! Letters to the Editor, February 2005
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Letters to the Editor, February 2005


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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 February 2005.

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

Index of contributors

  • Chip Hitchcock
  • Peter Neilson
  • Joy & Ray Mitchell
  • Charles Burwell
  • Anthony R. Lewis, FN
  • Chip Hitchcock
  • Larry Geer
  • Jonny Dunning
  • Darcy Rourk
  • Sysadmin
  • cthigpen
  • Richard Cooper
  • Carmen Arendt
  • Karin Reinhardt
  • Chip Hitchcock
  • Larry Geer
  • Richard Cooper
  • Therry Johnson
  • dnsadmin
  • Donald Martin
  • Donald Martin
  • Peter Neilson
  • Franck O. Courting
  • Peter Neilson
  • Mr Daniel Sogolo
  • Nikola Novak
  • Peter Neilson
  • David Weinstock
  • Richard Marken
  • Donald Martin
  • David Ng
  • Miroslav Provod

    Other Correspondence Pages


  • From: Chip Hitchcock
    Date: 2/22/2005
    Subj: "Densa"

    Mr. Burrell may have been mislead by some use of capitals, i.e. "DENSA" instead of "Densa". (You presumable know that "Mensa" is not an acronym but comes from the Latin word for "table".) I think it likely that any acronym came after the fact; I was a Mensa member for a short while (1977-8? let's not go into why) and recall that the local newsletter used "Densa" -- mostly in their puzzles, rather than as a general slur the way "Polack", "Newfie", or "moron" used to be used.

    That sounds right to me. It seems likely that the term "densa" appeared within microseconds after the founding of Mensa.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Peter Neilson
    Date: 2/20/2005
    Subj: Dr Lewis misunderstands

    My Dear Harter,

    According to the letter you received 15th inst. from Dr. Anthony Richard Lewis, PhD, FN, FBIS, and General Wise Guy, I was accidentally referring to bread when I used the word "rye" for "wry" in my letter of 30th ult. My recollection is that I was distinguishing the word from its antonym, Scotch.

    I fear that this leads us into that murkiest of playgrounds, that of "reading" or literary interpretation. A naive hermeneutic assumes that all texts have a well defined meaning or at least potentially have a well defined meaning after having made due allowance for errors in transcription from the mind of the author to the written text. A counter-example is my famous (at least it is famous among those who have read and appreciated it) essay on Chomsky's Colorless green ideas sleep furiously", a sentence that Chomsky presented as being grammatically correct yet quite meaningless, wherein I showed that, properly interpreted, is not only meaningful, but indeed is a nice poetic image.

    The captious might well complain of my essay that it forces a meaning upon the cited phrase that was quite unintended by the author. However, as the essay points out, authors are not an entirely reliable source for determining their intent.

    My point here is that meaning and correctness are jointly constructed between author and reader, not as some argue, arbitrarily, but rather constrained by social, physical, and linguistic reality. Moreover it is not fixed; meaning and interpretation can be reworked and altered over time.

    In particular it may be the case that we have here two different readings, one from Dr. Lewis, in which "rye" is a misspelling, and one from Mr. Neilson, where "rye" is a play on words. Without judging between these views, I will mention another possibility, that of the happy accident. Artists working with refractory materials are familiar with circumstances where the medium dictates the work, i.e., the artist works with the eccentricities of the medium rather than struggling to overcome them.

    In regard to my instructions from Dr. Lewis, I have learned much from him. For instance, I know where to find both ends of a horse. He deftly pointed out that the ordinary technical writing group contains at most one such end.
    I shall carefully avoid any interpretation of this comment.
    He also revealed how he and you, Mr. Harter, transformed an innocent game of chess into a dastardly game of poker, which both of you won handily. This sort of instruction is found only in the best of Tech Pubs departments, and seems to have disappeared along with the profession. You, Mr. Harter, are likely correct. If no one can RTFM, then there is no need to WTFM.
    Nonsense. There is no such thing as a dastardly game of poker.
    Some day I may write to you further, describing how I occasionally provide instruction to baboons.
    Do. Many of my readers seem to be baboons.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Joy & Ray Mitchell
    Date: 2/16/2005
    Subj: your attachements

    To Whom this may Concern,

    I am aware that you are trying to trash my website. I have full intentions of reporting you to the FCC. People with small minds tend to play dangerous games. Be aware that I am not playing games. You have been reported. You didn't succeed in your dirty deeds.

    I haven't the foggiest as to who you are or what your problems might be. In any event I have nothing to do with them except possibly that some virus forged my return address (a very common trick.) Then again, your email may be a forgery in its own right.

    Be that as it may, you've misspelled "attachment".

    Return to index of contributors

    From: Charles Burwell
    Date: 2/14/2005
    Subj: iq test for you

    Can anyone tell me what D-E-N-S-A stands for?

    ps this is the second time I have searched 'DENSA' (over the years) and not found the anachronym spelled out on the site's splashpage.

    It's not an acronym. Rather it is a play on words. MENSA is a group for people with high IQs; they have an IQ test that you have to pass to become a member. DENSA is a mock organization for the rest of us. The entrance test is considerably less demanding.

    In short, it doesn't stand for anything.

    ... continued on next rock

    Richard!...It's good to hear from you...but surprisingly, your answer is the same one I got back in the nineties, when I inquired elsewhere. DENSA is indeed a great play on words (alt. Mensa)..but that's not all...it does stand for something..it IS an anachronym! and it's a dang good one. Am I the only one that knows the answer? I'm willing to tell....but maybe you should try to guess first...you'll love it...you'll use it on your site...

