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November 30, 2003
The initial explosion made audible
Posted by Teresa at 03:44 PM *

Jonathan Edwards’ great sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, was first preached in Enfield, CT in 1741. It’s a classic piece of early American literature. Starting with a single line from Deuteronomy 32:35, Their foot shall slide in due time, Edwards addressed the question of why his listeners weren’t already in hell at that very moment. The effect was tremendous. He had the congregation rolling in the aisles before he was done—no small feat, considering that he was never much of an orator. Afterward, the sermon was rushed into print as Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. It’s widely credited with having touched off The Great Awakening.

What’s my interest in it? Just that it’s way cool. I’ve always liked Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God for its own sake. My mother used to start off her high school American Literature classes by having them read it.

What the above link will get you is not the text of the sermon, which is available in dozens of versions on the web. It’s something better: a link to an audio version, recorded at a Baptist church, where the minister read the whole thing aloud to his congregation in memory of Jonathan Edwards. It’s great. The sermon was written to be read aloud, and the Baptist minister is a good reader. And if that’s not your idea of entertainment, I can only point out that you already knew you weren’t me.

If you want to skip the minister’s prefatory remarks, slide forward to 9:15, where the reading starts.

Thanks to Jim Macdonald for sending me the link.

November 28, 2003
Anabuki Construction ad
Posted by Teresa at 01:20 PM *

This is one of the weirdest ads I’ve ever seen. It’s for a new development built by Anabuki Construction. Keep a close eye on those animals, because partway through the musical number they undergo certain transformations.

I highly recommend the annotated translation of it available here. Read all the way down or you won’t find out about the magic powers of tanuki.

November 26, 2003
Colorful episodes in history
Posted by Teresa at 12:48 PM *

Hogblog has noted the advent of Archie McPhee’s Pope Innocent III action figure. (I already knew about it. It’s on sale at a shop that’s just down the block from Tor. )

Hogblog is puzzled by the inscription on Pope Innocent III’s scroll, which I believe says Filii Hohenstaufenin, osculamini asinum meum. If I’m not mistaken, that’s “The Holy Roman Emperors can kiss my ass.”

That’d be about right.

Recent near-absence
Posted by Teresa at 08:19 AM *

Sorry about that. Mostly I’ve been professionally busy, plus I’ve had a few houseguests, and a few health problems, and a few rounds of reconstructing the computer setup. You know how that goes.

November 21, 2003
Open thread 11
Posted by Teresa at 07:21 AM *

Talk about Particles here below …

November 20, 2003
One for the ages
Posted by Teresa at 10:57 AM *

Speaking of stuffing someone with shredded manuscripts (as we were), Jo Walton passes on the cheerful news that a long-lost play by Aeschylus has been partially reconstructed from fragments of the text found on papyri that had been used to stuff a mummy.

I find I like the idea of being buried amidst masses of text. This is mostly becaus I have a horror of being boring. Fifty years from now, the advertisements in our magazine will be more interesting than the articles. Five hundred years from now, the old newspapers we used to pack them will be much more interesting than our dishes. If someone in the far future disinters my remains, the least I can do is give them something to read.

Oh lord, won’t you buy me …
Posted by Teresa at 12:50 AM *

Posted by John M. Ford to the Oh lord thread’s discussion of Mormon liturgical costume:

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me Some Saintly P.J.s
I can’t wear this T-shirt
At the End of Days
I’ll pay any price, but
I ain’t got eBay’s
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me
Some Saintly P.J.s

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me
Those I’ve left behind
I’m sure my precursors
Were all sweet and kind
I’ve got every name here
That Google can find
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me
Those I’ve left behind

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me
A place in the Host
I don’t need a star, Lord,
A big moon at most
To jam with yourself and
The Kid and the Ghost
Oh Lord, won’t you buy me
A place in the Host

November 19, 2003
As you know, Bob …
Posted by Teresa at 10:46 AM *

I have to quote this one. LanguageHat posted it in the Egoscanning comment thread, in the wake of Arthur Hlavaty’s remark that “I cast no first stones; I was egoscanning when the Web was a scientifictional dream.”

Ralph 4CR looked around in astonishment. “You mean… there are invisible beams all around us, carrying information to all parts of the globe, even as we speak?”

The Master of Communications turned towards him solemnly. “Yes,” he asseverated, “and the information is not carried whole, but is broken up into a myriad of infinitesimal packets, to be reassembled without fail when they reach their destination.”

