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I’m a stranger here myself

I always wave at strangers

As part of my campaign to create a newer, more beautiful, smaller me, I walk to town everyday to get the mail. As people drive by in their pickups and trucks and tractors pulling equipment and SUV’s and ATV’s and the occasional car, I wave at them and they generally wave back. I don’t know who most of these people; they are neighours, however, and waving at them is the friendly thing to do. No. 17 on the South Dakota Tourism guide reads:

17.So every person in every pickup waves. It’s called being friendly. Understand the concept?
Now the interesting thing about the “guide” is that the tone definitely isn’t friendly which seems a bit unfair – South Dakotan’s are mostly pretty friendly, if a bit parochial. South Dakotans, you see, don’t brag about South Dakota. The department of tourism puffs the state off a bit, but even they sound a bit apologetic. Most people recognize that being from South Dakota is an accident of birth that happens to two people in a thousand in the US and to hardly anybody else in the rest of the world.

South Dakotans are mostly friendly to strangers in a reserved sort of way; however friendly is as friendly does. In Black like me the author (who is switching back and forth between being white and black) reported on the two faces of Southern graciousness. When he was white, the little old ladies would smile at him graciously; when he was black they gaze upon him with expressions of cold hatred.

You see this two faces effect in the small towns of rural South Dakota; people can bear grudges for a lifetime. Cold anger is not wasted on strangers; they reserve it for their own.

Trash of the ages, nearer to thee

I have been contributing to usenet news groups since 1983. What with one thing and another, I have no copies of most of the trash, er, illuminating electronic discourse that I have produced in the past twenty odd years. Fairly recently, however, google.com, the search engine people, have put together a massive usenet archive going back to 1981. It isn’t complete but it’s very good. Recently I have been mining this archive, looking for material that I might plausibly reprint. I wouldn’t want to waste my past creativity, shoddy as it might be, when I have so little of it left. Expect to see some strange new things on my web site, some of them even in this editorial.

For sale

One (1) probability wavemeter, slightly used, still under factory warranty. Meter reading instantaneously drops to zero during electron phototube measurements, otherwise works perfectly. Manufacturer claims that the problem can be fixed but that it is too bohring to work one. Their slogan, “The only physically real things are the nonobservables.” Best offer accepted, preferably in the form of non-negotiable bearer bonds.

Trojan horses

Should one count the time spent playing ‘wheel wars’ which often involves subtle use of trojan horses. It might be interesting if some of our now reformed readers regaled us with some of the more amusing tricks they played on their compatriots. [I remember slipping someone a trojan horse that printed out “Your account is exactly as you left it — now” when he logged in. And, of course, when he checked it, it was.]

A calendrical question

Constant reader asks:
Does “B.C.” really mean “Before Calculators”?

Correct. The BC period is divided into two eras, the age of sliderules, and the “Before Sliderules” era, also known as the time of B.S.

This page was last updated June 1, 2002.
It was reformatted and moved May 15, 2006.

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