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January 30, 2004
Pickled dragon
Posted by Teresa at 07:35 AM *

Sean Bosker sent me this story of a pickled dragon found in a jar in someone’s Oxfordshire basement. It’s a pretty piece of modeling work, but I have my doubts about the suggested date and provenance. It looks like an awfully modern dragon to me, and I have real problems with the idea that it was hoaxed up by scientists for scientists. What biologist would endow a neonatal specimen with adult characteristics, or wings that unfold in utero?

From correspondence
Posted by Teresa at 12:11 AM *

John M. Ford writes:

A comment someone sent to Neil about hoping there was a monument to Wodehouse in London somewhere kicked off a story fragment, which may or may not become an actual story, about Stanley F. Ukridge encountering just such a searching American, and obligingly showing him the memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan in Embankment Gardens (“Bronze, marble, nymph, mandolin—everything he could have hoped for”) followed by a round of drinks at the American’s expense at the Savoy Bar.

Ukridge decides, as he would, that this walking-tour thing would be a fine racket, and starts taking Americans to see the places where all six of King Henry’s wives got their heads chopped off (all, conveniently, now pubs), Mrs. Miniver’s back garden, complete with German sitzmark, and the statue of Robin Hood in Piccadilly Circus.

Thing is, London seems to be modifying itself in response to this; Ukridge is a bit worried to suddenly see a blue plaque in Covent Garden commemorating the first meeting of Prof. Higgins and Col. Pickering.

Title, of course, is “Town, Ukridge, Ricardus Tertius.”

January 27, 2004
Cue the ominous music
Posted by Teresa at 01:21 PM *

Anybody notice how much Joseph Lieberman looks like Senator Palpatine? Especially when he’s talking.

January 26, 2004
North country
Posted by Teresa at 10:54 PM *

So, what’s happening up towards Dixville Notch? Jim? Nancy? Who else have we got up that way?

I just gave Patrick a large rock I’ve been saving for this occasion. I collected it from Dixville Notch when I was up there visiting, that time I sprained my ankle when I was photographing the moose.

The Koufax Awards
Posted by Teresa at 11:20 AM *

The nominations are out for this year’s Koufax Awards for liberal weblogging. (They’re named for Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers’ great southpaw pitcher. Go figure.) Voting is going on right now over in Wampum. I’ve been nominated in three categories, which is an honor and at the moment is making me feel almost paralytically shy. I expect I’ll survive.

Anyway, the nominations are great, and I’m egobooed as all heck, but what I really want to say is: Dear readers, thank you all, very much. The point of Making Light is that you should enjoy it; and if you have, I’m happy.

For the record, the categories in which I’ve been nominated are Best Writing; Best Post, for The Fabric of the City; and Best Series, for my posts on the destruction and whereabouts of Iraq’s antiquities and national library [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Also, Patrick’s weblog Electrolite was nominated for Best Design.

I still think the comment threads are the best thing about Making Light, but that’s not one of the award categories. Naturally, I think it should be.

Thanks again.


January 24, 2004
Blog dis record
Posted by Teresa at 10:28 AM *

I’m swiping a link from Anil Dash: Jay Smooth of (“Fair and Balanced Hiphop”) has made the first-ever blog dis record. If I have this correctly—I’m trying hard to not sound clueless here—it was made on the occasion of Jay Smooth’s wanting beef with another blog, Jessica Hopper’s Tiny Lucky Genius AKA the Unicorn’s Tear. Or maybe not; as he says,

I was totally totally kidding, she seems mad cool and probably able to have me killed.
Well, hey. He’s made the dis record available as a downloadable mp3, and has posted the lyrics. I’d quote them entire if that weren’t a jerk thing to do, so here’s a partial:
…we keep it tight, featured site up at movable type I fill suckaz all over the blogosphere with dread
walk mean streets these geeks fear to tread
but every now and then I hear footsteps behind me
another small timer like yourself getting grimy
tiny.abstract about to catch a clapback
next time you post about me, watch your trackback
cuz I’m about to ping you with the real
when a unicorn cries tell me how does it feel?
you think your tiny sucky blog makin me feel fear?
I get more hits in a week than you get all year
I’ve seen a lot of weblog arguments that boiled down to those same sentiments. In most of those cases, I’d rather have listened to Jay Smooth’s version.

January 23, 2004
Free giant shrimp from the oceans of Mars
Posted by Teresa at 07:53 PM *

Okay. Long John Silver’s is the coolest fast-food chain in America. I got this one from Stefan Jones. Long John Silver’s has offered to give everyone free giant shrimp if NASA finds conclusive evidence that oceans have existed on Mars. Even a cheesy press release (what do you expect? It was written by the publicity department of a fast-food chain) can’t entirely camouflage the voice of true space exploration enthusiasts:



LOUISVILLE, KY, January 15, 2004 - Long John Silver’s announced today that it will give America free Giant Shrimp if NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover project finds conclusive evidence of an ocean on Mars by February 29, 2004. The out-of-this-world offer from the world’s most popular seafood chain celebrates NASA’s efforts to find traces of ocean water—and possibly, evidence of life—on Mars.

Steve Davis, President of Long John Silver’s, Inc., and A&W Restaurants, Inc. sent a letter to NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, expressing support for NASA’s efforts to find conclusive evidence of an ocean on Mars. In addition, Davis announced plans to provide free Giant Shrimp to America if conclusive evidence of an ocean is found.

