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May 30, 2009
Da Momma’s color-matching system
Posted by Teresa at 06:40 PM *

Figuring out the true colors of things you see on your computer screen is always a challenge, and buying into the Pantone Color Matching System has been unfeasibly expensive for non-professionals. However, Da Momma, a.k.a. Cutancoupons, who sells fabric on eBay, has now come up with a reasonably functional workaround:

DA MOMMA’S REVOLUTIONARY CRAYON COLOR DESCRIPTION SYSTEM ~~~ I am going to describe fabric colors by giving the closest matching Crayola crayon shade names. This will be the actual color of the wax and not the color the crayon is when you use it on a sheet of paper. I can’t guarantee an exact color match to the fabric but I think being able to hold a crayon and see the color on your end of the “www” will work better than having to worry about photos and individual monitor settings :)
This is brilliant like Apple Thunderscan and Feynman’s o-ring demo were brilliant. A big box of Crayola crayons will give you enough invariant reference color matches to figure out how your own screen display relates to the fabric she’s describing. Thus, this hard-to-assess print can now be coded as most closely approximating Crayola White, Black, Almond, Carnation Pink, Apricot, Sepia, Maroon, Razzmatazz, Cotton Candy, Raw Sienna, Desert Sand, Tan, and Tumbleweed.

May 28, 2009
The jetpack is a lie
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:48 PM *

From IM, names deleted to protect the irrelevant:

Abi I’ve identified [S]’s third sock on [D]
Patrick In the future, we will speak very strange sentences!
Abi Where the heck is my jetpack?
Patrick I’m going to write a story set after the Singularity, a million years hence, when we are all intergalactically-empowered immortal sentiences in the Beyond, and people will STILL BE COMPLAINING ABOUT NOT HAVING SODDING JETPACKS.
Abi Now, a sodding jetpack is an accessory too far, in my book
Though it would simplify the mounting and improve the marketability in some quarters
Patrick true that
Abi Besides, jetpacks are impossible.
Because we will have jetpacks in the future, right?
Patrick uh, right
Abi But by the time the future comes it isn’t the future, it’s the present.
Thus no jetpack.

An Appeal to Heaven
Posted by Patrick at 07:42 AM * 148 comments

Back in May or June of last year, in the wake of the calamitous near-death of Making Light and its reconstruction by a lot of volunteers, many of whom were never sufficiently thanked, we had an offer from at least one of our regulars to help migrate the site to WordPress or MT4. I didn’t follow up immediately, and now I’m extremely ashamed to say that I can’t find that email or remember who it was from.

We badly need help. For a number of reasons that I only occasionally understand, the site as currently implemented is resource-intensive, causing relatively frequent outages that need to be fixed by our hosting company. We do indeed need to move it, either to WordPress or, more probably, to Movable Type 4, while (obviously) preserving as much as possible of the site’s existing design, functionality, etc. We also need to do something, I’m not sure exactly what, to make the site less attractive to the periodic storms of comment spam that, even though they usually aren’t actually visible on the site, nonetheless pose a real danger to the site overall; IIRC, it was one of those that crashed our previous server last year.

The current version of Making Light is a tangle of outdated Movable Type code modified with a variety of small hacks and plug-ins. I’m not a programmer or a computer professional of any sort; instead, I’m that dangerous sort of layperson, somebody smart enough to puzzle out scripts and CSS and markup language but not smart enough to remember six months later how it all works.

We can’t possibly afford to pay anyone the normal going rate for this kind of work, of course, but perhaps we could work out some other kind of exchange, beyond even the Thanks of a Grateful Nation. Anyway, we need help, if Making Light is to continue.

Darn those deconstructionists and their crazy rock and roll
Posted by Patrick at 07:39 AM * 302 comments

Scott McLemee’s takedown of Leon Kass, court philosopher to the George W. Bush administration, is a thing of beauty in several ways, but this particular bit excels:

The account of Kass’s speech in Inside Higher Ed—and the text of it, also available online—confirmed something that I would have been willing to wager my paycheck on, had there been a compulsive gambler around to take the bet. For I felt certain that Kass would claim, at some point, that the humanities are in bad shape because nobody reads the “great works” because everybody is too busy with the “deconstruction.”

It often seems like the culture wars are, in themselves, a particularly brainless form of mass culture. Some video game, perhaps, in which players keep shooting at the same zombies over and over, because they never change and just keep coming—which is really good practice in case you ever have to shoot at zombies in real life, but otherwise is not particularly good exercise.

The reality is that you encounter actual deconstructionists nowadays only slightly more often than zombies. People who keep going on about them sound (to vary references a bit) like Grandpa Simpson ranting about the Beatles. Reading The New Criterion, you’d think that Derrida was still giving sold-out concerts at Che Stadium. Sadly, no.

But then it never makes any difference to point out that the center of gravity for argumentation has shifted quite a lot over the past 25 years. What matters is not actually knowing anything about the humanities in particular—just that you dislike them in general.

The logic runs something like: “What I hate about the humanities is deconstructionism, because I have decided that everything I dislike should be called ‘deconstructionism.’” Q.E.D.!

You hear the same stuff constantly in discussions inside the science fiction world, almost as frequently as you hear that “mainstream” novels are all about “adultery in Westchester County.” Some people really need to update their game.

May 25, 2009
A Romance of the North Country
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 03:59 PM * 51 comments

Colebrook wasn’t always the sleepy home of provincial French bakeries where the biggest excitement is Bobo the Clown making balloon animals at Moose Festival. Cast back your mind to those thrilling days of yesteryear when the streets of Colebrook resounded to the cries of roving bands of Armed Canadian Lumberjacks! Desperate car chases! Hair-breadth escapes! Sex! Violence! Insanity! Ripped from Yesterday’s Headlines, as found in the pages of the New York Times. This is the event that put Colebrook (along with Coaticook and Sherbrooke) “on the map.

