a lumpectomy and probably doing a sentinel node biopsy. In theory, it’s not indicated, but the surgeon wants to do it - probably because he doesn’t believe in the biopsy results either.

I’d like my life to feel like something other than a ginormous set of ifs and buts. And I’d like to sleep.

Oh - and PS: I’m effing aware. Really. All too effing aware. And I'll get daily reminders all through pinktober.

#779 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 10:44 PM:

MisterGeeky, sending good thoughts toward your wife and you.

#780 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: September 30, 2014, 11:29 PM:

MisterGeeky @778, best wishes for K. And I really hope that you manage to get some sleep...

#781 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 12:19 AM:

I have a dumb cooking question. I've been watching a wonderful anime series and am reading the manga that it's based on, which is set in a high-school Ag school in Japan.

One part has to do with the city protagonist getting drafted to make pizza because the rest of the kids are rural and have never eaten a non-frozen pizza. He's worrying about getting mozzarella when another student in the dairy department points out that Japanese people like gouda more and they've got plenty of that.

This sounds like failure on a plate to me. Does anyone know if gouda can give an acceptable pizza instead of mozzarella?

#782 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 12:30 AM:

I’m surprised that it’s actual pizza rather than okonomiyaki.

#783 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 12:31 AM:

A search on "melting cheeses" says Gouda is a good cheese for melting (sauces, macaroni, pizza), but I don't know if the flavor would work.
IOW: it might do.

#784 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 12:37 AM:

Googling "gouda pizza" does yield a range of recipes that sound fairly appealing. It would probably be better as a featured item in small amounts on a more specialty pizza, not your usual cheese-and-pepperoni kind of thing.

#785 ::: Clifton sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 12:56 AM:

IIRC, Gouda is the key cheese on some of California Pizza Kitchen's exotic flavors, like their BBQ chicken pizza, and I've used it on home-made pizza with similar flavor combos. It wouldn't be your classic American or Italian style pizza, but it definitely can work.

#786 ::: Clifton doesn't see spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 12:57 AM:

Darn auto-fill.

#787 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 01:12 AM:

MisterGeeky #778: My sympathies! We've had a lot of cancer in my family, most recently my aunt just had a masectomy (not sure if it was DCIS). I'll spare you the whole roll-call, but I'll note that diagnosis and treatment has gotten way better -- if the diagnosis can still be forbidding, it's still a matter of, nowadays we can often treat conditions that would have been surely fatal not too long ago.

Small wonder I was getting lots of congratulations this gathering about quitting smoking....

Bruce E. Durocher II #781: Remembering that not all gouda is smoked, I think it could be workable. You might want to alter the sauce to better complement the flavor, but knowing what changes would suit, is way beyond my culinary level. I've certainly had very good cheddar-cheese pizzas, and that's very different from mozzarella.

#788 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 01:45 AM:

I think cheddar on pizza is an abomination. Pretty sure it's in Leviticus.

Put another way: it is not pizza if you make it with cheddar. It's some other thing that I don't want to eat.

I'm not averse to other cheeses being added to the mozz (pronounced mutz in these parts) for flavor; I've used Jack for that reason. Gouda sounds like it would be good that way. But not cheddar. Yuck.

(I love cheddar. Just not for pizza.)

#789 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 02:06 AM:

Xopher Halftongue #788: Pretty sure it's in Leviticus.

<snicker> Do you like cheddar cheese at all? If so, try drawing a line from nachos through quesadillas and grilled cheese to pizza....

#790 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 02:21 AM:

Xopher #788: Sorry, I missed your last linem distracted by the "abomination".

#791 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 02:24 AM:

OK, time to go to bed (after 2AM). Maybe next year I'll add even more time and try for a NYC Gathering of Light. This year, I had to stay after the rest of my family just to meet up with my high-school buds, and still came home exhausted and with my sleep cycle completely blown.

#792 ::: James Moar ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 05:35 AM:

Nancy@776, short SF being more downbeat than novels seems like something that's fairly consistent across the decades to me.

Bruce@781, what's the series? Moyashimon?

#793 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 05:58 AM:

Stefan Jones @760: Like Bruce H. said @773, the extra electricity usage is minimal. Mine is based on about 80 LEDs. I'll have it on for maybe an hour or so a day during the winter months (I've put it on today because I'm feeling low anyway and it's dull and miserable this morning).

#794 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 09:04 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @781: I love that ep of Silver Spoon. :-) A less our-world series that ages an interesting companion watch is Moyashimon. There is a supernatural premise McGuffin involved, and the school it's set in is just batty and over the top.

#795 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 09:57 AM:

You'd want a very young gouda to get it to be melty, but I can see it working. Given that Japan is famous for having toppings on pizza that would be odd by American standards (most famously corn and mayo - the latter of which makes a lot of sense by analogy to okonomiyaki), I think American flavor intuitions may not work too well in this case.

My problem with the scene as described is the idea of an ag school with a dairy not being able to just make mozzarella. It's an easy cheese to make.

#796 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 10:08 AM:

lorax #795: Given that Japan is famous for having toppings on pizza that would be odd by American standards (most famously corn and mayo - the latter of which makes a lot of sense by analogy to okonomiyaki)

I'd say their more infamous weird pizza topping would be squid. But then, I only know one seafood item that's considered a "usual" pizza topping in the US, and anchovies are... contentious.

#797 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 10:13 AM:

My last dream this morning was semi-lucid. A movie theater in my home town was closing up and selling all the stuff they had. I found a box of stereo slide-related material. Even after I realized it was a dream, I still wanted to buy it.

Mary Aileen @771: I still miss Mom's little Remington portable, which had ñ and accent and inverted punctuation keys. She had them put on for her when she was a Spanish major in college.

When I was working in the Interlibrary Loan department at Rice, I needed a typewriter and was directed to a small collection of machines to choose from. All were wonky in their ways, but the one that had no ones or zeros had the best action, so I got used to it. Also, it had a pound key instead of a dollar sign.

My first typing teacher had us make exclamation points by holding the space bar down (manual only) and typing both parts, one after the other. The carriage didn't move because of the space bar. Worked for cent signs, too, and interrobangs. Just one more trick I learned that became useless with the passage of time.

#798 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 10:14 AM:

Stefan Jones @760, as others have said, the electricity use from a SAD lightbox will be all but negligible, especially if you get an LED one. I just checked the specs for mine, and it draws 10 watts. It is bright. You could run it for an hour a day from equinox to equinox for about 25 cents at the local prices for electricity.

It may be worthwhile to see if insurance would cover the cost of the unit itself, however.

#799 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 10:21 AM:

I finally did something I'd been thinking about for months: I made an open-face grilled-cheese sandwich. When I looked online to see if it had been done, I found elaborate recipes that involved using the oven and adding tomatoes, onions, cilantro, ragweed, and other sandwiches.

It made me wonder whether my idea would even work, but I went for it yesterday. Warmed up the griddle, buttered one side of the bread and put the sliced cheese on top while the butter side browned. That helped the cheese bond with the bread a little, so it didn't go all over the place when I turned it. After that, I just had to let it grill long enough for the cheese to undergo the alchemy that makes it so darn good. When the cheese has developed that skin, it holds together so you can pick it up with the spatula.

I was planning to have it with a can of clam chowder, but (and this was a genuine shock to me) there wasn't one in the cupboard, so I ate it with chili. Tomato Garden soup would have been a good choice as well, but it doesn't seem to exist in the wild any more.

I'm tempted to have it again today. Yum.

#800 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 10:22 AM:

Oh, gosh, I was joking about getting insurance coverage for electricity!

I'm off to hike in a state park for a couple days. I hope the dog is still up to it.

#801 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 10:46 AM:

MisterGeeky (778): Scary, yes. Here's hoping for good outcomes. It sounds like K's surgeon is on the ball, always a good thing. Breast cancer is pretty treatable these days. I'm 9 years out from a diagnosis of Stage 1 (that turned out to be Stage 2; the tumor was bigger than it looked on the biopsy), and they've made a lot of progress with treatment since then. In some ways the fear is the worst part.

Take care of yourself.

#802 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 11:07 AM:

Shrimp are also contentious on pizza. That's the other seafood item you'd be likely to meet on pizza.

#803 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 12:17 PM:

#777 ::: Tom Whitmore

There was some downbeat stuff in genre, too-- a lot of Pohl and Kornbluth's satire, and nuclear disaster stories.

As for Pohl, as I recall, The Cool War had a mildly happy ending, though it was "now that we've publicized the problem, people will work out the details".

#804 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 02:47 PM:

Nancy Leibowitz@803

I'd also say that the Gateway series of novels as a whole is actually fairly upbeat, although there are definitely downbeat sections in the sequence.

#805 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 03:57 PM:

Woo hoo - Silver Spoon fans! I've been reading it in scanlation for a couple of years now!

#806 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 04:03 PM:

MisterGeeky @778:

I'm so sorry that you're in such a stressful place, particularly considering your own history. I'll be thinking of you both on Friday -- please tell us how things progress.

#807 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 04:26 PM:

The last time I tried to read a long-running manga series via scanlation, I got about 150 chapters in and it was licensed -- and pulled from the scanlation site. Never again.

#808 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 04:52 PM:

lorax 795: It's an easy cheese to make.

Not only that, you have to put your hands in boiling water to make it. You'd think that would appeal to macho stoicism.

#809 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 05:46 PM:

On first women: There has already been a first US woman president. She just wasn't the president of the US. I heard her speak, as a matter of fact, 36 years ago.

She was Janet Rosenberg Jagan the fourth executive president of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. She was in office from 1997 to 1999. Like Hillary Rodham Clinton, she was from Chicago. I don't know if HRC, however, likes the novels of Colette, and Jagan did according to V.S. Naipaul. (see:

#810 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 08:12 PM:

There seems to be an awful lot of this going around lately; apologies for not having the spoons to convey condolences.

A couple of my own headed off over the Rainbow Bridge: Snowflake, a month ago, and JJ, last night. The bottom pic is actually of his dad, Junior, though it might as well be JJ, they were that similar.

JJ has hit me especially hard. (I'm dismayed to discover I don't have any pix of him as an adult.) Between the two of them, he and Junior have been in my life for eleven-twelve years, and were my best friends, guinea pig-wise.

I'm...not dealing well. I still haven't taken JJ out of his cage. Instead, I've been faffing around on the computer all day.

If it's not presumptuous to ask, instead of condolences, could folks share fun stories of loved ones? I'm a little too fragile for straight-on responses right now.

#811 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 09:03 PM:

Avram: I’m surprised that it’s actual pizza rather than okonomiyaki.

These are high-school kids at an Ag school living in dorms. What we see of the meals they get look to be the equivalent of high school cafeteria food--large portions but basic.

James Moar: Silver Spoon. Haven't gotten to Moyashimon yet.

lorax: idea of an ag school with a dairy not being able to just make mozzarella. It's an easy cheese to make.

It's stated that the students have made cottage cheese, and has been shown that the teacher in charge of the cheese facility reserves cheese making as his personal fiefdom, to the point of hiding the aging room.

Everyone else, thanks for giving me Gouda info about pizza cheese!

#812 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 09:22 PM:

Mozzarella is pretty much unaged. It would actually not be very hard to make (although you'd want a machine for stretching the curds - that's the hot water part that Xopher mentioned), nor would the equivalent of some of the soft fresh French cheeses (the stuff sold for spreading on crackers is easy to make at home).

#813 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 09:29 PM:

Jacque @810, years ago, I had an orange tabby-cat named Skyler. He was rather stupid, but really sweet. He had one habit that always made me laugh; whenever he went up stairs, he went up at a full-tilt-run with a loudly meowed war-cry.

It always put me in mind of the Teddy Roosevelt character in "Arsenic And Old Lace." "CHA-A-A-A-RGE!"