    Defiantly Egalitarian Natural Scholars Association?

    Other than that, nothing occurs to me. Enlighten me.

    ... continued on next rock

    Hi Richard,

    Okay, here's the deal: For this little gem, I want a 'free subscription..signed copy of the book and a credit line somewhere onsite...eg. a link to Anart Studio....o-kay? :-) I doubt that I'd qualify for Mensa with the 135 I 'busted' on a test a while back...(and more recently a 131) but from what I've read, some groups consider a 135 IQ to be the minimal for acceptance (I think this was 'TOPS' ..top one percent society). Way back about 15 years ago, when I first her the word DENSA, I was told that it means:

    How the word DENSA has progressed without the explaination amazes me..:-) They must have been separated at birth.

    Enjoy,

    Charles Burwell
    www.anart.exegesis.nu
    Diversly Educated, Not Seriously Affected.
    ..ahhh...the stuff I give away....

    ... continued on next rock

    Here's a few lines from a six year old thread I found online.
    And here's the google results for all five words.

    The Grossmanns wrote:
    I'm not sirprised. It's one of those obvious jokes regarding Mensas that I'm sure thousands of people have thought of independently. I first thought of it 25 years ago about two minutes after someone explained to me what Mensas was. But Groo is such a natural standard bearer for a Densas group, it's just too good! -Gary G.
    "sirprised" another dognuts typed error?

    Azamin.

    This old thread revealed that there was a densa.com back then... with a full array of parodies, Id' imagine. One of the 'entrance' questions was: 'Calculate the speed of dark'. You'll find more at the link of what was discussed on the term DENSA. This person (above) dates it to the mid seventies in her recollection. I just thought you might like to know the history.
    I'm impressed. Live and learn. I shall definitely have to dig into this. I assure you that you will get the credit that you deserve.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Anthony R. Lewis, FN
    Date: 2/15/2005
    Subj: The well-bread Mr. Neilson

    In his letter of 23 January, Mr. Peter Neilson writes: "One notes with rye amusement the "last revised" date on your web page at..." I suggest you take his comments cum grano salis on a slice of wry bread.

    I think that he was saying that the "last revised" date went against the grain.
    I am ashamed that I did not better instruct Mr. Neilson in such matters when he worked for me as a Technical Writer. At least his experience there has helped him in the techniques of cleaning out the stalls of horses.

    Apparently, there is no longer a need for techincal [sic] Writers and/or Editors because the software products are now so well-constructed as to be self-explanatory.

    Documentation is no longer necessary since users can no longer read.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Chip Hitchcock
    Date: 2/14/2005
    Subj: February

    "Wishing what one could have said" is plausible; lines from l'esprit d'escalier always make a better story than the bald (and unconvincing?) narrative. (Just as Regency romances, even those by Heyer, are sometimes regarded as fantasy because that many people are never that witty that consistently.) However, Peter (as in the Principle) argues that the military system supports, even depends, on smart (not to say smart-ass) people not getting promoted over the bar between enlisteds and "officers"; I suspect that the list began with some true remarks and got embellished (which I hear you can depend on in military stories, even if they don't begin "No shit -- there we were" as in the SCA...).

    Few people are witty all of the time; many are witty half of the time.

    Peter's point is well taken. That enlisted/officer business is interesting though. It is weird that military organizations start some of the members of the command heirarchy half-way up the ladder. The qualifications for being an officer have little to do with intelligence and ability despite official mythologies, although there is some marginal connection. Indeed, they are more or less arbitrary. Social position, etc., do as well as anything.

    I have always supposed that the functional reason is that it is important that the promotion path to becoming a general shouldn't be too long. Then there is the theory that an officer who starts out as a lieutenant will have some sympathy for the enlisted men, whereas a mustang (officer who came up through the ranks) will know them for what they are.

    A related theory is that one has to learn to command many men early in one's career if one is going to be an officer. An officer must learn to bend his will towards the domination of others. Perhaps a ring might help. It is notable that the military academies all have class rings.

    Return to index of contributors

    From: Larry Geer
    Date: 2/13/2005
    Subj: Fwd: The Nuclear Piltdown Man

    Hello Richard,

    Thank You for your very enlightening response and getting to the very heart of the issue. You Zeroed in on the issues like a laser guided missile!

    "Some one has to tell this interwoven and convoluted story." Hopefully it can be you as a very impartial observe that is needed.

    With your insight and ability to concisely organize the facts the nation needs you on this one.

    However, one must have the facts, in this case it is possible that 70 years and a few trillions of dollars of facts may take a little time to collect. Not to mention some other factors that will become increasingly oblivious. I do not have the whole story, only a few pieces. I have been finding more pieces over the last 2 years plus.

    The separately sent attachment "Is Yucca Mountain the Only Solution to Radioactive Waste?" explains why my comfortable retirement has been interrupted.

    While this attachment only details one of a few available full radioactive deactivation methods and processes, there are many others radioactive neutralization methods and processes that provide partial deactivation of a few % up to 96%. I can and will provide all that I have on this subject.

    The basic fact IS that today ALL nuclear material could have been totally eliminated for the last 30 years and possibly the last 40 years versus the continuous dumping of nuclear materials into the air, water and the earth.

    Should this may interest you just a tad, then take a peep at www.ananuclear.org/topten.html The "Radioactive Pork" article will possible explain one facet of a great many facets in this "nuclear flat earth" or "nuclear nosee'em" story.