“You astonish me,” breathed Ralph. “And this information is accessible to all?”

“It is,” nodded the Master. “The issues of the day are debated by all citizens, no matter where they may be located, and communication no longer waits on tides or weather.”

“And what are the great issues so decided?”

The Master cast a glance at the poll on his screen: Which Jedi Knight Are You? He looked severe. “I fear our issues would mean nothing to you across the great gulf of time you have traversed. You should go now and refresh yourself. We will speak later. You have much to learn. Vanna, show our young guest to his room.”

A lissome blonde appeared from behind a curtain and beckoned…

Oh lord
Posted by Teresa at 07:06 AM *

Right now, and for the next two days, there’s someone on eBay selling a full set of Mormon temple clothing. This isn’t the sacred long underwear that endowed Mormons are supposed to wear under their everyday clothing. Rather, it’s a full set of the men’s outerwear that’s worn during temple ceremonies.

If you’re curious, that is.

Thanks to Elizabeth Mitchell for sending me the link.

Prose and cons
Posted by Teresa at 12:00 AM *

In a burst of activity, Melanie Mills—long known to be a scam literary agent—has promoted a nonexistent writers’ conference in South Carolina, which she then cancelled without sending anyone their promised refunds on memberships they’d bought; faked her own death, masquerading as her own assistant and possibly as her own daughter as well; shut down her operation in North Myrtle Beach SC, and decamped to Canada; while operating under the name “Elizabeth von Hullessem”, fraudulently promoted and sold memberships in a nonexistent literary conference in Banff (trading on the reputation of the prestigious Banff-Calgary Wordfest), plus an equally nonexistent charity concert in Banff to benefit autism; and vanished from Banff with tens of thousands of dollars in convention fees.

The happy ending to this story is that she has now been tracked down and arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Her real name, it turns out, is Roswitha Elizabeth Von Meerscheidt-Huellessem. The Canadian courts have first dibs on her. Next up after that are Missouri and Arkansas, where she’s wanted on multiple charges of fraud and assault, including attempted murder. Only after all that does South Carolina get to take a crack at her.

Egoboo where due: At the point that word went out about Elizabeth von Hullessem decamping with all the Banff conference money, it wasn’t known that von Hullessem and Mills were the same person. However, the intrepid crew at Writer Beware spotted the similarities in Mills’ and von Hullessem’s conrunning styles. When they heard she’d been arrested, they got in touch with the RCMP, filled them in on Mills’ South Carolina activities, and put them in touch with the North Myrtle Beach detective in charge of the Mills case.

You can read the backthread of the developing story in the Melanie Mills thread on the Bewares Board, or get a nice summary of it on the utterly indispensable Writer Beware page. There’s a secondary tracking site at Preditors & Editors, too. It’s the most lurid scam agent case in years.

November 18, 2003
How the hell did I do that?
Posted by Teresa at 06:57 PM *

My post about Kim du Toit has somehow reverted to an earlier draft version of itself. So far I haven’t been able to fix it. Is there any chance someone has the earlier version in their cache? Google’s already picked up the scrootched version.

I can’t blame my luck for this one. It’s got to have been some kind of dumb mistake. Presently I’ll figure out how I did it.

Creative rewrites of the ending will be considered for adoption, if I like them enough.

November 16, 2003
Posted by Teresa at 12:44 AM *

Four days, nothing new?
Technorati must be down.
Must be. Has to be.

November 14, 2003
du Toit, du
Posted by Teresa at 07:34 PM *

Kim du Toit’s website—note the absence of a link—features the slogan, “Turning America back into a nation of riflemen, one person at a time.” This is accompanied by a little icon of a Minuteman with a long gun barrel sticking up out of his crotch.

I regret to say that this is relevant information.

Of late, du Toit has been getting more attention than he ever has before, and likely ever will again, for his essay on “The Pussification Of The Western Male.” What makes this worth mentioning now is the amount of enthusiastic approval it’s gotten from the dittoi and freepi, which has left me feeling acutely embarrassed on their behalf.

The essay begins, “We have become a nation of women”: a demonstrable untruth. If it were that easy for men to turn into women, trannies would be a lot more convincing than they are.

Besides, if all those men really had turned into women, they would have known better than to applaud du Toit’s essay. Why? Because every woman in the world knows that any time a man talks about men in general losing their masculinity, or mothers damaging their sons’ masculinity, or women losing their femininity, what he’s actually saying is, I feel painfully insecure about my own masculinity. Men who feel secure about their own masculinity don’t do that. Once in a while they may observe that a specific man of their acquaintance is being kept on a short leash, but they don’t generalize from the observation.

