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Letters to the Editor, January 2004


This a traditional letter column. You are encouraged to write a letter of comment on anything that you find worthy of comment. It will (may) be published in this column along with my reply. As editor I reserve the right to delete material; however I will not alter the undeleted material. E-mail to me that solely references the contents of this site will be assumed to be publishable mail. All other e-mail is assumed to be private. And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication. Oh yes, letters of appreciation for the scholarly resources provided by this site will be handled very discreetly. This page contains the correspondence for January 2004.

Some of it is a little ancient; I'm slowly catching up - very slowly.

Index of contributors

Other Correspondence Pages


From: Peter Neilson
Date: 1/17/2004
Subj: Just how observant are the answers?

9. What is the lowest number on the FM dial? ANS: 88

Or sometimes 88.1, depending on the precision of the dial.

15. Whose face is on a dime? ANS: Roosevelt

Or Mercury on the older ones no longer in circulation because of their valuable silver content.

25. There are 12 buttons on a touch tone phone. What two symbols bear no digits? ANS: *, #

These are respectively known as asterisk (not asterick) and octothorpe (a word apparently invented by AT&T).

27. Does a merry-go-rounds turn clockwise or counter clockwise? ANS: Counter clockwise

British ones turn clockwise.

Picky, picky.
Thank you, Mr. Harter, for your continuing bottom 95% effort, without which I would have to come up with other things to do. This quiz is right up there.
You're welcome. When you're bottom feeding on the bottom 95% you need a big appetite. Let's not discuss an appetite for what.
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From: Ron Coates
Date: 1/13/2004
Subj: Your Web Pages

Mr. Harter,

I happened across your web pages almost by accident. A Jehovah's Witness gave me some literature on evolution, and in it was the mention of "The New Evolutionary Timetable". I was curious as to who put the publication out, so I did a search on it. Your site came up, and it helped me realize that, as with most of the JW literature, the quote from NETimetable was take out of context.

The intriguing thing about creationist quoting out of context is where do they get the quotes. Consider: the average JW is not going to read "The New Evolutionary Timetable" at all. It takes a peculiar and specialized sort of mind to read books and articles about evolution and extract nothing from them except misrepresented fragments.
Anyway, the reason I am writing to you is to compliment you on a well designed web page, with some really clever writing.
You are quite right; I have every confidence that your judgment in this matter is impecable.
I am a busy person and do not know when I will get time to revisit your site, but I do have it bookmarked. I would like to know two quick answers, if I may. First, is there a picture of you on the site somewhere? Second, what did you do for a living? (I am assuming you are retired since you are two years older than my wife, this assumption could be wrong)
You might also look at http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2003/before_and_after.html.

For much of my life I was well paid for playing with computers.

I apologize for not taking the time to search your website better, because the answers to my questions are probably easy to find, but hope you take the time to answer....and again, thank you for such an entertaining site to visit.
You're welcome.

... continued on next rock ...

When I read your comments below, about how the average JW is not going to read the New Evolutionary Timetable......it made me realize that most non-believers do not read the Bible. But I read it all the time, just so I can do exactly what the JW folks do, I quote out of context! haha

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.--Luke 14:26 "

I love that particular verse, because it is so hard to get believers to say that they hate their parents.

Now that's not fair. :-)
In one of the Father Brown stories by Chesterton, Father Brown makes the acute observation that many Christians read "their bible" rather than reading "the bible".
You are correct that my judgement is impeccable when it comes to my appreciation of your work! ;)
Your assessment of my correctess is notable for its accuracy and precision. :-)
Thanks for the links to the more recent photos, and thanks again for the great website.
I shall do my best, such as it might be.

... in addendum

Just a quick follow up....I found your photo section. Except that you are slimmer than me, we could be brothers, our appearance is close enough for that. I too wear a beard and am thin of hair on the top of my head. I saw your passport photo and your photo holding the cat.