    I appreciate your kind words. I must admit that I am rather skeptical, although it would be quite wonderful if you were right. There are two things that will inevitably attract the attention of the skeptic. The first of these is the lack of any plausible proposed mechanism for this neutralization of radioactivity in contradistinction to, say, cold fusion, for which, if it exists, there is a plausible proposed mechanism.

    This is not to say theory is necessary. Reality trumps theory. If neutralization can be demonstrated in practice then theory will have to be reworked to match reality. However the demonstration lacks substance, at least judging by what I understand of your document. In essence there are some anecdotal evidence of missing radioactives, and some 40 year old garage experiments that are modestly documented. Given the extraordinary nature of the claims, there isn't enough meat on the bones.

    Be all of that as it may, I am not the man you want. I have neither the time, nor the requisite expertise, not the inclination to undertake the exposure of this fraud, if it be such. I wish you the best, though.

    Return to index of contributors

    From: Jonny Dunning
    Date: 2/13/2005
    Subj: our A Googlewhack!

    Your website is a googlewhack!

    Go to www.Google.com and type in 'thermogenic parsimoniously' and your website is the only one in 13 billion to come up, that my friend is a Googlewhack!

    sorry, to be more accurate, your website was 1 (one) in 8058044651 (eight billion fifty-eight million forty-four thousand six hundred fifty-one).

    Wow. I'm impressed. I have to wonder though, how does one discover such things. Also, is there a googlewhack club? I like the idea of all of us googlewhackers meeting (preferably at a sidewalk cafe in Paris) and exchanging stories about how we made it to the top.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Darcy Rourk
    Date: 2/12/2005
    Subj: how do you find cheap and or free mellerdrammer

    scripts? Thanks

    That is the thought that occurs to me. There are companies that sell playbooks. I don't know who they are, but your local school will. If that doesn't work, google on "East Lynne". That should turn up something.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Sysadmin
    Date: 2/12/2005
    Subj: dude, i wrote you 10 times...

    Next time i will write to police!
    Return my funds!!!

    Good move. I think the police have your funds.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: cthigpen
    Date: 2/11/2005
    Subj: How to swim with sharks

    First, thanks for having most of this article on line. It saved me a lot of time and trouble in retyping etc.

    Second, the complete title, as published in "Perspectives of Biology and Medicine" summer 1973 (ppg. 525-528) is "How to Swim with Sharks - A Primer" Additionally, there was an asterisk ("*") after the authors' name, and this comment:

    "Little is known about the author, who died in Paris in 1812. He may have been a descendant of Francois Voltaire and an ancestor of Jacques Cousteau. Apparently this essay was written for sponge divers. Because it may have broader implications, it was translated from the French by Richard J. Johns, an obscure French scholar and Massey Professor and director of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Johns Hopkins university and Hospital, 720 Rutland Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21205."

    I suggest you consider adding it to the article in your data bank.

    Have a nice weekend.

    I will. Thanks very much for the info.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Richard Cooper
    Date: 2/9/2005
    Subj: The great RAF posting scam

    I got that one from John himself: he has waited fifty years for it to catch up with him.

    I think this is one that has entered folklore.

    When it became obvious that the end of WWII was in sight, the RAF cut back on its pilot-training requirements. One of the later intakes was remustered, and several found themselves at the central posting establishment at Blackpool, as posting clerks. The job was mind-numbingly simple, and involved taking a requisition for, say, airframe fitters for RAF Kinloss, going to the section of the enormous filing cabinets covering "airframe fitters" and finding some whose tour of duty was about to finish, and completing the forms to post them to Kinloss. After a few weeks, these intelligent and adventurous young men became very bored, and began to play a game of their own. RAF Kinloss would get men with moustaches. Gatow would get men who had been divorced. Gan, in the tropics, would get men who were bald. Gibraltar would get Welshmen, Changi, Scots, and so on. Most fiendish was one station which would only get men over six feet tall or under five foot six: no problem until the annual station parade was sized off. Each station across the world had its own special criterion.

    All went well until one day when every single posting clerk was suddenly posted himself.

    On his way to his new station, one of the ex-clerks passed an airman on Waterloo station. He was bald, and carrying a tropical water canteen. As he walked past, the ex-clerk slapped him on the back and said "You'll love Gan!" and walked on, leaving the luckless airman completely mystified.

    I hope you enjoyed that!

    That is life as it should be. I do wonder though what they would have would have done with a bald, divorced, five foot five Welshman who sported a handlebar moustache?

    Now that I think on the matter, it would make for one of those logic puzzles in which you are given the names of several people, miscellaneous information about their residences, hobbies, professions, etc., all carefully arranged so that the puzzlee (there should be such a word even if there isn't) can deduce who did what with whom where and when.

    Perhaps it is not such a good idea. In any event, thanks for the story.

    Return to index of contributors

    From: Carmen Arendt
    Date: 2/8/2005
    Subj: Regret

    Hi, I enjoy your site (regret that I am writing, anonymity shot, voyeurism over) and was wondering if you will reveal the names of the neighbors to the east, the C_?

    As is obvious, I am petty and looking for schadenfreude. Thanks, Carmen

    It would be improper in me to reveal their names. However I will say that my neighbours are something to Crow about.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Karin Reinhardt
    Date: 2/9/2005
    Subj: Meeter's Kraut Juice

    Dear Sirs,

    I just found you in the internet and I was shocked to hear such negative responds to your Kraut Juice.