Dramatis Personae:
Mr. William Travers Jerome, Deputy Attorney General of New York State
Mr. Harry Kendall Thaw, scion of wealth, keen student of showgirls, and close-range marksman
Mr. Stanford White, an architect, connoisseur of the feminine form, tragically dead
Ms. Florence Evelyn “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing” Nesbit, a young lady worth killing (or dying) for

Our story so far: Having shot Stanford White in the face (three times) on the roof of Madison Square Garden in some kind of dispute over the affections of his wife (Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, age 21), Harry Thaw was twice tried: The first trial ended with a hung jury; the second time he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and incarcerated in Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Fishkill, New York. He drove away from Matteawan in a motor car on 17 August 1913 and went to Canada. Three weeks later, without warning to him or the state of New York, Canadian authorities dumped him in Norton Mills, Vermont, unshaved, and with just ten dollars in his pocket. We join our players as the curtain rises on Act Two:

Says Immigration Authorities Violated Their Agreement.
September 11, 1913, Thursday

ALBANY, Sept. 10. — There was much indignation and not a little excitement in the Attorney General’s office to-day during the flight of Harry K. Thaw from Coaticook to Colebrook. Over the telephone from Manchester, Vt., William Travers Jerome told Attorney General Carmody that the immigration authorities of Canada had broken their agreement, and that it was “the most contemptible trick in the history of civilized government.”

Immigration Officers Act Without Warning to Jerome.;
“They Are Kidnapping Me!” He Shrieks, and Hurls a Bottle at His Liberators.
Captured Near Colebrook, N.H., Despite Aid of Sympathetic Country Folk.
Orders Thaw Held and Hopes Soon to Have Him Back in Matteawan.
New Hampshire Judge to Pass Upon His Application This Morning.
September 11, 1913, Thursday

COLEBROOK, N.H., Sept. 10. — Harry Kendall Thaw was thrown bodily out of the Dominion of Canada to-day on the order of the Minister of Justice and in utter disregard of the highest courts of the Province of Quebec. To-night he is under arrest here, and the indications are that a few days more will see him back in Matteawan.

May Dispense with Extradition.

Fights to Remain a Prisoner.

Thaw Pushed Into Vermont.

Abandoned By His Chauffeur.

Womenfolk Express Sympathy.

A Motherly Reception.

Thaw Engages Several Lawyers.

Nothing Frenzied About Colebrook.

Thaw Issues a Statement.

Colebrook Chief Swears in 20 Deputies When Armed Lumberjacks Invade Town.
Hearing on To-day and Fight for Extradition on Conspiracy Charges Will Begin
September 12, 1913, Friday

Colebrook, N.H., Sept. 11.—Twenty special deputies were sworn in late to-day by Chief of Police Charles Kelly following persistent reports that a plot had been hatched to kidnap Harry Thaw and carry him off in an automobile. This precaution was taken after Kelly and Sheriff Holman Drew noticed a score or more of lumberjacks from over the Canadian border congregated about the Colebrook Bank building this afternoon while Thaw was there in consultation with his attorneys. Kelly also called the attention of the Sheriff to two automobiles which were slowly driven up and down the main street.

Refuge in Lumber Camps.

Immigration Men Trail Him.

Jerome Denounces a Canadian.

Thaw Has Detectives, Too.

He Will Be Taken Before a Federal Judge To-day and Jerome Will Contest Writ.
Canadian Constable Who Arrested Jerome Crosses Line and Is Locked Up on Old Charge.
September 16, 1913, Tuesday

COLEBROOK, N.H., Sept. 15. — Harry K. Thaw has passed into the hands of the Federal authorities, and what may be the last leg of his fight for liberty will begin to-morrow morning. United States Marshal E.P. Nute arrived in Colebrook during the afternoon, armed with an order of the United States District Court, directing that he take charge of Thaw with Sheriff Drew.

Jerome’s Foe Arrested.

Strays Into Trap.

Work Starts on $100,000 House in Southampton Colony.

Habeas Corpus Held in Reserve for the Prisoner’s Protection — Jerome Rebuked.
Judge Aldrich Finds No Precedent for Extradition of a Lunatic for Crime.
Hearing to Await Proceedings Before Gov. Felker—Case May Reach Unites States Supreme Court.
September 17, 1913, Wednesday

LITTLETON, N.H., Sept. 16. — Harry K. Thaw won an important victory in the United States District Court here to-day when the matter of his writ of habeas corpus came up before Judge Edgar Aldrich.

Jerome Retires Defeated.

Thaw in Federal Custody.

Jerome’s First Setback.

Judge Aldrich’s Decision.

Raises Insanity Issue.

Questions Not Entirely Clear.

In Statement Issued at Trial He Calls Latest Move a Sign of “Surrender.”
Commission to Examine Ellot Is Sought — Fifteen Witnesses Testify That Prisoner Is Sane.
June 25, 1915, Friday

Fifteen witnesses, one of them a woman, who have seen much of Harry K. Thaw at various times since he killed Stanford White in June, 1906, testified yesterday at the Jury trial of the prisoner’s sanity before Supreme Court Justice Hendrick that they believed Thaw was rational and should be given his liberty.

Three Hours to Leave Harvard.

To Rend Mother’s Testimony.

Federal Custodian a Witness.

Canadians Call Thaw Sane.