Whether I am slimmer than you is moot. At one time, apparently so. A couple of years ago I was rather chunkier than I am now, but I am not as slender as I was in my youth.
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From: Mrs. Cindy Eckman
Date: 1/112/2004
Subj: I wish I were as smart as you

Dear Mr. Harter,

How did you get so smart? Did you do something in your younger years that made your brain work so well?

I blame it on my parents. They are both deceased so they can't defend themselves.
I'm 46 years old, homeschool my 6 children (3rd grade to 10th grade), help my husband run our construction company by working in our home office, and sometimes I feel like I don't know a thing.
Don't worry about it. None of us know a thing, compared to what there is to know.
I got good grades in school, honor student, but I had to work like the dickens to get there. It didn't come easy. My husband never graduated, but he's got a math mind like I've never seen. He can figure stuff in his head that takes me twice as long on a calculator. I see that trait in some of my children, they're very good with math. Some things come very easy to some of the kids, but I see others have to work very hard in some subjects. Maybe that's normal.

How can I help the ones that have a hard time in math, and other subjects as well? Particularly my oldest daughter (16). My 14 year old daughter is in the same grade as her and she's a whiz in math like her dad. I think it intimidates my 16 year old a bit, but I'm trying to help her overcome that. We're doing algebra this year (I somehow never had to take it in school, so I'm having a real good time with it now), and that has proven to me just how my mind doesn't like to hold to a particular math thought pattern for longer than a few seconds. If I could just keep the steps in my brain without having them fly off somewhere into oblivion, boy would that help. I see my 16 year old having the same problem.

There must be something I can do to strengthen my mind. And not some new herbal memory pill. Perhaps some type of exercise to strengthen my thought process. Am I on the right track, or is that hogwash? Can a person help themself become smarter? I would surely love to help my children with that as well.

Just a thought. Have any ideas?

I have a few, none of them profound, or necessarily even accurate. I opine (such a lovely word, opine) that almost everyone has an innate ability to do arithmetic, just as almost everyone has an innate ability to speak and to learn to read and write. Just as there is only a minority of people that regularly read books, so there is only a minority of people for whom math is fun. The mind needs exercise just as muscles do. The trouble with exercise is that it is, almost by definition, tedious and unpleasant - formal exercise, that is. After all, exercise is what you do in lieu of being physically active whilst doing something you enjoy. If, for example, you take long walks for the pleasure they give you, you aren't exercising even though you are getting the benefits of physical activity.

So it is with exercise for the mind. If you study, if you read, if you calculate, all because doing such things are good for you, then it all becomes incredibly dreary. What is wanted is doing that is undertaken for its own right. Thus one learns to enjoy reading by reading that which one enjoys reading, and, I suppose, one learns to enjoy calculating by calculating that which one enjoys calculating. I'm not quite sure what that would be, though. Perhaps, instead of fusty word problems, a course in arithmetic might give you a dress pattern and prices of cloth, trim, and thread, and ask you to calculate how much of each would be required, how long it would take to make the dress, and how much it would cost. We could complicate it by assuming a certain likelihood of having to rip out a seam and do the whole thing over. We would probably need a separate set of questions for the boys.

Also, about your website. I have such fun reading it, and I also share some of it with my kids. My husband and I have our desks facing each other and in the evening I'll sit here and read stuff off your site and we'll laugh and laugh. Other stuff that wasn't meant to be funny is very informative. I also enjoy your stories. You know how I found it? Around Christmas time, I was searching the internet for Christmas cookies (google, of course), and one of the things that came up was an engineer's recipe for cookies. It was from your site, and lo and behold, you were discovered by my family. I now have you bookmarked, and whenever I have a minute or two (which usually turns into a half hour or so), I click to your site and read. Such wonders opening up to me. I am forever in your debt.
Thank you very much for the kind words; they are much appreciated.
I hope I didn't take up too much of your time, but then again I think your brain works so fast you probably processed this whole email in a blink of an eye.
My brain really doesn't work all that fast. Even if it did, I would have been slow to reply because your letter was quite thought provoking.
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From: clayton truman
Date: 1/6/2004
Subj: Darwin and the Geological column