#814 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 10:28 PM:

The cat my mother got before I was born (he was three months older than me, by the calendar) like to play with toys. We had a photo of young cat with a croquet ball. On an hardwood floor. (He was a tuxedo cat, very natty.)

Later on, they put a collar with a bell on him, because he was catching mockingbirds. He could sit there, under their bedroom window, not moving, with the bell ringing, and he still caught birds. When we moved to a new place, when I was six, the collar, with the bell, went on the screen door in front. (The bell was a teeny cowbell, not a jingle bell.)

#815 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2014, 10:39 PM:

Mozzarella is SO unaged that the best mozz is still steaming from the hot water it's made in. Yes, it should ideally be consumed within minutes of being made.

You may have had what's called "fresh" mozzarella in a restaurant. It's not as hard as the stuff you get wrapped in plastic in the grocery store (which around here is called "cooking mozzarella"), but if it's cold to the touch, it's not fresh.

Come to Hoboken and get fresh mozz at Biancomano's, the best in town—and this is THE town for fresh mozz.

In non-cheese news, the upside of spam is again revealed. We're doing Britten's A Ceremony of Carols in my choir again, and had it not been for spam, I never would have remembered this. I can just barely remember being that creative. Is it just the depression, I wonder? I couldn't possibly do anything like that today.

#816 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 02:56 AM:

From a discussion of The Battle Hymn of the Republic:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the eidos of the Good, Which is not the same as pleasure, I have clearly understood, And I wouldn’t take a tyrant’s power, even if I could— I’m marching from the cave! Marching, marching towards the sunlight, Marching, marching towards the sunlight, Marching, marching towards the sunlight, I’m marching from the cave!

The fool conceives of God but thinks the faithful are deceived,
But a greatest being whose reality is not believed,
Is a being through which something greater still can be conceived,
Which contradicts itself!
Ontological rebuttal,
Ontological rebuttal,
Faithlessness will ever scuttle,
For it contradicts itself!

The state of nature’s character we know from good report
To be very solitary, nasty, brutish, poor and short,
So we’ll give the sovereign all our rights and every gun and fort,
And then we’ll all survive.
Ratify the Social Contract,
Ratify the Social Contract,
Ratify the Social Contract,
And then we’ll all survive.

Deterministic limits on my freedoms are erased
By the transcendental ideality of time and space,
So my atoms are determined but my will’s a different case,
It’s pure autonomy!
Hail the Transcendental Ego,
Hail the Transcendental Ego,
Hail the Transcendental Ego,
It’s pure autonomy!

I’ve been through all the steps in my phenomenology,
Whether Master, Slave, or in between, it’s all the same to me,
I’m unhappy and I know it so I’m absolutely free,
I’m fully synthesized!
I’ve undergone the dialectic,
I’ve undergone the dialectic,
I’ve undergone the dialectic,
I’m fully synthesized!

--St. John's College
#817 ::: GlendaP ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 06:07 AM:

Jacque@810: Two years ago I adopted a then seven year old cat, only to discover she had a bad biting habit and a profound mistrust of hands. It's been a long slow slog, but she's made some big breakthroughs in the last few months. She's now rapidly becoming a snuggly cuddlebutt.

#818 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 10:05 AM:

Jacque (810): Some friends of mine have been feeding a feral kitten (about four months old) which started hanging around their yard. They were hoping to be able to catch it and bring it inside. A few days ago they succeeded. It took only 24 hours for Inky to go from hiding to demanding skritches.

Their most previous cat-acquisition was also a feral kitten, which they rescued from a tree during a thunderstorm. Figgy has been a great friend to their daughter over the last couple of years.

#819 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 11:06 AM:

Jacque @810: Our cat, Freya has rapidly mastered her most recent feeding toy (MixMax Puzzle, difficulty level A (Easy), which only arrived in the house yesterday.

She's also enjoying her most recent feeding box, this one being constructed from the box that a large book arrived in. She really loves the feeding boxes: peer in through one of the holes, see where a piece of food is, rapidly insert paw, snag food, pull it out and eat it. If this fails, look again, try from one of the other holes and if necessary (on the larger boxes) move it around using a paw through one of the holes in the top of the box.

It's amazing to remember how long it took her to first start using a paw, when we gave her the first box where she couldn't just stick her head in to grab the food. Now, she positively relishes "hunting" for food in the boxes, although I think she finds the feeding ball, Kong and the new plastic toy more irritating than really enjoyable.

Photos of the various devices (some with Freya using them) are available here: Cat feeding toys

Next, I'm making a group of vertical tubes of varying heights and she'll have to check which tubes have food in then poke a paw in and pull the food out from the bottom. She seems to enjoy that in the little demo version (two or three tubes propped vertically in the corner of a box using a couple of mugs).

#820 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 11:22 AM:

The pair of cats we had before our current pair were red tabby harlequin sisters named Macaroni and Cheese. Cheese was a big sweet chicken; Macaroni was the more adventurous and irascible of the two.

When they were young, they were indoor-outdoor cats. Three characteristic stories:

1. Macaroni spots a stranger cat perched on our compost bin at the very back of our yard and begins stalking menacingly toward it. Halfway across the yard she realizes Cheese has remained safely on our back porch, observing the proceedings. Macaroni flattens herself to the ground and glances wildly back and forth between her sister and the stranger cat. M: "Cheese!! Back me up!!" C: "Nah, go for it, you're doing fine." Stranger cat: "Heh heh heh heh." It ended in an "I meant to do that" retreat.

2. Macaroni, intrigued by the possibilities of a 4-foot-high leaf pile in the yard, burrows into it until only the tip of her (twitching) tail is visible. Cheese strolls by on the other side of the pile. Macaroni leaps out at her. Both cats and about half a bushel of leaves fly straight up in the air. Observing humans collapse in laughter.

3. Humans return after dark from a car trip. As the car pulls into the driveway, the headlights pan across the front lawn, startling a large raccoon, who promptly retreats up a small mimosa tree. Whereupon Cheese emerges from under the azalea bush where she's been hiding and rushes to the base of the tree, fur and tail fluffed up, shouting in Cat at the raccoon: "YEAH! You BETTER run!!!"

#821 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 11:33 AM:

#819 ::: dcb

I love hearing about and seeing your cat stimulation stuff.

#822 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 11:43 AM:

Carol Kimball@821

Jeez guys, get a room :)

#824 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 12:12 PM:

dcb, I love the idea of a feeding box. We have a cat who is very good at opening drawers, cabinets, and boxes. She can also get plastic rubbermaid containers open if there's food inside. I may try a feeding box with her.

In other pet news -- We have a new puppy, who was supposed to be a Queensland heeler mix, but who is now looking very un-heeler-like at six 1/2 months. I'm guessing generic "hunting dog" for her ancestry -- probably at least part german shorthair pointer or one of the similar very-very-athletic and thin skinned breeds. Hunting dogs are common around here, most of them mixes of several breeds.

She's beautiful and incredibly athletic and the smartest dog I've ever known. (And I am familiar with heelers and aussies and similar herding breeds.) I never would have wanted a hunting dog (we have livestock, poultry, and cats) but she was definitely a happy accident and it seems she's going to fit in just fine.

Our cat population has had reactions ranging from, "Kill it with fire!" to "Ooh, nice warm puppy, hold still so I can snuggle. Hold STILL I said!" The puppy has had her nose smacked a few times and has developed respect bordering on paranoia when it comes to cats.

#825 ::: Clarentine ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 12:20 PM:

Jacque @810: The bitty kitten who showed up in our woodshed this spring, too tiny to even hiss or bite at me when I collected her from under a peice of wood, turned five months yesterday (based on the vet's estimate of her age when we acquired her); The Bob has determined that I am her Servant, despite my vocal insistence that I'm a dog person, darn it, and claims my lap for gymnastics every time I sit down at the computer. Miss Bob is adventurous and food-oriented, as you might expect from a formerly feral kitten. She routinely liberates tomatoes or other small objects from kitchen counters to be her toys. She's particularly fond of green beans fresh from the garden. :-) I have a feeling I'd better be paying close attention to dcb's cat training posts!

#826 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 12:28 PM:

Jacque @810: I have a small horde of young cats, just past one year of age. They travel together through the house, leaping over older cats and MRRRPing as they go. These are the same kittens who terrified my Lab, when they were 3-4 weeks old and maybe a few ounces in weight (compared to his 70 pounds of dog); one hissed in his face and he hid behind me. Now they run around the dogs, rub along the rugs where the dogs sleep; chase each other across the furniture; snarf down treats and food like they've never ever been fed, and I don't even need to use a laser pointer because they almost never sit still. Yet.

The older cats, of which I have two (plus Junie B, from Marilee) independently -- because they've decided to hate each other for now -- sit on the arms of the couch or chair and whap kittens as they run by. George is a very long-legged kit- er, cat, and can stand quite high on his back legs, which always surprises the older cat. Harry has gotten fearful of other people, but I'm hoping that's a phase. Charlie, the remaining girl -- their other sister went to my tech's place -- likes to chase pieces of catnip while her brothers get into fights.

*hugs* if you want 'em.

#827 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 12:47 PM:

Referring to dcb @ 819: I've now made a few small feeding puzzles with cardboard boxes (repeatedly, because the FF has a terrible tendency to throw things out); the adult male cat LOVES to snag treats and will work at a box until he eats All The Treats. He's persistent to the point of our LOLs. His sister will make a few attempts, but likes to work more on it when no one is around to watch her. The kittens are still small enough to try their heads first, which led to Charlie getting stuck in a box. After I suppressed my laughter, I backed her into a corner and removed the box, and she ran for safety.

#828 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 12:53 PM:

::Hugs Making Light close::

Awwww, smiles. Thank you all. I needed that.

In our own story department, JJ was the designated Yeller At Mommy For Breakfast. It seems (this morning, at least) that Gustav (JJ's mum) has taken up the role. Her voice, this morning, clearly had a tentative, "Am I doing this right?" kind of note to it.

#829 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 01:00 PM:

...And I'm back up to nine. I thought I had managed to adopt Gertrude out, but she's coming back this weekend. Oh well. She's a lovey.

#830 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 01:11 PM:

Here's a list with links of what are probably the swing states for the US Senate election. Control of the US Senate is balanced on a knife edge. Donate! Volunteer! Vote!

(Off topic, electoral, and perhaps important enough to mention here.)

#831 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 01:37 PM:

Jacque @810
Some years ago, when our husky-malamute mix was not quite full grown, we woke in the middle of the night to terrible thumpings and bumpings in the hall.

She had gotten into the trash, then gotten her head stuck in an empty Milkbone box, and was running into the walls trying to Get This Thing Off Me.

We told her it served her right, but we couldn't helping laughing as we said it.

Second story on the same dog. We were away for the weekend, and she was staying with the family across the street. One of their two boys had a birthday party, so there were 8 or 10 preteen boys eating pizza in their family room. One of the boys was talking with his hands, waving a slice of pizza around. Our dog, behind and to one side of him, nibbled on the slice so gently that he didn't notice and didn't understand why all his friends were laughing.

#832 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 02:30 PM:

Glad people like the feeding boxes. I'll add new things to the Flickr set as I make them.

Note for anyone starting off their cat on these: start with one that's really easy (like the front box in the seventh picture in the set, that's just got a bar across the front to stop the cat sticking its head in) and work up as the cat gets to understand what s/he's supposed to do. Watching Freya with her ears pricked forward, eyes shining as she peers in the holes, and seeing her paw shooting into the box, before she dashes to the other side to fish through a different hole, it's obvious that she really enjoys the boxes now.

It also means it takes her 5-10 minutes to eat each meal rather than a minute or so. Additionally, since two of the places we put food are on top of the bookcases, she has to do a bit of jumping up, which (a) encourages exercise; (b) means that if she starts getting arthritis, we'll notice it and be able to start treating it.

