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Letters to the editor, April 2008

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 April 2008.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 15 April 2008
Subj: Certification mills

Diploma mills abound. You can buy a degree in just about any subject, supported by your "life experience" and your payment of some non-trivial amount of cash. Indeed, accreditation mills provide fake accreditation to the diploma mills, so your fake degree can have some authority.

In the business of technical writing, there is apparently some concern over whether writers actually have the credentials needed to do the job. I have the feeling that HR departments ignore writers with experience and instead take writers with advanced degrees or with certificates.

Clearly, a genuine certification program in technical writing is needed.

Needless to say, I cannot simply start up my own certification program. I thus call upon the erudite readers and perpetrators of Richard Harter's World to assist me. Imagine the dignified South Dakota Institute of Technical Writing Certification, with Dr. Anthony R. Lewis, PhD as Distinguished Honorary Certifier. Richard Harter and Charles J. Hitchcock could serve as Overseers of Subcertification in Computational and Dramatical Rendering. Accreditation, if required, can be furnished by the Large Black Dog under a pseudonym.

We can grant certification not only on the basis of Life Experience, but for deceased writers we can offer (in the manner of LDS) certification for Death Experience. The price for all, living or dead, would be the same, $39.95.

My printing press stands ready. What are we waiting for?

Your suggestion has merit. I have one small suggestion. One of my problems with my web site is that I do all of my technical articles myself. This is not entirely satisfactory, for reasons that I really would prefer not be discussed in public - or in private, for that matter. So, as a precondition for receiving their certificate, the candidates must supply a technical article for my website.

Let me forestall the natural objections. I realize that most of these articles will be rubbish. I can only, say, "So?" It is my website that we are talking about, after all. More importantly, requiring candidates to actually write something will significantly reduce their numbers. However there is an upside to be considered. This gives us room to milk the marks. Few of our certificatees will have anything other than a nominal ability to write and will have nothing of consequence in their portfolio.

The required article could be just the thing for their portfolio. Of course it would probably need a certain amount of editorial correction, editorial work that the South Dakota Institute of Technical Writing Certification could supply for a modest fee - for suitably exorbitant versions of modest, of course.

I appreciate that you have might have a natural concern that such editorial corrections might involve an inordinate amount of work, keeping in mind that any amount of work is an inordinate amount. Do not be concerned; I am not proposing that any significant amount of work go into these, ah, editorial corrections. It suffices that one merely captures the style of recognized technical writing, and that, as we all know, requires no thought at all.

Perhaps you did not know this, but South Dakota seems to be a veritable capital of unacredited universities whereby one can gain a degree on easy terms. We would merely be continuing an extant tradition. More importantly, as far as I know, there is no official body certifying institutes of technical writing certification. We may as well go ahead and create the Universal Accreditation Board for Accrediting Institutes of Technical Writing Certification and establish the SDITWC as an accredited Institute of Technical Writing Certification.

My feeling on this matter is that we should charge significantly more to other institutes that wish to be accredited.

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From: Serafin
Date: 16 April 2008
Subj: ????

Get a life Stupid!

The trouble with being stupid and getting a life is that you end up getting a stupid life. Which, I suppose, explains why I got your email.

... continued on next rock ...

I my have a stupid life but I dont go around promoting lies!

I'm very proud for you. I have a little problem, though. My web site has upwards of three thousand pages containing all sorts of things, including much supposed humor. I have no idea what "lies" you are going on about and I don't suppose it matters much. Still, I am curious, and if you want to elucidate I would take it kindly.

... continued on next rock ...

Dear Mr. Harter,

Early this week a read an article on "Dihydrogen Monoxide" and its supposedly deadly effects on people. This is not something new its been going around for some time. Dihydrogen monoxide is just the scientific name for water! There are many people who don't know this and some web sites are using it as a way to raise money to help fight the use of this alleged deadly chemical. In light of what you said regarding the sise of your web site, I don't know if this article is from you or some one in your network. The article points to your web site however if it is not yours I would most gladly appologize for my earlier comments. It is just that I hate to see the american people during such hard times in this country loose their hard enrned money trying to help fraudulent organizations and charities. Mr. Harter, right now the United States is the big joke around many countries around the world. They see us as the tough nation who lost its touch with reality. Imagine what some one with common sense would think of americans beleaving in such nonsense. What would they think of us on things of much more importance! If this article is from your network please remove it and let us show the world that the United States was not build on ignorance. Let us rebuild this country's reputation.

Thank you for elucidating. I am not quite certain that you having me on, but I would like to think so. In case you are not, I must point out that the page is a joke, and a rather hoary one at that. It's even in the humor section.

As far as I know, there is no organization that actually collects money for the cause of banning dihydrogen oxide, though there may. I would like to think that no-one would contribute money to such a cause, but I fancy there is no limit to human gullibility. There was a chap who used to sit in Harvard Square with a cup that read (approximately) "Help the three legged mutants! This is a fake." His daily take was quite respectable.