As a side note to our discussions, if you are still involved that is, Darwin's theory stated that organisms gain a stronger foothold on their environment through time. It would make sense then, that those organisms, or families therein, that are the oldest would would be around today as obviously they would be the best adapted to the changing enviroment. They are not however, they are dead as is according to the fossil records. Man, is quite young, yet we seem to have the strongest foothold on our environment of any organism.

Bacteria are the dominant life form on this planet. Ants are second.
Secondly, why is it that what we call the oldest organisms, those obviously least adapted to their environment or they would be around today, are found in the oldest Rock formations. If organisms truly do change over time, than those most adapted to their environment would be found in the oldest rock, that is if time was involved, no?
What makes you think that organisms of ancient times weren't adopted to their environments. Environments change over time, you know, and each species has its own environment.

And so and so forth.

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From: Bob Nagel
Date: 1/11/2004
Subj: Correction for your quiz for people who know everything

A Fourth word that starts with dw "dwadle"

I like it, but dictionaries don't seem to. Are you certain that you aren't thinking of "dawdle"?
Also, the L.A. Lakers are not named for the Great Lakes, but for the 10,000 lakes in the motto: "Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes".
True enough. Thanks for the correction.
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From: Nancy Kutz
Date: 1/14/2004
Subj: great

Richard, Love your site ...Was talking to Wendy and she told me about your site. I think it is great...keep up the good work.

Thank you for the kind words. As for the site, it has to do with all of the water I buy - I keep the water on my brain fresh.
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From: clayton truman
Date: 1/1/2004
Subj:genetic mutation

The reason I talk about our population at a peak is that, if the pattern holds correct as with other organisms, our population J curve is such that, again, like other organisms they experience a crash before a leveling out t see what our true carrying capacity is , or a readjustment from what it used to be for thousands of years. Perhaps, we may level out at some point without a crash in population.

What we (our species) will do is very hard to foresee; it is hard to foresee the future of those who have foresight. Still, things do not look good - we have expanded beyond the carrying capacity of the Earth and are making up the shortfall by mining irreplacable ecological resources.
The reason I see a loss of trait, and in my theory, it is the loss of our fight/flight response system, which I will tie in later, I see this because mutations (and you are better versed in this area than I) are recessive, thus, a trait that has enabled the organism to get to where it is would be lost. It would be uncomfortable, as change always is. Acceptance of a new way is always, or at least most often shown as difficult.
Color me skeptical about losing the f&f response system - it is too deeply ingrained into our structure. There are kinds of changes that can happen easily and changes that are quite difficult and unlikely.

Of course there is much that we don't know about how the genetic system and the development process actually works, so we can't dismiss out of hand the loss of the f&f response system.

Anxiety driven disorders, not unlike when the hare population crashes, are responsible for most of our diseases, if not all and are increasing at exponential rates. Our fight flight protective system, which has gotten us this far, is overloaded. Our adrenal glands, as a species, are spent both in the fight for food and shelter in third world countrys and for keeping up with the Jone's and rushing the kid's to hockey in the west. The problem is, that our fight/flight system is still responsible for keeping us alive, it is still our protection, it keeps us from (most of the time)jumping off of high buildings and cliffs unless the pressure from our environment pushes us past our fear of death, this to increasing as never before. I agree with Darwin in that even if our species is in an environmental squeeze, that perhaps it can be a time of adaptation to that pressure.
Some of this is dubious, e.g., most of our diseases being anxiety driven disorders. However I will go along with it for the nonce.
At this point, I am not saying that our future looks bleak, Just the opposite. As well I am not some fear based fundamentalist Christian. I have however examined history and the present not only from a evolutionary point of view, but from our experience of spiritual intuition. From personal experience, I have found that there are patterns in each which speak the same language from different perspectives. It is these different perceptions which view the same events as different events when really, they are one in the same.