#833 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 02:31 PM:

Today on BBC Radio 4, the Afternoon Drama was Conlang of Love, a 45-minute drama starring Oona "Talisa Maegyr from Game of Thrones" Chaplin, about conlangs and fantasy fiction and stuff. I have not yet listened to it, but I mention it here as it's the sort of thing many of us like. The link to the drama should work for about the next 7 days. I think it'll work from outside the UK (unlike telly links on iPlayer) but if it doesn't, there are of course plugins and proxies that you absolutely shouldn't use.

#834 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 02:47 PM:

I abbreviate my bookmark for the latest open thread as OT. In my mind, this has come to stand for Off Topic.

So it's the thread where everything's off topic — or (barring incivility) nothing is.

In conclusion, SPOOOOON!

#835 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 04:01 PM:

dcb, #819: Most of our cats are already pretty paw-dextrous. Several of them prefer to drink by dipping a paw into the water and then licking it clean; Spot uses a paw to pull the gooshyfood bowl over to where she can reach it when the other cats are crowding around it and have blocked her off. Sunfall and Catgirl will spin the water dish on the floor when it's gotten low or there's crud in the water from paw-dipping, to let the humans know it's time for a water change.

Loki has an entirely different eating habit -- he likes to pick up a mouthful of crunchies and bring them out into the den, where he drops them on the floor and then eats them. Sometimes he walks away and leaves some of them in the middle of the floor for the humans to step on, which is mildly annoying.

#836 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 04:12 PM:

I've just got through my first pile of grading without seeing any egregious offences. Until the very end when I got this:

"Socrates way of thinking was all about the analysis of such, such as; asking questions and making challenges in which, this gave Plato the path on that way of thinking."

Anyone know a good suicide hotline I can call?

#837 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 05:11 PM:

Open-random-threadiness: Yesterday evening I had what may be my most enjoyable book-promotion experience so far, in large part because it wasn't really "promotion". A friend of mine teaches English and composition to high school and community college students and asked if I'd like to come in and talk to them about writing and whatnot (and it turned out she was even able to include my novel in the assigned readings for one of the classes). There are few things as thrilling as hearing a random student say, "I didn't think I was going to like your book, but it was great. What else have you written?" or "I don't like reading very much, but this wasn't like reading -- it was just like watching a movie!" These may sound like somewhat backhanded compliments out of context, but these are people who would never be considered part of my "target readership" by any sane publicist and yet, given the right incentive to give the book a try, they were genuinely enthusiastic. They had a lot of great questions in the Q&A about themes and writing logistics and how a writer uses personal experience. I'd definitely do this sort of thing again!

#838 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 05:58 PM:

Cats using paws:
Harry would get up on the little table in the kitchen where the can with the undispensed crunchies sat, and fish them out with her paw, one or two at a time. Reach into can - it was a small tomato-sauce can - spread toes, dip into crunchies, and remove foot with whatever was trapped. (The big bag of crunchies lived in the trash-masher: it was good for that, because the cats couldn't get into it.)

#839 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 06:01 PM:

Lee @835: Interesting.

Ginger @827: Several years ago Plastic Bag Monster caught Freya* and chased her all around the house. Finally she went to ground under the sofa and I was able to pull Plastic Bag Monster off her.

She still doesn't like the rustling sound of that particular supermarket's plastic bags, some ?6, ?8 years later.

*She stuck her head through the handle.

#840 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 06:50 PM:

Guinea pigs aren't renowned for their paw dexterity, but. I had one little girl, Caramel, who had an ear infection early in life, so her balance was always dodgy. As a consequence, she couldn't do the sit-up-to-bed trick that other guinea pigs figure out. So when she was trying to mooch a treat, she'd look up at me imploringly, and reach out a little hand towards me.

Gracie was always in the front of the line when it cames to treats. I would always give her the 1/N treats that everybody else got, but of course she wanted N/N. She would try every gambit in the book, including sitting up to beg. When she noticed what Caramel was doing that got treats, Gracie started reacing out her hand to me to beg. (I regret not spoiling her more.)

Guinea pigs love paper bags, too. (It's a bed! It's a snack! It's a hidey-hole!) But then there was the time I unthinkingly put a Whole Foods bag in during Silkie's pregnancy. Turns out only the front half of her fit through the handle.... (She was rescued promptly.)

#841 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 07:24 PM:

We found bits of shredded snakeskin throughout the cabin this morning. The cats clearly had fun with it. Haven't found the tail end but the head end, at least, looks like it belongs to a not-rattlesnake species. (I'm guessing narrow-headed garter snake, by the shape of the head and knowledge of what lives in our yard.)

No sign of the snake itself. The cabin is old and has tons of hidey holes, so unless the cats find the snake itself, it may continue to live in the house until next spring.

It'd say "good snake, fewer mice!" but our resident cat population considers "mouse" synonymous with "cat toy" so that's not really an issue.

(I had a gopher snake living under my trailer last winter, so this seems to be a yearly tradition ...)

#842 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 07:40 PM:

Ansible #327 informs us (I'm censoring here):

R.I.P. V*nn* B*nt* (1958-2014), US actress best known for The Beastmaster (1982), whose 'quantum fiction' sf novel is Flight (1995), died in July. [SS]

Does this mean it's safe to start using her vowels again?

#843 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 08:23 PM:

The end of an era. I was never able to sufficiently explain my uncontrollable laughter to the other folks in the room at the time when I saw that Bonta was an "expert" on a History Channel "documentary" about sex in space.


#844 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 10:05 PM:

Jacques @810,

I have two cats, and they are the funniest-looking cats I've ever seen. Not ugly, just funny-looking. One, Moon, weighs about six pounds and is very long with stumpy legs; she's got gorgeous black silky hair and currently enjoys being Seasonally Appropriate Cat, sitting on our windowsill and arching her back and hissing at passers-by. The other, Lily, is massive and about 80% FBV (fur by volume). He's got a huge ruff around his neck that pokes up when he lies down so that he can't see out.

Moon enjoys being on things.

Lily enjoys being in things.

We left a reuseable grocery bag out the other day, and Lily came along and clearly thought "oh, boy! A bag! That's a thing I can be in!" and squirmed into the bag until all of his fluff was hidden.

Moon sauntered along some time later, spied the bag, and clearly thought "oh boy! A bag! That's a thing I can be on!"

A leap, sudden levitation, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.

The wailing was mostly on Lily's part, as Moon does not make noise. Ever. Essentially, Lily is her henchcat, and if she needs meowing to happen, she goes and gets him, and he will sit next to the person who needs to be meowed at and meow at the top of his lungs.

#845 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 02, 2014, 11:03 PM:

Open threadiness:
I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that my favorite piece of music is Verdi's Requiem. Yes, even better than the Bach Mass in B Minor (which according to Robert Shaw is "God's favorite piece of music"; probably true. Best =/= favorite).

There's something about the combination of awe, wild beauty and abject terror that just gets me. Like watching a volcano erupt: it might kill you, but you wouldn't want to miss it. And I have a deeply physical reaction to it--the hair on my neck and arms literally stands up. Every time.

Having sung in a performance of it (featuring a combination of 3 choirs and 2 symphonies!) was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life.

We need to make sure that more people get to have experiences like that, or like seeing whales in the wild, or seeing King Tut's death mask in person, or watching the Transit of Venus with their own (suitably shielded) eyes. Those are the kinds of things I think of when questions about the meaning of life come up.

#846 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 04:36 AM:

The BBC is showing documentary programmes about cats again.

A teaser web page is up, and contends that cats are evolving their behaviour to suit city life. It's maybe like the idea of the meme, rather than a genetic change, but 21st Century Cat is different.

Maybe I'm not so different to what I was in the last century, maybe I am not quite a city human. I can imagine some of the modern parental panic there would be at some of the things I would do, a half-century ago. But Tabitha-cat, feline-of-the-household, got along with us old-style humans very well. It's not just a fannish thing.

It's maybe like the way that some telegenic dog trainers based their ideas on the lupine equivalent of a prison population, while we farmers were passing on the tenets of canine freedom.

The ginger tom-cat from across the road had but one eye and was reckoned a bit of a terror by his nominal owners. We saw a different cat, a useful hunter of mice, who would team up with our dog, and who trusted us.

Every so often he would be accidentally locked in a shed. We would get a worried telephone call. The neighbours were always slightly astonished to see the hand-delivered ginger furball, who would glare at them.

And why not. They didn't have all those fun furry varmints to chase. They didn't come and let him out of that shed. They didn't give him a reason for being.

#847 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 06:25 AM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey@842: in a small way I miss the old-style Usenet kooks. The modern internet doesn't have kooks, really. There are trolls and lunatics and appalling people, but only old Usenet had kookery.

#848 ::: E. Liddell ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 09:11 AM:

Em @844: It sounds like your Moon may be a munchkin cat.

dcb @839: We had a similar trapped-by-plastic-bag performance some years ago, when I was awoken one morning by an odd rustle-rustle-meow sound outside the bedroom door. Moe, the cat in question, seemed completely untraumatized after he was extracted.

He was also the cat who would eat anything--dog kibble too big for him to chew without breaking it into parts first, cabbage, plain white rice . . . and on one memorable occasion, a dishcloth, which produced a nice substantial vet bill.

When he was almost healed from the surgery, he tried to eat another one. My father suggested, only half-facetiously, that we might have the vet install a zipper. That particular type of dishcloth no longer figures into the family's household supplies.

Not the brightest of cats, but Moe was always entertaining.

#849 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 10:36 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 842... The As have it?

#850 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 11:18 AM:

Belated HLN: Yesterday local man's coworker notices that a car is parked illegally (that is, not in a legal parking spot) on the top level of one of the parking garages for local man's workplace. This is unexpected since the top level is nearly empty. In fact, illegally parked car is right next to (and even slightly in) a vacant parking space.

#851 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 11:58 AM:

#840 ::: Jacque

This reminds me of why I don't trust science about animal intelligence-- the experiments aren't in open enough environments for animals to show their ingenuity. They're also looking for what the typical animal of the breed can do. They aren't going to notice the smartest animals.

#852 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 12:03 PM:

My cousin told me about an experiment with rats at Ann Arbor (70s?) in an open-top t-maze. Drop the rat in at the long end, it had to remember to go right or left.

Yada yada. Then some bright thing went out to the dump and trapped a couple Norway rats.

They set it up and dropped a rat in.

It stood on its hind legs, sniffed, jumped out of the maze, ran across the table, jumped in to grab the food and took off out the door.

#853 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 01:19 PM:

Gretel, the cat we had in the 80s, used to loaf on the cool formica top of my big metal desk. I tossed a balled-up piece of paper at the trash can next to the desk once, and she batted it away.

"Oh, thanks," I said. Then I thought about it and moved the trash can a few inches closer, about where she'd hit the paper, and tossed it again. It almost went in, so I moved the can another inch or two and tried again. Bulls-eye!

From then on, any time I wanted to impress our guests, I'd go move the trash can, and the cat would eagerly take up her position. Pitcher to batter to can: she knocked it in nearly 100% of the time. The infallible parlor trick!

Sadly, none of our subsequent feline household members have shown any inclination toward batting.

#854 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 01:34 PM:

Kip, re: "have shown any inclination toward batting"

I had a dog that loved to very carefully step onto batting I had laid out on the floor, and snuggle into it.

#855 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 02:07 PM:

Cats who very carefully lie down in the middle of the fabric you've laid out on the floor to cut. (Or, occasionally, in the middle of the bed that you're about to make.)

We had one that was very fond of some kinds of paper: newsprint and paper napkins were her favorites. (Walk into dining room and find shredded paper on the floor.)