    I do not care what other people say about your Wisconsin Kraut Juice, I love it, and I tried all these years to find it again in all the stores of North County of San Diego and San Diego itself, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful. It is the best I ever had. Non of the others on the market can compete with yours. On the other hand, is extreemly healthy, tasty, heavanly.!!! My children and I drink it as it is, or I use it in soups, which are delicious.

    Could you please write me, where in my area I could find it, or could you send me some?

    I'm sorry, you have the wrong email address. I have one of the the sites that lists the eight horrid convenience foods. People ask me from time to time how to get Meeter's Kraut Juice in their area. I haven't had much luck in figuring out how to do that. However I will pass the information on to you if I do find out.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Chip Hitchcock
    Date: 2/10/2005
    Subj: February

    re "Would You Buy...": on the balance, the same question could be asked of the pilot -- which may be generous considering pilots. (You may remember Paula Lieberman claiming after our visit to _Close Encounters of the Third Kind_ that the ]UFO[ pilots were obviously fighter jocks....)

    I suspect that the smartass mechanics are just an urban legend. The nice thing about the web is that it can turn urban legend into fact.

    From what I've seen flying fighter jets is like doing drugs except that it is legal.

    re "An Addition to the Family" -- a friend was recently presented with a pillow bearing the motto "Don't tell my family I'm a lawyer; they think I play piano in a whorehouse." (For the friend, the presenter had overlaid "lawyer" with "professor".) --
    Such a thing to say. Why, some of my best friends are professors ...

    ... continued on next rock ...

    I'm not sure [the smartass mechanics are an urban legend]; there have to be some enlisteds who don't take the flyboys seriously, and chain-of-command can be some protection against official retaliation. ("You want so-and-so taken down for insolence. What did he say?" "That I tried to auto-land a plane without an autolander, uh, let me rephrase that....") But the list has probably grown in the telling.

    Unless things have changed greatly since I was in the military it is certain that there are enlisteds that don't take flyboys seriously. That, I think, may be taken as a given. The list smells, though, of the sort of thing that one wishes one could have said. Then again, it's the air force. It's not as though we're talking about a military outfit.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Larry Geer
    Date: 2/10/2005
    Subj: The Nuclear Piltdown Man

    To Who It May Concern

    I watched The Piltdown Man on the history channel last night 2/9/05. When it was said that it was the grestest hoax, forgery, and fraud in science, I thought of one that has occurred and is still occurring over a great many years.

    I then found your web site today. A very good website.

    Thank you.
    There is a 20th century equivalent to the Piltman Man in science fraud adn forgery and perhaps the greatest cover up ever, at least in cost to the earth people in the order of trillions of dollars and at a cost of thousands of lives.

    Several current Congressman and former Congressman have given full cover to this fraud knowingly and unknowingly. Perhaps by Presidential Order; this fraud continues today and perhaps continues in the covert interest of National Security which includes incalculable erroneous risks to the real National Security.

    It is even recorded in the nuclear textbooks, taught with fervor as religious nuclear domga in universities, even testified as being a fact under oath to Congress and the President and then written into the statutes and has been the "sound science" and "truth" for a number years, maybe as long as 50-70 years. It has no memory how it even got started. Maybe the Manhattan Project started this belief as the neutron became their god. Thus, "voodoo science" is at its best or maybe it is "stone age science" as epitomized by the greatest monument of all, aka, Yucca Mountain.

    It was further enhanced by the radioactive isotope dating dogma as it came into vogue. The geologists understood that isotope dating had serious limitations.

    The belief that "radioactive isotope half-lives can not be modified by any chemical or physical means" has been demonstrated to be in error by many researchers at least over the last forty years plus years. A few of the isotope neutralization methods and processes have demonstrated full radioactivity deactivation.

    Perhaps it is the belief that only neutrons and high energy accelerators can only change and create isotopes.

    It occurred to me that it is now the 21st century with a possible 21st Century Nuclear Piltdown Man or Men yet to be found and revealed to the public. Maybe it is the father of the H-bomb Teller or Libby with isotope dating (both knew about the nuclear half-life modification processes, as well as, at least two other Nobel prize winners that knew about the low energy half-life modifications) or maybe a thousand others.

    Some one has to tell this interwoven and convoluted story.

    May you be that someone

    It is not entirely clear to me what this great fraud is supposed to be. It is true enough that there are some modes of radioactive decay for which decay rates can be affected by temperature and pressure, though the effect is minor and the required pressure is enormous. For all practical purposes decay rates are constant.

    There is a real difference between the Piltdown Man hoax and your puported nuclear hoax. The Piltdown Man hoax was the work of one person or at most a few people. Once launched the hoax was on its own; the creators did not need to do any more work to sustain it.

    However your nuclear hoax, if it existed, would have required many people to initiate and ongoing work by many people to maintain. Measuring decay rates and using that information is done in many places. Experiments to measure effects of pressure, etc., are also done in various places and have been at various times. It would be a vast, pointless, fragile conspiracy, conducted by people professing to be motivated by the love of scientific truth. In short, no go. that dog don't hunt.

    This is not to say that there haven't been "conspiracies of ignorance" in science in which the received wisdom turned out to be flatly wrong, continental drift being an often cited example. For the most part these are inadequate reconstructions of the state of affairs. For example, there have been a number of "revolutions" in cosmology in the past fifty years - steady state was in and is out, the big crunch was in and is out, inflation has been inflated, and dark energy has arrived straight from Mordor.

