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Letters to the editor, December 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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 December 2008.

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From: Freda J Isbell
Date: 24 November 2008
Subj: Whatever

Years ago and far away, I clipped a recipe for Thompson turkey. Each year I think maybe this will be the year that I try one. Having raised five kids over the years, there never seemed to be the time. Now I am retired and every year I think, well maybe this will be the year. However the recipe has long departed my collection. Actually the colllection also disappeared.  With my advancing age, I at least made the attempt to find the recipe on line. Thank you very much.  perhaps just getting the recipe will be all that I ever do with regard to the Thompson Turkey.  Still seems like a lot of work. Seems like  it is for a housewife with a lot of handmaidens. Maybe next year, or after they find big foot or after the space aliens land on the white house lawn. Maybe then.

So far that has been my story. Every other year I think, maybe this is the year I make a Thompson Turkey, and it somehow never happens. Milady seems to think that that is a damn good thing. I can't imagine why she would think such a thing.

Anyway, thanks for writing. I am pleased to have been of service.

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From: Jill Caudill
Date: 23 November 2008
Subj: bugs, romping

for looking for Gervasio said her
relate to others and
Academy they must be medicine for
out my final services in China.
you were informed
discretion in relation into voluntarycomplaint about
the documentation

Jill, I hate to break it to you, but your computer is writing bad poetry again.
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From: John Wheatcroft
Date: 5 December 2008
Subj: Hi there from England

We here at Computer Solutions in the UK rather like your computer horror stories page, And were wondering if you had any objection to us using some of them on our site, www.kenilworthcomputerrepairs.com.

We just thought we would ask out of politeness rather than just going ahead and copying them.

Thanks for the entertainment

Sure, go ahead. They're not mine originally - it's one of those things that circulated. I don't know the original source.
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From: Steven D. Hurd
Date: 24 November 2008
Subj: development of a great learning tool

First congradulations on the development of an excelent tool. I work In Australia in a project which as part of it develops awareness about people with disabilities. For some years I have had the idea to develop a game about reincarnation where people learn about what it is like to be a person with a disability, a slave in the US civil War or other roles. By chance I found your game and loved it. I am a person who is blind and use a screen reader and your game is very accessable. Is there any chance of you allowing me to ither develope a simler game, or perhaps working togeather to develope a game with differant lives and more modern times. I feel that longer lives would be great particulaly as an educational tool for schools and community groups

Congratulations once more and I would love to work together on some ideas if you were interested.

My apologies for not answering immediately; life has been rather busy lately. Thank you for writing and for your kind words. You don't need my permission to develop a similar game; the general idea is not the kind of thing that anyone can own.

That said, here are a few ideas about how you might tackle a game organized along the lines you're thinking about. The "game" has two levels, one being the branching stories of individual lives, and the other being the metastory connecting the different lives.

The branching narrative format is trickier than it seems. People used to create actual books with branching narratives. You would read a paragraph or two and then it would give you a choice of actions, with each choice having its own continuation page. They didn't work very well as books; moving back and forth between pages is distracting, and the short fragments don't leave much room for story development. The web takes care of the moving problem; the fragmentation is another matter.

In effect I followed the same format as the books I mentioned. I think it works well enough in my case, because the "real story" is the grand spectacle of lives streaming through the turning wheel of time. In your case the individual life stories must be much more complete. This may take a fair bit of experimenting to work out a viable format. And, of course, you need the life stories.

Another thing you will want to take into account is the metastory, the connecting framework between the lives. In my case the connecting framework was, so to speak, already given to me - the ideas of the cycles of time, reincarnation, and one's choices affecting one's future life were at hand. You need something entirely different. One idea is to use a variant of a book of shadows - a magical book that takes you from one persona to another by selecting a page in the book. Another is that the reader is an agent of an investigator (supernatural or alien, we needn't be too specific) who puts the player in different lives to find out what it is like to be human. There probably is something much better that I am not thinking of.

A third thought that occurs to me is that you have to decide what the various choices mean, i.e., what is the significance of making one choice rather than another.

Anyway, these are some thoughts. I hope they are of help. Please let me know what you come up with.

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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 11 November 2008
Subj: Error

In the Geezer Exam, you ask in question 16

16. What did all the really savvy students do when mimeographed tests were handed out in school?
a. Immediately sniffed the purple ink, as this was believed to get you high
b. Made paper airplanes to see who could sail theirs out the window
c. Wrote another pupil's name on the top, to avoid your failure

Shame, shame, shame. Mimeo ink is mostly carbon black and linseed oil. You meant to say hektograph or spirit duplicator which use an analine transfer process with methanol.

I am sure that neither you nor I are geezers, though possibly superannuated youngsters, so neither of us is an authority on the matter. Therefore I consulted a certified geezer and asked for clarification on this matter.

I am desolated to inform you that your claim of error is unsound. Contrary to what one might suppose, a mimeographed test was not necessarily produced on a mimeograph; it could equally well have been produced on a hektograph, a spirit duplicator, or some other similar arcane technology.

The point is that "mimeographed test" is a descriptive term used by both students and teachers for any test printed by such technologies. That it might not have been accurate is not to the point; in such matters it is usage that governs meaning, and not precision of wording.

I appreciate that this vile sloppiness of wording might well not meet with your approval, but I really see little to be done in the matter unless ... you should have happen to have a time machine and were to go back in the early twentieth century, and lead a spirited campaign to persuade a generation or two of hapless students and harried teachers to mind their p's and q's and use the English language with more precision.

I fear that it might be a difficult task, but I have every faith in you, and am certain that you are just the man for the job.

... continued on next rock ... I don't know about that but we were able to get Stop & Stop to change their express lane sign from "Less than 12 items" to "fewer than 12 items."

If I am not mistaken that happened well into the last century, when there still was a belief in the existence of English orthography and grammar. That was long ago, well before the onset of text messaging. Today orthography and grammar are merely quaint superstitions, much like Santa Claus and the Beatles.
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This page was last updated December 1, 2008.

Richard Harter's World
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December 2008
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