#856 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 03:03 PM:

Moon may well be part munchkin (her mother, very definitely not). We suspect Lily has some Maine Coon Cat in him on account of being ginormous, with that ruff and the poofy tail. The hilarious thing is that they are complete opposites as far as cat appearances go; tiny v. huge, black v. tabby, etc, and they're from the same litter. I remember reading somewhere that single litters of kittens can have multiple fathers, so we imagine that Roommate's Boyfriend's Cat (now uterus-free) had a very good time on that one night when she got out.

#857 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 03:45 PM:

#855 and previous: our cats are very assiduous about immediately lying down on any new piece of mail deposited on the table.

They also like to make deckle-edges on things, so we have to be careful what we leave in reach.

#858 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 05:46 PM:

A new variety of plagiarism.

Summary: an adjunct professor spent considerable time and effort creating an online art history course. Later, she discovered that other instructors were using it -- personal anecdotes and all -- without crediting her as the creator. She raised a fuss, got a settlement from the university for the theft of her intellectual property... and then they terminated her contract. The people who had been copying her material are still employed there, and presumably still doing so.

I would be very interested in hearing what Fragano and other academic professionals have to say about this.

#859 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 06:24 PM:

I'd be mad as hell - the personal anecdotes, at least, should not be used, and credit is due to her every time her material is used.

#860 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 06:27 PM:

Crafty amusement: I was looking at Nora Gaughan's pattern book 13, which is top-down stuff, and noticed many of the pattern names are familiar: Clement, Delany, Gibson, Niven, Pohl, Silverberg, Sturgeon. ('Gibson' is a nice cardigan.)

#861 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 06:53 PM:

On animal intelligence and that sort of thing, one interesting thing about dogs is that _some_ can understand it when you point at something. While one dog will just be confused and looking at your finger, another will follow the imaginary line and observe the object you're pointing at.

#862 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 07:25 PM:

It would be easier to work if local cat (a lynx point rescue) was not trying to push her nose through my face.

#863 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 08:17 PM:

I was going to post this in open thread 198, but I'm not getting the comment entry form there.

The true origin of the bakfiets.


#864 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: October 03, 2014, 08:31 PM:

Fresh tuna also works well as a pizza topping, which I discovered the last time I was in Montreal. My host suggested it with a sort of "I might as well ask" and was surprised that I said yes. Apparently most of their friends' reactions were "that's weird" rather than "I've never had that before, so let's."

#865 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 12:02 AM:

Yay! I just lost my job! Or rather, I will have lost it on January 2, 2015! And - AND - I get to be a fucking adult and not do even a teeny percentage of the damage I could because 1. no decent super-villain has a rented lair from which she could be evicted, and 2. I have ethics.

Now I have to (ugh) try and quantify my accomplishments and talents to market myself to potential employers with just the right amount of jargon to get past the HR department and enough useful info so they can overlook my lack of college degree.

Here's hoping my union can at least negotiate better severance that whatever we've already got.

#866 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 06:55 AM:

nerdycellist @865, ugh. Good luck with it. My husband lost his job on Monday. He was working for a federal contractor and funds for the projects he was working on were cancelled. That was his 7th job since we moved here 14 years ago and he'd been in it less than a year. (Third federal project with funding cancelled, one startup that went belly-up in 2009, one attempt at a career change that didn't work out, one toxic boss, and one not-great-fit that limped along okay for several years but eventually dissolved.) He has a college degree, but the disadvantage of job hunting while over 55. Sigh.

#867 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 07:59 AM:

nerdycellist... My best wishes.

#868 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 09:08 AM:

nerdycellist @864 and OtterB @866, good luck to both of you with the job hunts.

#869 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 10:37 AM:

OtterB - best of luck to your husband. It sounds like a much worse situation than mine. Hope he is able to find something both good and appropriate in a reasonable amount of time.

My dad's previous employers imploded about three years ago. It was a small office run, they came to find out, by someone either completely over his head or entirely lacking in business acumen. Checks started being late, then bouncing, then just never showing up. Dad had worked there around 15-20 years and was 60. When applying for unemployment he learned that former boss had never paid into the unemployment insurance fund, and had to sue for back pay. He worked a few ill-fitting temp jobs and then decided to take social security early when he qualified at 62 this year. He had two interviews and got a new permanent position a week after his first SS check arrived.

I think I'm actually in pretty good shape, what with the three months warning, the 2 months of severance and the six months of health insurance I have banked. Of course, it would be nice if I also had actual savings banked, but you can't have everything. I'm confident someone, somewhere will want to hire me with my broad skills, attention to detail and willingness to work. The bad news is I have started to let my hair grow out grey in the front (I'm 42 and have been greying since I was 14, so the bangs are a lovely silver, while I'm having my hairdresser continue to dye the rest) and I'm going to have to go back to dyeing it all one (boring) color for the job search.

Now off to work some OT.

#870 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 02:54 PM:

Lee #858: That's exploitation on top of plagiarism.

#871 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 03:10 PM:

Best wishes for both nerdycellist and OtterB's husband. May the most wonderful jobs in the world fall into your respective laps unexpectedly!

I am currently not very happy in my job, due to a slowly built up high pressure head of frustration with my direct boss. I've also come to feel that I really miss doing something where I could feel I was directly accomplishing social good. Getting people on the Internet, helping create the Internet - that felt like a powerfully good thing. This work, meh. But all the same I'd be mightily unhappy to lose it right now.

#872 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 04:35 PM:

Gigantic bacteria that can be killed with Windex? Steven Moffat must die!

#873 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 05:42 PM:

Which is the bigger offense: writing bad science on a TV show not known for its hard science, or putting up spoilers for said show without any sort of labeling, at a time when many people will see them who haven't seen that episode yet? Discuss.

#874 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 06:25 PM:

It's not a major plot point, David. But I've opened a Dr Who Spoiler thread for further discussions and exclamations.

#875 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 07:16 PM:

Thanks, Abi. We're behind on Dr Capaldi because of the power failures in Phoenix last weekend.

#876 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 09:40 PM:

I figured it probably wasn't a major plot point, but my preference is to know as little about the episode as I can manage before I actually watch it. (No, I don't watch the "Next Week:" teasers.) Anyway, the spoiler thread is a good idea. Thanks.

#877 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 04, 2014, 11:25 PM:

Oh, we're several weeks behind because of reasons (none of which are dire, BTW, just things like "I don't feel like it" and "football.") I love DVR/streaming.

#878 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 01:47 AM:

The tumbler behind Teresa's "It's Like They Know Us" particle is full of Grade A Fancy Oh Give Me a Break.

Do the producers of these photos expect people to pattern their lives after the idealized scenes, or set expectations for themselves and their families based on them?

#879 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 09:37 AM:

Quick update on the vandalized girl guide camp - to my complete lack of surprise, there are a lot more good folks in the world than bad ones.

#880 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 10:42 AM:

Stefan Jones #878: I think it's all about the fantasy -- "buy our stuff and you can feed your kids on a white couch, it'll even stay pristine for when guests come by!"

#881 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 11:42 AM:

Mysterious ball of light sighted over Eastern seaboard. Whatever this thing was, it photobombed a live weather report and racked up 30-odd sightings over nine states and two provinces. Reports are being accumulated by Lunar Meteorite society.

(And this is why the "UFOs are everywhere" folks are full of hooey. Humans notice these things!)

#882 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 05, 2014, 11:08 PM:

Hilarious review of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Patrick Rothfuss, the author of "The Name of the Wind."

He gives it five stars, but notes that Charlie's family is likely destitute because Wonka has a captive workforce paid in beans, starving the community of employment.

#883 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 06:47 AM:

nerdycellist and otterB: Good luck and good hunting.

I'm just back from extra-super-glamourous two week vacation in Greece. I got up at 4:30 and so far have resisted the urge to just start walking in a random direction for an hour.

Most unexpected thing: realizing how volcanic and earthquake-prone Greece still is. Obvious after the fact. I mean if you had volcanoes in 1000 BC nothing's changed, geologically.

Second most unexpected thing: Athens is absolutely covered in graffiti. Shitty, annoying graffiti.

Most awesome thing: about a 37-way tie. For this audience, I'm going to go with a Greek person using "apocalypse" in a sentence where someone more Latinate would have used "revelation". That is technically correct.

#884 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 06:50 AM:

@842: So for those of us who weren't there, what is the deal with the late V* B* ?

#885 ::: Del Cotter ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 08:20 AM:

@883, Stephen Jay Gould writes about his trip to Greece in Dinosaur in a Haystack. As a biologist, he had picked up the usual colleciton of Greek and Latin terms, but he said he was surprised to find a land where "stasis" is a bus stop, "metaphor" is a baggage cart, and "esoteric" is a domestic airline. As you say, all technically correct.

#886 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 09:25 AM:

Many and many a year ago, in the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.fandom, Vanna Bonta, or at least her screen agent, rushed in to gush about this wonderful new quantum fiction novel "Flight". And almost immediately there were about a dozen or so other complete newbies also gushing about "Flight", with a remarkably similar written style. It was the legion of Baby Bonting sock puppets. Like S*r*d*r Ar*g*c, they showed up on every mention.

Langford's Cloud Chamber 78 ( sums it up best, I think:
Take Flight! All right, has anyone here actually read Flight, Vanna Bonta's 1995 novel of 'quantum fiction' (i.e., it would seem, 'sf but pretending for the sake of publicity to be something brand-new')? Usenet's rec.arts.sf.fandom newsgroup was recently convulsed by an invasion of Flight cultists – some of them evidently the same person posting under five or more net IDs – gushing about how this book transforms one's life, gives new visions of reality, offers exciting vistas of Evolved Sex, and is generally the greatest thing since sliced Dianetics. So Thog, morningstar in hand, went to investigate the sample of Flight's wonderfulness offered at the fan club's web site. This confronts Bonta's hero Mendle with an alarming psychiatrist (indeed, though Mendle apparently keeps all his clothes on, 'He could feel Dr. Kaufkiff's scrutiny all over him ...'). Now read on:

Mendle paused to surmount a ridge of annoyance that was densifying. He breathed deep again, stared at the rug. Finally he said, 'The girl.'

Dr. Kaufkiff was perching over his glasses again, this time in an unspoken question.

Mendle rubbed the inside of his palm with his thumb, alternating between each hand as he spoke.

You will have to imagine the web page's excruciating layout of all this, with every line centre-justified and no spaces between the paragraphs. Here's another magical moment, as the point of view goes ping-ponging across Kaufkiff's desk:

Dr. Kaufkiff confirmed delusion in the patient. 'Do you mean perhaps this woman who you once could see in your thoughts has actually become physical somewhere else?'

'I find it difficult to say anything is impossible, doctor,' Mendle said solemnly. 'A quantum physicist might agree.'

Possibly our author meant to write 'quantum mechanic'. One of Bonta fandom's sacred tenets seems to be that quantum theory – which, for goodness' sake, has been around since 1900, and which in the form of quantum electrodynamics is just about the most rigorously tested and empirically successful branch of modern physics – is not only brand-new, cutting-edge stuff but transcends mere empiricism in favour of a woozy New Age never-never land of feelgood mind/matter interaction.

But I feel quite guilty writing this, because I haven't actually read Flight (only that dismal extract) and still wonder if it does contain anything worthwhile. So: has anyone here seen it?

I have seen it, and every single page is at least that bad. But I must say, the cover design is very nice.

#887 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 10:26 AM:

I read some P.G. Wodehouse on the plane back. I'm reading those excerpts and I keep feeling like one of his terribly dim protagonists. "So these sentences, h'm, you say they all come, so to speak, one immediately after the other? There aren't any missing bits of text or anything, I suppose?"

#888 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 10:28 AM:

Attempting to shake loose a server error. Prior post, reposted:

I read some P.G. Wodehouse on the plane back. I'm reading those excerpts and I keep feeling like one of his terribly dim protagonists. "So these sentences, h'm, you say they all come, so to speak, one immediately after the other? There aren't any missing bits of text or anything, I suppose?"