    The truth is that Science often overreaches, indeed necessarily overreaches, when it comes to "big" questions. The questions are there on the table, and it is only human to try answer them, even if the answering has to be based in part upon speculation.

    Be all of that as it may, I thank you for an interesting letter.

    Return to index of contributors

    From: Richard Cooper
    Date: 2/9/2005
    Subj: People who never were

    Let me make a contribution.....

    When the British were pulling out of Burma they had to organise a Burmese army to take over. John Nicholas had the job of organising the 1st (and only) Battalion, Burma Engineers. He orginised all the paperwork, and the barracks,and the equipment, and everything was duly set up and the unit began to function. Then he had some time on his hands, so he decided to have a little joke, so he organised the 2nd Battalion, Burma Engineers as a ghost organisation. All the kit duly arrived but there were no soldiers. It was all complete just before Independence Day, when John came home and retired.

    I expect it is still there, with a Commanding Officer who draws pay for the men.

    Have you heard about the great RAF posting-system scam?

    Chortle. I definitely shall have to mention that. I hadn't heard about the great RAF posting-system scam. Do tell.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Therry Johnson
    Date: 2/8/2005
    Subj: Creation

    God said it. That settles it, whether you believe it or not. I pray that you one day will.

    I believe this is known as argument by chest thumping. Booga booga to you, too.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: dnsadmin
    Date: 2/7/2005
    Subj: fuck, where is my money ?

    Call me, dude!

    Okay, dude.
    Return to index of contributors

    From: Donald Martin
    Date: 2/3/2005
    Subj: Historical Atlas

    I looked for Mao and Stalin and found this.

    http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstatx.htm

    Interesting site. Thought you might like to have it.

    It is indeed, albeit on the depressing side. I had seen it before and had forgotten about it. One thing that is noteworthy is that when one normalizes death rate as a percentage of the population everybody gets into the act.

    Thanks for the link.

    Return to index of contributors

    From: Donald Martin
    Date: 2/3/2005
    Subj: mike morris's straw man?

    Thanks for the definition.

    You're welcome.
    Your handy dictionary is clumsy, but it does tell you that a straw man is a device you make so you can demolish it, or I make so I can demolish it, or Mike Morris makes so Mike Morris can demolish it.

    (The repeated misuse I had stumbled upon was at Morris, while I was looking for material on the Mike Morris who starred in the some of the administration’s phony news videos.)

    Alas, you have neither demonstrated repetition nor misuse. As it chances, this Mike Morris evidently is not the Mike Morris whom you were searching for.
    How is “(b) Relativism denies this by treating all codes equally” a straw man? Did Morris confute this assertion?
    You misapprehend. The strawman is Morris's version of relativism which he demolishes. Item (b) is where he performs the sleight of hand that effects the replacement of the real thing by his ersatz version.
    Why would anyone stick a straw man in the middle of his or her train of reasoning anyway, when the only purpose of a straw man is to blow it up.
    It's done all the time. The game is to take the other guy's proposition, replace it by some proposition of your own devising that you pretend is his, and then blow it up.
    I searched a bit more and think I found some of the earlier stuff on Silke Whats-her-name and Goldenhagen. Then I bonked around some more and looked in on “ethical relativism.” (sic)

    Folks need to be more careful with words, neighbor. I can see why your Mike Morris was perplexed when he started reading in your group. And I don’t think his snippet had that train of reasoning at all. But I’m easily confused here.

    My, my, my. You're just making this stuff up, aren't you. What do you suppose "your group" is? Where do you get "Mike Morris was perplexed?" Mike was participating in rec.arts.books long before I was, and "perplexed" is, well, not apropos.
    I’m confused, for example, about the Holocaust. You say, “In one sense the holocaust was not exceptional,” then talk about two senses.
    I am willing to grant that you are confused. I wouldn't have said so myself, but the evidence is certainly there. That said, I am open to hearing what you might think that the two senses are.
    I don’t know about Mao and Joe, but I can calculate rates. You say “nor is the rate of killing extraordinary” and offer two comparisons. Estimates I found today on deaths of noncombatants in those show that the 30 Years War had a rate of 20,833 a month; the Cambodia Killing Fields, 44,444 a month. The rate for the Holocaust was 148,485-166,667 a month (high and low estimates, Jews and not Jews).

    The differences: In the 30 Years War, noncombatants died in big numbers mostly after the armies ravaged their lands, from famine and disease. Under Pol Pot and Hitler they were rounded up and put to death.

    You are quibbling. One comes up with different rates depending on what definition one uses. Be that as it may, you're quibbling.
    Here are some more definitions for you, from Merriam-Webster online:

    Ethics: 1. “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation” but since you folks weren’t talking about a discipline, use 2. “a set of moral principles or values”

    Moral “of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior”

    Rationalize “intransitive senses: to provide plausible but untrue reasons for conduct”

    One problem Mike Morris has is that he is dealing with people who believe that things built upon rationalizations are rightly called moral codes.

