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Letters to the Editor, April 2000

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 2000.

I have been receiving quite a bit of peculiar because the mutant watch page has a link to my Are mutations harmful? page. I have gathered them together in their own page.

Index of contributors

Other Correspondence Pages

From: Wmolly
Date: 4/27/2000
Subj: Your site

Is amazing! How long did it take you to design it? By the way when will the xmen movie come out? Will it be in theaters or at the video stores?

I’m not sure whether you are referring to my site, the xmen site, or the mutantwatch site. My site is rather like topsy – it just growed. I did some initial design and I fiddle with it every once in a while to try to bring it under control. In the mean time I just keep adding whatever interests or amuses me.

My understanding is that the movie will come out in July.

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From: the_management
Date: 4/25/2000
Subj: We need your investment now!

Hello Friend,

we need your help in order for our Website
to grow fast. If you don’t mind we would like to ask you to invest into our company. US$ 5,000 – US$ 10,000 would be enough, just in order to cover our expenses.

If you are interested, please contact: [email protected]

Dear sirs,

Much as I admire your approach I fear that I cannot fit your enterprise into my investment schedule. I must admit that I am quite curious as to whether you will actually catch any fish with this particular troll.

Cheerily, Richard Harter

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From: WKosl
Date: 4/29/2000
Subj: Darwin stuff

I’m interested in where i can find a car attachment that i’ve seen as follows: A Christian fish symbol, but with two legs and the word “Darwin” within it. Can you tell me where I can get this?

Try the Ring of Fire Enterprises at
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From: Kell Crider
Date: 4/28/2000
Subj: mutant victim

Thanks for posting the letters you have received as a result of the link to your site from Made my day. Are you still receiving them? I’ll check the page again. I’ll be back to check out other corners of your site. Your humorously thoughtful responses to the aforementioned emails have piqued my interest.

I’m still getting them. When the x-men movie site first came up I got a flurry of them and an absurd number of hits on my site. Things have settled down but I still get a lot of hits on the mutation page.

If you enjoy my responses to the mutant letters you may well enjoy the rest of the site. It is, er, eccentric.

I’m sure any interest you may have had has been purged, but you might be surprised by the writing quality, not to mention the art, in some of the more thoughtful comic books
I’m an Asterix fan but I’m not sure that counts in the category of thoughtful comic books. I have my mint condition copy of The Watchmen, of course, but who doesn’t.
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From: Michel Durinx
Date: 4/14/2000
Subj: Hang senator kelly !

Dear sir,

1.On hedgehogs with attitude problems thinking they’re wolverines:
a. I am quite certain you did not know that the Afrikaner word for ‘hedgehog’ is ‘krimpvarkie’, or literally ‘wee shrinking pig’;
b. I am quite certain that there is no point in knowing that;
c. I am not sure why I know it.
Concluding line of argument: D. Hofstadter’s books should be kept away from.

Wee shrinking pig – I like that. Hofstadter is excellent for people who wish to believe that they understand difficult subjects that they do not understand.
2. After months of incidental wandering around and being disappointed in my search for meaning on the web by discovering the website I wanted to construct and hence not having to construct it or deal with the tedious mails like this such a page is bound to engender so being overcome with spare time I was forced to fill it otherwise. I first considered following a course on grammar, but seeing that mine was beyond recovery I tossed that idea aside. So I took up sign language. eh. Maybe a look into concise writing & getting ideas across might be not too bad an idea.
Now that is a fine collection of words thrown at a page, blowing and scattering like leaves in the wind, and catching against the fences of periods to form the semblence of sentences.
The short version is: an algebrist I mailed your url came across Billy, I never did in all my wanderings, and now he is unable to locate the game anymore. Does it actually exist? Being an algebrist his statement is unverifiable. A much-used concluding line in a paper is ‘.. it is reduced to an algebraic problem and hence solved.’ Much like Fermat and his universe being too small.
The original Billy disappeared long ago. My version can be found at

The proofs of algebraists are either trivial or incomprehensible – often both at the same time.

3. Trilobites chose to cease living when or before trilobite-casserole and chili-con-trili were invented. Lambs still jump around stupidly, fully aware of the fact that stews exist. This clearly shows their relative intelligence.

Note: i clearly talk about lambs as an entity. The specific lamb that gets intimate knowledge about stew does not jump anymore.