This makes “men are being pussified” a riff a variant of the “Some People” ploy, as in “Some people might get upset if you do that” (= I don’t want you to do that); invoking miscellaneous third parties, as in “The neighbors have all been saying that’s just the kind of person you are” (= I don’t want you to do that); the polite indirection of the Northern Tier “a guy” formula, as in “A guy might want to get a second opinion before he okays that guy’s estimates”; and claiming that one’s position is supported by the Silent Majority or by the lurkers’ e-mail.

I heard this one a lot in my youth, and was tremendously confused by it. How was it that men were in danger of losing their masculinity, and/or women of losing their femininity? I could tell the arguments were interchangeable, one the reverse of the other. I was solemnly warned against engaging in activities that might cause me to lose my femininity—having a non-trivial non-menial job, or competing in debate tournaments long enough to get really good at it—but how that connected with biology was a mystery. In my experience, femininity was something you couldn’t get rid of if you tried. It took me far, far, far too long to realize that “losing your femininity” meant “making the men around you feel like they’re not automatically the Masters of the Universe.”

That left me with only one more piece of weird encoding to figure out: masculinity. To hear these guys talk, you’d think their dangly bits were imminently going to shrivel up and fall off. Never happens. That’s because what they really mean by “masculinity” is something more like I feel like I’m not getting enough automatic respect and deference from the world around me. As often as not, what they’re actually upset about is the way they’re getting treated by other men, but they know they’re not going to get very far complaining to them. Instead, they tell their womenfolk that it’s all their fault for not showing enough respect for their masculinity.

It’s all a shuck. Men still go on being men, and their dangly bits are no more nor less efficacious than they ever were, whether or not their womenfolk agree to go along with the gag. I mean, if the degree to which a man is treated respectfully had a direct influence on his masculinity, middle-aged white execs would be superstuds, and inner-city young black men would be so meek that they’d make Alan Alda look like Rambo.

for_du_twat.jpg Making Light salutes Kim du Toit.

What set du Toit off in the first place is a little harder to divine. He seems to be upset over people making fun of Bush playing dress-up in a flight suit on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. I think someone must have told him about Bush raiding the sock drawer.

Other casus belli:

—Ever since women were given the vote, they’ve been influencing public laws and policies in favor of things that are safe, sane, and practical.

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is allowed on tv.

—Annika Sorenstam was allowed to play golf in a PGA tournament.

—The original purity of The Man Show has in subsequent seasons been subverted by girly-men.


From that, we went to this: the Cheerios TV ad.

Now, for those who haven’t seen this piece of shit, I’m going to go over it, from memory, because it epitomizes everything I hate about the campaign to pussify men. The scene opens at the morning breakfast table, where the two kids are sitting with Dad at the table, while Mom prepares stuff on the kitchen counter. The dialogue goes something like this:

Little girl (note, not little boy): Daddy, why do we eat Cheerios?
Dad: Because they contain fiber, and all sorts of stuff that’s good for the heart. I eat it now, because of that.
LG: Did you always eat stuff that was bad for your heart, Daddy?
Dad (humorously): I did, until I met your mother.
Mother (not humorously): Daddy did a lot of stupid things before he met your mother.

Now, every time I see that TV ad, I have to be restrained from shooting the TV with a .45 Colt. If you want a microcosm of how men have become less than men, this is the perfect example.

What Dad should have replied to Mommy’s little dig: Yes, Sally, that’s true: I did do a lot of stupid things before I met your mother. I even slept with your Aunt Ruth a few times, before I met your mother.

That’s what I would have said, anyway, if my wife had ever attempted to castrate me in front of the kids like that.

But that’s not what men do, of course. What this guy is going to do is smile ruefully, finish his cereal, and then go and fuck his secretary, who doesn’t try to cut his balls off on a daily basis. Then, when the affair is discovered, people are going to rally around the castrating bitch called his wife, and call him all sorts of names. He’ll lose custody of his kids, and they will be brought up by our ultimate modern-day figure of sympathy: The Single Mom.

You know what? Some women deserve to be single moms.

Men shouldn’t buy “self-help” books unless the subject matter is car maintenance, golf swing improvement or how to disassemble a fucking Browning BAR. We don’t improve ourselves, we improve our stuff.

a9 Copyright 2002-2003 - Kim du Toit. All rights reserved.