    You know this how? Have you read his writings? Have you read the writings of those he argues with? Or are you just making this up? Or are you just misreading what I wrote?
    Another is that he is dealing with people who believe that rationalizations committed to writing are evidence of beliefs. Do we take the oral statements of the criminally insane at face value? Why should we take what a murderer writes as evidence of a moral position?
    These are good questions, even if you meant them as sarcasm.
    So now Nazi documents are evidence of Nazi moral codes? And every variation on any moral code is itself a new moral code, I suppose.
    That is what one of the arguments is about - did the Nazis have a (repugnant to you and me) moral code, were their documents evidence of that moral code, and, if so, what sort of evidence?
    Sorry I can’t take time to find the details of what your friend Silke wrote, and what she wrote about.
    I believe that she marks her usenet postings as NO-ARCHIVE, which makes them hard to find.
    I think what your Mike Morris was saying in that snippet is that it is really scary when people play fast and loose with language and facts while telling us that ethics depends upon who you’re with.
    Nice rant; you give good rant; I like your style.
    So I guess maybe he isn’t the guy who did the propaganda videos.
    I fancy not.
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    From: Peter Neilson
    Date: 2/3/2005
    Subj: Nigeria and Mr Daniel Sogolo

    At 07:38 PM 2/3/05 -0500, you wrote: My Dear Harter!

    Are people still falling for Nigeria scams? Mr. purported Sogolo actually mentioned "Nigeria" in his purported letter to purported you. One would think that the value of that word is at least negative. The thought of "Nigeria" and money in the same epistle makes mental lights to ring and bells to flash, to say the least. The words, "Run away, run away!" clatter through the mind. Wouldn't he have been better to place his purported self in Liechtenstein or Khazakhstan, or maybe Missississippi? Let's try it ...

    "The late Sir Willy Bubenik until his death was a former Managing Director and pioneer staff of a big construction company here in Biloxi, Mississississippi." Sounds better already. Yeah. I'll send him my bank account information right away. Too bad there's nothing in the account.

    Apparently the Nigeria scams are still doing a thriving business. At least that's what I've read and I (almost) always believe what I read. I like the notion of a former Managing Director of a big construction company in Biloxi. How could one go wrong with that?

    BTW, what do you mean your account is empty? What happened to the 20% of $113,000,000 that you were supposed to get for accessing Saddam Hussein's mistress's Swiss Bank Account and transferring the funds to Lichtenstein?

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    From: Franck O. Courting
    Date: 2/3/2005
    Subj: I'm sure it will come off :)

    How do you do?

    I do very well, thank you, or perhaps not so well, depending on circumstances. I thank you for your interest and am willing to overlook your violation of my privacy if there be such, that being a matter on which I am not prepared to hold an opinion.
    Lukim iu
    Gesundheit.
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    From: Peter Neilson
    Date: 2/1/2005
    Subj: Filberts, humor impairment, and Objectivists

    Mr. Harter,

    Some would-be Objectivists have difficulty finding humor when it's about Objectivism. They react in much the same way as Scots (or would-be Scots) who hear a stale bagpipe joke. (As far as I've been able to tell, there is no other kind of bagpipe joke.)

    Extrapolating from this observation, many non-Objectivists believe that Objectivism in general is, and Ayn Rand in particular was, devoid of a sense of humor. This is of course not true. Humor abounds in Rand's works, for Objectivist and non-Objectivist alike, but of course for different reasons. Any Objectivist who never met Rand in person and who doubts her humor need only read the first three words of The Fountainhead.

    I have read The Fountainhead; I may even have a copy of it around somewhere. I recall nothing about it though, nothing. For all I know it about an itinerant bagpipe salesman who has a vision and builds a cathedral minus the religious motifs - making a handsome profit whilst doing it. I do not precisely understand the full range of Rand's thought but I have the impression that one should show a profit whilst advancing civilization. Be that as it may, I am certain that the first three words reveal a great sense of humor. I know this is so because you have told me that it is so.
    In spite of all I've just said, good humor about Objectivism is very hard to find. Many attempts are actually polemics written to ridicule Rand or her ideas. They are funny only to particular groups of anti-Objectivists. (Rand is opposed by religionists for being a liberal atheist and by liberals for being a conservative, and that's only the beginning.) "The Confessions of Ayn Rand" is a breath of fresh and funny air in the swamp of purported humor about Rand. I can see how Novak and East could be misled into thinking it was merely another polemic.
    Just so. As a general observation, I opine that obsessing about politics and political philosophy hardens the spirit and narrows the mind. Humor suffers in the process.
    Varinoma Press (and "Varonima Press" should you choose to set up an additional typography shop and pressroom) is to be commended for its choice in fanciful works. Rand herself put fictional books into her own fiction, although she didn't write reviews of them. Might we someday see a Varinoma review of "The Heart is a Milkman"?
    It's an excellent idea, or at least it would be if I caught the allusion. The only one that occurs to me is "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". I'm not sure I could deal with a collaboration between Carson McCullers and Ayn Rand.

    ... continued on next rock ...

    Re: The three words

    "Howard Roark laughed." He'd just been kicked out of architecture school, and suddenly realized he didn't need those turkeys at all; he could do better on his own. And he had figured out the motivation of the forces that had ejected him. Deeply funny, but not obvious to those looking for shallow humor.

    Are you sure that that is humor? It sounds more like one of those Zen things where the disciple plaintively asks the master "What is the Buddha Nature," whereupon the master strikes him with a stick, the disciple is enlightened, and bursts out laughing.
    Re: "The Heart is a Milkman"

    Hmmm. Maybe yet another press would help. Varcinoma Press could publish a review of Varinoma's unpublished and fictional review of "The Heart is a Milkman". Still, you would need to re-read The Fountainhead, and I gather that you're not up to the task, being blessed with Large Black Dogs and all.