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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 15 April 2008
Subj: Harters on the internet

see http://www.familywatchdog.us/ShowNameList.asp

I took a look. I did a search on Anthony Lewis, which turned up several offenders by that name - not surprising, I suppose. There is a Richard F. Harter, which goes to show that the posession of a middle name can be corrupting. There is no Deborah Rinehart on their register which is only to be expected. The one surprising result is that there is no Nathan Childers. I can only suppose that their registry is not complete.
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From: Luo
Date: 16 April 2008
Subj: Black Dogs

I have a good business plan that I would love to share with you.

Thank you. It was kind of you to write. Why is it, though, that I have the horrid feeling that your plan involves me getting the business.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 11 April 2008
Subj: Black Dogs

John Gould was a prolific rural essayist in the middle of the 20th Century.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/1025/p22s04-hfgn.html

Country humor is an ancient and dishonorable tradition in rural America. Being both ancient and dishonorable, I suppose it behooves me to do some. Anyway, thanks for the pointer to Gould.
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From: a b
Date: 14 April 2008
Subj: hello

(absolutely nothing)

I do so admire a man of few words. Even your name is compressed to a minimum of letters.
Congratulations!
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 11 April 2008
Subj: Black Dogs

My neighbor has one, and he is DANGEROUS.

If you approach the house, he growls menacingly.

If you enter the house he growls and then sniffs your hand.

If you give him a backrub and then try to stop and do something else, he clouts you gently with his head to remind you that you have Not Finished The Backrub.

Very dangerous dog.

Indeed he must be. Our Lady has an orange and white cat that does the same thing. The dog is a labrador; the cat, a lap raider.
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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 10 April 2008
Subj: Black Dogs

See

http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/04/09/black.dog.syndrome.ap/index.html

for the full story

No doubt it is all true, and it's really very sad. For the past fifty thousand years or so dogs and men were partners in the business of wresting a livelihood from nature. Nowadays we humans no longer live as part of nature - instead we live in megacities surrounded by petrochemicals. Today, dogs are fashion accessories and palliatives for emotionally desicated lives.

The aged croak about how things were ever so much better in their youth and so it was - for them.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 27 March 2008
Subj: Next rock - Re: where's Peter Nielson when you expect him?

Richard Harter wrote:

is deferred to the preceding syllables, the "are" and "or". These do not rhyme, the vowels being different.
Here in North Carolina there is a tendency to mess with the language in ways that are not fully comprehended by those from further reaches. Although Massachusetts and NC agree, pretty much, on the pronunciations of Salisbury and Chatham, they totally ruin Concord into Con-Cord instead of its rightful Conquered (or Konk-id as they say in New Hampster). The name "Kerr" is pronounced car. The word oil here in NC is OHL, and boil can be BILE or BOHL depending on factors over which the natives have not seen fit to enlighten me. Thus the rhyming of "or" and "are" is not yet forbidden, not here in the Snowless South.
Instead I simply copy whatever you use in your correspondence, trusting either that you know your own name, or at least are comfortable with whatever you might be using.
In our family we regard "Neilson" as pre-misspelled. We expect to see other, competetive misspellings, but that does not stop us from taking delight in correcting people antiregardless.
I see, it is a matter of whether one is a regional poet or not. Thus the couplet:
I bought a case of beer
When last I was in Pierre

It is my understanding that all of the words in English started out being misspelled. Over time approximately half of them have received their correct spellings but no one knows which ones.

Weirdly,
Peter
Wiredly,
Richard
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From: Wesley North
Date: 23 March 2008
Subj: "a" vs. "an" and grog

Dear Mr. Harter:

The Theological Engineer-ing Exam was so funny I almost injured myself laughing so hard, and the Bonus Question about whether hell was endo-thermic or exothermic was brilliant.

But here they are, anyway:

Thus, your phrase "a, well, issue" was correct. It may be that some people who use the phrase "an historic" (etc.) do so because they're worried about somebody misunderstand-ing them to mean the adjective "ahistoric" rather than the adjectival phrase, but I steadfastly maintain that fear of misunder-standing should never be used as a pretext for perpetrating a linguistic barbarism; and neither should fear of being "politically incorrect," for which reason I continue to use the much-maligned generic masculine pronoun to refer to singular antecedents.