“We have closely followed NASA’s recent exploration of Mars and all of us are rooting you on to find ocean water on the Red Planet,” Davis wrote. “The ‘Free Giant Shrimp’ offer is our way of saying NASA’s exploration of Mars and the discovery of ocean water would be ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for seafood.’”

In the letter, Davis also officially registered interest in Long John Silver’s becoming the first seafood restaurant on Mars. “It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s just a matter of ‘when’ human beings are able to live permanently on Mars. Long John Silver’s mission is to feed people with delicious seafood wherever they are—on earth or even outer space.”

“We are strongly behind NASA’s efforts to find conclusive evidence of an ocean on Mars for two reasons,” said Mike Baker, Chief Marketing Officer for Long John Silver’s, Inc. “As Americans, we’re proud of NASA’s exploration of space; as the world’s most popular quick-service seafood chain, we get excited about ocean water, wherever it is. If there’s ocean water on Mars, that would be giant news. And giant news calls for Giant Shrimp!”

If NASA announces the discovery of conclusive evidence of an ocean on Mars prior to February 29, 2004, America gets free Giant Shrimp at participating Long John Silver’s restaurants on Monday, March 15, 2004, from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. Baker and his team are closely monitoring the progress of the Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit,” which has already begun its quest to find evidence of ocean water on Earth’s celestial next-door neighbor.

The company will rely on top scientific experts leading NASA’s Athena Science Payload Investigation team to ultimately provide an official declaration if conclusive evidence of an ocean has been found on Mars. Long John Silver’s will look to the team’s Principal Investigator Steven Squyres and Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson to provide official news on NASA’s Mars exploration web site at

In addition, consumers can find updates on NASA’s progress and join in the hunt for ocean water on Mars by visiting
You could argue that they’re just trying to promote the introduction of their Giant Shrimp; but fast-food chains are always introducing this-or-that new menu item, and they don’t usually do it by expressing fervent enthusiasm for space exploration.

Just compare their commitment to George Bush’s. They’re promising to give away free shrimp. He sent up a trial balloon about space exploration, found it didn’t give him a jump in the polls, killed Hubble, did other miscellaneous damage to science programs, and has now stopped talking about space exploration and moved on to another trial balloon, athletes and steroids.

(That’s how Sen. Joseph McCarthy got onto his “commie conspirators in the government” kick, you know. He’d just been casting around, delivering speeches on this that and the other thing, no real pattern to it. He wasn’t a thoughtful man, never had any real principles; he was just seeing what sold. Then, in some minor venue in West Virginia, he started riffing on “communists in the government”, and registered a sharp jump in public interest and media coverage. He riffed on it some more, got the same effect, and was off and running. If his audience had responded to calls for polka-dotted rather than striped neckties, he’d have gone after that instead—and right now, so would George Bush. That’s how you can tell it’s an election year: George only talks to us when he wants something out of us. Right now he’s looking for some new buttons he can push. Thus his talk about space exploration, and athletes and steroids, and all his other whack-a-mole momentary crusades. He’ll never care what you think, but this is the one year in four when he cares what you’ll respond to. … But I digress.)

Getting back to my subject, I can’t even object to Long John Silvers’ vulgar enthusiasm at the prospect of selling seafood in space. Why not? It’s what they do. If I get to go to Mars (hey, you never know), you can bet I’ll be trying to rig some way to print, bind, and distribute some appropriate piece of text while I’m there, thus inaugurating both Martian publishing and Martian bibliographies.

Furthermore, if I were the Weather Channel, I’d be adding Martian weather reports to my programming right now. Why not? We have the data. Or anyway, we have some data, for a while; and wouldn’t it be cool to have the temperature on Mars reported along with the temperature in Vladivostok, Yuma, International Falls, Trieste, Coober Pedy, and MacMurdo Station?

I’m glad at least one organization out there gets it. Let’s hear it for them Giant Shrimp.

Open thread 17
Posted by Teresa at 12:41 AM *

The world is so full of a number of things …

January 21, 2004
Something new in Short Creek
Posted by Teresa at 11:00 PM *

Elizabeth Mitchell has pointed me toward a strange little story that’s developing in Colorado City (formerly Short Creek) Arizona: The town’s children are fleeing. It started less than a week and a half ago, when two girls named Fawn Broadbent and Fawn Holm ran away for fear of being forced into polygamous “marriages”.

You’d have done the same.

It wasn’t the first time children have tried to run away from Short Creek. The difference was that this time, the authorities didn’t return the Fawns to their families. They escaped and stayed escaped. That story went round the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saint) community at lightning speed, and in the week that followed, eight more children ran. All it took was the hope of real escape, and some indication that help was available in the outside world.

Polygamy is nothing new in Short Creek. The Arizona Strip—the isolated patch of northwestern Arizona north of the Grand Canyon and south of the Utah border—has always depended on its wearying inaccessibility and that handy Arizona/Utah boundary line to keep outside law enforcement at bay. It took a long time for that whole area to shake loose of polygamy after the practice was outlawed; but over time, as its holdout polygamist groups have gradually become more and more marginal and self-isolating, their communal behavior has just gotten pathological.