    Watch it. I chose the name "Varinoma" because it sounds like a euphemism for one of those unpleasant diseases, possibly a carcinoma of the varicose veins. "Varcinoma" is pushing the envelope; "Varinoma" has a certain amount of shabby respectability.
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    From: Mr Daniel Sogolo
    Date: 1/26/2005
    Subj: NOTIFICATION OF BEQUEST

    This is sequel to your non response of our earlier letter to you On behalf of the Trustees and Executors to the Will of late of Sir Engr. Willy Bubenik ( ksm), I wish to notify you that you were listed as a beneficiary to the bequest of the sum of US$3,000.000.00 [Three Million US Dollars] in the codicil and last testament of the deceased. The late Sir Willy Bubenik until his death was a former Managing Director and pioneer staff of a big construction company here in Nigeria.

    He was a very dedicated Christian and a great philanthropist during his life time. Late Sir Willy Bubenik died on 9th February 2003 at the age of 68, He was buried on the 23rd of February. Late Sir Willy Bubenik even though he was an American living and working in here as a foreigner he requested before his death that he be buried here in his words, "I regard here as My home and the people as my people". He said that this token is to support your ministry and help to the less-priveleged. I hereby request that you forward any proof of identities of yours, your current telephone and fax numbers and your forwarding address to enable us file necessary documents at our high court probate division for the release of this bequest of money.

    I remember Willy Bubenik; he was a rotter through and through. I wouldn't touch any of his filthy money. I have my pride, I do.
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    From: Nikola Novak
    Date: 1/27/2005
    Subj: The Confessions of Ayn Rand

    Thanks for the correction. The search for this in Google led me to your Reality Disclaimer. However, it would be wise to make this disclaimer available on all of your pages to avoid confusion. The person who gave me the address to your site said that he was looking for Ayn Rand's biography and the search returned your site. The whole thing doesn't come across as a joke, if that was the intention of your site.

    I am much struck with the notion of adding a reality disclaimer to all of my pages. What a happy thought.
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    From: Peter Neilson
    Date: 1/26/2005
    Subj: On being prepared for every emergency

    It has occurred to me that you might be a bit rusty on certain crucial subjects that have not intruded upon your consciousness recently. Solely as an aid to your memory and your preparedness for the unexpected, I present to you the following list.

    [The list, the TECO command set, has been placed on another page.]

    It is good of you to refresh my memory; I seem to have mislaid my TECO cheat sheet. Pray do not pass this information on to microsoft; there is a terrible danger that they will add a system editor called TECO#.
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    From: David Weinstock
    Date: 1/28/2005
    Subj: Better Laws in New Mexico

    I noticed the page below about a bill in New Mexico. I had received e- mails about this supposed bill and I was wondering if it is real? Do you have any idea if it is and if so, where I would go to find out more about it?

    In the New Mexico Legislature's 1995 session, Sen. Duncan Scott, a Republican from Albuquerque, proposed an amendment to a psychologist regulatory bill offered by another senator. The Scott amendment would have dramatically changed the face of New Mexico's legal system: The amendment said:

    "When a psychologist or psychiatrist testifies during a defendant's competency hearing, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall wear a cone-shaped hat that is not less than two feet tall. The surface of the hat shall be imprinted with stars and lightning bolts.

    Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist shall be required to don a white beard that is not less than 18 inches in length, and shall punctuate crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. Whenever a psychologist or psychiatrist provides expert testimony regarding a defendant's competentcy, the baliff shall contemporaneously dim the courtroom lights and administer two strikes to a Chinese gong."

    The bill, with the wizard amendment, passed the Senate by voice vote and cleared the House 46-14. Unfortunately, Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed the legislation.

    I seriously doubt that it is real - all references that I can find for the story credit it back to:
    From the 1/26/96 editorial page of the Manchester Union Leader, with credits to the Western Journalism Center:
    The urban legends people, www.snopes.com, don't seem to have a reference to it. It's a pity; the story should be true.

    ... continued on next rock

    I sent out a few e-mails. I thought you might want to see this response. Apparently, there is some truth to the story.

    Dear David Weinstock,

    Thank you for your question to the New Mexico legislature's web site. In 1995, Senator Scott offered a joke amendment, Senate Floor Amendment number 1, to Senate Bill 459.

    Senate Bill 459 was an act "Relating to Health Facilities; Providing Staff Membership and Clinical Privileges for Licensed Psychologists in Certain Health Facilities; Establishing Procedures Regarding Certain Admissions to a Health Facility; Enacting Sections of the NMSA 1978."

    On motion of Senator Scott, which carried, Senate Floor Amendment Number 1 to Senate Bill 459 was adopted by voice vote. On motion of Senator Romero, which carried, Senate Bill 459, as amended, passed the Senate by a vote of 30 for and 0 against. The amendment was struck from the bill in the House. Therefore, it was neither vetoed by the governor, as has been misreported, nor became law in New Mexico, as has also been misreported.

    Sincerely,

    Valerie Brooker
    Legislative Council Service

    How delightful. I shall update the website.
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    From: Richard Marken
    Date: 1/27/2005
    Subj: RE: You are off your nut

    I believe it was a memorial site for her grave.

    Sounds about right to me.
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    From: Donald Martin
    Date: 1/31/2005
    Subj: Here's what a straw man actually is.

    Stumbled into your repeated misuse of "straw man" a while back and thought of you when I saw a real straw man this morning.