My understanding is that the "an historic" etc construction is a Britishism. In some respects the initial "h" is a semi-vowel/semi-consonant. The French, I am told, do without it entirely, saying 'oratio 'ornblower rather than Horatio Hornblower. Suppressing the vigor of the initial 'h' may have been the mark of a gentleman; I like to think that it was. Accordingly the "an h..." usage established one as being of the educated gentility. Of course, it wouldn't do to drop the haitches entirely - that would mark one as being a member of an uneducated lower class.
The plural of "process" is "processes," with the good old-fashioned Middle English pluralizing suffix "-es"; the plural of "process" is not, and has never been, "proceses"--an obvi-ous conflation with the plurals of words with Greek roots, such as "crises" and "analyses."]
I can't find "proceses" on my web site, much to my surprise. My web site is littered with typoes, despite the best efforts of Peter N. However I like the word. I think of it as a contraction of prostheses.
Our adjective "groggy," in fact, derives from the name of that old sailors' ration. (And, no, I don't know how they managed to clamber up and down the ratlines when they were schnockered on the stuff either!)
It's been pointed out to me that grog was half water, half rum. It seems to me that that is not much of an improvement. The combination still sounds deadly.
Okay, maybe a nickle's worth. . . .

Thanks for all the effort you've put into your great website, Mr. Harter, and keep expanding it!

Oh, I will. Better the web site than my waist line.
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From: wankayo
Date: 26 March 2008
Subj: BUAT DUIT TANPA MODAL

Sebelum nie saya dah pernah join mcm2 program bisnes internet tp sumer tak berjaya..

dahla kne bayar dulu sebelum join, lepas tu berbulan-bulan usaha pun belum tentu balik modal lagi...

jadi saya cari satu peluang menambahkan pendapatan tanpa keluarkan modal dan saya jumpa program nie....

dan memang berkesan! saya dah dibayar USD50 dalam masa lebih kurang 2 minggu..

dan tanpa keluarkan sebarang modal pun...

You know, I was saying just the same thing myself the other day. I dunno about the fifty dollars though. $12.50 is about as high as I want to go.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 24 March 2008
Subj: where's Peter Nielson when you expect him?

Chip posed that question. Here's an answer.

There are various ways to spell my last name.

Nielsen - Danish spelling, and what our family used in the old country. The Nielsen-Haydens use it, and so did a hotel that conglomerated their room bill with mine at a sf convention during a previous century.

Neilson - Current spelling that my close relatives and I use. It was foisted upon my great uncle when he arrived about 1892. My grandfather, arriving two years later, adpoted it voluntarily so that he and his brother would match.

Nielson - Chip's version. Commonly used by those who are unaware of the full extent of the i-before-e spelling rhyme:

I before E
Except after C
Or when sounded like A
As in neighbour or weigh,
Or in words that are weird,
Like Neilson or weird.
The question of whether "weird" rhymes with "weird" is purposefully left open.
The open question I can answer authoritatively if not accurately. Identity of corresponding syllables does not establish a rhyme. Instead the categorization is deferred to the preceding syllables, the "are" and "or". These do not rhyme, the vowels being different. The immediate thought might be that they are an assonance, but that is not correct, as an assonance is a pair of syllables with the same vowel and with similar but distinct consonants. What we have here is a reversal of an assonance, i.e., a dissonance.

I must confess that I have never attempted to spell your name - the Scandanavian variations are too much like one of those labyrinthine chess variations which you take the wrong pawn on the fifth move and you are mated in 42. Instead I simply copy whatever you use in your correspondence, trusting either that you know your own name, or at least are comfortable with whatever you might be using.

Meantimes, twelve of the best with a wet noodle for Mr. Hitchcock.

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From: Richard Bright
Date: 23 March 2008
Subj: general

Richard. My Daughter Paula fixed me up with this e-mail address and I hope it is yours. She said you had written her. She was quite surprised when she found your name and called me to see If I knew you.

You probably know we lost another classmate Dee Meyers last week. I had visited her and Ralph 3 years ago and I thought he was in worst shape than she. He probably will not live much longer according to reports.

Take care Richard , classmate Richard Bright.

Thanks for writing. Yes, it's me. Paula wrote me a very nice letter. I knew about Dee; as a group we've held up remarkably well, but none of us are getting younger. I hear that Ralph is not doing at all well.

It still seems strange being a Highmore resident after having lived over forty years in the Boston area. I've adapted, though I suspect every one here thinks I'm an odd duck.

Be all that as it may, it was good to hear from you. Take care and enjoy life.

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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 26 March 2008
Subj: Recommending a real book

Wolf, Gary K. [author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit) and Myers, John J. [Roman Catholic Archbishop of Newark, N.J.], Space Vulture, Tor 0-7653-1852-0, 2008. GoshWOWBoyOBoy!!! The authors have created a Planet Stories novel. To do this in the 1940s and 1950s was not much of an accomplishment, but to write such a book in 2008 is something else. I am reminded of Jorge Luis Borges' essay "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote." In that essay, Borges tells of a French author who creates from scratch, word for word, Don Quixote. The essay is a sly dig at some forms of literary criticism. See http://www.enotes.com/pierre-menard for details.