Fishing and Camping Friends.

Mrs. Drew is Sympathetic.

Crank Letter to Juror.

New Hampshire Men and Women Tell of Entertaining Him in Their Homes.
Moving Pictures of Defendant Taken in Canada May Be Shown in Court to Prove He Was Eccentric.
June 26, 1915, Saturday

Counsel for Harry K. Thaw practically completed their case yesterday at the jury trial of Thaw’s sanity before Supreme Court Justice Peter A. Hendrick by calling to the stand fourteen more witnesses, eleven men and three women, all residents of New Hampshire, who testified that in their opinion Thaw was sane.

Lawyers to Visit Dr. Eliot.

Alienist Watches Thaw.

Talked “New England Style.”

Played Bridge with Thaw.

Thaw was eventually found sane, and so, rather than being returned to Matteawan, he walked free.

Allegations about Mr. Thaw had included that he was fond of striking young ladies with a silver-capped dog whip. Now his prediliction for whipping once more exerted itself.

For months Thaw had been corresponding with a teenager named Fred Gump. At last, Thaw lured him to New York with promises of a fine job. On Christmas Eve, 1916, Thaw took Gump to the theater, then back to his hotel room, where he whipped the lad to near senselessness. Thaw was arrested for assault as soon as the facts became known early the following year.

Mr. Jerome, who followed his earlier part in the Thaw case by directing the efforts of New York State to bring Thaw back into custody from Canada, declined last night to comment on the present charges except to grin and exclaim: “Extraordinary!”
Again found insane, Thaw was placed in an asylum where he remained until 1924. He moved to Virgina and became a volunteer firefighter.

What does this sordid tale of love and obsession, the Crime of the Century and the Trial of the Century, have to do with us today? The bank building where Harry K. Thaw holed up to consult with his attorneys and his detectives, while howling mobs of armed Canadians roamed the streets outside, still stands, and today houses the French Bakery of which we have recently written.

May 21, 2009
Voicemail fail
Posted by Patrick at 11:54 AM *

How I hate getting voicemail messages that go “Hi Patrick, inaudible inaudible inaudible inaudible, call me back! Thanks.” From a number that blocks caller ID.

I have no idea who it was, and there are about two dozen matters pending in which it could be important.

I’m on the verge of changing both my personal and work messages to “Sorry I didn’t pick up the phone. Don’t leave voicemail. Send me email at kthxbye.”

Voicemail. It’s dying. Let’s kill it.

Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:40 AM * 70 comments

Our baker returns!

A week or so ago, in Legal Immigration, I wrote about how our local bakery was about to close because the owner couldn’t get a visa to return to the USA to continue her business.

Yesterday (while I was below the Notch on other business) came word that her once-denied visa had been renewed, for five years, and she’ll be back as early as this coming weekend.

From the Union Leader’s on-line edition:

“Lovely letters” save Main Street bakery

COLEBROOK – The French bakery that has become a Main Street landmark will remain open.

Early this morning, Verlaine Daeron, who owns Le Rendevouz Bakery, phoned her partner, Marc Ounis, to say the visa she was denied last month has been renewed for five years.

Senators Gregg and Shaheen (New Hampshire) and Lahey (Vermont) put their horsepower behind the effort.

From the print upstate edition of the Union Leader:

Now an ocean apart, the two owners of the town’s popular French bakerly will be making a rendezvous as early as this weekend, after the State Department reversed itself and issued a five-year visa for French citizen Verlaine Daeron.

[Senator Jeanne] Shaheen said the “heartfelt letters we received from many Colebrook residents made it clear just how important Le Rendezvous Bakery is to the Colebrook community, and I’m so happy that … Verlaine Daeron will now be able to return to her home and her business. This is great news for all of Colebrook and I wish Verlaine a wonderful homecoming.”

My greatest personal thanks to everyone who wrote letters of support.






The Colebrook Chronicle, June 5 edition (pdf)

The story of how North Country residents rallied to help convince the American Embassy in Paris that Le Rendez- Vous Bakery owner Verlaine Daeron should be allowed to have her E2 Visa renewed continues to garner wide attention. For many, it seems like something right out of a Frank Capra movie of the 1940s like “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

What started as a community effort to save a business from closing is yielding some unexpected benefits for Colebrook and the North Country, including helping to make Colebrook a destination point.

Chief among the widely circulated publicity is a New York Times article, which appeared last Sunday, May 31, which featured a full page, with fullcolor photos. As soon as the article appeared, said bakery owner Daeron—who returned from France on May 24—phone calls started coming in from around the country to congratu- (Continued on page 2)


May 18, 2009
Mysterious book promo
Posted by Teresa at 09:55 PM * 89 comments

Dear Steven Swiniarski, a.k.a. S. Andrew Swann:

Am in receipt of yr hermetically sealed bone-shaped puppy biscuit mailing. (Doggy-treat packaging label:; return address on mailing envelope: Sparky McNachman, 851 Cumberland Drive, Sunnyvale CA 94087.) Yog and I have been to the werewolf site, figured out your latitude and longitude, enciphered numbers, and countdown puzzles, and concluded that you’re throwing a book promotion party on Saturday afternoon of this year’s Marcon.

You’re not entirely without clue, but I have to ask:

1. Why the wolfy promo site? The party encoded in it is for Prophets: Apotheosis. The wolfy book won’t be released until August.

2. What am I supposed to do with this puppy biscuit? It’s way too big for small Aggie Maggie. Should I forward it to Jordin Kare, or does he already have one?

