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Letters to the editor, May 2006

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 May 2006.

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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 5/18/2006
Subj: ugly sort

Howell's sort is more interesting if you describe it as O( (n^2)! ) (as in his comments) rather than O(n!^2) (as in your header). The latter changes by a factor of 64 when going from 7 elements to 8; the former changes by >10^27, which would indeed (per his comment) make it take much longer than the life of the Universe -- a mere child at ~5*10^17 seconds.

Good catch. I will correct the page fifthwith.
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From: Alton Drew
Date: 5/17/2006
Subj: origin of phrase used on radio

I am interested in the origin of a phrase used on radio back in its early days but can't quite remember who used to utter it. The phrase is, "Keep those cards and letters coming." Can you help, please?

You are probably thinking of the Dean Martin variety show, circa 1965.
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From: Chris Thompson
Date: 5/8/2006
Subj: Pheasants

Hello Dr. Harter:

Re: pheasants

Back in the olden days when I was a lowly undergrad studying wildlife management at Oregon State University, I discovered an interesting factoid. Part of the annual pheasant census in Oregon (and, I presume, elsewhere) is the number of birds run over by those giant lawn mowers that trim the grass along the highway shoulders.

Just thought I would let you know that the state gets back at them for you.

Now that's good to know.

Pheasants may not be the brightest of birds but one has to be fair about these things; a car approaching at 60 mph would strain the reflexes of any animal. However mowers move at much lower speeds and make lots of noise. Any critter that can't get out of a mower's way is definitely too dumb to live.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 5/11/2006
Subj: Mathematician

No flynnd this time. I found it myself.

The page for "You Might be a Mathematician if ..." is at http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2006/redmath.html not at http://richardhartersworld.com/2006/redmath.html as you claim on http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/

It is correct at http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2006/toc06may.html

Have you considered relocating closer to the ancestral home of the Concord Research Institute?

Additionally, elsewhere:

For: Biloxi is named after and extinct Sioux tribe Read: Biloxi is named after an extinct Sioux tribe

Do you need all these corrections, or is it better to allow the reader to wallow in filthy typos that are likely no worse than what he keeps at home?

Of course I need these corrections. If it were not for them my less perceptive readers might well wallow in a mistaken impression of my perfection.

I'm not quite certain as to whether Concord still exists. According to recent reports New Englanders seem to be doing their own Katrina impression. My current theories are either to relocate to Wyoming so as to be really close when the Yellowstone supervolcano blows, or else to relocate to coastal Oregon so as to be right on hand when the northern Pacific megatsunami strikes. Then again, Memphis is long overdue for a really horrid earthquake; I might consider a southern exposure.

Watching natural disaster television is so enlightening.

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From: Ignatius Calabrese
Date: 5/10/2006
Subj: cherry pt./rio hata

hello harter,
I came across your site and enjoyed your little story about the corps and rio hata. I was assigned to mass-1 (tad) at cherry pt in 1956 and made a trip to rio hata. Had a great time there. When were you at cherry pt,and when did you go to panama. I believe we left in feb ,and came back in may 1956 ,on the uss donner.

It sounds as though we were both there at the same time and in the same outfit. I'm pretty sure but not certain (I have a bad memory for names) that I also was in mass-1 and my visit to Rio Hata was in 1956.

I recall almost no names but a number of faces. The motor pool had a guy named Fechko (approximate spelling) and a guy nicknamed Ski who drank everything that he could get his hands on. His breath was always sweet from drinking shaving lotion. The captain was a mustang - I think his permanent rank was warrant officer. There were a lot of pilots attached to the outfit. If I recall correctly we even had a coffee mess officer.

Does any of this sound familiar?

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From: Wendi Rinehart
Date: 5/2/2006
Subj: invitation

So Richard,

I do believe one of the frequent visitors to your site ( Chip ) , needs an invitation to SD during the winter months, particularly, he needs to hole up on a dead end gravel road, approximately 30 miles from the nearest remote town area ( as there are no cities within the borders of SD ) , when Mother Nature decides to deliver her wrath upon the prairies.

I will not down play natural disasters of the eastern states, I'm sure they are very devastating.