Or, The Man Who Wrote The Necronomicon, for another view of Pierre Menard.
Space Vulture is the villain, recalling Gilmore's Space Hawk from the pulps. In fact, Isaac Asimov and Anthony Gilmore are cited as exemplars of science fiction. Our hero, Captain Victor Corsaire, is brave and noble and heroic and somewhat stupid about interpersonal relationships. The villain, Space Vulture, is and super intelligent and totally evil. The heroine is also noble and beautiful, but-unlike most heroines of the pulps-kick ass. Her two children-she's widowed-are extremely bright and help move the plot along.

Hardly great literature or Hugo quality, but great fun. Back cover blurbs from Stan Lee, Guy Consolmagno, Gene Wolfe, and William Tenn all laud the book.

It sounds wonderful for those of us who are busily exploring our lost childhoods. I recall having boxes of old planet stories, all carefully marked with story ratings. I left them behind when I went out into the wide world. Many years later I asked her whatever happened to them. She said that she gave them away to a neighbour's kid. I forgave her, of course. One has to forgive one's mother, but still ...

Speaking of that era, I was amazed the other day. Quite by chance I pulled a copy of Foundation and Empire off the shelf to reread it. As I was reading it I mentioned to Our Lady of the Large Black Dog that it probably was quite valuable, being that it was the original Gnome edition. She said that I should look it up. Apparently people are asking quite fabulous amounts for the Gnome editions of the trilogy - whether they are getting them or not is quite another matter. The thing is, I just sort of assumed that everybody who was anybody in the world of SF had a set, just as a matter of course. Rather silly of me, now that I think on it.

This led me to do a bit of research on some the other old SF classics I have floating about. It's sort of interesting. They ask a lot more for old Asimov than old Heinlein. Someone is asking for $7500 for a copy of Foundation and Empire, with dust jacket in good condition, Gnome of course. Good copies of the Shasta "The Man Who Sold the Moon" are only quoted for a couple of hundred. Even the old Doubleday Asimov's do quite well. I can't imagine that I would try to sell them, though. I expect that I should go through the library and try to identify the possibly valuable items for my heirs.

It makes me feel like one of those characters in an English mystery novels, Lord Benham of Muchly Benham Manor, who is guiding a visitor through the manor, pointing out various curious heirlooms. He points out a painting to his visitor, muttering about a painting being a fine painting of the first Baron Benham by the artist Mewly Tookins, and how a visiting art dealer rhapsodized over it and made all sorts of offers until he had to run the blighter off.

... continued on next rock ...

Gee, I've got the Gnome edition signed.

I would expect no less from you.

I forgot to mention that I found that the trilogy holds up a lot better (for me anyway) than the future history stories.

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From: Dr. J. Alva Scruggs, BS, MS, MA, EdD
Date: 26 March 2008
Subj: WHO ARE BLACKS TO BELIEVE THE LIMBAUGHS, CLINTONS AND McCAINS-OR GODS APPOINTED

Well, Americans do not have to wonder or guess where the specter of racism has infected our nation!! The question. "Is Obama black enough?" has been answered many times over doing this political season. Not that it was ever a doubt in the minds of our white fellow Americans as to his race. But with the focus on Obama's minister, The Reverend Wright (retired) and one of his sermons the very bases of a Blacks Christian religion is under attack.

Today on the Rush Limbaugh Radio Show as he talked with a person who called in, Rush unrelentingly attacked the Black preachers as insane, unpatriotic, violent and misleading to this congregations! The person on the phone, must probably Bubber the white boy said that all these preacher should be censored and purged from the pulpits of America! These sick white brothers and sisters are now trying to dictate the nature and content of the sermons a Black minister can give on our church fellowship meetings. What is so bad is that some Black ministers are taking the tactic of negotiating with these arrogant silly white people over their scared covenant with their God. We must wait to see of the Black Ministers will allow their sermons to be dictated by their oppressors and the state.

As a Black Christian how many times have you gone to your church and sat mesmerized as your religious leaders gave a litany of oppressive things that has happened at the hands of our white fellow Americans. Most all Black ministers do this regularly. But in the end the minister has never instructed Blacks to go out and retaliate and harm our oppressors. No, we are always told to love those who treat us cruelly and learn to suffer with dignity! Blacks always knew that this solution was silly and untenable for any human to follow.

In addition, what is so ironic is that the Black Christian Religion as basically that which was given to them by their slave masters to keep them from trying to get any thing here on earth and wait for their rewards in the next life. This was instilled in Blacks at the end of a brutal cat of nine tails!! Religion and the family have been the Black man's most solid institutions.

Let us watch to see what the Black clergy will do.

Race, religion, and politics, an unbeatable combination. It is quite beyond me why I receive some of these things. I shudder to think what mailing list I was on to get this one. Still, much can be forgiven of a man named Scruggs.
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This page was last updated April 22, 2008.

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