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January 2001 TOC
Archived letters

Letters to the Editor, January 2001

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 January 2001.

I have been receiving quite a bit of peculiar mail 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

Graham Gordon
Iris de Carteret
Cecilia Martinez
Evan Fishman
Joe Flood
Chip Hitchcock
Richard Zackon
Leguna Dominia
Elizabeth B Liles
Rosbert RS
Tony Moore

Other Correspondence Pages

Archived Letters For 1996
Archived Letters For 1997
Master page for correspondence

From: “Gordon, Graham ([email protected])
Date: 1/18/2001
Subj: Old Ironsides

Wasn’t the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides”, constructed after the Naval Act of 1794 and then commissioned in 1797? Doesn’t seem possible that she set sail in 1779.

You are quite right, of course. I’m afraid the “Old Ironsides” story is fiction. It’s a good story though.
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From: Iris de Carteret ([email protected])
Date: 1/18/2001
Subj: Road to Endor

I’m typing up my grandfathers journal of his time in Mesopotamia 1920 – 1922 (as a Major in the Army Audit Staff) In October 1921 he was reading “The Road to Endor” and I am just writing to say that it was lovely to find your description of the book! Otherwise I shouldn’t have known the subject matter.


You’re welcome. It’s surprising how much miscellaneous information can be found on the net.
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From: Cecilia Martinez ([email protected])
Date: 1/12/2001
Subj: Waiting for Godot

I am researching Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. Part of my assignment is to contact others who are interested in this book. Could you please give me any insight, advice or links that would help me. Thank you for your time.

-Cecilia Martinez San Dimas High School

Here is a list of links that have appeared in my correspondence pages that are relevant to “Waiting for Godot”.


The following link into my correspondence pages gives a post-modern viewpoint:


I hope this helps.

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From: Evan Fishman ([email protected])
Date: 1/17/2001
Christopher Mandelstein story

In doing a google search on “Mandelstein” I came across your Christopher Mandelstein story which was very humorous. My grandfather’s name was Mandelstein; I’m wondering how you selected that surname for your story?

It’s a good story but I’m not the author. It’s just one of those things that circulates on the net.
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From: Joe Flood ([email protected])
Date: 1/13/2001
Subj: Toilet

Thanks for this useful analysis Richard. Funnily enough my wife and I had the same debate a week or so ago (seriously). I eventually told her I would put it down 3 times out of 4 if she put it up 1 time out of 4 (being a mathematician).

Now your analysis gives me a much firmer basis for rational decision making. (if I dont get divorced first for being a smartarse). Thanks

Joe Flood

(but PS. What if I have 3 sons?)

Perhaps it will help if your wife is a mathematician, preferably one with a sense of humor. I will have to do a follow up analysis on children. The guiding principle here is that children shall have to follow house rules which are a compromise for the benefit of the parents.

The rule for children is that they leave the seat the way they found it. Thus, if the seat was up they may leave it up and if it was down they must put it back down. This does not disturb the order of things.

Unfortunately children are not reliable in this regard. Perhaps when there are children present the thing to do is get a dog as a pet and follow dog rules, i.e., the seat cover is always down.

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From: Charles Hitchcock ([email protected])
Date: 1/12/2001
The reincarnation game

“You are in a little twisty maze of passages, all alike.”

Free the bird.
We should make you play the interactive version of “If I Ran the ooZCon”.
Mercy, master, mercy!
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From: Richard Zackon ([email protected])
Date: 1/12/2001
Subj: stew

I needed to bring a dish to serve 6 men at a men’s weekend. I’m not much of a cook. I used your recipe for beef stew. Excellent! many thanks.

You’re welcome. That recipe is surprisingly popular.
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From: Island120 ([email protected])
Date: 1/11/2001
Subj: stuffed camel recipe

There are cooks who will also stuff a rabbit in with the lamb and chicken. But be sure to ask before you do this because some people don’t like to find a hare in their food.

Chortle. That’s an atrocious pun. Well done.
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From: gizmett ([email protected])
Date: 1/6/2001
Subj: the symbolic meaning for a zebra

a curious friend asked me to find out about the zebra and hints for me

I assume that you are thinking of the zebra poem that runs:
I do not know
What a lion would think
If a zebra presented her rump,
Invited the lion to dine
And asked in return
That the zebra’s foal
Be allowed to nurse
Upon the lioness.
which is, I feel, one of my better poems. Four “explanations” of what the poem is about is given a zebra.html

The various people quoted are all fictions; the last explanation is truest to what I had in mind when I wrote the poem. The train of thoughts ran something like this: There are in today’s world a host of offers of “free” service. Thus there are free web sites, ATM cards, et cetera. These offers have three parties in them, the offerer, the party that gets the free service, and the party that pays for them. In the poem the zebra is the one makes the offer, the lion is the one gets the free service, and the lioness is the one that pays.

The specific trigger was reading an account of the invasion of credit cards into tribal Africa. The poem is an account of the perplexity that a tribesman might have upon being presented with one of these “free” offers. More generally, it is an expression of mixed emotions on considering the nature of such bargains.

There is an entirely separate line of thought that went into the poem, namely the relationship between men and women which accounts for the sexual overtones of the poem. In most mammalian species the females rear the young and males play no part beyond siring the young. Humans form bonded pairs and the males make a large parental investment in their putative offspring. Reduced to its economic skeleton, females offer regular sex in exchange for assistance in raising the young. In this reading, the female (the zebra) is offering sex to the male (as sire) in exchange for assistance from his nurturing side (the lioness). The fictitious Elfrieda Eppingham von Basingstoke expresses this reading, filtering it through progressive ideology.

I did not originally have in mind the religious interpretation given by Father William “Bull” Morris but it works. No doubt there are other interpretations. The triparty bargain is pervasive.

