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April 2002 TOC
Archived letters

Letters to the Editor, April 2002

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 2002.

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Other Correspondence Pages

From: IXIBoomerIXI
Date: 04/17/2002
Subj: Mutants


Could you send me some more stuff on mutants?Thanks .Bye

Have you looked at https://richardhartersworld.com/cri_c/letters/2000/let00mut.html ?
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From: Tulloch, Ed
Date: 04/22/2002
Subj: Questions

What does tiac signify? I don’t seem to have access even to the home domain level (www.tiac.net). I’m tld I must specify a username.

Tiac stands for The Internet Access Company. They were my original ISP in 1996 when I started the site. Since then the company was acquired and then sold. Currently the tiac customers are serviced by us.inter.net. I keep the site and the address because there are a zillion links to my site. Well, maybe not a zillion, but a lot. Generally speaking the .net extension signifies an ISP rather than a web site.
Re: My Father s Boat : Why could the boat not be turned on edge and carried through the uprights? A doorway should have allowed for this, also.
There was no doorway, just uprights. My recollection is that the depth of the boat was greater than the distance between the uprights. I wouldn’t count on the reliability of that memory, though.
I ve thoroughly enjoyed your writing. It s never to late to become a jock . Yes. I m only 58, but still play full court basketball&so; far, as long as I don t exceed the stupid level, and, yes, volleyball is a serious contact support.
Thank you for the kind words. I haven’t gotten much volleyball in whilst living in SD. I expect to visit my old haunts this summer; we shall see if I remember how to play the game.
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From: Madeline
Date: 04/213/2002
Subj: Discontinued Perfume

I am looking for a discontinued French perfume by the name of “Murano”. The last time I was able to find it was about 4-5 years ago.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

You can find places on the web that sell Murano perfume. A google advanced search on perfume and murano turns up quite a number of listings. Are you sure, though, that it was a French perfume. All of the references I see are to Italian perfumes?

Anyway, here are some links:


… continued on next rock …


On the bottom of my bottle – it says Made in France?

Thanks again for your quick response!

You’re welcome. It turns out that Murano is a suburb of Venice that is noted for its glass making. Murano is noted for its perfume bottles which are collector’s items. Beyond that I know very little. I suspect, though, that there have been a number of perfumes over the years that have been called Murano.

… continued on next rock …


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From: Charles Hitchcock
Date: 04/19/2002
Subj: various

Random comments:

Jackson Hedrick seems unaware of the history of computing; 1887 was decades after Babbage had “the first software project to finish late and over budget.”

I hadn’t thought of that. I am reminded of my never completed project to build a steam powered fortran compiler.
James Mason appears to have an odd definition of “not so long ago”; Eratosthenes, seeing plentiful evidence that the world was round, made a close estimate of its size in ~250 BC by observing the angle of the sun at the summer solstice in Alexandria (7 degrees off vertical) and knowing that in Syrene (sp?) on that day it was possible to see the sun reflected in the bottom of a well. (i.e., it was directly overhead. Date and person courtesy of THE MAGIC OF DISCWORLD.)
Indeed. The notion that in the middle ages people believed that the world was flat apparently is a myth invented by radical atheists in the nineteenth century.
Headline writers need vocabulary trimmers: a recent GLOBE has a headline “Students press BU to ease limits on dorm visitations”. My first thought was said students should move to UC Sunnydale, where they could get all the dorm visitations they want: vampires, demons, voice-stealers, demon-chasing SWAT teams….

(The real issue was that BU still has ]parietal hours[ in all the dorms. Apparently losing an open-and-shut First Amendment case wasn’t enough to teach Silber’s hand-picked successor to treat students as people — he told the protesters to piss off until they could bring 3,000 people to a demonstration. May he get what he wishes for.)

Some decades someone observed that American university’s notion of loco parentis was to assume authority over students but avoid responsibility for students, aka “We get to make the rules and hardass you with them, but if you get into trouble fuck off and die – we don’t know you.” I am not a fan of John Silber; at least Ghengis Khan had panache.
wrt elephant suppositories (should we wonder why someone thought you would be a good person to ask?)
I’m sure I wouldn’t know and I will thank you kindly not to wonder.
(please delete if I’ve sent this before…)
You may have heard the phrase “the worst job in the circus”; the job has almost vanished, not through technology but through paying attention. It turns out that requiring an elephant to stand up on two feet makes it more likely to crap — as you might expect of an animal with its anus several feet above its stomach — so instead of having a mess to clean up after the traditional feet-on-the-elephant-in-front formation, the handlers stand up the elephants outside the arena, in an area reserved for this purpose, just before going on.