#889 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 11:48 AM:

Cally Soukup #886: I think I'll give Flight a pass on the basis of that extract. I read enough bad writing as it is.

#890 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 01:16 PM:

Bill Higgins @842: R.I.P. V*nn* B*nt* (1958-2014)

I crossed paths with her at a Coppercon back in the late '90s. My friend Matt and I were having lunch at the little diner attached to the hotel, and she came over and struck up a conversation. The discussion quickly turned to "quantum fiction," and I thought "Oo! Interesting!" Then she pulled out her book, and I realized with disappointment that it was just a sales pitch.

Em @844: "oh boy! A bag! That's a thing I can be on!"

I had almost exactly the same thing happen, only with guinea pigs and a towel. Turns out a guinea pig under a towel has nearly the same consistency as the toy comfy-chair I had for them at the time. My attention was drawn to the situation when I heard Caramel yelling "Mom! She's touching me!" in more than usually strident tones. I came out to see Noogi comfortably lounging on her "cushion," and looking incredibly smug. It's amazing the generalizations they can make....

Carol Kimball @852: grab the food and took off out the door.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the canonical example of "thinking out of the box."

P J Evans @855: Cats who very carefully lie down in the middle of the fabric you've laid out on the floor to cut

...or the precise newspaper paragraph you're trying to read...

Or, occasionally, in the middle of the bed that you're about to make.

Which is the veritable definition of weasel help.

#891 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 03:03 PM:

A review and analysis of the authorized Heinlein biography. Some of the points the author makes are extremely interesting; many will come as no surprise to anyone who's ever argued with a Heinlein-worshiper.

#892 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 03:33 PM:

...or the precise newspaper paragraph you're trying to read...

Or just in the middle of the unfolded paper, so you can't turn the page. And you have to read around the cat. (That particular cat weighed about fifteen pounds, without being fat. She was a lot of cat to read around.)

#893 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 05:05 PM:

Supreme Court declines to review marriage-equality cases.

The Supreme Court has opted not to review appeals from rulings in 4 different circuit courts that bans against marriage equality violate the 14th Amendment. Effectively, this means that a total of 30 states are now under direction to recognize same-sex marriage as legal and binding.

#894 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 05:39 PM:

Lee #893: Drat, ninja'd! But via the Times, yes Virginia, gays and lesbians can get married!

#895 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2014, 07:22 PM:

Regarding Avram's sidebar on "The First Female Gamers": While the article's narrative trails off in the early 1980's, I'll point out that by then a Dragon article about "DMs From Hell" (which I've recently mentioned on another thread) included "The Chauvinist Pig DM" on the list with AFAIK no particular controversy.

#897 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 06:06 AM:

Lee #891- thanks for that, more information on Heinlein is interesting.
At one point the reviewer writes:
"How do we reconcile the savage authoritarianism of Starship Troopers with the peace-and-love mysticism of Stranger in a Strange Land? For that matter, how do those two books jibe to the nearly anarchist libertarianism of the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress"

I thought that had been answered kind of, by the idea of the right man, the one who is right, who is often an extension of hte author. In all these books there is a character who is correct and knows all, and that in itself is a form of authoritarianism, which rather suited Heinlein.

#898 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 09:45 AM:


It's so exciting to watch this giant trucker's gear shift occurring in the US. I suspect it's a generational thing, but even so, for those of us watching from afar with the usual biases in news coverage and concentration on crazies and extremists of all sides, this is a most welcome and happy surprise! I can remember the period after 1997 when we got civil partnerships, gays in the military, reform of sexual offences legislation et al in short order, and it was a very exciting transformational time.

Now we are that the stage that a Conservative led coalition in the UK can push through full same sex marriage by 366 votes to 161 at the third reading. The world is a different place to earlier in my life, and I, and my husband, are heartily grateful for that.

#899 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 10:14 AM:

#897 ::: guthrie

I think Heinlein played with ideas, partly to see what might be possible, but also to see what might make an interesting novel.

He was good making the ideas he was playing with sound like the absolute truth, and not just because of his authoritative-sounding characters.

Was Starship Troopers actually savagely authoritarian? It strikes me as moderately authoritarian-- it seemed like the government wasn't terribly intrusive in most people's lives.

#900 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 11:57 AM:

Nancy #899- I re-read Starship troopers a few years ago as an adult, it was okay, a bit narrow minded, but perfectly pitched to teenage boys. So frankly concerns about an intrusive government just don't come into it, much of it happens off planet or in a school. However you have to remember the chilling effects of a situation not unlike the USA in late 2001, with the media and others going rah rah and anyone who objects is a bug lover. So yes, I think it was quite authoritarian, as well as of course the restriction on voting rights, not actually dictatorial, but then I don't recall people claiming it was about a dictatorship per se. I suppose the 'savage authoritarianism' bit comes from the capital punishements, the way the authority figures are not to be answered back to and the unremitting humanity uber alles. It's not a phrase I'd use, but the gist is accurate enough.

#901 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 04:33 PM:

I've heard it said that Stranger was intended as a derisive parody, and that Heinlein was appalled when people took it seriously and even founded religions based on it. I do not know if this is true, but most of his other work is deeply authoritarian, except when it's Libertarian (which IMO is very little different in actual outcome).

I do seem to recall that he actually believed military service should be a prerequisite for voting...which of course at the time meant not only disenfranchising Quakers and the disabled,* as it would today, but gays† and (mostly) women as well. He wasn't so thoughtless that he wouldn't have thought of that. I conclude that he was fine with silencing the voices of all pacifists, as well as making physical prowess (and heterosexuality) a prerequisite for having a voice.

*This is the one that really puts me in mind of the [GODWIN FILTER ACTIVATED].
†Note also that any group in society can be disenfranchised by simply rewriting military recruiting standards to exclude them. Nearsighted? Sorry, no vote for you.

#902 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 04:33 PM:

I've heard it said that Stranger was intended as a derisive parody, and that Heinlein was appalled when people took it seriously and even founded religions based on it. I do not know if this is true, but most of his other work is deeply authoritarian, except when it's Libertarian (which IMO is very little different in actual outcome).

I do seem to recall that he actually believed military service should be a prerequisite for voting...which of course at the time meant not only disenfranchising Quakers and the disabled,* as it would today, but gays† and (mostly) women as well. He wasn't so thoughtless that he wouldn't have thought of that. I conclude that he was fine with silencing the voices of all pacifists, as well as making physical prowess (and heterosexuality) a prerequisite for having a voice.

*This is the one that really puts me in mind of the [GODWIN FILTER ACTIVATED].
†Note also that any group in society can be disenfranchised by simply rewriting military recruiting standards to exclude them. Nearsighted? Sorry, no vote for you.

#903 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 04:43 PM:


#904 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 05:05 PM:

Xopher @901 which of course at the time meant not only disenfranchising Quakers and the disabled,* as it would today, but gays† and (mostly) women as well.

It's been a long time since I read it, but my recollection is that disabilities, at least, were covered. In the book, if the person volunteered, the military had to take them, no matter what their capabilities. I don't remember about the other.

In concept, if there were a nonmilitary community service options available, I would find it acceptable that someone had to serve in some capacity before they were allowed to vote. In practice, I think the logistics of making sure that many people actually did something useful would be unworkable. Which is a pity in some ways.

#905 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 05:07 PM:

Though it isn't emphasized in the novel, it was Federal Service that earned the right to vote and hold office, with the Military being one branch.

#906 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 05:26 PM:


I'll admit, I can see a lot of flaws in Heinlein's work, but I don't really see authoritarianism. More broadly, it seems like you're inferring the worst motives and beliefs you can imagine for him based on (I guess) not liking his work much, or figuring he's on the other team, or whatever. I mean, maybe he really didn't think disabled people should be able to vote, or gay people, or pacifists, but I sure didn't see that from his writing.

#907 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 05:51 PM:

The specific example given was, I believe, that if a deaf-and-blind person wanted to perform Federal Service, someone would, if necessary, figure out how they could count the hairs on a caterpillar by touch. There's so much that's good and bad all at the same time in that sentence that it makes me boggle. What a visionary! What a lack of vision! Contain your multitudes, sir!

#908 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 06:01 PM:

albatross @ 906: I love Heinlein, but the charge of authoritarianism against him has merit.

It's not a blind, support-whoever-is-in-power authoritarianism, more an ends-justify-the-means-if-you're-right authoritarianism. Cult of personality minus the cult. In theory.

#909 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 06:24 PM:

WRT to Starship Troopers in particular, it's worth noting that the two early influences on Rico were his teacher (a vet) and his sergeant. The teacher is part of the story frame: If Rico's favorite teacher were a biologist or an astronaut, it would be a different story. (Note that as a [Civic Studies] teacher and a veteran, forward recruiting might well be an implicit part of his duties.) And a sergeant, especially a training sergeant, is supposed to be authoritative and to advise their trainees. (IIRC, there were also strong notices that the future government has gotten Very Good at training soldiers, in a psychological-technology sort of way.)

Regarding the discussion as a whole, I'll note that it's a dangerous game to assume that any given fictional character exactly represents the views of the author, even if they do generally look like a self-insert. I know that if I do a novel, there will be a bunch of characters with parts of my personality, attitudes, and/or positions.

#910 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 07:01 PM:

John A Arkansawyer@908: the reference in the linked article to HG Wells struck an unexpected chord; RAH's attitude to Free Love could almost be more of an echo of HGW's personal attitude than an anticipation of hippiedom. See also the Fabian enthusiasms for eugenics (specifically for poor people not having too many children and outbreeding their betters), for a well-ordered society run by Nice People Like Us. Hence RAH's libertarianism as early-1900s progressive thought with a few changes of sign. In those pages-long monologues of setting the world to rights where the women only interrupt Jubal or Lazarus to agree with him enthusiastically, it's just like Wells laying down the law to pretty bluestockings with Advanced Ideas while deciding which one he's going to sleep with.

#911 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 07:08 PM:

Xopher @ #903

Talk Like A Pirate Day was last month (the 19th, IIRC).


#912 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 07:47 PM:

Xopher, #901: OtterB is right -- disabilities were explicitly covered. The law was that since citizenship was dependent on service, anyone who wanted to serve (and hence claim their right to vote) had to be allowed to do so. In practice, I have no idea how that would have applied to Quakers, or other pacifists, or to people with civilian criminal records prior to their enlistment. I'm not sure Heinlein did either; it was a story for kids, he didn't have to get that far down into the gears. And he literally would not have been allowed to address the topic of gays because, again, for kids.

David H., #909: As the linked article points out, there is a common theme in many of Heinlein's works (especially the later ones) of "the crusty old man who is a fount of wisdom". IMO the more often a particular character-trope occurs in an author's body of work, the more likely it is that it's a self-insertion figure.

#913 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 08:17 PM:

Tom W @ 744: YMMV, I guess; the two taste very different to me. The sense I get is that condemnation for (e.g.) not massively supervising children is still an individual reaction individually enforced, rather than a mass movement. I don't hear of (or see in passing) TV ads about responsible parenting in a tone similar to the Dick Tracy anti-hitchhiking spot I remember from cartoon shows <50 years ago. (An amusing parallel, since much of the push against hitchhiking appears to have been Hoover's personal feeling that those poor enough not to have carfare (or a car) should not be allowed free passage.) I may be missing something from not watching TV (or I may not be...). I also don't read of the interventions as leaping from from "You're failing your child" to "You are utterly untrustworthy in all aspects", which was a feature of the Sturgeon: the Outs (e.g., trappers) were completely Out.

adding to 753: Lorna Cooke de Varon, longtime director of choral-conducting teaching at the New England Conservatory. (My conductor 2009-2013 was female; she left for a full-time conservatory position. However I don't claim Chorus pro Musica has the cachet of Tanglewood Festival Chorus or the Handel and Haydn Society -- probably close to them in quality, but not as elevated a reputation.)