I have not experienced a storm east of Ohio, I at least respect them and have empathy for those unfortunate enough to be caught unawares. I have had some experience with some nasty life threatening blizzards and being prepared goes without a second thought when you are a country resident. It is a fact that most don't whine about it........we choose to live here......therefore challenges of survival are a daily occurrence. We deal with it. If we aren't prepared there is no one to blame but ourselves. Usually the ones doing most of the complaining..... are use to having someone to blame, some thing to bitch about, someone should have taken care of this, someone should have taken care of "me".....evidently they are the ones that invariably couldn't take care of themselves anyway and usually consider themselves NOT responsible for anything.

Recently the spring storm that swept through eastern WY, southeast MT, & northwestern SD has had little national media coverage other than the Black Hills had 6 feet of wet heavy snow. There is projected so far, 15000 head of sheep and 6000 head of cattle lost (dead) due to that storm. Tri-State Livestock News...Tri-State Talk....editorial by Larry Gran. The ranchers in those areas are picking up the pieces.......trying to figure out how are they going to cover their losses. Livestock industry gets hit, you don't hear squat. 1000 REA poles snapped off, folks just now getting electric back. They're not worried about being inconvienced with missing T.V., internet or heat. They're more concerned about finding the stressed livestock that drifted, saving calves, lambs, and getting them to water and feed. That is why we are prepared with generators....duh!

You don't piss around with Mother Nature out here and you definitely do not make our rural part of America sound so insignificant or just because we don't bitch to the heavens and make demands that we get saved. It is self preservation, we don't count on help...thats why you help yourself , and dammit, why can't we brag about it....be proud of it even..........and then lo and behold, now you're considered back country stupid by someone that doesn't have a friggin' clue and feel they can judge.

Do not correct my spelling or grammar Richard or I swear...I'll open that 1/2 gallon of MD Brady gave you and spit on that new floor of yours. Oh yes....and I still love ya buddy.

Feeling eloquent today, are we? It's very kind of you to extend an invitation to Chip to come out and visit during a South Dakota blizzard, but I dare say he'll pass up the opportunity. On the other hand, if you can actually schedule the damned things and time them for a visit the meteorology people want to talk to you. Otherwise I fear Chip would come out to see things for himself and the weather would be uncooperatively benign.

One of the rules of life [I don't who makes these rules up, but I wish they'd stop] is that it doesn't matter who you are, there is somebody who doesn't know you, who doesn't have a clue as to what you are about and doesn't care, but none-the-less despises you for what you are, or what they think you are. It's always been that way and I suppose it always will be. I wouldn't worry about it.

[Note for the hapless reader: MD = Mogen David. See Christmas Wine in the January, 2005 editorial.]

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From: Brian Katcher
Date: 5/5/2006
Subj: The face upon the floor

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. The only other time I've read that poem was in an old, old issue of Mad, with accompanying ridiculous drawings.

I remember that issue! I may even have had it until about five years ago when I sold my old playboys and mad magazines on ebay. Thank goodness for collectors.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 4/29/2006
Subj: January

... I had written:

Pandering to the editor by referring to his poetry will gain you many points, although perhaps not in the logic section.
You are pleased to think of it as pandering.
I am indeed so pleased. You have my gratitude.

... I had written:

As a side matter, terms like "the outside world" are problematic. What, pray tell, constitutes the outside world? Are the villages in Bali part of the outside world? The villages in Belize? Biloxi Mississipi? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Well, no, obviously not. What then is this outside world and this window? Is it not the rather parochial American news media and the window, their current reportage?
Do you get your news from Bali, or Belize, or even Biloxi? (The latter being in the news just now due to an exceptional bit of pork.) News media are somewhat parochial everywhere -- seeing Sky News in breakfast rooms all over Britain last summer might have been an education if this hadn't been my 6th trip -- but a matter which looks to affect the entire country is hardly parochial.
All of what you say is true and is not to the point, that being that the very term "outside world" is problematic. The term is an aggrandizement, the promotion of a particular media environment and its readership/viewership into a universality. The very use of the term implies that the user is speaking for the entire outside world rather than the particular extended group that the term actually represents.