For instance, FLDS boys and girls used to court and marry in relatively normal fashion. Then Rulon Jeffs, their prophet at that time, decided that it was a sin for boys and girls to fraternize, or to seek each other out as potential spouses without priesthood supervision. Courting was replaced by the “placement” system, under which all marriages are decided by the group’s prophet. Teenage girls are assigned to much older and already-married husbands, essentially as chattel, in much the same spirit in which an Anglo-Saxon leader would hand out gold rings to his followers. This monopoly has made multiple wives an index of status and favor for men in the community.

Don’t imagine these households as cheery group or line marriages. Most of these women are leading bleak, impoverished, hopelessly dreary lives.

Placement marriage means FLDS boys are no longer permitted to have normal interactions with girls their own age, social or otherwise. Given that so many semi-related children are living jumbled together in overcrowded polygamous households, it’s not surprising that incest and sexual abuse have become common. The dislocations produced by the placement system have also led to supernumerary teenage boys literally being driven out of town—shipped off to the FLDS colony in Bountiful, BC, or assigned to two-year work missions at businesses operated by wealthier and more powerful polygamists (with their paychecks going directly home to the organization in Short Creek), or taken to Salt Lake City and dumped out on the street, or simply run out of town by the all-FLDS police.

The local slang term for marriageable girls is “poofers”. One day they’re living with their parents, attending school, just being teenage girls. The next day, poof, they’re gone. Marriages aren’t publicly announced or celebrated—often they’re scarcely celebrated at all—and the girls are given minimal advance notice. They just disappear into their husbands’ households: poof! Sometimes FLDS girls from the Arizona Strip are swapped for girls from the Bountiful colony, which makes the girls on both sides of the swap even more tractable.

(By the way, this is scarcely distinguishable from the methods used in the modern-day slave trade. The basic recipe starts when you separate the slaves from everyone who might protect or support them. You physically abuse them so they’re frightened and disoriented. You put them in a controlling environment where they’re powerless and deprived of outside information, and make sure that they don’t have proper ID, access to transportation, or money of their own. You repeatedly tell them that this is where they belong. And then you exploit the hell out of them.)

Once these girls have had babies, they’re stuck. They can’t abandon their children, and they have no more place to go than they did before. They can’t sue their “husband” for support; they were never legally married to him. They may not have a Social Security Number. They may not have a birth certificate. They have minimal education. They’ve been told all their lives that outsiders are sinful, dangerous, and malign. And everyone they know in the world keeps telling them that where they are is where they belong. So they still don’t run. And because they don’t run they have more children, often at a rate of one a year, which leaves them depressed and exhausted.

The FLDS community lives on land owned by their church, which effectively means it’s owned by their prophet. Members build their houses themselves at their own expense, but if they dissent, misbehave, or wind up on the losing side in political struggles, they’re evicted and shunned. Wives or children can be reassigned to other households. The mayor, city council, school board, and law enforcement personnel are all FLDS members, and the town hasn’t had a single contested election since the day it was incorporated as Colorado City.

One of the community’s biggest sources of income is government money. A large number of households are on food stamps, and many get childcare subsidies and free public health care. The local school district has 100 employees for 300 students, and quite a few of those employees have school district cars and credit cards for their personal use. I can’t do justice to the financial details.

For a good overall survey of this subject, I recommend the four-part series by Al Herron that was published by the Prescott Daily Courier. This source is typographically easier to read, but only has the first two installments. This source has all four.

If you want more, you can’t do much better than the investigative journalism of the New Times, which last year ran a series of eleven stories on the FLDS community, starting with this one. That story ends with links to all the later installments. And if this is all sounding just too alien to you, you may want to begin with this overview of Mormon fundamentalist groups.

Is there a moral here? There’s room for any moral you want to draw. My favorite is, “There’s a reason the founders of the Constitution thought separation of church and state was a good idea.” You’re welcome to draw your own.

Housekeeping notes from all over
Posted by Patrick at 11:24 AM *

We’ve made a bunch of small changes to the Nielsen Hayden weblogs over the last few days, some of which are prompted by comment spam and some of which are meant to enhance Your User Experience. Message: we care. Among them:

  • Each comment now has its own permalink, riding on its timestamp; you can use this to, for instance, put a link to someone else’s comment inside your own.
  • All comments now display the author’s name at their beginning, rather than at their end.
  • You must preview your comment before posting it.
  • Older comment threads have been closed; folks wishing to comment on old threads are encouraged to do so in the most recent “open thread.” If people seem interested in continuing or reviving an older thread, we’ll be happy to reopen it.
  • If you attach a URL to your comment header, Movable Type now renders it as a URL with a redirect to your site. This makes it harder for comment spammers to get Googlejuice out of writing their URLs to our comment threads.
  • Commenting is now throttled—you can’t post comments less than twenty seconds apart.
  • Javascripted “popup” windows have been eliminated. Everything now displays in a regular browser page.
If any of this causes plagues of locusts, rains of frogs, or comment threads turning Chinese, please don’t hesitate to let us know. However, the scary error message currently showing up at the bottom of the “preview” page is a known glitch of MT 2.661 which will presumably be shortly hunted down and destroyed from the giant steel-glass-and-chromium headquarters of Six Apart. Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem to be hurting anything.