    I'm a little surprised. I did a search of my website and found four references that I made to straw men. They may be found at:

    http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/1997/morris.html
    http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2001/indentation.html
    http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2000/let00aug.html (aroma of straw)
    http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2004/boskone.html

    Four instances over a course of nine years is a rather modest case of repeated anything. And, to be honest, I don't really see that I significantly misused the term in those instances. My handy dictionary gives the following definition:

    1: a weak or imaginary opposition (as an argument or adversary) set up only to be easily confuted.
    Such has been my understanding and I had been under the impression that that was the usage I used. I will be enchanted to learn where I erred.

    BTW: Do you read Dilbert?

    It's on the blog Cigars in the Sand:

    http://cigarsinthesand.blogspot.com/2005/01/can-iraqi-election-help-unite-america.html

    The blogger sets up the idea that the Iraqi election can help unite America just so he can knock that idea down.

    That's what a straw man is for; the things you called straw men lacked that.

    I fear that that is not much of an example, at least if we go by the text of that page. However I shan't argue with you if you want to call it a strawman.
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    From: David Ng
    Date: 1/30/2005
    Subj: A game theoretic approach to the toilet seat problem

    Many thanks for letting me reprint your creationist FAQ earlier last year (http://bioteach.ubc.ca/dnaworld/21112004.html). It was quite popular and even caught the eye of an editor I work with who is affiliated with a canadian magazine. If possible, I would like an opportunity to reprint another one of your pieces (http://richardhartersworld.com/~cri/1998/toilet.html), since I think it would appeal immensely to the audience that reads my site (mostly researchers and scientists). Anyhow, no worries if you prefer not, but a reply is appreciated.

    But of course you may reprint it. As usual, please include the copyright notice and credit it to me.
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    From: Miroslav Provod
    Date: 1/17/2005
    Subj: Pyramids

    One of the many mysteries of Egyptian pyramids is their situation to the distance about 1500 meters from reservoir borderline of river Nile. Thereof ensue the questions why the builders had not recommend the place for building more closely to watercourse, the transport of stone ashlars would have been simplified, and why the distance makes just 1500 meters? The answer to the both questions the science has not cognizance, it can be found in the energy of mass and reads: The pyramidal complexes were not only the ritual buildings but also the energetic. The builders respected the regulation of energy components and the bends of watercourses for passing the energy to mineral. I understand that in this one sentence are too much unknown and impalpable information, therefore I will try to reply the other way. At the end of year 2004 the whole world observed the undersea quake at South-East Asia and destructive power of water waves tsunami. During the valuation of results the natural disaster we were informed that in the afflicted areas did not perish not even one animal. The domesticated elephants in Laos several tens minutes before coming of destructive water waves were anxious and took to flight towards the inland. The science does not know the warrant how animals had obtained in considerable pre-ignition the information about the danger, while people did not know even foreboding about it.        

    Also in this case the answer is situated outside human knowledge and it reads: There were energy zones of gigantic water mass, which covered the area in the only flash and moved by the speed of water weaves in their set. From preventive reactions of animals follows that probably they have in their bodies receptors responsive to energy components. Evidently that showed like painful massage in short intervals. The uneasy feeling coursed in their bodies under the movement of water-waves and it themselves orientated to the way of escape. I was inspired to this consideration by the event of a man whose receptors, after a poisoning of lead, had stopped to react to warm and reacted only to energy components. The details are named at  www.volny.cz/mprovod.      I suppose that in unknown receptors of animal bodies can be hidden answers even for other mysteries of nature, such as the orientation at long-distance transfers of birds or congers, the lost orientation of whales etc.

    The selection of building site for complexes of mastabas had been executed by the same way like for pyramidal complexes. The distance between the barrier and the mastaba is also 1500 meters and creates a parallel to pyramidal complex (the valley temple, the rising way, the pyramid). The barriers constructed from desiccated bricks, in some cases high till eleven meters, were not substantiated from the standpoint for their exploitation till this time. The barrier situated to energy space of river Nile magnifies in its mass the energy value. By the crossing of energy zones in rectangular plot inside the building is evoked another heaping of energy. The niches on barriers, which are denoted like decorative elements, have also energy function. They enlarge their surface and thereby are protracted and positively shape the energy zones. Temples and barriers in valley had functioned like all sacral constructions - they supported to their visitors the physical energy. With resembling constructions in much later era we can encounter by Celts, who replaced peripheral masonry with clay mounds. 

    The energy zone far 1500 meters from river Nile, in which mastabas and pyramids were situated, remains the mystery. I estimate that the resembling zones from the pyramid to the river Nile are more. The zones are together energy attractive and thereby originate the consideration of many contingencies. From energy charting of area between the pyramid and the river could follow on a hint, but this is but the business for an exclusive stuff of specialists.

    Among special spheres every new idea about the unknown energy in connection with long past cultures call up questions and an idea that the new energy could discover only technically advanced civilization. The fugitive herd of elephants in the face of aggressive zones of natural disaster however has argued that the cosmic energy can be exploited also without the understanding a civilization of twentieth century. There are only don´t known natural laws and reactions of unknown receptors, which can be find empirically.

    I suppose that in history people used to identifications of energy components the sensitiveness of individuals, who felt with their receptors the quantity of energy in the same way like animals.  For this purpose the dowsing rod cannot be used, it designates reliably the place, where the energy components are situated, but don´t react to the quantity of energy.  Past unavailing effort to find a measuring instrument for energy components, I have reached the opinion that it could follow on successful research of receptors.

    I am not the only one blessed with Miroslav's interesting theories about life, the universe, and everything. See Gordon's little essay on pyramid "science".
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