Such terms and such language promotes an unintentional misrepresentation. Their use insensibly leads their users into believing that and behaving as though their restricted reality were everything. That's not to say that you would do so, of course. I'm just discussing the demerits of the term itself.

Incidentally, Biloxi is named after an extinct Sioux tribe.

... I had written:

Nope, a blip on the radar. Nobody gives a damn about South Dakota. (Not quite nobody, but close enough for government work.) What they care about, one way or another, is the abortion issue, and right-wing vs left-wing politics. Once the story has played out in the news and people have responded with suitable indignation (or approbation if their politics run that way) the media and the politically active will go on to the next Cause du Jour and SD will recede to well deserved obscurity.
Perhaps true in the long run -- but I was addressing current matters.
So you were, or at least some version of them.

... I had written:

It wasn't all tea and roses in those days. People often did suffer terribly or just plain died.
My experience isn't as direct as yours, but I'm hardly ignorant; I wasn't flabbergasted when my father's autobiographical notes observed that his father's family was typical -- 11 children, of whom half died young and one in the Civil War. (This may have been a slight misrecollection; an official-looking web page on Henry Lawrence Hitchcock says seven children survived him.) I didn't say it was paradise, just that it was a recent enough change that the technology shouldn't be gone.
I suppose you've watched some of those shows where they take a bunch of people and put them in a nineteenth century environment. It's usually a pioneer environment, although somebody did one in a Victorian town house, complete with servants. There is one running currently where people are living in a post civil war Texas ranch.

It is a real shock to the people (or at least TV portrays it that way.) We moderns really don't understand how hard it is to do anything without the support of all of our modern conveniences and appliances, and immediate access to a wide variety of well stocked stores. (I used to know but I've worked hard on forgetting.)

Another side of the syndrome is the tendency to believe that one is a great deal more capable than one really is because one is living in an environment where capabilities are immediately at hand.

... I had written:

What has happened over time is that wood and coal heat has been replaced by oil, propane, and electricity. You don't have to replace the house to replace the heating system. The gotcha is that modern heating systems require electricity to operate. No power, no heat. Rural electricity came in during the fifties and sixties. It's pretty universal and people depend on it.
I thought I'd made clear that I understood that; I grew up with oil heat, which (as I said) went out when heavy snow took down the power lines. (That's a weakness of the oil systems I know; what I don't know is why nobody markets manual starters for the benefit of remote areas.) However, we had fireplaces; did the people who converted rip out their wood burners stop keeping wood in reserve? If so, should we have sympathy for them? This seems less an unaffordable luxury and more a lack of backup, which neither of us (as geeks) should be sympathetic to.
I take it that we should not be sympathetic to people who lived in parishes below sea level and (predictably) got flooded out.

What people had (or have) were stoves rather than fireplaces. Fireplaces are a luxury and wood is hard to come by on the prairie. (Barbed wire was the invention that enabled the settling of the west - wooden fences were impractical.)

Yes, pretty much everybody took out the old wood and coal burners. Most people, at least most people in the country, has some sort of auxilliary heat. I don't myself but, then, I'm close to town. Many farmers, but not all, have generators. In general people in the country are better equipped than town dwellers to deal with major power outages.

Small towns (populations 200-2000) had more problems. With power gone many people did not have heat for a week or two. (Highmore had its own working back up generator - how fortunate for me.) When the fuel goes (filling stations stop working) you're back to horse and buggy and you don't have a horse or a buggy. These are not insuperable problems. People manage. They have to manage because nobody is going to take care of things for them. I wouldn't waste any sympathy on them.

One final thought. Unused technology rots. It's all very well to talk about keeping old technology around as a backup, but the truth is that it rots. People are always learning the hard way that their backup technology doesn't work when they need it because they didn't invest enough time, energy, and thought to make sure it was up to snuff.

That reminds me, there is something I should be doing ...