Now this is logic I can appreciate. As a former (very former) South Dakota farm boy I can testify that trilobites, of necessity, are nicer than sheep.
4. I was amazed that your counter read 46, guessing my visits alone would more than make up half. This not being consistent with the amount of published correspondence , I now look more closely. I see the point is that it is ’46.. since 14th of April, 2000′. AAAAHAHAHHA,,,, I recognize the date.. I was supposed to supervise an exam at 9:00 on the 14th.. it’s now 17:40 and I will not even be able to reach any place on earth where its not yet 9:00 to prove I was on time but had a slight spatial mislocation.
I think “Ooops” is the appropriate technical term. My ISP occasionally wipes out some of my counters every now and then and I have to reset them. Bad ISP. I get lots of hits on my site – many more these days thanks to Senator Kelly whom we both agree should be hung.
Running off to the department’s secretariat, Fearfully — although no god exists but evil daemons clearly do, and they live there —,


God explains much that is good in the world; daemons explain much that is not. Daemons, though less powerful, are evidently much more industrious than God.
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From: “TBundy”
Date: 4/14/2000
Subj: DHMO

Good luck DHMO is water.

No. I’m shocked. Who would have guessed it?
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From: “Oribhabor”
Date: 4/25/2000
Subj: verification

I have over the past few years heard some of these stories. One question comes to mind. If any of these stories are true, (and I don’t mean the urban legends either), How do we verify their authenticity. Grace

As a general rule it is very difficult to verify these stories. Basically what you need is chain of connections that can be trusted, preferably public sources that can be checked. Scientific and other scholarly journals invest considerable effort in making sure that the connections are there. Thus an article in a scientific journal reporting on an experiment will report the details of how the experiment was done so that other people can repeat the experiment. If the report is on an observation of an event all of the relevant information will be recorded. References to other works will (should be) complete enough so that the other works can be examined and the accuracy of the references checked. Moreover the material in the journal article, including the references, will be independently reviewed by referees.

My apologies if this seems dry or if I am rehashing familiar material. However the point is that it takes considerable effort and care together with cross-checking by several people to ensure that a source is really reliable.

Most of the sources for these stories are unreliable. You cannot assume that a newspaper story is accurate or complete. You definitely cannot assume that an email or web page that purports to be a copy of a newspaper article is in fact an accurate copy of a legitimate newspaper article. If you really want to verify a story you are going to have to do some dog work.

Quite frankly, my Darwin Awards pages and the stories therein are mostly unverified (some come from sources I trust) and should be regarded as popular culture. I do have pages which are scholarly, e.g., the Piltdown Man pages. The difference between them and the Darwin Arwards pages are quite striking.

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Date: 4/24/2000
Subj: I want to grow a 100 pound pumkin HELP

How can I make my pumpkin grow to weigh 100 pounds. I am in a contest and I want to win if I can with your help. When you get a chance please e-mail me with any information when I need to plant the seed and how to get started. Thank you for your time.

Dear person,

I really wish I could give you definitive advice on the growing of large pumpkins. Perhaps one of my many readers may have better advice than that which I can give you.

You will want a considerable area in which to grow your pumpkins; they should get good sun. The soil should be well drained and should be good loam. Plant your seeds (yes, seeds) three or four to a hill. Water well. Plant well after the danger of frost. Fertilize with miracle-gro (follow instructions). After the pumpkins have flowered and set, pinch off all the late blooms and most of the ones that have set – you want all of the plants growth to go into that one pumpkin.

As an alternative, consult your local nursery.

Richard Harter

PS: Why me, Lord?

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From: Cato Devane
Date: 4/25/2000
Subj: Letters to the Editor, X-men Special

Loved your responses! I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a long time.

Thank you. I can’t take all of the credit. Seldom have I been fed so many straight lines.
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From: Thomas Hammett
Date: 3/8/00
Old Ironsides

Not only is the story about the 181-day voyage of the USS Constitution implausible based on the reported level of alcoholic consumption, but the Constitution wasn’t even built until 21 October 1797 – 18 years, 1 month, and 28 days after the story supposedly took place.

You are quite right; the story has certain elements of implausibility. I dare say that if you checked the references you would find that they do not check out. So? It’s a good story anyway.
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From: Diana Metz
Date: 3/24/2000
Subj: Where are the Piltdown bones

I am curious to know where the original bones of the Piltdown man are now. Are they kept together somewhere?

The British Museum still has them under lock and key. They don’t advertise them much.
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From: Jessie2good
Date: 3/26/2000
Subj: urgent reply quickly please

escuse me but what is the purose of this web site

The purpose of this web site is to subtly undermine reality.
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From: “hilmash1”
Date: 3/28/2000
Subj: X-tremely intellectual website

I’ll admit I am an X-men fan, and happened across your site via “Senator Kelly”. I’ve browsed (I use the term browse only because of lack of time) through your web-site and I must concur with the thoughts of others, you have a wonderful website, an intellectual’s “rollar coaster”. I have bookmarked your website and deleted “Senator Kelly’s”. In one aspect I am sorry for some of the “trash” mail that you have probably received (ie. X-men rule.You are sick.) from the exposure, but on the other hand, I am happy that I have had the chance(and will continue) to view your site. Great job!