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From: REALFABLES4U ([email protected])
Date: 12/30/2000
Subj: that was a good story

i was once a marine i did boot camp training in parris island hated with a passion. i”m no longer a marine

I can’t say that I hated boot camp with a passion – I was sort of overwhelmed. At one point I did have the “I’m not sure I can take this anymore” reaction. The worst point in boot camp was having mess duty at the rifle range. Everyone else got up extra early; we got up extra extra early.

I don’t regret being in the Marine Corps – it was good for me – but I definitely was glad to get out.

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From: Leguna Dominia ([email protected])
Date: 12/30/2000
Subj: Hello

Good news…I just got hired to be a graphics artist and web-page designer…they are even going to train me. My starting pay?$10.00/hr. Kewl, huh?

Well, my page is coming along nicely. darkskye1.homestead.com
It’s coming along. Good show.
I hope you visit it. And bye the way…I love the jokes you have on your site…they are too much. Especially the one about the lightbulb and PMS.
Yes, the lightbulb and PMS is hilarious. I didn’t really set out to create a humor site but it is mostly that.
I am plagarizing myself as you said. Kinda fun if you ask me…
Indeed. A personal site should be just that – a place where you can do your thing and show it to the world.
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From: Elizabeth B Liles ([email protected])
Date: 12/18/2000
Subj: Poetry

I simply wanted to send you a message and let you know how much i have enjoyed reading some of your poetry. I have been writing for about five years now, though most of my work still resides within my soul. I am not comfortable with the idea of sharing the majority of it with the rest of the world yet!

However, you do have an extreme talent and i wish you the best in all that life and the literary world has to offer. As for your sister wishing for you to write of “happier” themes, you can rest assured that my parents, family and friends have attempted to encourage me of the same matter for years now. It is just simply easier, in my opinion, for one to write when sorrow and dismay have consumed ones thoughts and soul than when things are going well. Yet, I do understand their desire to read of more optimistic things. Again, i wish you the best and feel free to e-mail me any more of your work that you have recently written if you are interested and/or if you even have time.

I want to thank you for writing and express my pleasure at learning that you enjoy reading my poetry. I generally post any new work, whatever it might be, on my web site. You can check it from time to time. I write poems and fiction when the mood strikes me and a thought seizes me.

People vary; some people are intensely private and some have, as one author said, “I have the intense urge to undress myself in public.” I do not know it is easier to write in the midst of sorrow but one has, perhaps, more to say. It is one of the hardest things to speak of happiness with more than a smile.

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From: Rosbert RS ([email protected])
Date: 12/27/2000
Subj: The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?

The Canary Islands are in the ATLANTIC!

Er, so they are. I didn’t catch that when I put up the page. (The quiz isn’t original with me.) No one else has either. Congratulations, sir, on your sharp eyes. I will correct it quickly.
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From: Tony Moore ([email protected])
Date: 12/25/2000
Subj: go to hell you stupid bitch

(nothing beyond the subject line)

It is refreshing to see a man express the entire content of his thought so concisely.
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From: JANE BARRY ([email protected])
Date: 12/25/2000
Subj: Noah’s Ark

Do you know the origin of the story ‘The true explanation for the Flood’?

Oddly enough, I do and it should be credited (it was in PN#7 which appeared in the late 70’s,) I don’t have a date though. According to Personal Notes #7 it first appeared in:

ERA – Journal of Eastern Region of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

You wouldn’t have any more information than that by any chance, would you?

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From: jlpratt ([email protected])
Date: 12/21/2000
Subj: The Piltdown Man Hoax

I am writing you in reference to your article on the Piltdown hoax. I really enjoyed it and though I’m not qualified to get too detailed about the ordeal surrounding Piltdown I did come up with a thought of maybe why the hoax took place at all.

I think Dawson was a victim of his own misfortune. I think Dawson might have been set up to take the rap for someone else. If you look at the players of the hoax, there were a few people who not only had the knowledge to make it look like a fossil, but the tools to do it with as well. Dawson might have wanted to find something so bad that when the culprits of the hoax wanted to boast their fame a little, they started asking the right questions or making references to a possible scandal thus making Dawson with whom ever backed him up look like fools.

Anyway I realize it probably sounds like a mystery novel or something but I have the feeling there that who ever set the place up to appear that fossils were there, might have been the one to bring it too an end.

That’s an interesting idea. I’m not sure that it works. One problem is with the finding of the jawbone which is the centerpiece of Walsh’s case against Dawson. Supposedly Dawson struck the ground with his pick axe and the jawbone popped out, an event that was seen only by Dawson although others were present. Walsh argues that Dawson must have planted the jawbone and that the finding was physically unlikely unless Dawson knew where to strike or simply surreptitiously dropped the jawbone. Walsh may be wrong here though.

There are two things that have to be accounted for in any analysis of the hoax. One is access to the site and the other is access to the materials that went into the hoax. The hoax required more or less continual salting of the site for a couple of years. As far as I can tell this requires that either Dawson, Woodward, or Hargreaves was involved although some salting may have been done by other people. (Hargreaves was the principal worker at the site.) If Hargreaves was involved there almost certainly was an X who provided the materials. Here, again, the choices are limited although the data is ambiguous – there are too many unknowns.

It does seem to me that Dawson was involved. However it was just possible that it was pulled off by someone who detested Dawson (he was not a popular man) with the aid of Hargreaves. If that is the case then the perp expected the hoax to be exposed to the great embarrassment of Dawson. Even if Dawson were the hoaxer there may have been someone “helping” him behind his back – some of the finds strain credulity.

PS: I had to look it up myself. I probably should add it as a detail in the web page.

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This page was last updated January 19, 2001.

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January 2001 TOC
Archived letters