January 18, 2004
Back in business
Posted by Patrick at 10:41 PM *

We are, and you may resume commenting whenever you wish. With the patient assistance of Steve Cook (check out his splendid weblog), we appear to have successfully ported all of Making Light and Electrolite from gunky old Berkeley DB to snazzy, fast-moving MySQL. Yes, just days ago we would have said “huh?” just like you’re doing now, but rest assured this will give us ever so many more tools for fighting evil and doing good. Right now we’re both going to have a stiff drink.

It’s possible some formatting oddities will turn up in the archives as a result of all this. Please feel free to let us know about them so we can fix them.

Posted by Patrick at 12:03 PM *

If you try to comment to Making Light or Electrolite for the next little while, chances are your comment won’t properly post. This is because we’re trying once again to convert the site to a MySQL backend. We’ll amend this post immediately once this is complete.

Thanks to blogger and database-slinger Steve Cook for his copious help with this.

UPDATE: The conversion ran for nearly two hours and failed; we’re going to chase down glitches in the database and then try again later today. Once again, we’ll update this post when we do; meanwhile, for the moment, comments can be posted normally.

FURTHER UPDATE (4:30 EST): Okay, lay off attempting to post comments for a little while, once again. Thanks.

January 15, 2004
Recipes to raise your core temperature
Posted by Teresa at 11:27 PM *

A week and a year ago I posted a recipe for my Bacon and Egg Soup. Here it is again, back by request, with only slight modifications:

Bacon and egg soup

1 lb. good bacon
1/2 C. chopped shallots
3/4 C. frozen spinach or collard greens
1/2 C. water
2-4 eggs
3 cans Campbell’s chicken broth
1/3 C. shelled chopped pistachios
3/4 C. fresh cilantro, loosely chopped
3/4 C. grated muenster cheese
several T. heavy cream, to taste
black pepper, sage, mace
2 T. dry sherry
1 packet unflavored gelatin (optional)

Chop the bacon and the shallots both small and fry them together in a pan until the bacon is crisped. Set them aside. Drain off all the grease except a little, and use that and the water to cook the collards until they soften. Turn off the fire and let your pan cool while you beat two or three or four eggs. If you only use two eggs, first sprinkle a packet of unflavored gelatin into your chicken stock. Beat the chicken stock into the eggs. Pour this into the pan with the collards and heat, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens. This will be sudden, so keep your fire moderate and watch closely. While you’re stirring, throw in the pistachios and cilantro, and season to taste with black pepper, a good pinch of rubbed sage, and a little mace. When the soup has thickened, turn off the fire and keep stirring. Add the crisp bacon and onions, and a little later the cheese, stirring the whiles until the cheese melts. Temper it up with sherry and cream and serve it forth.

Further: You can also make this soup with leftover baked ham, and use the juices from the ham’s baking if you’re not on a low-salt diet. A very nice addition is queso de freir, also known as queso para freir, queso fresco, queso blanco fresco, and panela. It’s a crumbly white Hispanic cheese that doesn’t melt when you cook it. If you take a slice and fry it in a little oil, browning it on both sides, it’s like an entire slice of the little crispy bits you get around the edges of a grilled cheese sandwich. Take several of these browned cheese slices and use your scissors to cut them up into strips. At the last minute, throw them into the soup in place of the grated cheese.
This one’s dated 26 January 2002:
One-of-those-days soup, using whatever’s in the kitchen

Take a pot, put a couple of inches of water in it, and set it on to boil. Add a little salt.

Go through the vegetable drawer. Pare and slice three small parsnips, a celery-knob, and a double handful of baby carrots. Simmer. Pare, and cut into small cubes, half of a very large sweet potato. Toss it in with the simmering roots. Note for later the bunch of green onions in the drawer.

Rummage through everything in the freezer. Remove partial bags of frozen mixed vegetables, okra, and chopped red and green peppers, about a large fistful of each if you have big hands. Forget to use the frozen mustard greens, which would have been good. Note for later the bag of frozen uncooked potstickers.

Turn out the pantry cupboard. Come up with three cans of College Inn chicken broth. Toss one in with the cooking veggies, which are smelling good. Wash and add the frozen okra. Season with black pepper. After a while, toss in another can of chicken broth plus the mixed vegetables and the peppers.

Time now for those green onions. Clean and chop them and add them to the pot along with the last can of chicken broth. Adjust the seasoning. Adjust it still more with the last two fingers of Amontillado sherry, friend to soups.

Turn up the fire under the pot. Run a big bowl of hot water. Take a dozen and a half frozen uncooked potstickers and put them into the hot water to relax while the soup comes up to a good simmer. Fish them out and introduce them gently to the soup. Keep ducking their heads with the ladle for ten minutes or so while they cook.

Ladle out into big bowls. Pretend you did it all on purpose.
The next one is also process-oriented. It’s somewhere between a macedoine and plain old vegetable soup. Patrick likes it a lot.
Procedural vegetable soup

Put three fingers of water into a good pot, salt it a bit, and get it started over a low fire. Keep the water to a loose minimum, and keep the fire low.

Potatoes (if large and white, 1-3; if small and red, 4-6), cubed
a whole onion, diced, or if you’re flush the equivalent in diced shallots
1 large or 3 measly parsnips, scraped, sliced into thinnish rounds
carrots equal to 125% - 250% of the mass of parsnips, scraped & sliced
several stalks of celery, coarsely chopped

You only need one kind of potato. The onion is non-negotiable. Celery can be skipped if you have a lot of parsnips plus some Italian parsley. Wash them all, cut them in pleasant pieces, and toss them into the water in the order in which they cook. This lot all needs to go in early, as they’re going to become best friends.

