table of contents
October 2001 TOC
Archived letters

Letters to the Editor, October 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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 October 2001.

Index of contributors

Mike C
Maria Kirby
Bob & Barb Baker
Mike Huber
David Erickson
Loren Schultz
Kandi Harter
Charles Smith
Sarah Peck
Arthur Torrey
Moyra Rowney
Stewart Robert Hinsley
Stephen Struska
brian m asquith
Richard Tiernan
Charles Hitchcock
Paul J. Gans

Other Correspondence Pages

Archived Letters For 1996
Archived Letters For 1997
Master page for correspondence
January 2001 Letters
February 2001 Letters
March 2001 Letters
April 2001 Letters
May 2001 Letters
June 2001 Letters
July 2001 Letters
August 2001 Letters
September 2001 Letters

From: “Mike C” ([email protected])
Date: 10/21/2001
Subj: The Cold Equations

Hello, my name is Mike and I am a big fan of the short story by Tom Godwin, “The Cold Equations”. After searching on the internet about anything pertaining to “The Cold Equations”, I have come across your articles written on this subject. Your article was very good, right now I’m trying to think of every way to get to a copy of this story. I’ve tried to look for it everywhere, through internet search engines, tried to see if Sci Fi would play the movie on tv, and even tried to look for and buy it off of ebay and tried to download anything about it off of Morpheus. Well I just wanted to ask you if you know of any way I can get a copy of this story, I really want to reread this, it’s probably my favorite story of all time, followed closely by J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I have read “The Cold Equations” about 7 years ago, and I has been on the back of my mind since then, but I haven’t been successful in locating this at all. Please let me know if you have any ideas for me in my search for the story, thank

Ouch.. I don’t have any really good suggestions. I have a copy of the August, 1954 issue ASF which is where the story originally appeared. That issue and other SF magazines are available from specialty dealers. As my essay notes it is reprinted in The Ascent Of Wonder: The Evolution Of Hard SF (TOR 1994). It is also reprinted in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, vol I if I recall correctly. I imagine both books are out of print although the The SF Hall of Fame is reprinted every so often. Your local used book stores might have one or the other. If not there are resources on the web for finding used books.
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From: “Maria Kirby” ([email protected])
Date: 10/20/2001
Subj: Review (he he he he he he he) of (he he he he he he) … (he he he he he he he he) Ryan’s (he he he he he) … (crying now) (he he he he he he) Family Steakhouse (he he he he he he he … he he he he he) ROTFLMAO!!!!

Just had to tell you that this is absolutely the funniest story I have ever read or heard by anyone (including comics, comedians, comediennes, etc.). Bravo! It came at a time when I needed a good laugh too!

I must admit that I didn’t compose that little gem – “Bob” passed on to me with the proviso that his name not be mentioned. It would make a great comedy sketch but I don’t think TV is quite ready for it
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From: Bob & Barb Baker ([email protected])
Date: 10/12/2001
Subj: send me e-mail

fascinating site.forwarded by an e=mail by a friend.

Thank you. There is much wisdom to be found within my pages. I don’t know where it is exactly but I am sure that it must be in there somewhere.
Return to index of contributors From: “Mike Huber” ([email protected])
Date: 9/17/2001
Subj: my thanks

I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful page you have and am sorry i did not send thanks sooner. Over at least the past year I have enjoyed it greatly and look forward to the updates, thank you for what you provide here- take care

You’re welcome. It’s always nice to know that people appreciate my little efforts to enlighten the world, particularly considering how little they are.
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From: “David Erickson” ([email protected])
Date: 10/18/2001
Subj: convergence

Christ you write a lot. You must type fast. I got a job at the University of Minnesota Genetics and Metabolism department as an admin assistant, started dabbling in online database publishing to try and make the job more interesting, started writing a book called “The Soul Gene”. Imagine my lack of suprise that someone had the same idea. In my concept, it’s an induced mutation that leads to a sort of enlightenment, expect that the narrator and a few others can’t sustain the transformation. Sort of a combo satire, social commentary thing. If you have no objection, I would like to continue with the title, but if you strenuously object, no problem. I’m flattering myself that it will someday be Vonnegut/Walker Percy-ish, since I don’t have a style of my own. I wrote some other tome that failed to publish, along with about 300 pop tunes that failed to chart, so I find creativity is re-directing towards being a tool of mental survival rather than a means to get cash. The burnout from trying to appease idiots out of their money is too much to take. Nevertheless I will try to sell the thing.