What I am talking about is perhaps our least explored frontier, our so far mostly unused brain in a modern skull.

The "mostly unused brain" is urban folklore.
Still with me?
Oh yes. I'm skeptical - it's handwaving - but it is plausible speculation. Carry on, Jeeves.

... continued on next rock

hi again I would just like to add to my earlier email, that I am well aware that I may be incredibly confused, or perhaps in denile, or that I have realized many great truths, to which only a few of the greatest thinkers on the planet have arrived at. The important part is that I am aware of this, and that I am aware of being aware of this.

It is like Capernicus. If he was wrong he was a deranged idiot. If he was right, a brilliant individual with forsight. Either way, that is an exciting place to be!

Whether you are a brilliant individual or a deranged idiot may be open to question; your spelling skills are not. Be that as it may, awareness is good. Not, perhaps, as good as home-squeezed orange juice, but definitely good.
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From: Gary Hill
Date: 1/8/2004
Subj: Correction for your quiz for people who know everything

There's one "sport" in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends. What is it?
ANS: Ice Skating

there are other "Judged" sports that this would also hold true..(ie gymnastics)

Indeed. The answer, which I found in a Chinese Fortune Cookie, seems not to be entirely complete.
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From: Steve Binkley
Date: 1/8/2004
Subj: Kipling

Re. the article "Kipling as Cryptographer," when the page loaded, there was a small box with an "x" in it. I assume that this should have been the crossword alluded to. I have tried arranging the names as suggested, but can make no sense of it.

Am I misunderstanding the instructions or simply not seeing the secret signature and subject? Or is this a hoax? If Kipling does have a connection, it would be highly interesting, especially if Doyle were also involved. Although not an expert, I am a biologist and have done some reading on the Piltdown Hoax. I see no reason to think that anyone other than Dawson was involved in the hoax; although, it is possible that someone else knew or suspected the truth.

Take another look. When I moved the page I didn't move the graphic that has the acrostic. It should be there now. Personally it seems to me to be a case of "if you try hard enough you can always see what you want to see" but others may find it more convincing.

It is hard to see how Dawson could have not been involved. As to others, for the most part the arguments are mostly handwaving and unconvincing speculation, Drawhorn's case against Woodward perhaps being the best of the lot.

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From: Infected Machine
Date: 1/7/2004
Subj: You use illegal File Sharing ...

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Downloading of Movies, MP3s and Software is illegal and punishable by law.

We hereby inform you that your computer was scanned under the IP 194.191.253.15 . The contents of your computer were confiscated as an evidence, and you will be indicated.
You get the charge in writing, in the next days.
In the Reference code: #49898, are all files, that we found on your computer.

The sender address of this mail was masked, to fend off mail bombs.

- You get more detailed information by the Federal Bureau of Investigation -FBI-
- Department for "Illegal Internet Downloads", Room 7350
- 935 Pennsylvania Avenue
- Washington, DC 20535, USA
- (202) 324-3000

This seems to be a new virus making the rounds. It comes with an attachment refcode49898.cmd. If, in a panic, you open the attachment to see what files they found on your machine, you won't be indicated [sic] but you definitely will be screwed.
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From: Tim Batoh
Date: 1/8/2004
Subj: Everything quiz

Just to let you know for your quiz answers for question 10 is not truly correct. You have a pass ball listed as a way to reach base but this is only true on either a dropped third strike or a walk. A seventh way to reach base is reaching on an error.

Thanks for the correction. When I get all of the corrections I will update the answers.
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From: Denton Advertising
Date: 1/8/2004
Subj: Everything quiz

The answer to question 10 is wrong. A batter cannot advance to first base on a passed ball unless it is strike 3. A batter can however reach first base on an error, which is not a hit, so you still have 7. Also, catcher's interference can also be with the batter, which is more common.