Signed, Puzzled in Brooklyn

Tax Protest
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:33 AM *

Today is the anniversary of the Bath School Disaster. Up until the Oklahoma City bombing, Bath, Michigan, was the single deadliest act of domestic terrorism/mass murder in US history.

On May 18, 1927, 45 people, mostly children, were killed and 58 were injured when disgruntled and demented school board member Andrew Kehoe dynamited the new school building in Bath, Michigan out of revenge over his foreclosed farm due in part to the taxes required to pay for the new school.

That’s from a great page by a Bath native, full of links, first-person and contemporaneous accounts, and general information, located here.

To my Great-uncle Arnold Victor Bauerle, who died in the explosion at the age of 8. Thanks to Kehoe, the following excerpt from “The Bath School Disaster” by M.J. Ellsworth is all there is to remember him by, other than a picture of him with his brother and sister, his gravestone, a commemorative brick, and a memorial ornament at the Bath School Museum:
Young Arnold had missed a lot of school due to whooping cough, so he was sent to school while the rest of the family went to Lansing to buy shoes.

A brief outline of the events:
Andrew Kehoe, a local farmer (and suspected wife-beater), became unhappy with the town of Bath over taxes which he owed, and the foreclosure of his farm, which he blamed on the construction of the new consolidated school. His position as member of the school board gave him unquestioned access to the school, and he used that access to plant two bombs in the basement of the school, one under each wing. The bombs were dynamite, which he’d bought in small amounts from a variety of places, ostensibly for removing stumps on his farm, and pyrotol, a WWI surplus military explosive that was distributed free to farmers. In all, he had around a half-ton of explosives hidden in the basement. The bombs were wired to alarm clocks and set to go off at 9:45.

At 8:45, using accelerants and electric detonators, he set fire to his house, barn, and outbuildings, with his animals locked in their stalls inside. The local fire department responded to the scene. He approached a neighbor and three boys who stopped to watch and said, “‘Boys, you are friends of mine and you’d better get out of here. You’d better go on down to the school house.’”

At 9:43 one of the bombs in the school basement exploded, collapsing the north wing. The other bomb didn’t go off, for unknown reasons. Speculation includes that the batteries were weak, or perhaps that the concussion from the first explosion disabled the wiring.

Kehoe then drove into town, parking near the crowd of spectators and rescuers. He spotted the superintendent of schools, and called him over. When the man arrived at the car, Kehoe detonated a dynamite-and-scrap-iron bomb he had in the back seat.

Later, Kehoe’s wife’s body was found in one of the burned outbuildings at his farm. She was buried by her family under her maiden name. Later estimates were that, had he sold the equipment that he burned, he could have easily lifted the mortgage.

What witnesses who saw Kehoe that morning chiefly remember was how big a grin he had.

I was having a conversation with someone recently […] about the BSD and made the comment that Kehoe has achieved his objectives. By that I mean he, for all intents and purposes, wiped the town of Bath off the map. Unlike other tragedy survivors who want the world to remember their loss, BSD survivors tried hard to not only forget, but to do their level best to make the world forget. I have no doubt that the town was approached to do a documentary; but the town as a whole has tried since that time to get the world to forget as well. They would argue otherwise - but the proof is that the world does not remember, and Kehoe devastated that town better than if all the dynamite would have exploded. If we really care about what was done and want the world to truly remember their loss, we should do the best we can to counteract this.
Tax-protester Kehoe added several new features to domestic terrorism. He had an initial distracting event to draw emergency responders away from the scene of the main attack. He added the car bomb. And he added the suicide bombing.

Full text, with photos, of the book on the Bath School Disaster by M. J. Ellsworth.

Oral history at NPR.

There’s a Memorial Park.

Pennies collected from Michigan school children paid for a memorial statue: Girl With A Kitten.

May 16, 2009
Open thread 124
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:27 AM *

Given that John Scalzi is the Adam Savage of our community*, who is our Jamie Hyneman?

* Adam would totally have taped bacon to that cat.

May 13, 2009
To boldly spoil: Trek thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:22 PM * 231 comments

Space, the final frontier…these are the voyages of the starship Spoilerprise. Its ongoing mission: to seek out new interpretations and new associations. To boldly spoil only where everyone has already seen the film.

Seriously. If you don’t want spoilers, don’t read this thread. It’s going to have spoilers the way Deep Space Station K7 had tribbles.

Of your courtesy, people, please do not drift off-topic here. Otherwise it will turn into fun that not everyone can join in with. And that’s Uncool.

May 11, 2009
Legal Immigration
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:32 AM * 212 comments

So it looks like we’re going to lose our bakery. I’m pretty sure that some of our Loyal Readers and such have had some of their bread: Patrick and Teresa, Miss Nancy, I know that I’ve brought you loaves from Le Rendez-Vous (corner of Bridge Street and Main Street, Colebrook). Folks who went to Moose Festival, I’m pretty sure that you’ve had some too.

That’s our favorite spot for going over galleys—big tables, they don’t mind writers hanging out, they make the coffee, and there’s pastries. That’s why The Apocalypse Door mentioned Le Rendez-Vous in the acknowledgments. Our author photo for Land of Mist and Snow was taken there.

So what to my wondering eyes should appear in the newspaper this week but this?

Local, State Officials Rally to Help Stranded Bakery Owner.

State officials and U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s office are working to help Le Rendez-Vous French bakery owner Verlaine Daöron, stranded in her native France after having been denied a visa renewal. Her partner, Marc Ounis, has been operating the bakery and café on his own for the past month, and fears that he will have to close if Verlaine is unable to return.

Over the past eight years Le Rendez-Vous has become a favorite meeting place and cultural center, where visitors can hear local music or exchange the news of the day. As one Lancaster resident recently stated, “It’s the envy of every town around you.”

