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Collected editorials

Should I be doing this?

You know you live in the back country when …

The other day when I was browsing though my email I got an email from the National Wildlife Federation. Back when I lived in Massachusetts I was a good liberal and gave money to all the right causes – the NWF, the ACLU, the Sierra club, etc – so I’m on a lot of mailing lists. The nice thing about the internet is that now they send you email instead of just junk mail. Being a conservationist of sorts (though mostly what I conserve is my own labor) I deplore junk mail. Something useful should be done with it. One thought that occurs to me is to use it to make paper-mache trees. That way the forests that have been cut down can be replaced with paper-mache trees. Such is progress.

Of course these days I live in South Dakota. Instead of being a flaming liberal I’m now a rock solid conservative. Instead of voting socialist I vote libertarian. I’m even thinking of organizing a States Far Right party. Or something like that.

Be all of that it may (or may not) I definitely am living in South Dakota, which brings me back to that email from the NWF. One of the links was to a page that would tell you about the effects of global warming on your state. Who could resist such an invitation? Many perhaps, but not I. I brought up The effect of global warming on your state.

There it was – a color coded map of the United States purporting to show the effects of global warming on each state’s state tree and state flower. Naturally I clicked on SD and got a little box that said the state flower (the pasque flower) wasn’t in danger but that the state tree (the Black Hills spruce) had a dim future. Oh yes, there was one little error – they seem to think that North Dakota’s southern neighbour is called the District of Columbia.

You know that you live in the back country when they can’t even get the name of your state right.

Ants in the dishwasher

Chez Harter is in the countryside. There are advantages to this. One is close to nature. There are disadvantages to this. One is close to nature. As it happens Chez Harter does not have a basement; it rests on a cement slab. As such, the ground floor is, ah, close to the ground. This proximity allows the denizens of nature opportunities to share the delights of Chez Harter.

Ants, they say, are about half of the animal biomass in the world. I don’t who “they” are but I wish that “they” wouldn’t say things like that. There may be something to that, though, because a quantity of ants massing about as much as a small elephant seem to drop in now and then.

Until recently I would have said “used to drop in now and then”. When I tore the kitchen apart last year I pulled all of the trim off the kitchen window. It was then that I discovered that some queen had set up camp in the window frame and sent her minions off into the kitchen to gather whatever ants living in walls gather. You may be sure I dealt with that. The ant colony was exterminated and the section of window frame that the builders had neglected to insulate was insulated. All of the holes in the walls and along the floor were sealed. That, I thought, was that.


All last winter there wasn’t a problem with ants. Fancy that. This spring, however, they showed up again. I’m not sure where they are coming from but I have my theories. They turned up in the dishwasher. To be sure there never was a problem with ants in the dishwasher in the past, no doubt because there never was a dishwasher in the past, at least not one than ran on electricity.

My first theory was that they came through the drainage lines in the plumbing. This makes no sense at all, but it’s better than the alternative.

The alternative is that they teleport in from teleportation central. The theory is that dishwashers are a favorable nexus for teleportation. This is disturbingly plausible. After all washing machines are known for teleporting socks away, and washing machines are just dishwashers on steroids. I had always supposed that socks were transmogrified into clothes hangers when they were teleported out of washing machines. Everybody knows that. Maybe, however, just maybe socks are really transmogrified into ants and clothes hangers are just a by product.

It’s a theory. I suppose I could test it by not washing my socks for a few months but sometimes truth just isn’t worth it.

Big Sister is watching you

The other day Our Lady of the Large Black Dog idly asked why I was so cynical about our injustice system. I will tell you why; there are too many Cody Webb stories.

Not so very long ago Cody Webb was a student at Hempfield Area Highschool in Pennsylvania. Hempfield Area Highschool has a hot line that students can call to get the latest school info. Early one March morning Cody called in to find out what was happening. About an hour later an unknown party called in a bomb threat. Unfortunately for Cody the school hadn’t changed their clocks to reflect daylight savings time. The school (and the state police) didn’t notice; they made a superficial check of the phone records and decided that they had caught their culprit.

When Cody came to school the next day he was first called into the guidance office and then to the principal’s office. There the school administrators demanded that he admit to calling in the bomb threat. When Cody said he didn’t do it and didn’t know what they were talking about the principal, Kathy Charlton, said, “Well, why should we believe you? You’re a criminal. Criminals lie all the time.”

The state police were called despite the fact that the recording of the call featured a voice that sounded nothing like Webb’s. Cody was arrested and was charged with a felony count of threatening to use weapons of mass destruction, and with misdemeanor counts of making false alarms to public entities, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and making terrorist threats.

He spent 12 days in detention until he was released by court order. County juvenile detention officials wanted to keep Webb in custody, Cody’s lawyer said. “They wanted him to have a mental health evaluation because he wouldn’t admit to making the call.”

Eventually the district attorney subpoenaed the phone records and the farce was over. The school district had placed the blame by matching Webb’s call, recorded on his phone at 3:12 a.m. daylight-saving time, to the threat recorded by the school as having been received at 3:17 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, but actually at 4:17 daylight-saving time, a little more than an hour after Webb’s call.

Cody, an honor student, no longer attends Hempfield. His mother is home schooling him until she can find a more suitable educational institution, one that does not throw its students into jail on false charges.