Good point about interference, likewise passed ball.
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From: j
Date: 1/8/2004
Subj: Correction for your quiz for people who know everything

Your answer for the following question is incorrect.

It is possible to know, prior to the end of the contest the score and the leader in ice skating competitions. The correct answer to this question is boxing.

There's one "sport" in which neither the spectators nor the participants know the score or the leader until the contest ends.

All in all I enjoyed the quiz, but I missed the Niagra Falls question.

Yeah, boxing seems to be a much better answer. Thanks for the suggestion and I'm glad that you enjoyed the quiz.
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From: Will Hartje
Date: 1/6/2004
Subj: Bullshit about Old Ironsides

The story on your website about Old Ironsides is total CRAP!

A good story, but totally untrue.

Indeed. Why do you suppose it was in the humor department?
The Constitution's maiden voyage was July 22 1798 under Captain Samuel Nicholson, later that year she went on patrol off the West Indies but never went near the Azores and certainly not to Scotland.

She patrolled the West Indies for three years protecting American shipping from French, not English, Privateers, in those three years she had NO MILITARY ENGAGEMENTS WHATSOEVER, and did not sink any British Naval ships. Returning in 1801 to Boston, she was then laid up for a refit

The amount of liquor and water listed here would have added up to 20% of her tonnage alone without all of the other supplies on board. Such weight, even if loaded as ballast would have a crippling effect on her performance and manouverability.

You can find the afforementioned story about the Constitution on several websites. The story is repeated on all of them verbatim, so has obviously been copied from site to site.

A plausible but probably incorrect surmise. At some point in the past the story circulated in email. That's how I got it, and I suspect that that is how many who put it up on the web got it.
There are two problems with the alleged tale.

(1) It would require every man on board to have drunk, on average, 2.86 gallons of liquor every day of the voyage for the consumption to be accurate.

And your problem with this is?
(2) The official (US NAVY) historical website for the USS Constitution totally contradicts this tall tale.
I'm shocked, Sir, simply shocked.

... continued on next rock

I must admit I didn't navigate your site to locate where it was placed, I was alarmed at the number of sites that carry it on the web and claim it to be fact. If you had it posted as humor, I apologise.

No problem. About once a year someone writes and points out that the story is a faradiddle. So it is; that is the nature of the web. It is Borges' universal library that holds every work of fact and fiction, both true and false. In the fullness of time there will be neither truth nor falsity, merely an endlessly rewritten narrative. In this great effort I do my part.
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From: Elizabeth MacDonald
Date: 1/7/2004
Subj: about # 11 on your quiz...

http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2003/everything_ans.html

#11 -> watermelon is another answer

Hmmm. I'm not sure that that is right, but I can't think of any usage. What about other melons?

I am given to understand that one can make wine out of lettuce, but that it has an effect like laudanum.

... continued on next rock

I have purchased frozen honeydew and cantaloupe; never watermelon nor bambino (a dwarfed breed of watermelon). I don't have information about any of the more exotic varieties...

Maybe they have frozen watermelon balls in some of those fancy drinks.
I'm not a fan of wine, nor opium, so I'll take your word on the lettuce wine! :)
I have no plans to try it myself.
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From: clayton truman
Date: 12/29/2003
Subj: genetic mutation

So you are the big fish are you, and what do I get if I catch you, more than just a mount on my wall?