Before Le Rendez-Vous, folks who wanted fresh French bread had to drive to Coaticook (pronounced Quaticook), in Quebec. Looks like folks will have to do that again, soon. Why?
That is precisely what Benoit Lamontagne, who works as an agent for the N. H. Department of Resources and Economic Development is hoping will help the situation. The criteria for a class E2 visa require the business to make a substantial profit, which it does not; the alternative is to prove that the bakery is vital to the local economy.
“Substantial profit”? Who are they kidding. We’re talking about the North Country of New Hampshire here. We’re talking about “hardscrabble farming.” Just staying in business around here is showing a substantial profit, no matter what it might look like to Embassy people assigned to Paris, France. The Chrysler dealership in town closed last year. The Ford dealership in town closed in January of this year. And right now we’re waiting to find out (the decision will be reached this week) whether GM will close their dealership in town, leaving us with no car dealers (or factory service) closer than fifty miles away.

“Vital to the local economy.” Oh yes. Any vacant storefront on Main Street is a substantial percentage of the local economy.

“We continue to hope that the American Embassy in Paris will understand the importance of this establishment to Colebrook and Northern New Hampshire, and realize that they have made an error in denying the renewal of Verlaine’s E2 visa,” Mr. Lamontagne said on Monday. “I contacted DRED commissioner George Bald when Marc told me this had happened. He immediately called Sen. Shaheen’s office and they agreed to help. We have since been working on this, gathering data and making a case for Verlaine.”
That was Wednesday’s News and Sentinel. Friday’s Colebrook Chronicle had this: Le Rendez-Vous May Soon Be Facing Decision
The clock is ticking for Le Rendez-Vous Bakery regarding whether it will be able to remain open in Colebrook.

On Tuesday, the Chronicle spoke with Marc Ounis, whose partner, Verlain Daeron, is in Paris after having been denied her E2 Visa renewal. He appeared resigned to the idea that it’s just a matter of days before he’ll have to make the decision to close up shop. We asked him what would be the cut off date for deciding to close the bakery and he tlod use, “When I run out of flour for making the bread, then I will have to close. And I have enough flour for less than two weeks.”

There have been many locally who have stepped in to help Ounis for free. Last weekend a group from Kheops International helped Marc run the business on a busy Saturday. Others have offered to handle the counter or help in any way possible. “I am very grateful to everyone,” Marc said.

What else? There’s a petition going around. Doyle and I have signed it. We sent a letter to Jeanne Shaheen. Anyone who’s familiar with the place… please do the same.
To better understand the E2 Visa process, the Chronicle spoke with David West, owner of Liebl Printing in Colebrook. West is a citizen of England and is also in this country on an E2 Visa. He explained that until a few years ago, those in this country on an E2 Visa were not required to return to their home countries to get their Visas renewed. He explained that when the passport system was updated a few years ago, the embassies in the United Stated did not have the funds to upgrade their systems, and that is why so many E2 Visas are handled through the American Embassy in Paris.

However, as the volume of those looking for an E2 Visa increased, that embassy has not been able to keep up with demand and, once an application has been denied—such as Verlaine Daeron’s—it is highly unlikely that she will be returning to the U.S.

This may not seem like much to folks who live in big cites with six bakeries to the block, but it is a big deal up here. The only trick will be getting the American Embassy in Paris to agree.

I would take it kindly if folks would link to this and write about it elsewhere.


  • Congressman Paul Hodes (Democrat, District 2. He wants to be a senator.)
  • Senator Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat)
  • Senator Judd Gregg (Republican. He’s up for re-election in two years, in a state that’s going increasingly blue.)
  • Benoit Lamontagne
    [UPDATE: More links]
    [UPDATE: Blog reactions] [UPDATE]

  • May 08, 2009
    Pasta e fagioli thinghi
    Posted by Teresa at 07:55 PM * 65 comments

    4 sweet Italian sausages
    1/3-1/2 C. coarsely chopped walnuts
    dried porcini and crimini mushrooms*
    1 cube instant mushroom bouillon*
    a good pinch of saffron
    a middling handful of sun-dried tomatoes
    2 good handfuls of chopped kale*
    fresh sage, snipped, if you have it
    coarse black pepper
    1 can of plain cooked black beans *
    1-2 C. cheap but decent white wine
    optionally, an envelope of unflavored gelatin
    pasta—fusilli or rigatoni or celentani or the like.
    good olive oil
    an orange or two
    Get the pasta water going. Set the mushrooms to soaking in a coffee mug of boiling water. If your sausage is precooked, cut it into slender roundels. If it’s uncooked, cook it, then slice it into roundels. In either case, tip in the chopped walnuts and fry them alongside the sausage until both components are brown. Pour in the mushroom broth and let it boil up while you chop and add the mushrooms, then rub the saffron in between your fingers, then snip and add the sage. Add the kale. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes into bite-size chunks and throw them in. Add the can of black beans. If the liquid in the can is watery and unattractive, throw it out. Otherwise, include it.

    Let simmer. Add the wine and continue simmering. If you want to thicken it with gelatin, do that now. If there isn’t enough liquid, add more wine or some water. When the pasta is maybe a minute short of being al dente, pour it into a colander and shake off the excess water. Pour a measure of the cooked pasta into the sausage and black bean mixture, stir it in, and see if it looks right. Continue adding pasta until it does. Simmer a few minutes more, gently turning over the mixture in the pan, until the pasta is both fully cooked and a pastel shade of the sausage mixture.