Bruce E @ 781: The BBC says mozzarella has been found to be perfect, but gouda wasn't one of the alternates tried and found wanting. There's also the question of how old the gouda is; it can be aged at least a year, drying and becoming much sharper-flavored -- too much for more than an accent on pizza, IMO.

Xopher @ 815: I am somewhere between impressed and appalled -- perfect meter, and just enough parallel to make me go "Huh!". I've done the full CoC at least twice (and sat once while the women of CpM did the original arrangement) so I spotted the tune immediately -- but might not have without the hint.

Fragano @ 836: did you really expect your entire class to have been properly filtered?

Lila @ 845: We need to make sure that more people get to have experiences like that. I don't know how, but yes. I've been a serious choral singer for 43 years and I still keep coming back; if anyone had asked why when I was feeling tetchy, I'd tell them the difference between listening to music and making it isn't far removed from the difference between reading about sex and having it.

Michael @ 850: so what's the other half of that story?

Jacque @ 890: Not that I was ever thinking of having a pet weasel (or even a ferret, which I \think/ is different -- not sure about transnational nomenclature), but that was a fun way to confirm my non-decision.

guthrie @ 900: I despise Starship Troopers, but I have to ask where in the novel a non-military authority figure is provided for anyone to answer back to?

Lee @ 912: was ST a juvenile? I certainly don't remember it on the shelf with Space Cadet and many others in that line. OTOH, he doesn't get a pass; there's a line in Stranger about Mike, even without Jill's training, sensing a "subtle wrongness" in the guys who might proposition him, and modifying himself to look less androgynous. It wasn't until Time Enough to Screw Around that he countered this -- and then, I suspect, only for the shock value.
      But thanks for the review link; pity, but the bio sounds like something I can skip.

Followup in a previous thread, for anyone who thought the military's dispersal of surplus wasn't out of control: even coroners can get weapons.

#914 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 08:55 PM:

Tax court ruling is a victory for artists.

Summary: If you make and exhibit art (which is critically successful) but not much of it sells, and your primary income is from your day job, can you still deduct your art-business expenses on your Federal taxes? The United States Tax Court says yes.

This is an issue of critical importance to a lot of small artists and crafters throughout the country. Being able to support yourself solely on your art is... a lot like being able to support yourself solely on acting; it can be done, but many people don't reach that level. (And now I'm wondering how, or if, that ruling applies to struggling actors.) Having the work of emerging artists be ruled a "hobby" while they're still rolling that boulder up the hill would be devastating to the arts scene virtually everywhere.

Also worth noting is that this particular artist's day job was art-related. It would be much easier for someone whose day job is waiting tables, or teaching English, or engineering to defend this issue. (And yes, all of those examples are based on people I know.)

#915 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 09:35 PM:

Lee @914 -- It'll be interesting to see how that applies to authors as well as graphic artists.

#916 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 10:04 PM:

I see the society in ST as mildly authoritarian-- it gets somewhat different after the war with the Bugs starts, but there's still no conscription. I bet that no conscription was a much more radical idea when the book was written.

What's more, the military (or at least the MI) can opt out at the beginning of a mission, with the only punishment being that they will never get to vote. I would nearly love to see the story about a whole MI unit opting out.

For some reason, people would rather talk about limiting the franchise one way or another rather than what a military would look like if leaving is a live, legal option for soldiers. (Does RAH talk about what the rules are for other branches?)

As for pacifists, my take is that that society had pretty good psychological testing. If someone was a pacifist at the gut level (rather than kidding themselves about their beliefs), they would be assigned to some line of work where they wouldn't be likely to need to attack.

Heinlein plugged one hole I can see in the ST society. If there was pervasive prejudice, people from the out group would be used as cannon fodder, and be less likely to be able to vote. Heinlein sets the society up as unprejudiced. I have have no idea if that's why he did it that way, or if he was just aiming for a feeling of all humans together.

I find it chilling when Johnny says that soldiers shouldn't be interested in politics. It doesn't seem to connect to anything else in the book, except perhaps that Johnny has a rather passive temperament.

#917 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 10:09 PM:

CHip 913: You couldn't have more perfectly matched what I most wanted to hear if you'd interrogated me under fast-penta. Thank you!

#918 ::: J Homes ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 10:14 PM:

Lee @912,

I am pretty sure ST was not a juvenile.

As for pacifists, in another Heinlein book, Double Star, a character whose opinions we are clearly meant to respect describes pacifists as dishonest freeloaders, and hypocrites. The word "all" does not appear, but no exceptions are mentioned.

This might suggest that excluding pacifists from citizenship is a feature, not a bug.

J Homes.

#919 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 10:34 PM:

I don't think it's reasonable to expect consistency across Heinlein novels, except on a few subjects. (Slavery is bad, nudity and cats are good.)

IIRC, one of his wise old men said "Always count your change" and another said "Never count your change".

There's an anarchist/pacifist in _Sixth Column_ who's treated with respect.

#920 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 10:55 PM:

On singing and sex: As a data point, I would much rather read about amazing food than either make or eat it. I have learned not to try Teresa's recipes, for one thing; I lack the experience and context to make them good or even passable.

But I am really, really text- and story-oriented.

#921 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 11:03 PM:

Re: Starship Troopers and Juveniles.

At the time RAH wrote ST, he had an arrangement of writing a juvenile novel a year for a Scribner's. He submitted ST as a juvenile, and his editor balked and said no. He sold it to G.P Putnam's Sons as a teenage book. They suggested edits to make it appeal more to adults, and effectively marketed it to both. RAH never wrote another book for Scribner's again.

ST is a book that leaves open a lot of questions with no clear answers.

The narrator of the book is clearly career MI, and mentions non-military branches of Federal Service, but we don't really see any way other than military to earn a franchise. So is military service a requirement to vote? The book gives that impression, but explicitly in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it way says no. Can a pacifist get the vote? Maybe, probably, but we don't see it.

Is it a juvenile? It's not one of the "official" Heinlein Juveniles, but it was written and pitched to be one, so he intended for it to be read by teens. Unless Heinlein submitted it as a poison-pill to get out of a contract he felt was limiting him.

Is the society in ST authoritarian? We see so little of it outside of the MI it's hard to tell. The military is always authoritarian, even when the society isn't. Personally, I think he modeled the bits of non-MI society that we saw in Juan Rico's youth on the late 1950's society he saw around him. Certainly the portrayal of the high school seems right out of '50s media. Was that society authoritarian?

It was written a lifetime ago (55 years), and it's still being talked about and discussed, with strong defenders and strong attackers alike. What more could a book ask?

#922 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 11:10 PM:

Over at Daily Kos, someone noticed this tweet on the 9th Circuit Court's decision on same-sex marriages in Idaho and Nevada:
(by our own Terry Karney).

#923 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 07, 2014, 11:27 PM:

It's possible that Heinlein was drifting away from at least some forms of libertarianism at the end of his life-- as I recall, Rule Golden (a space station with one owner) in _The Cat Who Walks through Walls_ was not a good place to live.

#924 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 01:12 AM:

J Homes, #918: Apparently the official position is that the "Heinlein juveniles" are only the books published by Scribner. However, Wikipedia points out that ST was originally written for and submitted to Scribner, who rejected it; it was then published by Putnam.

It has definitely always felt like a juvenile to me, a classic coming-of-age story featuring a teenaged protagonist. (I tend to lump it in mentally with Space Cadet and Time for the Stars.) And if the facts are as Wikipedia says, I think there's a good case to be made for considering it one.

... and I see that Buddha Buck has beaten me to it, in more detail, @921.

#925 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 07:00 AM:

Hey, who remembers the "Myst" series of games and books?

Seems they're getting a TV show!. By way of the discussion forums for "Mystcraft", which as you might guess is a Myst-themed Minecraft mod (compatible with version 1.7.2, in progress for 1.7.10).

#926 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 10:29 AM:

You know on that Firesign Theatre record Fighting Clowns when someone finds a hair in the hot tub? and the punch line is, "Long hair, short hair--hair is dead!"

Most days lately, I say, "Left-wing Heinlein, right-wing Heinlein--Heinlein is weird!"

But I love Finney from Sixth Column. If Heinlein had taken a different turn in his later novels*, we would discover that he was later transported to Luna and became Bernardo de la Paz. Finney gets respectful treatment because he is the kind of pacifist who doesn't call the cops when mistreated. He's rejected a violent system and chosen to live outside it, not under it.

*Consider the later turn we'd've had if, instead of living in paradise, full of babies and kittens, instead all those Heinlein characters became Bodhisattvas, like Colonel Baslim*. Wouldn't you rather see Jubal Harshaw singing "Peel Me A Grape" in a run-down theater--preferably in drag--where he's keeping Larry Smith alive, than in an Olympic-size hot tub?

**More weirdness for my friends!

#927 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 12:14 PM:

Whatever else there is to say about Heinlein, it says something that we're still arguing about him fifty years later.

#928 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 12:16 PM:

CHip @913: Not that I was ever thinking of having a pet weasel (or even a ferret, which I \think/ is different -- not sure about transnational nomenclature), but that was a fun way to confirm my non-decision.

For our family's purposes, ferret=weasel because, well, "Weasels!" (said with a high-pitched, perky voice). There are critters that are explicitly labeled "weasels," but mustelids are frequently referred to as "the weasel family." Or, as we say, "A weasel by any other name is just a sleazy."

The personality type is pretty consistent across the family. Modulo, of course, domestication. There was a special on TV, ages ago, called "A Fisher in the Family." It was hilarious, because the fishers were just like our ferrets only, you know, bigger.

#929 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 12:17 PM:

OtterB @904: In concept, if there were a nonmilitary community service options available, I would find it acceptable that someone had to serve in some capacity before they were allowed to vote. In practice, I think the logistics of making sure that many people actually did something useful would be unworkable. Which is a pity in some ways.

But we HAVE done it -- in evidence I offer the programs of the New Deal: the WPA, the CCC, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Hoover Dam, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and many others. Today we could add the City Year, VISTA, and the Peace Corp. This is something we should still be doing -- but Congress doesn't seem to be interested in investing in America or helping the little guy anymore.

#930 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 12:42 PM:

I was wondering if there are other authors who might be worth giving the same level of discussion that we're giving to Heinlein.

Now, that might be the wrong question-- discussions of Heinlein just happen spontaneously. No one has to decide that they're worth doing.

Still, Le Guin might be an interesting choice.

Or Pinkwater.

#931 ::: OtterB sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 12:48 PM:

Lori @929 But we HAVE done it -- in evidence I offer the programs of the New Deal: the WPA, the CCC, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Hoover Dam, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and many others. Today we could add the City Year, VISTA, and the Peace Corp.

Oh, I agree that those are excellent examples. But the number of people participating in those programs don't / didn't come anywhere close to universal service. Of course, assuming one needs logistics for universal service assumes that everyone would be willing to serve in exchange for the right to vote.

#932 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 01:07 PM:

Open-threadiness: Have folks here run across A Capella Science? His Bohemian Gravity seems incredibly Fluorospherean to me....

#933 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 02:29 PM:

And my 931 was a nym failure; no spam seen in the vicinity. Sorry.

#934 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 03:42 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 930: I know a retired Milton scholar who says (if I understand correctly) you can measure the critical value of a work of art by how interesting the conversations about it are.

(Consider also what Faulkner says in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "Heinlein discussions are never dead. They aren't even about Heinlein anymore.")

OtterB, Lori Coulson @ 929, 931: Consider how the Utilitopians of John Barnes' A Million Open Doors practiced four hours of market prayer five days (I assume) a week by taking over a job from a robot. Manure shoveling, computer programming, apple picking, whatever bubbled to the top where you were. (Barnes never said what sort of prayer. I'm guessing imprecatory.)