Here’s a website of “creative” shit that I haven’t updated forever: www.twistednoodle.com

Here’s a business I’m trying to sort out with a friend of mine: www.pricefile.com

Anyway, nice to encounter some intelligent life out there. I read “Atlas Shrugged”. Then I shrugged.

Do I write a lot? Not compared to some. The chap who wrote most of contents for “The Shadow” pulp magazine wrote upwards of a million words a year. Isaac Asimov wrote several hundred books including some he shouldn’t have.

Of course you can use the title “The Soul Gene”. It turns out that titles can’t be copyrighted which is a good thing – quite a few titles are reused. In any case I have no objection.

Return to index of contributors From: “Loren Schultz” ([email protected])
Date: 9/24/2001
broken link

Came across your site in a random search…. been having fun poking around. Great stuff. Thought you’d like to know of a link that needs updating on page http://www.tiac.net/users/cri/dinosaur.html referred to Russ’s Dino Lair. The lair is still there but needs updating.

Thanks allot!
Loren, (an ex-prairie dweller in the middle of the metro)

Thanks for the heads up. I’ve corrected the link. I’m glad you liked the site. The neat thing is that it turns up in a lot of random searches. That’s the up side. The down side is that it turns up in a lot of random searches.
Return to index of contributors From: Oshi1114 ([email protected])
Date: 10/9/2001
Subj: Old science fiction

To: [email protected] Subject: Re: (no subject) hi i was wondering if i could have your imput for a report im doing on old science fiction that is now reality. thanks for ur time

This is probably a bit late for your report but it is an interesting question.

Space travel is the big one. It isn’t too far off the mark to say that the US space effort was strongly influenced by science fiction.

Murray Leinster wrote a story called “A logic named Joe” which foresaw the internet.

Nuclear power and atomic weapons and the issues surrounding them were written about well before they were a reality. Example stories: “Solution unsatisfactory” and “Blowups happen” by Robert Heinlein.

There was a lot of science fiction about robots. For the most part these were about artificial humans; however “The door into summer” has a pretty good version of industrial robots.

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From: “Kandi Harter” ([email protected])
Date: 10/17/2001
Subj: Harters

SO, you must know my Dad, right? All this sound familiar. Some kind of childhood memories. Maybe nightmares. I am not sure. Kandi Harter

Do I know your dad? Probably not, although we might have corresponded if he is one of the Harters listed on my web page of Harters.
… continued on next rock …

You can not really read this stuff after a few beers.

That’s the best reason for having a few beers that I’ve heard so far.
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From: JC
Date: 9/17/2001
Subj: Hey there good buddy!

You’re funny!

How did you get to be so smart? Was it God or were you just called that way?

My parents were very poor and they couldn’t afford stupid pills for us kids.
I’ve been reading Kirkegaard. That guy was real horny.
That’s the usual explanation.
One time, I got up and read a poem wrote that started

“Never try to out smart a girl.
Ignore Neal Young.
Don’t say Don’t…”

I don’t think you’re going to get rich writing poetry. Then again, nobody gets rich writing poetry.
Now that entire bar thinks that I’m one of the 24 Elders of the New Jerusalem.
Have you ever considered that maybe they’re right. You should check into it. Maybe they have a good pension plan.
Return to index of contributors From: “Charles Smith” ([email protected])
Date: 10/16/2001
Subj: suggested link

Please consider adding a link from your site to my service “The Alfred Russel Wallace Page,” at:


Wallace is one of history’s most prominent naturalists and creative thinkers, and I have over 150 of his writings on various matters up online in full-text. There is also much other information on Wallace available at this much-praised site, including extensive bibliographies and indexes.

Thanks very much for your time and attention!

–Charles H. Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green

Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve added the link.
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From: smcgrew ([email protected])
Date: 10/3/2001
Subj: Jane Austin

your jane austin site is roaringly funny.

Thank you. I had hoped that it would be.
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From: “Sarah Peck” ([email protected])
Date: 9/26/2001
Subj: looking for a specific story

Hi, my name is Sarah and I’m looking for the man that filled weather balloons with helium attatched to a lawn chair. I don’t think he died… but still got an award. Do you know where I could find his story, or even what the story was?

See http://www.tiac.net/users/cri/darwin97a.html
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From: “Torrey, Arthur” ([email protected])
Date: 9/26/2001
Subj: Possible peer review criticism on your Toilet Seat paper

I just found your paper on A Game Theoretic Approach to the Toilet Seat Problem on http://members.ozemail.com.au/~tarim/men/toiletsp.htm, which I was pointed at by the ‘Ifeminists’ list put out by Freemarket.net.