This lot is optional but pleasant:

salsify, if you’ve got it
turnip, but not too much; say, 1/2 - 3/4 cup
gold but not red beet, cubed, 1/2 - 3/4 cup
winter squash, cubed, not to exceed a cup or two
leek, if your initial onion was small

Wash, peel, cut up, add. Skip the ones you don’t like.

one yam or sweet potato, peeled and cubed
a few fresh tomatillos, washed and cubed
1/2 - 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds, pistachios, or cashews

The yam makes it a little sweet. The tomatillos make it a little tart. They’re important. I wouldn’t want to do without either of them. If you’re using almonds or pistachios, blanch them first so you won’t have floating skins in the soup.

Keep stirring the soup. Very important throughout this recipe: don’t add any more water than you have to.

a handful of okra, cut up
frozen pearl onions, in a sane quantity
1/2 - 1 cup of sliced portobello or other nice mushroom
1 can of white shoepeg corn, or plain corn if it’s what you have
1-3 zucchini, pattypan, or yellow summer squash, or a mixture thereof
1-1/2 bell pepper’s worth of bell pepper, preferably in colors
broccoli, brussels sprouts, or cauliflower, 1 - 2-1/2 cups
sugar snap peas, snow pea pods, or frozen green peas, a cup or two
green onions

In that order.

The okra and mushrooms are optional. The pearl onions are nice if you’ve been modest when adding your other varieties of onion. If you’re using brussels sprouts, cut them in half lengthwise. It’ll be a different soup if you don’t have at least one kind of summer squash, one member of the cabbage family, and one sweet pea-related vegetable. This soup requires one of each sort.

Turn the fire down.

Adjust the salt and add a pleasant quantity of coarsely ground black pepper. Sprinkle on and stir in 1-3 packets of unflavored gelatin, unless you don’t want to. Three packets will give you a thick, glutinous, almost gooey soup—which is good or bad, depending on your preferences—and the leftovers will turn to vegetable aspic in the refrigerator. One or two packets are closer to the norm.

When the soup’s nearly finished, add a quarter- to a half-cup of dry sherry and a quarter to a half stick of butter. Stir gently until the sherry stops smelling raw. Serve with slices of fresh French bread (buttered or not) and a good chilled white wine.

Randy Paul, come back and give me Mercia Maria Esteves Barbosa’s lentil soup recipe.

Everybody keep themselves warm and cheerful, okay? And remember: four out of five times when I specify a quantity, I’m half guessing. Adjust your math accordingly.

[Recipe Index]

January 14, 2004
O, desire
Posted by Teresa at 08:12 PM *

I have my enthusiasms, but I’ll admit to only one irrational obsession: citrus. Love ‘em. Want to sample all the kinds there are. And after that: marmalade.

So, while this article from the NYTimes didn’t quite make my knees buckle, it nevertheless fired my ambitions. Thai limes, finger limes, and Rangpur limes have now been added to a wish list that already included Buddha’s Hand citron, bergamot orange, ponderosa lemon, granito, citrangequat, indiro mandarinquat, kalamansi lime, faustrimedin, vaniglia pink orange, chinotto, mamelon/sweet limetta, Hong Kong and Fukushu kumquats, citrange, citrangequat, and Poire du Commandeur, plus a lot more calamondins and Seville oranges and lavender gems to confirm my earlier impressions. (Scored this past year: pineapple oranges, which make good eating, and trifoliate oranges, which make good marmalade.)

If anyone reading this knows where I can get odd varieties of citrus, I conjure thee to speak.

Those who were around here last April may recognize the “sweet limes” discussed in the article as the mystery citrus that Kathy Li and other readers helped identify.

And you were aware that Australia has more and weirder kinds of limes than any other part of the world, right? Varieties include the round lime, Russell River lime, desert lime, Humpty Doo lime, and Mount White lime, plus new hybrid varieties like the Outback lime, Sunrise lime, and Blood lime. I don’t know why they have so many kinds; they just do.

Finally, for you fans of the ongoing saga: the One Tree.

Posted by Teresa at 09:26 AM *

A busted furnace is a real attention-grabber when the outdoor temperature is 9 F.

Movie reviews
Posted by Teresa at 06:00 AM *

The winners have been announced for Move On’s Bush in 30 Seconds competition. The challenge was simple: Make a thirty-second ad. Over 1,500 submissions were received. I’ve now watched the winners and the finalists, and concluded that the winners are better. Some of the finalists are pretty good too.

Below is my annotated list. I’ve linked to the low-bandwidth versions. If you want the high-bandwidth version, or the really-low-bandwidth slideshow version, they’re available onsite.

Overall Best Ad and People’s Choice Winner: Child’s Pay. A lyrical and damning look at the long-term effects of the Bush deficit.
Runners-up for Best Overall Ad:

In My Country. Preachy and obvious. I’d skip it.

Polygraph. Decent enough, but no surprises.

What Are We Teaching Our Children?. This one’s worth watching. It owes a little something to the classic Where did you want to be? ad, but that’s all to the good.

Imagine. Just assume that unless I specifically say otherwise, every entry I didn’t like was preachy and obvious.