#935 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 04:03 PM:

I have A Million Open Doors down in the basement somewhere. I'll have to see if I can lay my hands on it and reread it; it's been a long time.

#936 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 04:32 PM:

HLN: Local Man opens horrifically gigundous bill from lab for bloodwork he had a couple of months previously.

"I almost had a heart attack," Local Man recalls, "until I noticed that they didn't cover anything on the whole battery of tests." That seemed implausible. "My nice, ACA-subsidized health coverage, that covers specialists and prescriptions with no co-pay, doesn't cover bloodwork at all? Nah."

That made Local Man look closer, and discover that the insurance company name was wrong. "It was my old insurance company, the policy that was cancelled when the ACA took full effect," he says, "rather than the similarly-named and closely related new insurance company—but with my new ID number. If a merchant sends your Visa slip to American Express, they're not going to get paid!"

Local Man took the bill to his doctor's office, where they gave it to the phlebotomist; he hopes never to see it again, but kept a copy.

The story has a weird twist, however. There was something else in the same batch of mail.

"It was a hefty check," he laughs, "for my part of a settlement in a class action I'd never heard of!"

HLN assumes he'll cash it without quibbling.

#937 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 04:51 PM:

Xopher, that was sorta like earlier this year which went like this:

Filing taxes generates sizable tax refund, yay!

Delivery of refund to bank account generates a broken air conditioner. Boo!

Universe says, just keeping things in balance.

#938 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 05:05 PM:

#934 ::: John A Arkansawyer

Critical value in the sense of making work for critics, yes. This may not be the same value as whatever fiction does for readers.

#939 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 05:21 PM:

Xopher @936: Congratulations on the hefty check! The class-action suits for which I've received membership notifications generally produce outcomes that can be characterized as "here's a nickel, and a coupon for 10% off the next version of the crappy product or service that produced this suit." The attorneys, of course, get enough to repay their investment and risk.

#940 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 06:31 PM:

In other news, it apparently is not an obvious, even boringly conventional interpretation of the Nativity to say that Jesus is laid in a manger to foreshadow Communion. At least, an Episcopal priest of my acquaintance hadn't heard of it.

This came up because he was giving a sermon about the wonders of animals, and mentioned that Jesus was born among animals "in a manger." After the service I pointed out to him privately that a manger is not a building (and you know the rest, blah blah). Then I said "I assume I don't have to explain why it's important that a manger is a feeding trough?" He looked blank.

It seems so obvious. But maybe I'm all about the stories, and never took that one literally.

#941 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 07:27 PM:

Xopher (940): I certainly never heard that interpretation before, and my father is a Biblical scholar. (Old Testament rather than New, but still.)

#942 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 08:03 PM:

Jacque said, "Whatever else there is to say about Heinlein, it says something that we're still arguing about him fifty years later." And I note in particular, we are still discussing whether this or that character is voicing Heinlein's own views or is just saying whatever is necessary to advance the story.

Nobody ever needs to ask that question when it comes to Ayn Rand.

#943 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2014, 09:53 PM:

Xopher: new to me too, but plausible.

Come to think of it, swaddling clothes are a plausible mirror-image of the Apocalypse (lit. "unveiling").

#944 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 12:51 AM:

Oh, sigh.

Via con Dios, Gustavi mia. Like, while I was making their dinner.

Well, I did ask the Universe, last night, if it was going to take her, to go ahead and get it over with.

Moar stories, plz.

#945 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:16 AM:

There was the Christmas when Dumb Cat - that's another story - suddenly doubled in size and started growling out the patio door.

There was a raccoon (and they're not small) out on the patio, picking through the walnuts spread out to dry.

#946 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:19 AM:

My cat Smudge got the nickname "Scorch" from sniffing blithely at burning candles. Who knew whiskers could get that curly?

Didn't seem to bother him at all, either.

#947 ::: Em ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:29 AM:

Lily is a cat of very little brain; I mentioned before that he is 80% FBV, and much of the volume of that fur is inside his skull, I suspect. Among other things, he does not recognize kibble unless it is in the bowl, which has lead to some frantic meowing when he's spilled half of it and HIS BOWL IS EMPTY THESE ARE THE END TIMES.

Of late, he has been locked into battle with a spider. The spider appears to be winning. The spider has been dead for some time.

#948 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:41 AM:

Cally Soukup @946: Who knew whiskers could get that curly?

Ah, Mr. Squeaky and the glass firedoors (with a roaring coal fire inside). Black tuxedo, so the long, curly, white whiskers were all the more spectacular by contrast. "Singeing? What singeing?"

Em: The spider appears to be winning. The spider has been dead for some time.

Y almost OMANK. :-)

~ ~ ~

Oh yeah and: Universe? If you want any more this year, get on with it, would you please?

#949 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:56 AM:

Dumb Cat got the nickname because she tried to jump down from the grape arbor into the house through the sliding glass door. It worked the first time (we'd opened the door). The second time she didn't wait for us to open the door.
(Usually 'Dumb Cat' came with the subnickname 'like a fox' - she really wasn't stupid.)

#950 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 08:29 AM:

Jacque @944, The way our house is laid out, the bedroom (which used to be an attic) has the light switch inconveniently at the bottom of the stairs. Since there's a streetlight just outside the bedroom window which casts enough light to (dimly) see by, we generally just proceed to bed in the dark.

Skyler, after a few near-misses, realized that humans are BLIND in the bedroom, and used to start a very regular, metronome-like "meow. meow. meow. meow. meow..." (about once per second or second-and-a-half) when either of us were moving around the bedroom. (He'd stop when we either left or climbed into bed.) It was a very effective anti-stepping-on-the-cat measure, and we called it his "Human Activated Feline Active Sonar".

Of course, Skyler wasn't very bright. He didn't understand WHY humans were blind in the bedroom. At 2:00 in the afternoon on a bright sunny day, if we went into the bedroom while he was there, he'd start "meow. meow. meow...."

#951 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 08:40 AM:

Cassy B @950, too funny.

Our current dog is a beagle-vizsla mix and has the golden brown color of a vizsla except for white feet, tail-tip, and some white on his face. When he was younger we crated him overnight, but he finally outgrew eating the furniture and a couple of years ago we started leaving him loose in the house at night. His preferred place to sleep is on the floor in our room, sometimes next to the bed and sometimes closer to the door. The white markings turn out to be very useful because otherwise he's an exact color match to the hardwood floor in dim light.

#952 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 08:43 AM:

Question for the gnomes. Would you refresh us on your preferences on spam flagging during an apparent wave? I know that a lone spam should be flagged. With multiples, what's most helpful?

#953 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 09:11 AM:

When I was a kid, we had a series of indoor/outdoor cats. My cat Motley was so thoroughly litterbox-trained that she would come in from outside specifically to use the litterbox, then go straight back out again. I don't know how she managed when we put her out overnight.

#954 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 09:27 AM:

OtterB @951:

The white markings turn out to be very useful because otherwise he's an exact color match to the hardwood floor in dim light.

Our marmalade cat is an exact color match to our hardwood floors, too, and his white markings are a match to the molding. They're also hidden (paws and belly) when he's lying down with his paws tucked in, which he likes to do on the stairs. I don't think he's actually trying to trip us, but I don't think he'd be doing anything different if he was.

#955 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 09:39 AM:

It's easy to dismiss animals as "dumb", when the real issue is that they just have a different sensorium and world-filtering. And, sometimes they're willing to take some damage in the service of exploration!

What they can't do, of course, is take our viewpoint. And for us to take theirs can be harder than it sounds.

#956 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 10:37 AM:

David Harmon @955, oh, I completely understand that Skyler could see perfectly well in the bedroom at night by the light of the streetlight outside the window. He just had no idea why we couldn't. Obviously, it was something about the bedroom that made us blind. After all, we never tripped over him anywhere else....

#957 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 10:46 AM:

Saw a video online of a little dog begging to be let in at a glass door that was already open. Pup wouldn't try to go through it until a human went up and mimed opening it.

#958 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 10:56 AM:

Help! Disambiguation query: following a previous conversation on ML, in which I learned that "fancy dress party" in the US is taken to mean black tie or similar, I have written in my soon-to-be-published book: "fancy dress (costume) parkrun with ghosts, skeletons, zombies, gorillas, witches and other monsters." Given the additional information provided by "ghosts, skeletons etc." is (costume) still needed?

#959 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 10:59 AM:

Jewel was a tuxedo cat, where the white was chin, shirt-triangle on chest, front toes, hind feet, and belly. Curled up, there frequently wasn't any white visible. Which made her remarkably invisible on dark objects like chairs and blankets.

#960 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 11:03 AM:

Umm, stupid question here, but why not just write "costumed parkrun"?

#961 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 11:24 AM:

dcb (958): I vote for using 'costumed' there, along with the 'fancy dress' for the UK audience.

#962 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 11:39 AM:

HNLN: area woman find herself in Science Fiction Bokhandeln, Stockholm, hoping to buy Hawk (but it hasn't arrived yet alas). She notes:
I'm wondering if studies show it's easier, harder, or just random to learn one of English's cousin languages vs more distant ones, of which Swedish seems to be a first cousin once removed?

#963 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:03 PM:

Funny Cat and Dog Stories:

Rusty-cat (I also had a concurrent Rusty-dog, that's why) was a very curious cat. One morning, I walked out into the living/dining area (small apartment, yanno) and found a trail of wax footprints leading from the candle on the counter (which I'd extinguished before going to bed), down the futon, and onto the carpet. When I checked the cats, I found the culprit still had wax on his toes. He also used to dabble in the toilet, so I learned to close the lid and I still do that, just in case another cat wants to take up that habit.

Rusty-cat was one of those incredibly mellow cats; he didn't hide from the Dread Vacuum cleaner -- he'd sit right there on the couch and hiss mildly if you got too close to him. He also liked vegetables and fruit, oddly. I had to eat cantaloupe standing up, or he'd be in my face trying to help me.

#964 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:39 PM:

We thought Dumb Cat didn't like catnip.
Then one year an aunt sent a high-quality catnip mouse, and we found DC trying to open the (somewhat battered) envelope it was in.
She loved to lick the mouse, so we ended up having to watch out for soggy catnip mouse on floor - for a couple of years.

#965 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:49 PM:

Our food co-op sold catnip cheap, and I couldn't resist buying a bag. We gave some to roommate's cat, Fred, who took to it with vigor and would meow for it over and over. This was annoying, so I put off giving him any. By the time I offered him some more, his response was to walk away with his tail at full mast. Message: I was an unreliable pusher, and as Fred had already quit cold turkey, he was having no more of my wares.

In that, he was smarter than many people, probably including me.

#966 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 01:56 PM:

Job. Seriously, JOB.

I've been unemployed so long, I almost forget what working feels like. The past two years have been so very hard, capped by a September that sucked a hairy sweaty bag, that being able to start October WITH A JOB is dizziness inducing.

It's only a 6-month contract, but I don't care.


#967 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 02:12 PM:

dcb, I'd leave it just as you have it. It's unambiguous for all audiences that way.

#969 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 03:38 PM:

OtterB @952:

Thank you for asking.

The current preference is for a single flag per flood rather than a flag per thread hit by a flood. What I do every so often is go through the Recent Comments looking for comments in old threads, weird comments, and spam flags marking when there's a wave.

I'm tending to unpublish the spam flags when I zap the spam, because otherwise the Recent Comments makes it look like this place is some kind of spam trap. So a flag per spam makes for a lot of unpublishing.

And when threads are (a) old, (b) not likely to be of current interest*, and (c) becoming spam traps, I tend to close them to comments and unpublish old spam flags. Otherwise, they tend to dribble off into depressing records of how awful the internet is.

(Amusing spam flags tend to get kept, mind).

One-off spam, or old uncaught spam, can of course be flagged any time.