    Dish out into bowls. Pour a thin drizzle of good olive oil on it, and eat with thin wedges of fresh orange on the side. (Note: you can squeeze the oranges over it if you wish, but I recommend you just eat them as a counterpoint to the main dish.)

    [Recipe Index]

    May 07, 2009
    Dresden Codak
    Posted by Teresa at 10:51 AM * 94 comments

    Chat transcript:

    2:49:12 PM Abi: Martin says hi, by the way, and asks if you’re aware of Dresden Codak?
    2:49:32 PM TNH: I don’t think so.
    2:49:44 PM Abi: webcomic he thinks you’ll like
    2:59:40 PM TNH: …My brains are now being sucked out of my head by Dresden Codak.
    Some standalone pages: Epilogue. Note: it’s the epilogue to a story involving time travel that starts a year later. Trouble in Memphis. Copenhagen interpretation fantasy camp. Summer Dream Job. I’d love to know the background on that one.

    Two episodes of Philosophers’ D&D: Dungeons and Discourse and Advanced Dungeons and Discourse. Watch for Tiny Carl Jung, Ephesian Oneironaut.

    And, just to get the flavor of it, a segment of a longer storyline: After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, For Lack of a Better Term, The Witching Hour, In the Company of Science, and She is the very model of a Singularitarian, featuring the best-realized group of time travellers from the future I’ve ever seen.

    Thank you, Martin.

    May 06, 2009
    Five states and counting
    Posted by Patrick at 01:14 PM * 157 comments

    Maine governor John Baldacci signs same-sex marriage into law:

    “In the past, I opposed gay marriage while supporting the idea of civil unions,” Baldacci said in a statement. “I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law, and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage.”

    Ruining it for the rest of us
    Posted by Abi Sutherland at 02:07 AM *

    this is why we cant have nice blimps

    The Luftschiff Zeppelin #129 Hindenburg caught fire and was destroyed near the Lakehurst Naval Station on May 6, 1937, killing 36 people and the passenger airship industry.

    May 05, 2009
    Rembrandt and the bouncy swing set: I’ll have what they’re having
    Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:10 PM * 104 comments

    There was a fantastic article in the New York Times this past weekend; now it’s all over the blogosphere and the email forwards. Going Dutch1 was written by an American, Russell Shorto, who moved to Amsterdam some 18 months ago. I’m about six months further on in my own adventure, and I can’t say that I disagree with any of what he says2. I’d commend it to anyone with a North American background trying to get an view of this place.

    One of the things3 that Shorto explains well is the peculiar balance between the free market and collaboration (the “polder model”) in Dutch culture:

    The Low Countries never developed a fully feudal system of aristocratic landowners and serfs. Rather, sailors, merchants and farmers bought shares in trading ships and in cooperatives to protect the land from the sea, a development that led to the creation of one of the world’s first stock markets and helped fuel the Dutch golden age. Today the country remains among the most free-market-oriented in Europe.
    At the same time, water also played a part in the development of the welfare system. To get an authoritative primer on the Dutch social-welfare state, I sat down with Geert Mak, perhaps the country’s pre-eminent author, to whose books the Dutch themselves turn to understand their history. The Dutch call their collectivist mentality and way of politics-by-consensus the “polder model,” after the areas of low land systematically reclaimed from the sea. “People think of the polder model as a romantic idea” and assume its origins are more myth than fact, Mak told me. “But if you look at records of the Middle Ages, you see it was a real thing. Everyone had to deal with water. With a polder, the big problem is pumping the water. But in most cases your land lies in the middle of the country, so where are you going to pump it? To someone else’s land. And then they have to do the same thing, and their neighbor does, too. So what you see in the records are these extraordinarily complicated deals. All of this had to be done together.”

    I, too, have often been struck by how those two forces, mercantilism and cooperation, go hand in hand throughout the history of the Low Countries, right up to the present day.

    Note, for instance, how in the seventeenth century (the Golden Age of Dutch history), most of the painters in Europe were doing individual portraits of nobles and religious images. Dutch artists, meanwhile, were painting group portraits of guild officials and civic guard companies.

    That emphasis on the group over the individual continues to this day. I noticed that when the management of my company presented our code of conduct, they emphasized that these rules expressed what we owed to our colleagues, even more than to the company or to our clients.

    And children learn this collective approach early. One random instance: there’s a peculiar swing set at the adventure playground near our house. It’s interdependent fun: bounce on your own swing and your neighbors bounce about even more. When they move, you share the action, and the movements combine in interesting and unexpected ways. And this isn’t unique. When I went to NEMO, the local science museum, I noticed how many of the exhibits required more than one child to cooperate for them to be much fun, or even to work at all.

    We Americans tend to think that collectivism leads to communism and the death of markets4. And yet, as Shorto observes, Dutch collectivism doesn’t do that. The Dutch are noted hagglers, and rarely miss a commercial opportunity. And Queen’s Day, the celebration of all things Dutch, is not complete without the street markets where old goods are bought and sold.

    I know that we Americans couldn’t “go Dutch”. It simply would not work with our customs and establishments. But we have collaborative traditions as well, from barn raising to quilting bees. And we’re running a little short on trackless frontier in which to carve out isolated homesteads; maybe it’s time learn from people with a long history of getting along with people they’re stuck with.