E-mails and comments become the property of Kim du Toit

Call this a government! why, just look at it and see what it’s like. There was a free nigger there, from Ohio, a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat. And there ain’t a man in that town that’s got as fine clothes as what he had. He had a gold watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane, the awfulest old gray-headed nabob in the State. And what do you think? They said he was a professor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain’t the worst. They said he could vote when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was ‘lection day, and I was just about to go and vote, myself, if I warn’t too drunk to get there. But when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote agin. Them’s the very words I said. They all heard me. And the country may rot for all me, I’ll never vote agin as long as I live.

November 11, 2003
Ghosts of the Great War, 2003
Posted by Teresa at 11:11 AM *

“We’re not making a sacrifice. Jesus, you’ve seen this war.
We are the sacrifice.” Ulster regiment, marching toward the Somme
Eleven eleven has come round again, when we remember what used to optimistically be referred to as the last great imperialist war. Many of my links are repeated (with adjustments for link rot) from last year. What the hell; they’re still relevant. Maybe more so.

World War I was what got me started reading history. I was at home with pneumonia, and somehow picked up a copy of a Penguin illustrated history of World War I. I was horrified: They did what? Then amazed and horrified: And then they did it again? And finally plunged into a profound mystery: And they kept doing it, again and again, for years? In some ways, all my reading of history thereafter has been an attempt to understand the information in that one small book.

In memory of the men who fought, a jolly contemporary folksong: Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire.

Have a look at Tony Novosel’s two pages of spooky, evocative photos of Great War memorials:

Painting: Menin Gate: The Ghosts of Ypres

The actual Menin Gate, on which are carved the names of the 54,000 Missing from the Battle of Ypres.

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. There are 73,350 names on its panels.

Kathe Kollwitz’ Grieving Parents, near the site where her son and his comrades are buried.

The Silent Sentinels, Langemarck German cemetery in Belgium.

The Sentinels again.

Watching over the German graves at Langemarck.

Le Mort Homme (The Dead Man), Verdun.

Another view. “ILS N’ONT PAS PASSÉ” means “They did not pass”.

The Guardians of Verdun.

Views of the war: John Singer Sargent does one of each.

Wilfred Owen’s grave.

Not pictures: A pertinent selection of Wilfred Owen’s poems. And a bit of Philip Larkin.

The Lost Poets of the Great War website, with its calculation of total casualties.

One of whom was young Umberto Boccioni, Italian Futurist artist. This is his “States of Mind” series: The Farewells. Those Who Go. Those Who Stay. There aren’t many paintings by Boccioni. This is a piece called Unique form of continuity in space. There is even less sculpture by him.

If there are universes with multiple branching timelines, there are thousands of them very much like ours, except that in them no one’s ever heard of J. R. R. Tolkien. The destruction, the toll of the dead, is as difficult to comprehend as the Black Death.

At one point I looked up the history of Tolkien’s unit, the Lancashire Fusiliers. First they significantly distinguished themselves at Gallipoli. Then they significantly distinguished themselves at the Somme. Here they are, about to be killed. No wonder Tolkien came back from the war saying, “Everyone I know is dead.”

An account of the Newfoundlanders.

Bad place to make a landing, Gallipoli. A few words from the last surviving ANZAC. And the other last surviving ANZAC.

There is great generosity in the monument to the dead of both sides at Kabatepe Ariburun Beach, inscribed with the speech Ataturk made in 1934 to the first ANZACs and Brits who came back to visit:
Those heroes that shed their blood And lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
Here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers,
Who sent their sons front far away countries
Wipe away your tears,
Your sons are now lying in our bosom
And are in peace
After having lost their lives on this land
They have become our sons as well
An affecting, low-key page about New Zealand public memorials: Lest We Forget: War Memorials of the First World War.
The New Zealand war memorials of the First World War have become part of the common fabric of our lives, like stop signs or lamp-posts. Virtually every township in the country has one, usually in the main street. Excluding the many honours boards and plaques in schools and churches throughout the country, there are well over five hundred public memorials to the soldiers of the Great War. Despite their numbers, the memorials are not boring or stereotypical. This was because New Zealanders showed much inventiveness in remembering the dead of the Great War. By the time the war ended, over 100,000 young New Zealanders had served overseas and some 18,000 had lost their lives. Sacrifice of this magnitude engendered enormous emotions.
One of my two favorites is the Kaitaia memorial, in Maori and English. The other is the annual ceremony at Piha. Every year there, at low tide on Anzac Day, they process out across the sand to lay their wreaths on Lion Rock ; and then the tide comes in and carries the wreaths away.