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From: Teresa Obst
Date: 4/24/2006
Subj: Link exchange with your site http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/1998/sioux.html

Dear Webmaster,

My name is Teresa Obst, and I run the web site NSCFA:

http://www.colonialfamilies.org/

I recently found your site http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/1998/sioux.html and am very interested in exchanging links. We are a non-profit genealogical society. I've gone ahead and posted a link to your site, on this page:

http://www.colonialfamilies.org/links/resources/resources_military_battle_of_wounded_knee.html

As you know, reciprocal linking benefits both of us by raising our search rankings and generating more traffic to both of our sites. Please post a link to my site as follows:
[snip remainder]

In the ordinary course I don't exchange links - my web site (the page you found is one of several thousand in my site) has an absurdly large amount of traffic as it is. However yours is a neat site and I will add a link to your site in the near future.
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From: 2cjb1
Date: 4/23/2006
Subj: Genetic mutation

There is a question I'm trying to answer about aging (perhaps you could give the following a read). Given that aging depends on genes, and that everyone is subject to a certain amount of random mutation, is it possible that someone could, due to random genetic mutation, have an extremely short or very long lifespan (perhaps only ten years, or perhaps hundreds of years)?

A very short lifetime can happen. There are mutant genes for premature aging in humans. There is no evidence for lifespans of hundreds of years in humans, but until recently the likelihood of living long enough to enjoy an extended lifespan was quite small. To live longer than the norm you not only need good genes, you also need good luck.
I would think this is very unlikely. Because memebers of a species have been abserved to have relatively fixed lifespans with no exceptions (for example, no one has ever been observed to live for hundreds of years), it seems reasonable to assume that aging depends on many different genes, and couldn't be radically altered by a single, or several mutations. Single mutations or several mutations seem to occur often in populations without radically altering lifespans.
Be careful here. You are mixing up the human species with all species. Some invertebrates and some reptiles have indefinitely long lifespans, slowly growing larger over time until chance and misfortune brings them down. Likewise some trees have lifespans of thousands of years.

In some invertebrates there are mutations that double the lifespan and more at the expense of slowing down the metabolism.

There are three reasons why I would refute the idea of aging being radically altered by random mutation.

1) I would imagine that to drastically increase (or decrease) the lifespan of a species, many genetic mutations would have to occur together and at precise locations on chromosomes. Given the vast number of base pair positions, the probability that specifc mutations would occur at the right places would seem to be a statistical improbability.

It's not that simple. To begin with, we don't how many coordinated mutations would have to take place to drastically change the lifespan of individuals. In principle it needn't be very many. Nor do they all have to happen at once.

More importantly, it is quite possible that extended lifespan (or its side effects) is selected against, i.e., the advantage to the individual is offset by lowered reproductive potential.

2) The vast majority of random mutations are nuetral in effect or harmful sugesting that random mutations greatly increasing someone's lifespan would be extremely rare.
Single mutations of any kind are not rare.
3) Some sort of evolutionary selection would have to occur to create a very long, or very short lifespan. For humans, such an evolutionary selection factor hasn't been observed.
This is a good point, as noted above.
And so (from the above three assumptions), all members of the same species will thus age at approximately the same rate, or have similar lifespans.
I like your conclusion but not the argument that got you there. As just a further note, I seem to recall that most mammalian species have a lifespan of about two million heartbeats whereas humans have one of about four million heartbeats. In other words, our species has already attained an extended lifetime; there was selection and it already has happened.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 4/28/2006
Subj: Shame. Shame and infamy

You have allowed all your milliseconds and femtoamps to get used up, and I cannot access Mr. Harter's World.

My fevered brane thrashes in mid-indecision. My liver says, "Ms fois!" (Thinks it's in France, where one exercises one's liver as a national sport.)

Can you buy a bigger chunk?

I could were it not that all my available funds are spent on things like fine wine and floor tiles. I would gladly forego the latter but the money has already been spent. As to the former you must understand that my adoring public would never consent to my lowering my standards in consuming wine.

The run on April is an odd one. On Wednesday, April 12th (aka Black Wednesday) 109 megabytes slurped out of my site, the usual slurpage being about 30. It seems that somewhere, someone thought that reading about bad sorting algorithms would be just the thing to while away a dull Wednesday - 3600 someones to be approximate. A quick search on google for the URL turns up two links, one on a Japanese page and on a Finnish page. Could it be that I am the victim of an international conspiracy?

... continued on next rock ...