The real caller has never been found.

Link: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribunereview/news/westmoreland/s_501066.html

Getting married in Rhode Island

I am a member of several virtual and not so virtual (to say nothing of not so virtuous) interest-group communities. Interest group communities coalesce around a common set of activities centered on some interest. Hobbies and religion are good sources for interest group communities

One of these interest group communities is the talk.origins newsgroup. (Usenet newsgroups are on-line bulletin boards maintained collectively across the net. They came long before the web. They are sort of like chat rooms except that they aren’t.) The nominal purpose is to provide a place for people to quarrel about creationism and evolution. For some reason it is also a place for people to talk about beer and to compose endless cascades of bad puns.

Usenet newsgroups tend to have regulars, people who participate in the discussions over the years. Regulars form a virtual community; they know each other through their posting and through their websites, and even get together now and then in gatherings called howlerfests. (Don’t ask.)

Then there is NESFA, aka The New England Science Fiction Association. NESFA is a node in another virtual community, SF fandom. NESFA is somewhat less incorporeal than talk.origins. NESFA has a clubhouse, a 503-C corporation, and a large number of books. Nesfans socialize together, something permitted under the rather liberal laws of Massachusetts.

Our Lady of the Large Black Dog has inducted me into another interest group community, the Rodeo performers world. That’s a story for another time.

One of the oddities of being a member of interest group communities is that they can be cross connected. Thus it is that several members of the NESFA community also post in the talk.origins news group. For example, in the talk.origins newsgroup there was a discussion about what legally counts as incest.

You may well wonder what this has to do with evolution and creationism. Well, it seems that Charles Darwin married his cousin, Emma Wedgewood. (Yes, those Wedgewoods.) Some creationist dweeb posted a rant about how Darwin was an incestuous atheist and therefore 150 years of science must be wrong. This lead into a discussion of the status of cousin marriages over the years. For example, some states in the US permit the marriage of first cousins, and others do not. Apparently first cousin marriages were quite common in the well to do classes in England during Darwin’s time – a sort of “keep the money in the extended family” policy.

In the course of this edifying discussion someone mentioned that in Rhode Island a Jewish uncle could marry his niece, whereas no such union was permitted to Goyim. Naturally someone else challenged this as a bit of folklore. Still another party checked the Rhode Island State web site and found this in Title 15:

§ 15-1-1 Men forbidden to marry kindred. – No man shall marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, son’s daughter, daughter’s daughter, stepmother, grandfather’s wife, son’s wife, son’s son’s wife, daughter’s son’s wife, wife’s mother, wife’s grandmother, wife’s daughter, wife’s son’s daughter, wife’s daughter’s daughter, sister, brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter, father’s sister, or mother’s sister.

§ 15-1-2 Women forbidden to marry kindred. – No woman shall marry her father, grandfather, son, son’s son, daughter’s son, stepfather, grandmother’s husband, daughter’s husband, son’s daughter’s husband, daughter’s daughter’s husband, husband’s father, husband’s grandfather, husband’s son, husband’s son’s son, husband’s daughter’s son, brother, brother’s son, sister’s son, father’s brother, or mother’s brother.

§ 15-1-3 Incestuous marriages void. – If any man or woman intermarries within the degrees stated in § 15-1-1 or § 15-1-2, the marriage shall be null and void.

§ 15-1-4 Marriages of kindred allowed by Jewish religion. – The provisions of §§ 15-1-1 – 15-1-3 shall not extend to, or in any way affect, any marriage which shall be solemnized among the Jewish people, within the degrees of affinity or consanguinity allowed by their religion.

I gather that the rules in the old testament permit uncle-niece marriages, though the matter seems to be open to some dispute.

No sooner had this been posted than NESFA member Ann McCutchen commented to yet another Nesfan infesting talk.origins that she guessed that he had missed the discussion that she and Tony Lewis (noted NESFA member aka the evial one) had upon this very subject in the NESFA clubhouse the other day.

I don’t know about uncle-niece marriages, but there’s definitely something incestuous going on here.

Should I be doing this?

I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing with these editorial pages. Ordinarily an editorial is a little essay by the editor about something that exercises his soul. What I have been doing is bits and pieces of randomness. That’s a good thing – there is a severe shortage of bits and pieces of randomness in the universe and I’m doing my part to alleviate the shortage. Still, those bits and pieces sound an awful like a blog – an antediluvian blog of course, but a blog none-the-less.

I dunno, am I doing the right thing? If I am, what do I have to do to change?

Rocketing to success

At the end of April I noticed that the site traffic spiked. Usually I get around 3000 visitors a day and about 31 megabytes a day on the main site. On Saturday it peaked at 5815 visitors and 63 megabytes. “Self,” I said to myself, “what is going on?”

I did a bit of checking and found that somebody had discovered Why Engineers should not be parents……. and passed the word around. I don’t blame them; I reread it and giggled a lot. It ends with those immortal words,

“After all, if your dad isn’t gonna teach you how to get your ass blown off, who will?”
I suppose it shall have to be exiled to Annex D, the home of overly popular pages.

This page was last updated May 1, 2007.

table of contents
Collected editorials