November 09, 2003
The new drives
Posted by Teresa at 11:26 PM *

We replaced the dead hard drive with two new ones, paid for out of tip jar contributions. I’m still having trouble quite believing that, and thank you thank you thank you all. Gosh. Thanks. Glad you like the weblog, or me, or whatever made you do it. Thank you.

This evening, Patrick was showing me how to backup the everyday-use drive onto the mirrored backup drive. It wasn’t complicated. I was working my way through the steps. Then the main drive started making funny noises. Then it made different funny noises. Then it made that same clicking sound the last drive made when it died.

I went and curled up with my bear and stared at the wall. Meanwhile, Patrick and Bob Webber (who’s visiting this weekend) worked over the hard drives. Eventually Patrick came in and told me my data was going to be okay. That’s because the first thing we did with the two drives was back up the main hard drive onto the secondary drive.

Providentially, the Discovery Channel was doing a marathon of shows about model rocketry nuts in Kansas. I put a pork roast in the oven, watched the pretty rockets, and tried to ignore what Patrick and Bob were doing. It’s the equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and going na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na.

They have now finished, and have eaten dinner. The roast came out well. Patrick is backing up the second drive onto the old PC. The main hard drive is going to go back to the store first thing tomorrow. I’m very calm. Very, very calm. Honest. Calm. I know that a certain percentage of hard drives are going to fail first thing. Bound to happen. This was one of them.

I’ll stop twitching any second now.

Open thread 10
Posted by Teresa at 08:59 AM *

Because we do, that’s why.

November 07, 2003
Dressed to the nines
Posted by Teresa at 11:05 AM *

Sean Bosker has recommended to my attention a new NRA publication—

The newest addition to the family of NRA official journals, Woman’s Outlook specifically caters to the multi-faceted needs of today’s NRA woman as she exercises her Second Amendment rights in pursuit and enjoyment of the American firearms lifestyle.
—and in particular their article, Dressing Up Is Still a Blast!:
As little girls we liked to dress up; as women we still like to dress to the nines—a 9mm, that is.
This lead-in is printed in a tender shade of pink, and illustrated with a photograph of a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s clothing. Sean was struck by “…the way it empowers women to have guns, and still keeps them in their place by infantilizing them. Wonderful.”

The funny thing is, this condescending froufrou has been tacked onto a no-nonsense article about pistol-grip ergonomics for smaller hands, written by no-nonsense firearms instructor Gila Hayes. If I were the editor responsible, I’d want to avoid walking along backlit ridgelines for a while.

In fact, none of the articles are strongly gendered, saving the presence of clumsily tacked-on girly bits. There’s a generic piece on travelling with guns, and a nearly generic piece on hearing protection that suggests that women might be omitting to wear noise-reduction gear because it’s unflattering, and a piece on gun safes that I strongly suspect was rewritten from manufacturers’ press releases:
A gun safe is a classic, beautiful addition to any home. … The evolution of the gun safe has seen products change from basic vaults, which protected firearms from theft, to beautiful, decorator cornerstones that ward off burglars; keep firearms out of the grasp of children; provide protection from fire; secure family valuables and also provide bodily protection for families.
Big yawn. No cred.

What I think would be way cool would be if the NRA were to seriously femme out, go way over the line into girl cootie territory. Guns and dress-up? Sure. Wail with it. Do photo spreads of fashionable clothing that works well with holsters, and evening bags that’ll hold a handgun and ammo. If they don’t have at least one photo of a woman whose pistol grips exactly match her gown, you gotta figure they’re just messin’ around.

I’d also like to see them get into some earnest discussions of what firearm strategies are best suited to the kind of violence women most frequently encounter: up close and personal, involving someone who isn’t a stranger. If they’re serious about self-defense for women, they have to consider which guns are best for prostitutes to carry, and what kind of muzzle velocity it takes to stop a berserk ex-husband.

Looked at that way, what you need is a bitty close-range gun that’ll put one or two big fat rounds into someone who really needs shooting, but won’t carry much further. It should be fairly inexpensive, because you have better ways to spend your money. It should be small, so you can tuck it in your purse or pocket, and pretty, because pretty is good. It should also be pretty because that way, it’ll take him an extra second or two to figure out that that thing in your hand fires bullets.