Richard Harter wrote:

3600 someones to be approximate. A quick search on google for the URL turns up two links, one on a Japanese page and on a Finnish page. Could it be that I am the victim of an international conspiracy?
I once heard a bizarre theory that the Finns were ethnically or maybe linguistically related to the Koreans. Similar theories appear from time to time about the Koreans and the Japanese. Thus it is theoretically without a doubt possible to guess at a linguisic, philosophical or simply mystical connexion (or as you would have it, a conspiracy) between the Japanese and the Finns.
Now that you mention it, I prefer a linguistic, philosophical, mystical connexion. It would explain so much.
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From: Matt
Date: 4/25/2006
Subj: Poem

Lions and Zebras, Oh My

I do not know
What a lion would think
If a zebra presented her rump,
Invited the lion to dine
And asked in return
That the zebra's foal
Be allowed to nurse
Upon the lioness.
Can I get the proper authors name for this work?, if you have that information.
Certainly you can. I, Richard Harter, am the sole author of the poem in question. I am also the sole author of the page http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/1998/zebra.html. The various persons cited on that page, Nathan Childers, Elfrieda Eppingham von Basingstoke, Father William "Bull" Morris, and Dabney Prood, do not exist. They are all fabrications.

... continued on next rock ...

We would like to give your poem to German Photo Magazine to accompany an image by David, would that be ok with you?

That is quite alright with me provided that you include a copyright notice, i.e., copyright 1998 by Richard Harter.
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From: Nathan CHilders
Date: 5/1/2006
Subj: Fraudulent claims of existence

Richard,

It is my custom to allow my literary inventions considerable latitude in their private endeavours. I have not taken exception to that sprawling mass of ill-digested illiteracy that you call a web site. However this bumptious business of claiming that I am your invention must cease immediately.

Is that understood?

I appeal to my readers. Which of us, Nathan Childers or I, is the more likely to be real?
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 4/21/2006
Subj: Whatever

My last trip into Mr. Harter's World was taken without my companion flynnd. He complained. This time he came along, and he's found something for you.

On your page:
http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/essays.html
there are two entries for Not Being a Professional
Poker Player. The first entry points to:
http://richardhartersworld.com/Poker.html
which is a 404.

It's good to see flynnd back at work. The broken link is noted and will be duly corrected.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 4/23/2006
Subj: March editorial

"(One of the truths of our species is that we delight in destruction even more than we do in construction.)"

Well, yes. Possibly because we're still not accustomed by evolution to large groups and so find destruction a therapy for the strains of living (or making a living) with many fellows, or possibly just because it's an immediate payback -- hit something and it makes a loud noise and falls apart -- in world of delayed results. When I was in college the main theater had a strict cycle: each show got 1.5 weeks in the shop and the main rehearsal space, 1.5 weeks in the shop and the stage, and 1.5 weeks of performances during which the next show had the shop and the main rehearsal space; this meant that every 3rd Saturday night the performance was followed by an orgy of dissassembly and destruction so the next show would have an empty box to move into on Sunday. I got very fond of a certain 4-foot crowbar....

A third element is that there is a certain freedom in destruction. Construction is constrained. Destruction is liberated creativity.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 4/23/2006
Subj: more on editorial

"In my experience composition is best done in a coffee shop."

-"There are two kinds of people..."-; however, unlike some such cases, I've seen that people who do and don't like composing in coffee shops can not merely get along like a house on fire but even collaborate.

I have this vision of one person sitting inside the coffee shop and the other one standing outside communicating with sign boards.

Someone, I think it was Dick Gruen, had something very much like that happen. Our hero was assigned the task of trouble shooting a computer (or its software) back in the days when mainframes were the thing. The client was some financial institution that had their console in a street front window. Alas, the financial institution was very stuffy and required that every one in the computer area had to wear suit and tie whereas our hero was adament about not wearing such garments. The end result was that he stood out on the street and communicated with the console operator by sign board.