Human Cost of War. Okay, I guess. Demonstrates that the REM music video trope of saying one thing in the on-screen text and another on the audio track, over the top of a fast-moving video montage, is harder to do well than you might think. On the other hand, its TMI confusion does save it from being preachy and obvious.

Desktop. A bit of a lightweight, but witty and deft. Would have been more of a standout in the Animation category, which IMO is where it belonged.

Wake Up America. P&O. Implies voters are dumb, which is not an effective message.

Army of One. Good choice of subject97Bush’s callous treatment of the serving military97but fails to pull together a clear message at the end.

Bankrupt. Never quite jells. Escapes being preachy and obvious by being diffuse and confusing.

Hood Robbin’. Say those two magic words: p___ and o___. Also a___, as in awful. Storyline has a guy in a green Peter Pan costume and a George Bush mask, running through a neighborhood stealing stuff from the citizenry, then delivering the swag to a guy in a suit at a corporate office building.

Leave No Billionaire Behind. Another real goodie. Ingredients: Kids, piggy banks, plutocrats. Don’t miss the logo at the end.

Bush’s Repair Shop. Simple premise, less than brilliant writing, but oy, have they got a great prop to play with.

Gone in 30 Seconds. P&O. Statistics from the Bush Administration viewed as a speedometer, wth car crash sounds at the end. Skippable.
Winner, Funniest Ad: If Parents Acted Like Bush. Deservedly the winner.
Runners-up for Funniest Ad:

Bush Sucks. Okay, I laughed out loud at this one. Its best feature is its gleeful manic energy, but it needed tighter editing.

Greatest Hits. Bush as late-night-TV record compilation. A little preachy, a little obvious, but it’s passably funny and it has the good sense to move fast.

If the Bush Administration Was Your Roommate 3. Kind of funny, but I suspect it’s a lot better in combination with 1 and 2.
Winner, Best Animated Ad: What I Been Up To. Very good. Definite Trey Parker influence there.
Runners-up for Best Animated Ad:

Brother, Can You Spare a Job?. Great black-and-white animation reminiscent of Max Fleischer. Unfortunately, it’s teamed with an incoherent script.

Yeehaw!. Preachy, obvious; kind of fun in a few places.

School Yard Politics. Traditional animation, quite well drawn, but as an ad it’s absolutely dreadful. The most didactic cartoon you’ve ever seen would look like Ren & Stimpy next to this. I think it was put on the finalists’ list in recognition of the fact that even thirty seconds’ worth of unwatchable animation is still a hell of a lot of work.
Winner, Best Youth Ad: Bring It On. Fast, clean, hard-hitting, intelligent: an impressive piece of work.
Runners-up for Best Youth Ad:

Bush Knew. A heartfelt performance by an inexpert but not untalented young rapper.

Al Keyda. A fast, economical, energetic little morality play with what may be the best closing line of the lot: “It’s not likely 85 but it’s legal. Thank you, Patriot Act.”

Pop Quiz. P&O, somewhat redeemed by lighthandedness. The pacing gets a little wonky toward the end.
This contest was a great idea. The four winners are punchier and more memorable than any political ads I’ve seen in ages, and almost all of them are at least marginally watchable.

I don’t know how personal a reaction this is—the rest of you are welcome to let me know—but I’m truly grateful to see campaign ads that don’t reek of that stale, flat, encoded language that political insiders don’t so much speak as compile. I loathe that stuff. The “Bush in 30 Seconds” ads, even the clunky ones, have the grace to sound like they were made by human beings who’re trying to communicate with other human beings.


Simon (writing in the comments thread) and Patrick (speaking from the next room) have both directed me to a very notable unofficial entry: Bush in 41.2 Seconds.

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

It’s that time.

January 12, 2004
Another spam attack
Posted by Teresa at 08:03 PM *

Making Light and Electrolite are under attack again (see previous round), and it’s aggressive—over 50 hits in the last hour, from 21 different IP addresses. The format’s the same for every post: a porn URL, followed by some bit of text, usually from a computer manual.

Anyone else getting hit? What’s the scoop?

Addendum, 8:17 p.m.: Kip Manley, of Long Story Short Pier, got hit by these last night. He’s posted the IP address blacklist he compiled during the attack. Patrick is adding it to our defenses right now. If you think there’s any chance you’re going to be targeted, you might want to do the same; Kip Manley took 400 hits.

One of MT Blacklist’s options is to make your blacklist public. Here’s Kip Manley’s. Here’s ours.

If you have MT Blacklist installed but don’t know how to use these lists: Copy the list to your clipboard. Go to the main MT Blacklist screen. Right under the title there’s a little row of gray boxes. Click the one that says Add. This will take you to another screen that has a large empty box labeled Import blacklist. Paste the entire list into the box. Or paste in some fraction of it, if you know what you’re doing and don’t want the whole thing; but just pasting in the entire list is easiest. Finally, click the button underneath the box that says Import entries. That should do it.

Don’t worry about pasting in duplicate entries. MT Blacklist will automatically strip out any duplicates.

Addendum, 8:54 p.m.: A comment from Kip
Add it and add it now, is my advice. It takes forever (well, an hour, but it seemed like forever) to comb them out by hand—there were 50 or 60 URLs total, used over and over again.

I didn’t block the IP addresses—I think it’s the work of a lone [expletive inadequate], who’s munging IP addresses somehow. Instead, I blocked the URLs listed—all the usual fetishy suspects, badly spelled, lightyears away from a legitimate link.