In short, what you want is a muff pistol. Or a “My Friend” brand combination seven-shooter and knuckleduster. Or a palm pistol, also known as a Minneapolis Protector. But most likely what you want is one of Mr. Deringer’s ingenious little guns.

The bitty slow-velocity pistol is the all-American ladies’ gun; always has been. If you were crossing the plains back when, or are in the military now, you might need a big powerful gun to defend yourself from energetically hostile brown persons. But if you’re talking about using guns for self-defense in everyday life, the likeliest scenario for a female NRA member is going to involve popping a hole through one of her menfolk at close range. It might be a random thug who’s attacked her; but statistically speaking, malign strangers are very much the minority scenario.

The NRA has a lot of members. If it figures it can stand to lose a few of them in the cause of equal empowerment for women, who am I to disapprove?

November 05, 2003
Over the Hedge
Posted by Teresa at 10:22 PM *

Paula Helm Murray sent me this to cheer me up. It worked.

The Hermeneutic Nigerian
Posted by Teresa at 01:22 AM *

I’ve been wandering in and out of fever dreams, and woke recently to find Patrick making helpless choking sounds as he read something on his screen. This turned out to be The Confidence Man: His Masquerade from John & Belle Have a Blog:

On sober, morning-after reflection, there is a link between last night’s two posts. Their mutual subterranean rhizomaticity is as follows. Zizek’s critical writings are the academic equivalent of Nigerian scam spam. (Think about it: the urgency; the dangled carrot of impossible utopian returns; the diddling stick of bold, risky, radical ALL CAPS action to be taken NOW; the exceeding verbal awkwardness due to greedily flailing, failing grasp of English; notable vagueness concerning just those salient points one would think most in need of clear explanation and exposition.) Imagine a world in which you didn’t have to subscribe to certain top literary studies journals. What if their contents just showed up in your in-box every day? (Spam-guards would give you warnings like: ‘this mail looks like it would be publishable in Critical Inquiry. Delete now?)


I am erratically to be pleasuring you from behind this urgent proposal, affective immediately, irrespective of that I make entirely no argument in person or out, nor determining validity of hereafter to follow hermeneutical proposal.

Self-control and domination converge in the distinction between THREE elements: the author of the spam, the recipient who (has to) obey the spam, AND the spam’s EXECUTION/EXECUTOR - the one who mass-mails the spam and in whom Lacan discerns the contours of the Sadean executioner/torturer. The problem is not the identity of the spam’s author and recipient: they effectively ARE the same, the emailed subject effectively IS autonomous in the sense of obeying his/her OWN spam. …
Generic post-mod gibberish wouldn’t be nearly so funny. This is the real thing.

And so back to bed…

November 04, 2003
What day is it?
Posted by Teresa at 09:57 AM *

I know I’m starting to sound like poor hapless Charlotte Sophia, but I came down with some kind of stomach bug while we were driving home from World Fantasy Con. I ralphed in the parking lots of just about all the northbound rest areas on the New Jersey Turnpike, which was an achievement of sorts. I’m just now starting to get up and around again.

The cool part of the drive north was that we fell in with some of the homeward-bound traffic from the World Champion Punkin Chunkin 2003 competition. Our first hint of this came as we were crossing the Delaware, when the beams from my headlights hit the odd-looking trailer in front of me. Painted on it were the words, BIG TEN INCH, World Champion Pumpkin Chuckers.

I let out a whoop: “Super-cool!” The Big Ten Inch, with its 100-foot-long barrel and its 4,000-foot-plus throws, is a famous pumpkin-chucking machine. I pulled up alongside the driver and had Patrick do a thumbs-up out the window, but he didn’t look around, which is probably the right thing to do when you’re hauling a trailer over a bridge late at night.

Some while later, as we were just about to exit one of New Jersey’s many fine turnpike rest areas, Patrick squinted at a couple of trailers that were pulled up alongside the curb, and said, “What are those, ground-to-air missiles?”

I glanced over at the machines as we passed, screeched to a halt, backed up, and rolled down my window. “Excuse me,” I said to their keeper, a nice young man in shorts, gumboots, and a heavy pullover, “are those catapults?”

“Yes!” he said, beaming.

“Cool. What have you been doing?”

“Chucking pumpkins.”

Of course. What else? I told him about passing the Big Ten Inch on the Delaware bridge. He asked whether I’d seen the Discovery Channel piece on catapults and pumpkin chuckers, which of course I had. “We were on that,” he said. “Our team was the one whose dialogue had to be bleeped.”