I greatly enjoyed your paper, and think it is a worthwhile contribution to the literature on the subject.

Note: The above link is a copy of a usenet posting of the paper. The official version is at http://tiac.net.users/cri/toilet.html.
However I see an objection to one aspect of your discussion in the paper, as it pertains to manipulation costs when the toilet seat lid is involved.

In your remarks section you assert (Remark #1)

“The toilet has an additional attachment called the toilet seat lid which can only be down if the toilet seat is down. When the lid is down the toilet is (or should be) non-functional for toilet operations. Some persons maintain the toilet seat lid in the down position when the toilet is not use. For these persons the analysis in this note is moot. Such persons pay a fixed cost in seat movement for all toilet operations.”
While certainly true as to regards the requirement for a manipulation prior to each use, this cost is NOT a constant, as it is dependent on which task is being performed, and which gender is performing the task.

In the event that Task #2 is being performed, the manipulation cost is constant regardless of gender. However the same can not be implied in the event of Task #1! The cost to Marsha for performing #1 in the lid closed scenario is merely a lid manipulation. However John must perform both a lid manipulation AND a seat manipulation. While these two manipulations can be combined in most scenarios, the weight manipulation requirement, and the possibility of encountering objectionable residue from prior task performances is greater in John’s case.

Thus I feel that your assertion in Remark #6

“The toilet lid solution is to put the toilet lid down after all toilet operations. This solution imposes a cost of 2C on each party and is accordingly more expensive. It is, however, more esthetic. It also eliminates the “doggy drinking” problem”
Is demonstrably false. In fact the cost factor of a lid manipulation is not C but L. While Marsha’s cost per operation is 2L, as is John’s in the case of task #2, John’s cost for task #1 is not 2C but rather 2(C+L) (Note that as implied earlier, the cost (C+L) is greater than cost C or cost L alone, but not necessarily equal to the sum of costs C & L performed as separate manipulations)

I would suggest that in any future revisions of your otherwise excellent paper, you include an appropriate discussion of this difference in costs for the lid down solution.

Dear Sir,

Your point is well taken. I shall draw attention to this difference in costs when I next revise the paper, an event that shall surely occur before the onset of the next millennium.

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From: “Moyra Rowney” ([email protected])
Date: 10/4/2001
Subj: Help Please

I’m looking for a poem taught many years ago at school……

The last line is:

Ozzimandis, King of Kings

Another line is:

I met a stranger from a foreign land OR I met a traveler from a foreign land

Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.

You are thinking of “Ozymadias of Egypt” by Percy Bysshe Shelley. The entire poem (a sonnet) is as follows:

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Return to index of contributors From: Stewart Robert Hinsley ([email protected])
Date: 9/30/2001

This web page contains the sentence “Class Acreodi excludes Cetacea”. I presume “class” is in error for “clade”, as used elsewhere on the page.

I will check with James Acker but I fancy that “class” is correct. The reference is to the usage in the traditional taxonomic hierarchy, e.g., class, order, genus, species, et cetera.
Return to index of contributors From: FoOFiGhTeRs1575 ([email protected])
Date: 10/2/2001

Hey, I’m Thinking About Becoming A Marine. I Came Acrosss Your Web Site When Searching Around For Information On It. I Would Like To Ask You What Kind Of Stuff You Went Through In Boot Camp, I’m Guessing Its Nothing Like The Tv Show, At Least I’m Hoping Its Not, That Looked Kinda Easy, So Please If You Have Time Send Some Information, Thanks

Boot camp is easy. They shave your head, you get at least four hours sleep a night (most nights), the drill instructors shout at you a lot, you get a lot of good exercise, you learn how to spit shine shoes, and your life isn’t cluttered up with irrelevancies like movies, radio, reading books, drinking, eating candy, or a social life outside of your platoon. You eat gourmet food created by mess hall cooks who lost their taste buds in the last war. It helps to have a good set of lungs so that you can shout “YES SIR” loud enough to drown out the sound of low flying jets. Don’t worry about not being in shape; they will get you into shape in a hurry – the hard way. Boot camp is a piece of cake, metaphorically speaking. That’s metaphorically speaking because you can forget about cake and other soft goodies while you are in boot camp. Oh yes, your drill instructor will kindly explain to you in great detail your many deficiencies and the great distance between recruits and real marines. He will do this frequently because you might forget from time to time what with being run ragged and he will do it loudly in case your hearing isn’t too good.

Richard Harter
USMC 1517593

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From: “Stephen Struska” ([email protected])
Date: 9/26/2001
Subj: Sure!?!?!


I fail to see the different stages of the eye in the fossil record.