* Hard to explain which threads get left open. A good rough list is emergency medical posts, ones that relevant comments are still likely to appear in, scambusting, memorial posts.

#970 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 03:55 PM:

Cat story or two:

Sheba, the deaf white cat, is the reason Karen moved to Ballard. She insisted on going outdoors, so she needed to live on a short street with no through traffic. There are lots of Sheba stories: how, in the old house, she used to bite the other cats that had magnets that would open the cat door and follow them out; how she got trained that when she comes back in from the outdoors she'll get a treat, so in the winter she goes outside and turns around so she can get a treat; and how she's discovered that banging her bowl on the floor, or pulling the cookbooks off the shelf, gets her attention (and treats).

She's an interesting cat.

Zoe, on the other hand, tends to go upstairs and get a small puff-toy (she's particularly fond of the half-zebra, half-elephant), pick it up, and carry it downstairs making a peculiarly muffled meowing sound as she does so. We don't know why she does this, but she does it most days, occasionally twice in a day.

#971 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 04:21 PM:

Tom Whitmore @970 she got trained that when she comes back in from the outdoors she'll get a treat, so in the winter she goes outside and turns around so she can get a treat

We had something similar with the dog. We were trying to cut down on the behavior of barking nonstop on the back deck until someone let him in. So if he barked once and gave us time to get to the door without barking again, he'd get a treat when we let him in. Somewhat to my surprise, it worked pretty well; I thought it might be too complex an association.

And then he began barking once, came in and got treat, immediately asked to go out again and repeated.

#972 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 04:45 PM:

Cheryl @ #966, Woohoo!!

Tom Whitmore, my current cats do the carrying-soft-thing-up-and-down-stairs-while-meowing-with-mouth-full trick too; they learned it from my previous cats. If they can't find a stuffed toy, a rolled-up pair of socks will do. They tend to do it in the evening.

#973 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 05:23 PM:

Harry and Sammy would meow like that, with their mouth full - when carrying something they'd caught. Announcing their success and wanting admiration, I think, but who knows what cats think?

#974 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 05:40 PM:

Thanks for the comments on fancy dress (costume). Xopher @967: Yes, that's why I'd put it like that. I'll stick to my initial intention on this.

The other one I'm fighting is buggy/pram/stroller/pushchair. In the UK, the device in which you push around babies/small children is a pushchair, although the term "running buggy" has taken off, so buggy now works as well. In the US, it's a stroller (I had no idea what a stroller was the first time I heard the term used) and I've discovered that in Australia they call the same sort of device a pram - while in the UK, we reserve "pram" for the old-fashioned device used for carrying small babies flat on their back (or at least, we did when I was growing up). For this reason I think it's important to explain, at some point, that buggy = pushchair = pram = stroller. Because hey, I want to communicate clearly!

#975 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 06:07 PM:

dcb 974: don't bother translating that one. People will get it, I promise. If someone says "Put the baby in the pushchair, Bonzo, so we can all go for a walk," nobody's going to be puzzled.

Context is everything.

#976 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 07:06 PM:

dcb, that's exactly what I thought. I'm with you.

AKICML: A friend has a need for as many recipes as possible that a) contain buckwheat and b) are not desserts (she has plenty of those). She's not a vegetarian and neither is the child she wants to get eating a ton of buckwheat, so that's not an issue.

I'm giving her Laurel's Kitchen, which has several non-dessert buckwheat things in it; I assume she can Google reasonably well, so I'm really asking if any Fluorosphereans have buckwheat recipes of their own.

#977 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 07:26 PM:

Re Cats:

The failure mode of "Trip the Human" is "Kick the Cat". I feel like such an abuser some times, blaming the poor fuzzy victim, but she wouldn't get kicked half as often if she didn't run between my feet when I'm on the stairs, even if I can actually see my feet this time.

On the bright side, her performance of TurboKitty of the Night last night at 3am actually had a plot and successful conclusion. One mostly dead rodent, intact and not too messy was collected and disposed of in the morning. (without getting stepped on in bare feet. worse than standing on legos)

#978 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 08:21 PM:

My cat Cindy used to wait until the vacuum cleaner had been asleep for a while, slowly spiral up to it, then when she was close enough give it a good hard whack and run off.

#979 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 08:49 PM:

Xopher @ #976: I don't have any recipes of my own, but kasha varnishkes is good. Also Hodgson Mill makes a great buckwheat pancake mix. (It does also contain wheat, though.)

Allan Beatty @ #978, we once had a dog who barked at the blow dryer. One day he waited till we left the house, then ambushed the thing (which I'd left on the bed) and chewed the cord into 3 pieces. Luckily I'd unplugged it.

#980 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 09:03 PM:

Oh! And soba is traditionally made from buckwheat, though some kinds are a mixture of buckwheat and wheat. In addition to being tasty, it also cooks faster than most pasta.

#981 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 11:15 PM:

On cats and vacuum cleaners:

My parents have a built-in vacuum system, and it has one of those long flat floor-level ports you can sweep things into. It has a kick switch. My cat watched them use it a couple of times, then ran up and smacked the switch, turning the vacuum on, and ran away from the sudden noisy sucking. (He only did that once. I think it scared him.)

This is the same cat who would play in lawn sprinklers and pick up the end of a running garden hose, repeatedly, and get himself soaking wet, then give the happiest purr when I rubbed him dry with a towel. He could also open cupboards, and I had to install childproofing on them to keep him from sleeping in my pots and pans. His food had to be kept in a cupboard he couldn't reach.

An earlier cat loved being vacuumed with the upholstery brush (again, built in vac system, so the scary vacuum pump ultrasonic whine was far away).

#982 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 11:20 PM:

Lila, thanks. There's no problem with wheat for this child, either.

#983 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2014, 11:33 PM:

Cheryl @966 <cheering and applause>

#984 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 07:49 AM:

On cats and cupboards: Teaching Freya that food comes inside puzzles and she can get at it if she works hard enough does have its down side. First we caught her clawing and biting at the bags of dry food, which had just been kept on the floor in the kitchen (she used to just leave these alone). Then we put the food inside plastic containers with sliding lids - so of course she quickly discovered she could slide the lids back. Now the containers have to be kept on top of the fridge/freezer, well out of her reach.

#985 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 10:15 AM:

Theory, stolen from a friend, on cats and Trip The Human: They just don't understand how bipedal locomotion works. If they were really feet, there'd be four of them.

#986 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 10:46 AM:

Lila @972, PJEvans @973: with Zoe, we noticed that the items she does this with are all about the size/shape of kittens -- which leads me to ask whether the cats that you have that do this are female. Less likely if it's something they actually killed, though.

#987 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 01:33 PM:

Regarding cat behavior and feet: I watched a large group of kittens interact with their mom, while I was fostering them all in my guest room (four years ago now, time flies!), and I noted that kittens run to mom and under mom when they're hungry and she's walking. It seems to be a Mom-is-food reaction. My kittens do the "dart in front of feet" maneuver when I haven't already put down food for them to go zooming at, and they think they'll never be fed ever again. (Years ago, I learned to shuffle when cats are around, so I just push them vigorously out of the way rather than actually kick them...)

#988 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 01:49 PM:

Tom, the old cats were both female. Of the new cats, one is male and one female; we've only observed the female doing it (but we tend to hear the muffled meowing when they're out of visual range, so it's hard to tell if the male does it too).

The idea that they might be "playing house" with imaginary kittens had occurred to us.

#989 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 02:33 PM:

I had some friends who had a cat named "Kick." This was a volunteer at a rental, so they had to keep the cat out of the house with a stiff leg. At least until the owner came by and had no problem with them keeping her.

#990 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 05:22 PM:

Cheryl (966): Yay, job!

#991 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 09:04 PM:

We have adopted 2 kittens from a rescue shelter. The orange one is a remarkable match for the hardwood floors, and the dark grey one can vanish on our (cheap imitation) Persian rugs. I was surprised that they were already neutered at 8 weeks, though they are boys.

kitten pictures

They are so much fun!

#992 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 10:05 PM:

I neglected to mention that the kittens are named Miles and Ivan. Nevertheless, I let them play with (paper) shopping bags.

#993 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 10:18 PM:

Cheryl @ 966: Most excellent!

#994 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2014, 10:20 PM:

#883 and #885:
If you actually speak Greek, do all the pseudo-Greek scientific neologisms look silly in the same way calling a gun a thunder stick looks silly?

#995 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 01:40 AM:

A federal court judge in Texas has blocked the TX voter-suppression law, on the grounds that it violates both the Voting Rights Act (insufficient concealment of overtly-racist motivation) and the 14th Amendment. The judge stated (correctly IMO) that the way the law was drawn up amounted to a poll tax.

Also, SCOTUS has just blocked a similar voter-suppression law in Wisconsin. I would like to think that perhaps the Justices looked at what happened across the country as soon as they ruled to gut the Voting Rights Act, and are considering revisiting that decision.

#996 ::: Serge Broom sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 08:19 AM:

Lee @ 995... one would think that such an august body filled with smart folks would have foreseen the consequences of their decision.

#997 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 09:21 AM:

Serge @ #996

Hoi! Do you mind? You've just blown another irony meter here.

<Grumbles and fishes out a replacement movement, thinks for a bit and then bolts a piece of copper bar across the terminals before installing it.>

#998 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 11:17 AM:

janetl @991: Congrats on acquiring Miles and Ivan; they do look cute.

Re. already neutered at eight weeks old, yes, that's the way things are moving. I know someone who has pioneered early neutering of kittens. It considerably reduces the problems of (a) unwanted litters of kittens from young female cats whose owners hadn't thought they were old enough to get pregnant, and had been letting them go outside unsupervised; (b) spaying cats who turn out to be already pregnant. Studies show that early neutering of cats (male and female) is not associated with any increase in complications of surgery or post-operatively.

#999 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 12:59 PM:

dcb, wrt your earlier "fancy dress" issue, it occurred to me on the elliptical this morning that the fundamental issue may be the difference in the use of the word 'fancy'. In the US it means decorated or of high quality - "Eating fancy food and drinking fancy wine," for example. It seems to have a different array of meanings in the UK.

I remember being thrown by Mary Renault's use of the term 'fancy boy'. It seemed to mean either a boy one fancies or an effeminate youth...or, of course, both.

#1000 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 04:15 PM:

re: cats meowing while bringing things

Our male Siamese Vicky does that with prey, while he's carrying it in. We think he's announcing what a good hunter he is.

On the other hand, an old roommate's cat Topaz, would only chitter at her prey if it got away. We used to call that her "Come out here and fight like a cat" call.

#1001 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 05:22 PM:

dcb @ 998: Our last kitten adoption was 14 years ago. It's nice seeing the advance in neutering by the veterinary profession!

#1002 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 07:25 PM:

Open thread 201 is the hip place to be.

#1003 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 11:25 PM:

If deemed to be an appropriate question by the mods, I'm curious if anybody here has opinions about the Colorado gubernatorial race? I haven't paid any attention lately, just planning to vote a straight ticket, but I'm hearing rumors that that may not be a good idea.

#1004 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2014, 11:35 PM:

Lazy person's reference forward to OT 201.

#1005 ::: Ingvar M ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2014, 07:54 AM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ #962:

I feel I should know, having once learned English with a basis entirely in Swedish. But, I can't remember (I know intelectually that there was a time in my life when I had no English, but I don't have any operative memories of "not knowing Engliah" or indeed "realising I know English", even if I have operative memories that I can definitely place before my first English lesson in school).

One of he things I would say is that Swedish sneaks around, using syllable-wide tonal components, in some cases, to convey difference in meaning (no wider than "santa claus" and "the back yard", though, so not really crucial or anything). That's apparently not too hard for native speakers of English or Dutch (the only examples I can think of, off-hand) to pick up when listening, but seems to be surprisingly hard to reproduce.

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