My working theory (not that I know much about this stuff at all) is that somebody’s randomly generating names, email addies, IP numbers, lorem ipsum text, and URLs—most of the URLs don’t go anywhere, but are chaff, to delay and discourage you from cleaning it all off until Google has a chance to register the link to the one or two “real” sites buried in the onslaught. —So this will work until the next iteration of this spam bot. And then we’ll have a new list of fucked-up URLs we’ll have to add.

Just wait: the next wrinkle will be chaff that are legitimate URLs you like, culled from people’s blogrolls. —Though my heart is heavy at the idea of comments registration (to be available with MT 3.0), I’ll probably be leaping to upgrade and implement it.

What he said.

geek knitting
Posted by Teresa at 06:00 AM *

Here’s one example, and a second, and a third from an earlier comment thread. And here’s a fourth:

July 30, 2003: Geek Knitting I like to knit while I’m doing things on my computer. Today I think I hit the ultimate geeky knitting. I’ve been working on my Fixation socks while I installed Apache, PHP, MySQL, Perl and PHPMyAdmin on my computer. I now have a fully functional server and I’m almost to the heel on my sock. Yep, I’m a geek.
I wouldn’t say there’s any craft that doesn’t have some geek constituency, but there’s a real affinity between geeks and knitting. As mentioned here earlier, knitting just feels good; but it also has all kinds of interestingly technical variations: Aran cables, lace knitting, fairisle, plus purely knitterly jollifications like knitting two socks simultaneously, one inside the other, on a single set of needles, so that when you’re done you pull them apart and there’s your pair. (Why do it that way? Because it’s cool.) It also has an attractive deep structural logic based on geometry and proportion, pattern and shape and iterative processes. I’m not explaining this very well, but the way I understand knitting feels like the way I understand the internal structure of manuscripts, and the morphology and underlying interrelatedness of plants.

When I was eleven or twelve, and liked to sketch trees, trunk and branch and twig, I decided that all trees were somehow the same. It was as though there were a single underlying form to them, and the apparent differences of this or that species were the playing-out of a small set of rules laid upon that form in different combinations and proportions: vertical or horizontal, lax or rigid, rough or smooth, straight or curving or kinked, having greater or lesser distance between instances of new branching. I was delighted years later to hear that some branch of mathematics had decided that all trees were the same tree modified by variations on a small set of rules. And I was nonplussed years later to run into Ginkgo biloba and Metasequoia glyptostroboides, which are not based on that same tree.

The above not entirely a digression. Unless it’s been superseded since I last heard about it, the record holder for the longest-running thread on one of the major knitting mailing lists was a discussion of the Fibonacci sequence and other maths, and their application to textile design (viz., Yehudit Avrahams’ fibonacci Tallitot).

One knitter, in a salute to the Fibonacci rabbit sequence, devised a Fibonacci bunnies border pattern. Priscilla’s Probability Pullover is the only knitting pattern I know of that includes a pair of dice in its materials list. And for topologists, there’s the truly brilliant Mobius Scarf—which can be knit flat, given its half-twist, and have its head seamed or grafted to its tail, or (perhaps more satisfyingly) knit as an endless loop on circular needles—and its inevitable accompaniment, the Klein Bottle Hat. What may or may not be the canonical instructions for both can be found here.

June Oshiro, at the time a Ph.D. candidate in molecular biology, had her invention featured on the cover of Nature Genetics and in Today’s Chemist: a DNA double-helix cablestitch, which she used on a scarf she made for Professor Thomas Montville:
I designed the knitted representation of a DNA helix while working towards my Ph.D. in molecular biology. As it were, true inspiration occured during a biochemistry class. …

The scarf has slipped-stitch selvedges to give it a smooth finish. On either side of the main cable are “mini” cables spiraling towards the edge of the scarf (S twist on the left side, Z twist on the right side). The border is seed stitch. It is knit from one end to the other, instead of being knit by the Stahman provisional cast-on method, because the DNA cable is symmetrical. I switched the twist direction of the mini cables when working on the second half, otherwise the cables would be spiraling towards the center of the scarf.

This was tremendous fun to design and knit. I am actually very proud of this scarf because it accurately displays the the hydrogen bonds between nucleotides, the major and minor grooves of DNA, and the degree and rate of twist. The scarf is also both stylish and geeky—a true fashion paradox!
Ms. Oshiro kindly provides instructions for making the scarf, and a chart of the DNA cablestitch The ur-geek of knitting is Elizabeth Zimmerman, whose many innovations include EPS, and the primogenitive Pi Shawl. EZ had the Bach-and-Escher turn of mind for structure. She referred to her inventions as “unventions” because to her, they were all just logical extensions of the existing technology, a matter of seeing something that was always there rather than creating something new; so she could never believe that someone else hadn’t done it before:
Do you mind the word “unvented”? I like it. Invented sounds to me rather pompous and conceited. I picture myself as a knitting inventor, in a clean white coat, sitting in a workshop full of tomes of reference, with charts and graphs on the walls. Not real knitters’ charts, which are usually scribbled on odd and dog-eared pieces of squared paper, or even ordinary paper with homemade squares on it, but charts like sales charts, and graphs like the economy. I have a thoughtful expression behind my rimless glasses and hold a neatly-sharpened pencil. Who knows but that I don’t have a bevy of handknitters in the backroom, tirelessly toiling at the actual knit and purl of my deathless designs?