Your failure to see bespeaks an unfortunate stage of eye.
If all of you evolutionists would realize that Creation explains everything that Evolution still is trying to explain. The Creation Theory is by far more complete and has not changed since it happened. Nothing occurs in nature that cannot be explained by the Creation Model.
To be sure, everything can be explained by creation models as long as one does not go beyond “Everything is the way it is because it was created that way.” There are minor difficulties, e.g., there are quite a variety of creation models and theories, the details are notably missing, and they aren’t particularly consistent with the world around us.
Return to index of contributors From: brian m asquith ([email protected])
Date: 10/12/2001
Subj: ?

Bloody interesting site – I stumbled across it whilst trying to find sommat on “Waiting for Godot” – interesting piece – is it your doing? Anyway, after taking that in I grabbed a scotch, well Tang, and went for a roam around your corner of the universe – too much for one sitting but I intend to return. Liked the review for Mr T Pratchett – given the evident humor on the site have your ever read any of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs? You should.

The “Waiting for Godot” piece is indeed mine. For some reason that page is quite popular, probably because it turns up early on some of the search engines. No doubt I am doing irreparable harm to the serious scholarly study of “Waiting for Godot”. I certainly hope so. There is a maxim that in life one should plant a tree, sire a son, and do irreparable harm to a field of academic study. I have planted no trees and sired no sons; I must make do with irreparable harm.

My site is indeed large. This is not an accident. It is intended to be too large, too diverse, and too warped to be assimilated by any sane mind. Comments on the sort of mind that could create such a thing will be ignored.

I have heard of Spike Milligan but I haven’t read anything by him. I have, however, read “Nice Girls Finish Last”, which I can recommend.

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From: “Dick T.” ([email protected])
Date: 10/10/2001
Subj: My new book has a reference to your web site

Dear Mr. Harter,
Last April I wrote to you asking permission to use information from your web site relative to Piltdown Man for my new book, Bones. You kindly gave me permission. My book is now available and your web site is mentioned in my Bibliography. The reference information about Piltdown Man is written into the story line on pages 175-176.

The enclosed file contains a Press Release letter to you about my book. If you should decide to read it, I know you will enjoy it.

I enjoy your web site. Thanks for being there.

Richard Tiernan

Thanks for the update. I don’t know whether I will get a chance to read your book – my reading list is very long – but I am confident that it is quite good.

Note: Richard Tiernan’s book, BONES, is published by iUniverse.com, $15.95 (ISBN: 0-595-19925-9).

Return to index of contributors From: Charles Hitchcock ([email protected])
Date: 9/19/2001
an encounter with Hurricane Bob

Sometimes what they intend to put on the PA isn’t all that reserved either. I was on board for all of these:

– (Northwest) after a flight delayed 3 hours (missed its slot, then needed to persuade off enough passengers to make a lower takeoff weight since the air was warmer): “Ladies and gentlemen, you can’t imagine how glad we are to finally welcome you to Boston’s Logan International Airport.

– (Frontier (I understand they have a rep)) during taxi-out: “In case you haven’t been in an automobile since 1962, insert the metal tongue into the buckle….”

– (Qantas) after a bad landing at Fiji: “It’s not for nothing we have a kangaroo on our tail!

Oh my.

Some one of these days I will have to write up my personal “airline trip from hell”, a seven hour flight from Minneapolis to Chicago.

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From: “Paul J. Gans” ([email protected])
Date: 9/19/2001
Subj: RSL

I’ve read your page on Richard’s Scripting Langauge. What you have is interesting, but I think it is missing one major point. In what way will RSL differ from perl, python, bash, etc., etc.?

It will be much, much nicer. 🙂

That is a good question and I’m not sure that I have a good answer. There is, of course, that ancient urge of programmers, “I want to do it my way,” an urge that has produced any number of horrors. This may be one of them.

An equivalent answer is that perl, python, bash, etc., are so boring. They all seem to be variants on unixy line-noise trash.

Let me get back to you on this one. Incidentally this is the first of a series of articles. The second, arithmetic, is the subject of interesting and sometimes hot discussion on comp.lang.misc.

As far as editors go (you asked for comments), I’ve found that the vi-emacs controversy is religious and you will never satisfy folks in the other camp. I’m a full vi man. Emacs is the work of the devil. Obviously others have them the other way around. So my advice is do what you think best.

Of course you could always fall back to the old WordStar key bindings….

Teco. Real programmers edit in Teco. Hell, real programmers program in teco.
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This page was last updated October 22, 2001.

table of contents
October 2001 TOC
Archived letters