    One thing we certainly might learn: the polder model requires both unsparing bluntness in stating one’s own views, and nearly endless patience in listening to the opinions of others. To make these things possible, the Dutch place a high value on calm, reasoned discourse rather than namecalling, strawman arguments, or the kind of fingers-in-the-ears not-listening that pervades American political discourse5, 6

    1. Title originality fail.
    2. Apart from the 52% tax rate. That’s the highest rate; as a part time software tester I pay substantially less even before deductions and discounts. I don’t know what New York Times contributors are paid, but if it gets him to that tax bracket, sign me up!
    3. One of many things, by the way; I expect that I’ll post more musings on it over the next wee while.
    4. Not everyone in the world thinks the death of markets would be a bad thing. But that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.
    5. These are ideals; the Dutch are still human, and don’t always live up to them. But politicians who try to incite conflict are seen as violating the polder model (Geert Wilders, ik kijk naar jou)
    6. My Dutch colleagues feel that Obama has come closer to the polder model than any American politician they have seen. Not, given recent history, that that is saying much.

    Snowed In
    Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:30 AM * 78 comments

    Today I’m going to talk about Daniel James Brown’s book, The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

    Long-time Making Light readers will recall my comments on his last, Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894.

    The review at Booklist says:

    The story of the ill-fated Donner party, a group of nineteenth-century settlers en route to California who became snowbound in the Sierra Nevada mountains and resorted to cannibalism to survive, remains an iconic moment in American history. Given the story’s inherent elements of horror and heroism, it is surprising that this account, told from the point of view of a young bride who survived the tragedy, is finally such an uninteresting book. Part of the problem is the author’s inability of incorporate his copious background material into the flow of the narrative (readers probably don’t need to know about 1840s-era birth control methods). Even the author’s treatment of the tragedy itself, however, feels dully reportorial, without any of the you-are-there drama that Piers Paul Reid brought to Alive!, his account of history’s second-most-famous cannibalism-survival story, concerning the famous 1972 airplane crash in the Andes. So why bother with this Donner party treatment when so many other, more compelling works exist? The premise itself sets this book apart, and while it’s not handled particularly effectively, it will still interest those fascinated by the subject.

    Yeah, “uninteresting” in a can’t-put-it-down kinda way.

    The events of the Donner Party expedition, a group of illegal immigrants heading from the United States to Mexico, are well-known (though surrounded with contradiction and lurid speculation, dating to before they’d even come out of the mountains). The story is naturally dramatic enough:

    …One warm August afternoon in the summer of 1849, Wakeman Bryarly, a twenty-eight-year-old doctor from Baltimore, found himself near what was then still called Truckee Lake in the high Sierra. Like so many other ambitious young men that summer—a summer when a whole world of young men seemed to pour across North America and into California—he was on his way to the goldfields. His party had encamped just east of the lake, and, with an afternoon to kill, he decided to take the opportunity to indulge in a cold bath. On his way to the lake, he hoped also to find something else that hundreds of other travelers that summer had sought out—a local tourist attraction of sorts.

    He set off on foot, and just 150 yards down the road he found the first evidence of what he was looking for. In a dusty meadow full of whirring grasshoppers, dry grass, and foot-tall plants with broad gray leaves called “mule ears” stood a weathered but neatly fashioned log cabin. The cabin was surrounded by some unusually tall stumps, the remains of pine trees that had been cut off ten feet or more above the ground. He examined the cabin and found that it had two entrances and two living chambers separated by a log partition. In the dirt floor of each chamber, there was a shallow depression, the remains, perhaps, of fire pits or burial pits of some sort. Poking about in the dry grass among the stumps outside the cabins, he found some charred logs. And then, nearby, he found what he’d been told he would.

    Half hidden in the grass were piles of bones. At first most of them seemed to be the bones of cattle, but then, just to the left of these, he found a nearly complete human skeleton sprawled out on the ground with grass growing between the ribs. He stooped and examined the remains. Then he noticed that in the grass nearby there were bits and pieces of broken wooden boxes and some faded articles of clothing. He picked up a child’s stocking and felt something rattling around inside it. He carefully turned the stocking inside out and dumped its contents into his hand—the small and perfect foot bones of a child.

    Young Dr. Bryarly is about to make far worse discoveries, and record them in his diary.

    Partly this is straight history, with the focus being on one of the young women, Sarah Graves Fosdick, who survived the entire affair. Part of what happened to her was bad luck: the snow in the Sierras came early and piled up deeper than usual. Many of the decisions that ultimately led to disaster were reasonable at the time, with the information they had. But part of it was bad judgment. As the group pulls away from St. Joe, Missouri:

    …Nobody, it must have seemed to them, could be better prepared for the journey ahead.

    However, they had neglected one critical piece of advice. Of all the many tips, encouragements, admonitions, and suggestions that Lansford Hastings dispensed in The Emigrants’ Guide to California and Oregon, the best of them had to do with timing one’s departure. On this he was both honest and correct when he said that the emigrants must “enter on their journey on, or before, the first day of May; after which time they must never start, if it can possibly be avoided.” On the consequence of not doing so, he was even more pointed: “Unless you pass over the mountains early in the fall, you are very liable to be detained by impassable mountains of snow until the next spring, or perhaps forever.”

    On the day that Sarah, Jay, and the rest of the Graves clan stepped aboard the ferry at Parrott’s Landing, May Day was already more than three weeks in the past.

    Brown sure knows how to write a chapter end.