“I remember you!”

He shook my hand. He was happy. And why not? If one of the measures of celebrity is being accosted in a parking lot by an admiring stranger, he was there.

“We took second place in the torsion class this year. We would have killed the guy who won—we got that thing cranked up really tight—” (he said, waving at the huge hank of rope that was looped through the chassis of his machine) “—but we broke our arm.”

I made the appropriate sympathetic noises. “Gotta get a stronger arm.”

“This arm was strong. It was a solid ash beam—” he held up his fingers to indicate what looked like a squared-off beam at least 10” on a side “—coated with fiberglass.”

“Whoah,” I said, for lack of anything better.

“No, really, I’m glad we broke it. If we hadn’t cranked it up so far that the arm broke, we—”

And I knew how it had to end, so I said it with him in unison: “—wouldn’t have been trying hard enough!

We agreed that I should maybe come to the pumpkin chucking next year. If I don’t go to World Fantasy Con in Tempe, I’m thinking about it.

November 03, 2003
Posted by Teresa at 09:02 AM *

Hi. Teresa here, still mournful. It looks like I’ve lost all my files since early September, including all the notes, drafts, and research for several writing projects. I’ve also lost the text of various books authors had sent me, and one large graphics project.

It’s funny. Losing data doesn’t feel like the loss of a possession. It feels like you’ve lost a part of yourself.

If any of you have copies of material (including e-mail) which you sent me or I sent you, or of anything else that would have been in my lost files, and you can see your way clear to re-sending it, I’ll be most grateful.

I’ve temporarily put up a tip jar at the top of the left-hand column. If you feel like helping underwrite the data recovery process, the new hard drive, and the backup systerm, that would be just wonderful. No guilt or anything if you can’t or don’t, but book publishing is notoriously a shoestring operation, with all that that implies.

And I promise to back up my files oftener in the future. I’ve had weird luck with that. I’ve had two other major data-loss disasters in my computer-using life, and they were both freak accidents that happened while I was backing up.

All best —


Addendum: Some items from the comment thread

From Danny O’Brien:
I hope you get enough money to try data recovery. Good data recovery places are marvellous - they have many many tricks to abstract data. Probability is on their side, too. A hardware problem generally only damages a small part of the recorded area, while the rest of the data is preserved in aspic. In many ways, data recovery is a job that attracts the very best in geekery. It requires attention to detail, a forensic spirit, and (because the best stay in contact with the frantic owner every minute of the process) a keen understanding and sympathy for human nature at its most vulnerable. Also, the rewards mental and monetary are fantastic. I bet a lot of people fall in love with their data recoverer. I bet data recoverers have groupies. So my advice is to keep heart, keep your drive safe until you can afford to fix it, reassure yourself that you ahve probably not lost anything, but merely gained a little early personal archaeology. And do try not to run off with the tall dark handsome stranger with the neat set of CD-Rs I see in your future.
from Tom Whitmore:
One silly idea suggested to me when mine died (and the people who are actually technically competent can tell me if this makes any sense at all, because it sounds like magic to me) is to put the drive in the freezer for about 10 minutes and then try to boot it again. I did not do this, and I have no idea if it would work or exactly how….
from Jordin Kare:
Tom, It’s not silly; I’ve heard of it being done. I’m not sure how it works — I can think of three or four possible effects — but it sometimes does. It’s worth a try on Teresa’s disk, but only because it doesn’t cost anything and won’t hurt if it doesn’t work. (Teresa, if you try it, just be sure no water has condensed on the drive before you apply power to it.) But I’d be very surprised if it helped. The driver board swap is also a reasonable thing to try, but has some risk of doing more damage if you break cables or bend pins. I’d try it if I had a duplicate drive (I’ve done it in the past) but it’s not something to try casually. (I was going to say it was really unlikely to work on a modern drive, but thinking about the noise this particular drive made, it’s just possible the problem is a blown transistor in the head actuator drive, which a board swap would fix.) (Teresa, if you want someone to try it, I can probably find a duplicate drive, and do something useful with it afterward if the swap doesn’t help.)
from Erik V. Olson:
Drive freezing works if you have weak connections (the cold shrinks everything — including the space in between the connectors.) It can also break loose a head that’s stuck to the platter.