It’s probably just another urban myth, but several years ago I heard about an official at the old Boston Garden who made the mistake of being rude to some roustabouts because someone from the circus had parked in his space. The story goes that he learned about elephants the hard way; they were backed up to his car before being stood up.

I hope he had a convertible.
My sympathies on your weight problem; at least it held off for a few years. (Mine showed up early, thanks to a less-active lifestyle — no volleyball — and career change that improved my salary enough that the little French restaurant around the corner saw a lot more of my business.) If what’s left of your knees can stand it, any exercise will help.
Those little French restaurants around the corner are disasters for the weight conscious, no way (weigh?) around it. Now that the weather has improved I have taken to walking to town to get the mail. It is a mile and a half each way which makes for a nice little walk. It all seems to be working – I’ve lost 20 pounds so far. One complaint I have is that the pounds don’t seem to come off where you want them to come off. I lost some of that unsightly bulge in the belly – perhaps an inch or two in waist size – but not as much as I had hoped for. However some weight has come off the legs. I hope I don’t turn into one of those old geezers with pipestem legs and arms and an enormous pot belly.

… continued on next rock …

A common belief is that you haven’t lost any weight from your legs — just converted fat to muscle, which is denser. (This was the state of obesology(?) 30 years ago, so it may be out of date.) You can always try abdominal crunches….

I’m not sure about that theory; I have a lot of fat in my head and I’m very dense. I’ve been doing a few situps now and then – they’re a lot harder than I remember them being.
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From: ????
Date: 04/12/2002
Subj: Shape shifting reptilians are about to achieve complete control over this planet

I know this may sound insane, especially to the minds of people who are conditioned to believe, that the official version of reality is the highest truth available.

But this is not a joke, and I have found some overwhelming documentation and research that supports the claim of this email in a book named “The Biggest Secret – the book that will change the world” by David Icke (540 pages).

You can read the book for free or print it out from this site: http://freeyourmind.50megs.com/ Or you can go to the website of the author for more information: http://www.davidicke.com.

I am not affiliated with David Icke or his website in any way, and I will not mail you again.

You may consider this email as spam, and you are free to blame me, but please ask yourself first if you would’t warn your fellow humans, if you were aware that massive manipulation, abuse, torture and killing of children, women and men is taking place every day performed by ‘people’ in the highest places of power? (Many of which in fact are of a reptilian bloodline and can shift their shape back and forth between a human form and their natural reptilian-human looking form – similar to the ability of chameleons to change their color at will.)

With kind regards from an independent truth seeker who just wishes to inform you what really is going on in the world – not just repeating the official version of reality.

Some kind anonymous chap sent this to me. The David Icke site does indeed exist and is as represented. It is so nice to know what is going on in the world.
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From: John Puzzo
Date: 04/16/2002
Weight loss

prune juice and enemas

works every time

don’t bother to thank me

Don’t worry, I shan’t.
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From: Wanda C
Date: 04/15/2002
Collected Humour

Just thought I would drop a note to say that the collected humor section is great and seems to kick start my day to being positive… Keeping adding these stories since it can turn a bad day into something very “positive”

Your wish is my command – provided, of course, that you make the right wish.
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From: Sheena Caines
Date: 04/14/2002
Subj: Hi

I am 16 and I want to join the Marines after college. I know in teh interview for the scholarship, they ask you questions about the Marine Corps. I dont really know that much about it, so I figured since you were in it, you could help me out.

I’m puzzled; what scholarship are you talking about? It doesn’t sound as though the Corps is a pressing issue for you if it’s something that you want to do after college. That’s a long time for someone who is 16.

… continued on next rock …

I am talking about the 4-year NROTC scholarship for college.

Aha. There are three things standing in your way. The first is the physical – you will have to be physically fit. There’s not much you can do about that; either you are or you aren’t. The second is your grades and your IQ. Again there isn’t much you can do about that – either you have the right stuff or your don’t. The third is the interview.

My take on this is that you should be honest, i.e., instead of trying to figure out what they want to hear, figure out what you want and why you want it. The one big thing they will want to know is: Why do you want to do this? That is the thing that you should think about, not just for the interview but really for yourself.

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From: Alison Restad
Date: 04/13/2002
Subj: New Survivor Show?

Are you serious? Or is this a joke? My husband would like to apply as one of the survivors on this or any of your shows but I am having difficulty finding out how to go through this process. I can assure you he would be your most interesting, funniest and truely more of a survivalist of anyone you’ve had on yet. Please let us know what the proceedures are so we can apply.