It's well known that I'm a large mouthed bass. I take exception, though, to being mounted on a wall.
Briefly at this point then, if natural selection takes seemingly non-normal, un-natural charachteristics and makes them normal, how would we recognize those charachteristics, the benificial ones to not only the species as a whole, but to the individual, from the ones that are detrimental to the organism? Perhaps the difficulty to the species would not be so much in accepting it's new adaptation, as leaving the old behaviors behind.
It's a little difficult to make heads or tails out of this because it doesn't seem to have much to do with evolution or natural selection as they happen in this world. At a guess, you have it backwards. Natural selection selects for those characteristics that are beneficial to the organism rather than those beneficial to the species.
You see,it would appear it is one in the same. Charachteristics or changes to a species that are in the end benificial to not only the whole, but the individual, would appear detrimental to the individual at first, untill they are accepted. Certainly any charachteristic that seems to be detrimental to a species is only so while the species is low in numbers. Should the species obtain a high concentration in it's environment as humans have done, than we can say that these "diseases" or "defomaties" are good to the population as a whole, as it thins out the population.
Again, you seem to be assuming that natural selection selects for traits beneficial to the species rather than the individual.
Lastly, as we have never seen a new species evolve, how do we know that genetic mutation, and thus evolution, only happens through breeding. Do we not have any evidence of genetic mutaion to the individual (of a species) while it is living. We can say that evolution does not happen to an individual organism, however, there must be those that first change in order for critical mass to be reached.
As it happens, we have seen new species evolve, both in the wild and in the laboratory. You might look at:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html

Please comment on the above and I will continue.
I dunno, it doesn't seem as though this is going to go anwhere.

... continued on next rock

Mr Bass;

I love language, it is so useless when it is ripped apart and analized- so neanderthal- Re: organism/species yada yada chicken or egg. Obviously individuals need to change prior to an entire species.

Individuals changing first wasn't the point - the point was that natural selection selects changes that benefit individuals rather than species.
I was afraid we would get into this word game bullshit which intellects seem to love getting involved in in order to not prove a point or make change, so I will re-phrase.

Yes, I will check out the new species info you gave to me, thank you.

My point is this, one would think that being as we are a species at an apparent peak, that evolutionary oportunity would be rearing it's head, and I am seeing this. The question is to what is the change? It must be a loss of a trait, it must look uncomfortable, and it must have the right environment to evolve or be excepted as benificial, do we have common ground on this?

Not particularly. I wouldn't say that our species is at an apparent peak in a biological sense. I'm skeptical about the notion of evolutionary opportunity rearing its head. I see no reason why change must involve loss of a trait, nor why it must look uncomfortable. I'm willing to buy into the thought that changes must have right environment to evolve. Finally, changes don't have to be accepted as being beneficial; it suffices that they are beneficial in the sense of increasing reproductive fitness. Unless you are talking about evolution as a result of genetic engineering.

Other than these small differences (and such others as we may discover from time to time) we are in perfect agreement.

Re: this is not going anywhere:patience mule while I reel you in.
But of course.
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From: David Windsor
Date: 12/31/2003
Subj: Utah Jazz

I'm writing to provide some background to Charles Hitchcock's comment about the Utah Jazz basketball team, and his well-founded observation that it is named most inappropriately. The franchise began in New Orleans and was known as the New Orleans Jazz, which kind of fits. When the franchise moved to Salt Lake City many years ago, the name didn't change. The same thing happened (or didn't happen) when the Minneapolis Lakers move to Los Angeles. I always thought it strange that the Lakers and the Jazz didn't change the team names to better match their new environs. (LA ... Smog? Utah ... what? That's it! The Utah What! Kinda like the name of the small town newspaper in Lilian Jackson Braun's "The Cat Who..." detective novels: The Moose County Something, so named because no characters in the novels could think of anything better to call it!)

I don't suppose that it would do to call them the Utah Mormons, but couldn't they be the Utah Saints. For that matter, since they have a big lake there, they could be the Utah Lakers.
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From: Tony Lewis
Date: 12/29/2003
Subj: ooops

<BEGIN IGNORED MATERIAL>
Re: 21

Hebrew National hotdogs come 7 to a package. Best Kosher [Chicago] Hot dogs come 15 to a package.