Thank you for the kind words. The trash mail has been very amusing. I have been rather busy this past month – the march “issue” will come out in april – but I expect that I will gather the mutant letters together as a special for the amusement of my readers. The exposure, I suppose, is good – people who would have never found my site otherwise managed to stumble into it. The great mutantwatch plague seems to have quieted down. For a while I was getting three or four times my regular daily traffic; I still get some extra traffic but the mutantwatch hits have dropped from about ten thousand a day to about a thousand a day.

I have noticed that there are certain definite entry points into my site. These include the Piltdown Man page, the Darwin Awards page, the Roast Camel and Kitty Litter cake pages, the Marine Corps reminisces page, the “Dancing Slave Girls of Gor” page, and the “Waiting for Godot” page. The humor pages are the ones that people keep coming back to. Most people go back out the door that they came in; some people stick around and browse. Those are my kind of people.

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From: “buffie”
Date: 3/28/2000
Subj: Poker

Enjoyed your site. Stumbled across it when I typed in Professional Poker Players in the search engine tonight while reminiscing about last week in Las Vegas and my education in the Mirage poker room. I was looking for some insight on how to become better. I appreciated your final sentence in the poker essay. Do you have any other fine points on playing winning poker that you might have left out?

All comments welcomed.

As a practical matter you can’t win playing poker in Las Vegas. The situation is very simple: The house is the big winner. Next come the professionals who have to be very good in order to scratch out a living. All of this money comes out of the casual tourists and the many people who think that they are good players. You’ve got to have a lot of hustle to beat those games. As someone put it, “These guys fuck you with velvet prophylactics. You don’t even know you’ve been had until you try to sit down the next day.”

A simple bit of advice which covers almost all private games is that most people don’t raise enough and they call too much, particularly in the later rounds. The principle is very simple: You don’t want to be in at the end if you don’t have the best hand. If you have the best hand you should be raising; if you don’t have it you shouldn’t be in. One of my favorite ploys was to bet as though I had something other than what I had. For example, it’s 7 card stud, high-low, with a buy. My first two up cards are an A and a 2. I’m pushing hard, obviously betting on the come with my low hand. I catch a K. I raise again but not as vigorously. I pair the deuce. I just call this time. I get a down card and raise again. I replace the K and catch a 3. The final round is hot and heavy – one guy with a low drops out. Another guy who has been sucking wind all the way decides to go high against the other player who looks like he might have two pair. I win the entire pot with my aces boat because nobody has gone low against my obvious “lock low”. I started with wired trip aces. Did you see that coming? That’s one of the tricks; when you don’t have what your up cards suggest, bet as though you did. Now let’s supose I had a 3 and a 4 to start with instead of that pair of bullets. Depending on what else is out there and who’s playing I have a very good chance of walking away with low because everybody “knows” I have a lock low.

Other advice. Know your players. Some people make a big effort to keep track of tells, revealing habits and gestures. I never bothered to do that consciously; I just trusted impressions. However the important thing is to notice major patterns, e.g., does a player over-estimate and under-estimate the value of his hand. One thing I found useful is method acting. For example, with that hand with the concealed boat, I tell myself “You have a lock low” and internalize that knowledge. I act like a man with a lock low because I “know” I have a lock low.

… continued on next rock …

Thanks, Richard. I felt like there was some collusion going on but couldn’t put my finger on it. I would like to find some private games here in Midland, Texas where I live, any ideas on where to start and what to look out for in the private games? I have never looked for any private games in this area, recently moved here. Thanks, Randy

Twenty years ago it would have been a dead cinch that there was collusion going on, at least in the high stakes games. I don’t imagine that things have changed all that much.

As to finding private games I’m not sure that I can give you good advice. Like anything else, you ask around. Ask your doctor or your contractor if you are having work done. Mention poker casually at work and see if anyone bites. Be casual but ask. Once you get into a regular game it isn’t hard to find other games. Most games have some players who play in more than one game.

The main thing you want to do when you find a game is to be good company. Don’t be obnoxious, be friendly without being too pushy, don’t be an excessively tight player, and don’t appear to playing for blood.

Think twice if you seem to be losing regularly and everybody wants you to play in their game.