I doubt that Europeans are anywhere near as ignorant geography as U.S. natives;
That would depend, I suppose, on which geography we are talking about, and, for that matter, which Europeans and which Americans. On the whole though, I agree. At some point in the past the American Educational Establishment decided that it wasn't necessary to teach geography. I believe that the reason was that it smacked of rote learning, though it might have been simple bloody mindedness.
I think you found a nice compact way of simultaneously identifying and apologizing for your origins.
Shirley, you jest.
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From: Melody
Date: 4/19/2006
Subj: evolution

Yes, thanks...you answered my question. I have another one. I have been in a discussion with someone in regard to mutations. They sent me your article from the Talk Origins site. Is there currently a mutation that supports the theory of macroevolution?

Your question is a bit problematic, i.e., what do you mean by "the" theory of macroevolution, what do you mean by "currently", and even by "a mutation". However I am going to take a stab at answering what I think your question might be.

First I will give you a reference, Kwang Jeon, in the chapter "Amoeba and X-bacteria: Symbiont Acquisition and Possible Species Change" in "Symbiosis as a Source of Evolutionary Innovation, Speciation and Morphogenesis", eds. Lynn Margulis and Rene Fester, MIT Press, 1991.

Basically what happened is that certain Amoeba were invaded by bacteria. Ordinarily invasion by these bacteria would be fatal. In this case the amoeba mutated in a way that allowed it to live with the bacteria present inside it. In turn the bacteria mutated in a way such that it was no longer fatally destructive. After a number of generations and further mutations both the amoeba and the bacteria had become symbionts - neither could live without the other.

This particular example is important because it was an observable instance of the mechanism whereby mitochondria and chlorplasts probably originated within eukaryotes. (Eukaryotes are organisms with cells that have nucleii. Mitochondria and chloroplasts are bodies within eukaryotes.

What counts as macroevolution depends on who is defining the word. However nowadays it usually is taken as evolutionary change at the level of speciation and above. Near instantaneous speciation is rare but has been observed. Most examples involve chromosome and genome duplication.

Evolutionary change above the level of simple speciation takes too long for it to be observed as an ordinary thing. One debatable example is HeLa - a strain of human cancer cells that established itself as a viable species infecting laboratory tissue samples.

One problem with your question is with the word mutation. If, by a mutation, you mean a well defined single genetic change, the truth is that except for special situations we don't have the information - genomes are large and are always changing. However we can infer which genes have changed by comparing two branches descended from a common ancestor. For example, some recent studies comparing the genomes of chimpanzees and humans have identified genes that evolved quite rapidly in the human line of descent. Not surprisingly, some were particularly important in the development of the brain.

When biologists talk about mutations, they usually are talking about an observable trait that is under genetic control. They don't know the details of the DNA differences, although they may have the gene or genes pinned down to a specific area in a specific chromosome.

Another issue is that it doesn't make much sense to ask about "a mutation". Each person has approximately one hundred new mutations. The majority have either no effect or an inconsequential effect. A small minority are deleterious, and an even smaller minority are actually advantageous.

No doubt this is much more than you wanted; I hope it has been of help.

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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 4/23/2006
Subj: comment on "A Fan's Journey"

As near as I can make out, publishing collections of the work of dead authors (or even living authors, whose short work tends to be neglected) does \not/ pay as well as running big conventions; you'll notice that NESFA's clubhouse has not been replaced by something more grandiose. The last time I went over the balance sheets with a treasurer, I was supported in my observation that the club's cash position increases when it publishes something from a hot current author but in general the excess revenue is plowed into more such books, which gives the club money to plow into more such books. (The number of books being bounded by the energy of the members, this tends not too look like the rising phase of a pyramid scheme.) I don't think NESFA would do better if it stopped publishing, as most books sell on a descending curve, but such publishing is certainly not a way to get rich even when nobody is trying to make even part of a living off the proceeds .

That makes sense. On the other hand as every trufan knows, publishing is moral and running big conventions is evil. The day of the enchanted duplicator may be over but surely the small press is a worthy successor.

I doubt NESFA really would be happy with more grandiose quarters. I have this image of Martha Stewart and Extreme Makeover descending on NESFA with the result that Martha Stewart becomes a lettercol hacker and the Extreme Makeover crew ends up in a home for Filbert wannabes.