<END IGNORED MATERIAL>

Ignore previous email--I now OBSERVE it is hot dog buns. This brings up the question of why hot dogs and buns are packaged in such a way.

It's a marketing thing to ensure that you always either need more hot dogs or more buns.
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From: Susan Hitchler
Date: 12/10/2003
Subj: explain

Does anything on your site offer proof of one species evolving into another?

I don't have anything specific on my site - at least I don't think so, but it's a rather large site, and I've lost track of what all is in it. Be that as it may, you might wish to look at the talk.origins archive, specifically

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html
There is more material there but those are a good starting point.

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From: island
Date: 11/18/2003
Subj: Anthropic Principle

Please take a look at my website:

http://www.geocities/naturescience

I took a look; my impression, which may be wrong, is that it is handwaving rather than physics.
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From: Ted Darby
Date: 12/30/2003
Subj: Just How Observant

Re question 2. There are 48 States. The other two are commonwealths.

MA is one, that I know, and, if I am not mistaken, VA is the other one. None-the-less both are states, even though they are also commonwealths.
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From: Howard Bowen
Date: 12/30/2003
Subj: Website - Your Everything Quiz

Question 12
Name six or more things that you can wear on your feet that begin with the letter "S"
. ANS: sandals, snow shoes, shoes, clippers, sneakers, skis, stockings, sabots

Clippers - doesn't start with an S. Typo for Slippers?

Yes. I may get around to correcting it by the time you read this.
However "Socks" do and fall into your criteria.
Indeed they do.

... continued on next rock

Looking at the message I sent to you yesterday I forgot to add. Thanks for several hours of top notch entertainment from your site. I especially found the anecdotes relating to your time in the US Marines great!

Plus I really like the idea of "Hartering a motion"!
Happy new year from one of your British fans.

Thank you for the kind words. Apparently "Hartering a motion" was being taken very seriously, which somehow, well, you know.
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From: Charles Hitchcock
Date: 12/29/2003
Subj:
crxn on Everything quiz

Other answers to #1: orienteering, downhill ski racing, certain forms of rowing (e.g. Head of the Charles), road rallying(?), horseback jumping, gymnastics. Note that in all of these, as in figure skating, golf, etc., you actually can know the current best, just not how the standings would be if checkpoints were/couldbe used to make them comparable. (Well, technically some of them have points which everyone reaches before anyone can continue, e.g. Nth run in skiing, or Nth tries in repeated gymnastics (e.g., vaulting) -- but if you're getting that picky, skating also has at least one checkpoint (end of compulsories).)

(Orienteering was my first guess, and I'm surprised you didn't remember it -- IIRC you were still vaguely in touch with Boston fandom when Leslie Turek started doing it.)

The quiz was one of those things that circulates that I picked up. I'm inclined to just remove that first question; as you point out there are a lot of plausible answers. However I don't see orienteering as one of them - no spectators.
wrt #8: Counting braces as punctuation rather than a graphic is stretching (or is there a use outside of indicating split dialog?). And if you're going to count the en-dash as punctuation separate from the hyphen, shouldn't open and close quotes be counted separately (says the former typesetter...)?
Tell you what, I'll trade you braces for open and close quotes. It still comes out to be eighteen. :-)
wrt #9: Minneapolis is some hundreds of miles from any of the Great Lakes; wasn't the basketball teamed named after \all/ of the 10,000 lakes Minnesota claims?
I pretty sure that you are right on this one.
It's a tossup whether this or the Utah Jazz is the most inappropriate name.... ("Jazz" allegedly was originally a vulgarism; I don't know whether anyone in Utah has tried to get the name changed to something less "offensive", but "jazz" in the land of Donny and Marie has to be as bad as "lakers" in the realm of riverbeds you can dragrace in.)
Hey, they're quite prolific in the land of Donny and Marie. Plenty of jazz there.
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This page was last updated January 21, 2004.

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