But unvented—ahh! One un-vents something; one unearths it; one digs it up, one runs it down in whatever recesses of the eternal consciousness it has gone to ground. I very much doubt if anything is really new when one works in the prehistoric medium of wool with needles. The products of science and technology may be new, and some of them are quite horrid, but knitting? In knitting there are ancient possibilities; the earth is enriched with the dust of the millions of knitters who have held wool and needles since the beginning of sheep. Seamless sweaters and one-row buttonholes; knitted hems and phony seams—it is unthinkable that these have, in mankind’s history, remained undiscovered and unknitted.
It’s the only point on which I know her to have been thoroughly and completely wrong. Surprisingly enough for something so ancient, knitting is a developing technology. This of course gives it even more geek appeal.

Barbara G. Walker, another knitter with a knack for structure, has also been doing serious R&D. Some years back she compiled four mighty and comprehensive treasuries of stitch patterns, analyzing them, demonstrating how one variation begets another, and showing how they’re all produced by a small number of stitches and rules.

More recently, Horst Schulz has been producing startling multicolored patchwork effects by breaking knitting’s traditional linear rows of stitches. There’s always been some non-linear knitting—but not like this. If you’re interested, here are how-to sequences on his Tumbling Blocks patchwork, bordered patchwork, and that weird fan-shaped tiling he’s so fond of.

But for my money, the maddest of mad geniuses at the moment is Debbie New, author of Unexpected Knitting, and creator of the famous Lace Coracle—as well as the Ouroboros jacket, the Cellular Automaton sweater, the Labyrinth sweater, some knitted teacups, a perennial garden that makes my head swim every time I look at it, and (for all love) a small Wedgewood pot.

(It would be deeply unfair for me to observe that Debbie New is so brilliant and innovative that she’s managed to do with knitting what crochet has been able to do all along. Never mind. It’s not the same technology at all. Or rather it is, but …)

(There’s a very large digression starting to form here, and I’m not going to indulge it. Later. Another time.)

January 10, 2004
Service interruption
Posted by Patrick at 05:54 PM *

We were just now inaccessible to much of the net for a little while, due to a DOS attack against our provider’s provider’s nameserver.

For future reference, in circumstances like this, you may be able to get to Making Light and Electrolite via:
Note that the “~pnh” part of the URL is needed for both weblogs, not just the one maintained by the actual pnh.

January 09, 2004
Remarkable folly
Posted by Teresa at 01:48 PM *

I got this one from Patrick, who got it from Bruce Sterling. Poppy Z. Brite has been kicked out of an online forum that not only discusses her works, but is named after her. Why? As far as I can tell, because she’s sane and they aren’t.

January 07, 2004
Posted by Teresa at 06:56 AM *

Is there another group anywhere on the political spectrum that, year after year, displays such monumentally poor judgement as PETA?


What struck me about that pamphlet was how much of a piece it was with everything else I’ve ever seen from PETA. I long since ceased to regard them as a political organization. They’re a cult, and in my opinion a nasty one.

This isn’t the only time I’ve seen PETA throw grossly upsetting material at children. A few Christmases back they had a panel van parked curbside on Union Square, with a sound system and some video screens set up at the edge of the sidewalk there. The sound system was playing traditional Christmas carols, so I didn’t register that it was PETA until I was nearly abreast of the panel van. That’s when I realized their video screens were showing closeup footage of tortured and mutilated animals.

This was two or three days before Christmas, early evening, well within kid time, at a spot where southbound pedestrians going to do a little last-minute shopping at the Union Square crafts market, or to catch their train (it’s a major subway nexus), couldn’t help but see the display. The screens were positioned a tad low for adults, but they were just the right height for children.

Isn’t that great? Everyone who walks past gets a faceful of bloody screaming mustelids that have lost their paws to metal traps. How are small children supposed to deal with that? It needs only to be added that there were no furs for sale anywhere near that location.

I’m a free-speech absolutist, and I’ve always been opposed to unnecessary and irresponsible cruelty to animals, but PETA can go stuff it.


Virge has done it again in the comments thread:
It’s very easy to explain morality prescribed by pain.
You see it’s clear, all must abstain
from hurting flesh that boasts a brain.

To those whose eyes perceive, it’s plain —
the kindness of our cruel campaign:
“Who shocks the cradle can constrain
the thoughts this world will entertain.”

So stuff your “spare the kids” disdain
and logic-based legerdemain.
Sadly, sincerely, I remain,
Ingrid, ineffectual…
yet again.

January 06, 2004
Remind me
Posted by Teresa at 02:06 PM *

There are some editorial notes on my home computer. I have to send them to the author when I get home tonight. I figure there are three places where I can’t miss seeing a reminder note: my refrigerator door, my bathroom mirror, and my weblog.

January 05, 2004
Open thread 15
Posted by Teresa at 12:56 PM *

Dark rainy January, and worse weather to come. It’s seasonable as all hell out there.

January 01, 2004
Chrono log
Posted by Teresa at 03:00 AM *

January 01, 2004: Sent spectral poctsarcd to past: “They say the owl was once a baker’s daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but not what we may become.”

Nice to know where that was mailed from. Been wondering for years.

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