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From: Levi S Spears
Date: 3/21/2000
Subj: Official X-Men Movie

Just wandered by and started reading – I actually found your page via a link from the ‘Official X-Men Movie’ site, which linked to an obviously faked page along the lines of, which then had links to some info on mutations and genetics …

Regardless – much amusement and good reading here – thanks.

I’m pleased that you enjoyed the site. Many people who followed that link seemed to think that I was the official maildrop for I’ve gotten some very brain damaged email in consequence.

A courtesy, I do wish, by the way, that the x-men movie people had shown.

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From: Ted Noel
Date: 3/20/2000
Subj: Hemostasis

Kevin O’Brien’s essay on hemostasis simply ignores Behe’s argument. If any procoagulent evolves, then the animal clots solid. If the regulator evolves, it bleeds to death. The entire system is required for proper function. The alleged pedigree of various proteins is interesting, but simply misses the point. Perhaps he could explain how the evolution could occur without killing the animal. He must not sit with the invertebrates for his evolution, because that would be evolving a system which they neither have nor need. To evolve it for them would be to divert precious resources, making them less proficient at survival.

It is nice to say that you have refuted Behe, but it is dishonest to do so when you haven’t even addressed his argument.

I don’t really want to argue origins issues in private email – I would rather do that in the newsgroup which is a public forum. However the argument that the entire function is necessary is a dog that doesn’t hunt. It is necessary for modern vertebrates; however it would not have been for the presumed ancestor. Before cavalierly dismissing invertebrates you should go back and read that section more carefully. Note that fibrinogen is a very old molecule, dating back to before the vertebrate, invertebrate split.

If you are interested in making specific objections I would be willing to post them together with the relevant section of Kevin O’Brien’s article for commentary.

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From: oryan999
Date: 3/13/2000
Subj: car wreaks

if it would be possible i would really appreciate it if you could send me any pictures you have of car wreaks or accidents. thank you

I’m sorry but I don’t have any pictures of car wrecks other than the one on my web site. May one ask *why* you want pictures of car wrecks?
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From: “Morris M. Keesan”
Date: 3/29/2000
Subj: HTML typo

In your February letter column page the attempted link to the mutant watch page is, missing the prefix “http://”, and so it gets interpreted as a relative link, to the non-existent “”.

(not an HTML problem, but probably just a typo: on the Feb. 2000 contents page, toc00feb.html, you’ve re-used the header “Gender Benders” where I think you meant “Correspondence”; unless there’s some subtle humor in referring to your correspondents as gender benders.)

Thanks for the corrections. The “Gender Benders” is indeed a typo although I do like your interpretation.

Note: Duly corrected.

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From: Alyxander B. Debler
Date: 3/30/2000
Subj: Mutations

Very well written and constructed. I am an ametuer in the realm of biology and biochemistry, but found this site very educational, and explained in a way that is easy to comprehend for a novice.

Thank you for the kind words. My objective was to explain matters in a way that clear to the intelligent scientific layman. My objective was both to provide simple, clear explanations and yet at the same to provide substantive documentation so that people could see that the explanations rested on real material of substance.
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From: TheVVV
Date: 3/19/2000
waiting for godot

I’ve been searching for a manuscript of “waiting for godot” online, but have had no luck. was wondering if, by chance, you knew of a location at which i could download or view it.

It’s quite unlikely since it is still under copyright. Check the library or your favorite bookstore.
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From: “Kirk And Gale”
Date: 4/17/2000
Subj: Not a mutant…

Just had to email you and tell you how much I enjoyed your cool-headed and courteous responses to the silly Mutant Letters. I found your site through the X-Men site as well and I have to say I’ve enjoyed reading these letters probably more than I will the movie. Thanks for putting them up.

Thank you for the kind words. I must admit that some of my responses weren’t precisely courteous. There is only so much temptation that a man can resist.

In the ordinary course of things I wouldn’t have gone to see the movie but now I expect that I will have to. In a detached sort of way I’m in it.

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From: Oldlady
Date: 4/18/2000
Subj: Really neat

I can’t believe anyone had the time or energy to compile all this convoluted nonsense. We enjoyed it.

The Family of Mutants

Grazzi. It’s really very simple. Reality and I have an agreement; I leave it alone and it leaves me alone.
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From: Patty Sims
Date: 4/20/2000
Subj: Enjoyed the site

Thank you for allowing me the privilege of enjoying some of the ramblings of your fine mind. I would be proud to have a son like you. You give me hope for the future.

You’re welcome and thanks for the kind words. A number of people have said kind things about my web site but never that I would be a fine model for a future son. Are you sure you know what you’re asking for?
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This page was last updated April 29, 2000.
It was relocated April 10, 2005

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