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From: Goran Popovic
Date: 4/21/2006
Subj: Petra by Burgon

Hi, first thank you for posting Petra on your site. I was trying to find it since I read famous two lines. I don't know if that is a whole poem, because I've found on the net that Petra has 371 lines. I would be thankfull if you can send me some information about it.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. As far as I can tell there is only one place on the web that says that the poem has 371 lines, the article by Richard Usborne at http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/197602/carving.their.names.on.the.walls.of.time.htm . The commonly quoted poem clearly is an Shakespearean sonnet and is complete. I'm making some inquiries. Usborne sounds as though he knows what he is talking about, but I have to be skeptical.

... continued on next rock

Hi, thaks for answering so quickly. I agree that poem is sonnet. That's why I was confused, and little worried, when I read about 371 lines, because I wish to translate it. The poem is so beautiful.

I haven't come up with any further information but I will keep trying. In the mean time I suggest that you translate the sonnet. After all, it is the version that is recorded in collections of poetry.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 4/21/2006
Subj: Puzzle: How many boys and girls?

Without the aid of flynnd I stepped into your puzzle domain. After wobbling around I landed on the answer at http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2004/erik_ans_4.html

Part of it stuck to my steal-toad boots. It smelled and spelled badly, and appeared to be plated with tin. Donning rubber gloves I removed and examined it. The names Kurdustan and Kudrustan both leaped into my eyeballs, leaving scars on my retina, but they turned out to be false. It was actually Krudistan. Please correct the answer.

You must be right - it would be a krude play on words.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 4/23/2006
Subj: January

That would depend on whether the professor of logic and reasoning were buried in his nest or aware that the outside world does indeed have a window on South Dakota.

Pandering to the editor by referring to his poetry will gain you many points, although perhaps not in the logic section.

As a side matter, terms like "the outside world" are problematic. What, pray tell, constitutes the outside world? Are the villages in Bali part of the outside world? The villages in Belize? Biloxi Mississipi? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Well, no, obviously not. What then is this outside world and this window? Is it not the rather parochial American news media and the window, their current reportage?

Some parts of the view are hardly surprising, e.g. the politicians defeated by right-wing hysteria (cf McGovern and Daschle). However, SD has been particularly in the news for taking up the invitation Bush made with [Sc]Alito's accession to the Supreme Court and passing a monstrously regressive law on abortion. (This is rather more than a blip on the radar.)
Nope, a blip on the radar. Nobody gives a damn about South Dakota. (Not quite nobody, but close enough for government work.) What they care about, one way or another, is the abortion issue, and right-wing vs left-wing politics. Once the story has played out in the news and people have responded with suitable indignation (or approbation if their politics run that way) the media and the politically active will go on to the next Cause du Jour and SD will recede to well deserved obscurity.
I acknowledge that later reports suggest that the SD legislature was not reacting to a universal sentiment -- but it's not clear the counter-movement represents so much as a simple majority either.
I dunno. According to one poll a clear majority of the state population thought the law was a dumb idea. Issue related polls, however, are notoriously suspect.
wrt the awfulness of winter: what did SD residents do before electricity, and why has it changed so radically as to make them helpless without it now? If I had to guess, I would have put this in the same category as your when-was-grandmother-born page (that we argued about -- I'm not finding it in your last-year's ToC); just as the TVA is described as bringing electricity to rural Appalachia, I'd have thought there was a fair chance your parents' out-of-town quarters didn't have electricity when you were born. Is this far off, or was there been a boom in house replacement that wiped out means of heat that don't depend on electricity?
As you surmise, the ranch had neither electricity nor running water. We had a coal shed holding coal and wood, and a Ben Franklin stove. Outhouses and honey buckets do not require running water. There was plenty of canned food in the cellar. In short, we were (for the short fun) self-sufficient. In bad weather we could and did just hunker down.

It wasn't all tea and roses in those days. People often did suffer terribly or just plain died.

What has happened over time is that wood and coal heat has been replaced by oil, propane, and electricity. You don't have to replace the house to replace the heating system. The gotcha is that modern heating systems require electricity to operate. No power, no heat. Rural electricity came in during the fifties and sixties. It's pretty universal and people depend on it.

BTW the Grandma page is http://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2005/grandma.html .

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