    Part of what may have put off the Booklist reviewer is that when an author reads too much Victorian primary-source material, the style seeps into his own prose. But the Victorians really did talk that way: They could say “No, gentlemen. I will not abandon these people. I am here on a mission of mercy, and I will not half do the work. You can all go if you want to, but I shall stay by these people while they and I live,” as did John Stark (age 20) of the Third Relief, and mean it. (Stark carried a group of the children out, quite literally on his back.) Many heroes, large and small, stand out. There aren’t any real villains (aside, perhaps, from Louis Keseberg). I expect nearly everyone wants to know about field-expedient birth control. It’s even relevant; archeology of the Graves cabin on Truckee (now Donner) Lake turned up a tin of Oil of Hemlock belonging to Mrs. Graves, and you’d probably want to know what she planned to do with that. Contraception also explains why young Mrs. Fosdick wasn’t heavily pregnant by the time she came to walk out of the camp on snowshoes (that party taking 33 days and 50% casualties in what they thought was going to be a six-day hike).

    In a way we can see this as a case of early adopters debugging the system. They were testing California Trail Beta 0.9, following a guidebook written by a man who had never, personally, taken the route he recommended, and didn’t know anyone who had. He recommended a shortcut that looked fine on the map

    Interwoven with the narrative of Sarah Fosdick and her adventures on the California Trail, Brown talks about his own retracing of her journey. From the middle of the Hastings Cutoff:

    Finally, after another thirty minutes of climbing and gasping, I fought through some brush to a spot where the ridgeline fell away to the east. From somewhere very near there, Lansford Hastings had pointed out to James Reed his “better route” though the Wasatch. Looking out at the confusion of green mountains and purple canyons below me, it struck me with full force—in a way that it could not have if I hadn’t seen it for myself—that only a madman, or a serious salesman, could look at that landscape and propose taking a party of heavily laden wagons through it.

    Interwoven, too, are descriptions of other disastrous wagon trains of the past and yet to come as the Donners went west, of the Black Hawk War (with anecdotes both amusing and horrifying), of the Mexican War, the creation of California, 19th century attitudes concerning Christmas, the relations between the sexes, death and dying, modern understand of meteorology, the physiology of hypothermia and starvation, and the psychology of survival and post-traumatic stress. So yes, it’s discursive. If you didn’t want to know about the three grades of flour available in St. Joseph to the emigrants, what they contained, and their relative prices, this probably isn’t the right book for you.

    Brown belongs to the Endless Trivia school of historians rather than the Sweeping Generalization school. Lots of material for the novelists among us to mine.

    Is this the best Donner book? Dunno. It’s a different one, and brought up material new to me. Go, read it.

    Mr. Brown gives a good list of websites concerning the Donners and other matters touched on in his book, but not all in one place, and he doesn’t link to them from his website. Here are some:

    And many more besides.

    May 03, 2009
    It’s a big rock.
    Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:02 AM * 108 comments

    I’m going to tell all of my friends. None of them have a rock this big.

    Back in the 19th century folks who needed a thrill like no other would get in their carriages and locomotive trains and travel hundreds of miles to see wonders of the natural world. There’s one such wonder a mere 97 miles from my front door, so, yesterday, a beautiful blue-sky day, we jumped in the car and started driving.

    What wonder, you ask, is 97 miles from my doorstep? Why, Madison Boulder, of course. Famed. You used to be able to get postcards to commemorate your visit. (Maybe you still can.) Eminent Victorians would travel from Boston and New York to see it.

    The boulder is located in the town of Madison, New Hampshire. 1,900 souls. Named for President James Madison. A town so obscure that doesn’t even have a photo. Madison’s most famous native son, Charles A. Hunt, isn’t that well-known either.

    How to find the boulder: Your best route to Rt. 16 in New Hampshire. Two miles south of Conway, you’ll come to the junction with Rt. 113. Turn left (if you’re coming from the north) or right (if you’re coming from the south, take the second junction with 113), onto Deer Hill Road (Rt. 113). Drive a ways past a sand-and-gravel company, and you’ll see a brown sign with white lettering on the right pointing to Madison Boulder. Turn right on Boulder Road. Drive past the Transfer Station, all the way to the end of the road, where the pavement ends, and keep on going down a dirt road (don’t try this if your vehicle has low ground clearance). Eventually you’ll come to a small parking area, and there it is: the Boulder. The biggest glacial erratic in New England. One of the largest in the world. Depending on who you believe, it moved somewhere between four and twenty-four miles to get here. It’s roughly rectangular, twenty-three feet high above the ground (and an estimated dozen feet below), eighty-three feet long, and fifty-five feet wide,

    We make our own fun here in New Hampshire.

    Promoted from the comment thread, #15 by kid bitzer:

    they say that daniel webster hid a special speech under that rock, a speech so round and ringing, so cogent and compelling, so grand and good, that it would win a man a presidential election.

    and countless young politicians, burning to rule the land, came and tried to lift that boulder, yearning to get at that speech.

    and those burning, yearning young politicians came to the rock and they grunted and groaned and strained and sprained. and they went off deflated, frustrated, and herniated, because none of them could lift the rock to get the speech.

    until one day a young man came to new hampshire, slim as a rail, and lean as a pry-bar, and he too wanted to be president. ‘you’ll have to lift that rock,’ they told him, ‘and you’re no weight-lifter, to look at you.’

    but he went to that rock, and he gave it a speech. he never stooped, he never pried, he never dug nor grunted. he just stood tall and talked to it. and he talked about our nation, and he talked about our past, and he talked about our forests and our cities and our triumphs and our sins and the way we got to here and the way we’ll move ahead to there.

    and the rock raised up, and the speech stepped forth, and daniel webster’s old moldy scroll said: “you don’t need me. you have the speech you need to give to the world.”

    and they say that young man went on to become president, and from that day the fortunes of his country changed for the better.

    May 02, 2009
    Open thread 123
    Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:50 AM *

    Admiring the cup till the tea’s gone cold.

    Smaller type (our default)
    Larger type
    Even larger type, with serifs

    Dire legal notice
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