It also gets the greatest looks when the accounting folks see you walk into the break room and take a drive out of the freezer. “Well, the magentic field on the platter weakens with heat — you hit the curie point, and the data’s gone — so if you store your hard drives in the freezer, they’ll last longer. Why do think superconducting magnets have to be kept so cold?” Try to keep a straight face. See how many floppies show up in the freezer.

In the waving a dead chicken file, this is what I do with a drive that is not going to be sent for recovery.
1) Move it to another computer — if you are dealing with a marginal power supply, this might light it.

2) Whack it at startup. See the infamous Quantum 40MB and 80MB drives that lived in the Mac SE and SE30 that loved to develop stiction. The fun was pulling apart an SE, whacking the drive, which would then spin, then putting the SE back together with the power on — without hitting the yoke of the built in monitor, with Dire Consequence.

3) Freeze it for 15 minutes, then power it up. As Jordin says, condensation bad. Do this on a dry, low humidity day.

4) 2+3 equals 4, in this particular case. This is the “kick in the pants with a frozen boot” technique.

5) If you can, swap controller boards. This requires another identical drive — one you don’t care about, since it is easy to mung the controller board, thus killing another drive.

6) This is hardcore — but it’s worked for me. Once. You really shouldn’t even try.

Seriously. Don’t go here. Honest. This is commitment, and there is no going back — once you do this, you either get the data, or nobody does.

Okay. You take the lid off and spin the platters with your finger, TOUCHING ONLY THE HUB, then flip on the power. If it spins, you DUPE THE DISK RIGHT THEN AND THERE. The drive’s lifetime is now measured in minutes, and every speck of dust that hits that platter is one more chance for the heads to hit something and come crashing down into the discs themselves. This is known as “a head crash” to the boring, and “Gone Farming” to the rest of us. If you’ve seen the resulting furrows, you’ll understand.

Of course, there is no recovery of data that the heads have scraped off the disc. So don’t even think about pulling out screw one until you have another hard drive tested, formatted and online. If your duplication command is complex, write it out as a batch file. Seconds can count — the one time this worked for me, when the copy ended, I turned to report to the boss that I’d managed to get the data off, whereupon, SCREEECLUNK, and it was dead, and there was a lovely amount of metallic poweder in the air.

Magnetic powder, no less. Not much magnetism, mind you — but powder doesn’t need a whole lot of pull.

Once you’ve cracked the lid, you either get the data off, or you don’t. If you don’t, then, well, go ahead and pull the platters out, they’re kind of neat and shiny, until you get fingerprints all over them, and boy, do they take fingerprints. Some ring like cymbals, but most are fairly atonal. They are, until you mess with them, very, very flat indeed, so if you need a small reference surface, there you go.

Needless to say, if there’s any chance you’ll be sending the drives to the pros, don’t do this. If you do, the chances of you getting the data back drop — and the cost of not getting that data back rise.
Finally, well, a quarter pound of black powder sends dead drives a very long way indeed. Not very good at data recovery, but soothing in some ways none the less.

November 02, 2003
Hardware failure.
Posted by Patrick at 04:11 PM *

Patrick writing here, not Teresa. We’ve been at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC. It’s been a good weekend, with one exception: overnight, while powered up and connected to my iBook, Teresa’s external FireWire drive, her main personal mass-storage device, suffered some kind of catastrophic failure. While there are backups, naturally they’re neither as complete nor as recent as one would prefer. As a result, while we won’t know exactly until we get home, it’s very likely that Teresa has lost all of her email from the last several weeks—possibly longer—and quite a bit of other recordkeeping and work.

Hardware techie Jordin Kare did pry the drive out of the case in order to check whether the IDE-to-FireWire bridge was at fault. This doesn’t appear to be the case; in fact, all the signs point to the worst sort of random disk crash, the sort where the drive clicks repeatedly while trying to power itself up. As best as I can tell, some or all of the data might be recoverable at a cost we probably can’t afford. When we get home, first I’m going to buy her a new drive, second I’m going to restore as much as I can from various old backups, and third I’m going to figure out what we can afford in terms of easy home backup systems. Then I hope to put some energy into inquiring in detail as to whether there’s any hope of prying data off of the crashed drive. To this end Teresa and I may be appealing to our many readers who know much more about hardware than we ever will.

To say that Teresa is upset about all this is an understatement. Jordin said a good thing: “I’ve known people who’ve suffered this level of data loss and life does go on, although it feels for a while like it won’t.” Teresa will be back here to post when she has the heart to do so.

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