If it is on my web site and it has something to do with the Survivor’s show you may be sure it is a joke. Try the CBS Website for info on the real survivors show.
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From: safetygroup
Date: 04/09/2002
Subj: Hi

Amerykanski zlob i imbecyl

Zlobovian snotski ne imbecyl
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From: attaturk
Date: 04/09/2002
Subj: light side

I visit your site time to time just to start my day on the light side.

Thank you for the kind words. I like to think of my site as a guiding light.
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From: Thetallones
Date: 04/08/2002
Subj: Hmmm…(about the next show)

Interesting!! But I am looking for the show that sends people back on an island or to some place and who-ever stays the longest gets 1 million dollars!! Can you please help me find a application to get on that show!!

Thanks for all of your help!! Ohh by the way the show sounds really cool to see what men are really like!!

You’ve written an interesting letter but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with my site. The show you are talking about is Survivor. Check out the CBS website for info on the show.
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From: Dr. Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 04/08/2002
Subj: Hyde County

Dear Mr. Harter,

were you aware of


More people with too much time on their hands.

People who make such sites or those who find them?

Local history is a big thing around here. It is sort of like genealogy.

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From: Doug
Date: 04/03/2002
Subj: Histogram sort tool

I found your email and reference to a histogram sort tool that you’ve developed at http://www.nist.gov/dads/HTML/histogramSort.html

Do you make that code available? I’m doing an assignment, and need to do a frequency analysis of a large set of numbers (too large to fit into Excel).

You could have a copy of the code for the sort routine but I doubt that it would be of much use to you. I don’t have a histogram application as such; you would have to write some code to make use of it. It might help if I knew what environment you are in and what resources you have at hand.
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From: AngelAce141
Date: 03/30/2002

Hello. I am writing a philosophy paper on CS Lewis, and I found your analysis on him quite interesting- I got a lot out of it. I do have a question for you, though, if you don’t mind my asking. You stated that Lewis focused on small aspects of human sin rather than larger instances happening (such as your example of death camps). I was wondering- why do you think Lewis approached the smaller aspects rather than the larger ones in life?

That is a good question and I’m not sure that I have a good answer. One can approach the question in two ways. One can ask can what was it in Lewis’s personality and situation in life that led him to consider the small aspects. Alternately, one can ask what roles the small and the large played in his conception of Christianity.

One could argue that Lewis led a small life. The central focus of his life was the fairly narrow world of the university. The observation, then, is that he wrote about the sort of thing with which he was familiar. This is a common enough phenomenon; many philosophers approach the problem of pain by considering the toothache. Following this line one might look carefully at the sorts of characters that occur in his fiction. This approach is necessarily speculative but it could make for lively and interesting prose.

One can also argue that Lewis had the right of it from the Christian perspective. There is a difference between being good and doing good. To deal with large scale suffering and misfortune requires social effort on a large scale; this social effort does not necessarily require that those engaged in the effort are nice people. The story of the humanitarian who does much good and yet is mean-spirited in his personal life is an old one. Christianity, however, asks that you be good rather than merely doing good. In this regard the small sins are more important because they are more immediate and personal. The Screwtape Letters are a good illustration of this thought.

One can explain his preference for the small over the large along these lines. However that does not explain the deficiency in his conception of evil. In my essay, A Christmas Carol Revisited, (which should not be taken seriously) I write:

As Orwell points out in his essay on Dickens there are two reactions, two advocacies, that can be made in response to the evils of the world. One is to urge humanity to have better hearts; the other is to urge humanity to change the system by which it orders its affairs. Dickens, Orwell writes, chose the first course.
Lewis, I suggest, follows the same course as Dickens. The defect of this approach is that it does not recognize that an evil system does not require particular evil on the part of those within the system. That is, evil in the large is not simply the sum of the small individual evils. It may have been that Lewis had no place in his thinking for this phenomenon.
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From: Rebecca Hart
Date: 04/03/2002
Guide to Hiring Women

I’m wondering if you can tell me where you got the ‘Guide to Hiring Women’ you have posted on your about.com site. Have you actually seen the 1943 issue of Transportation Magazine, or did you get it via someone else? I’m looking for the actual original article, having trouble finding it. Thanks, Rebecca Hart

I haven’t actually seen the said 1943 issue, and to be honest I have doubts about its existence. The guide circulates on the internet. It may be genuine though; it isn’t that far from the reality of the day.
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From: Carolyn Bagley
Date: 03/26/2002
horses and such

I really enjoyed reading about your history with horses. I used to ride as a kid, my parents say I rode my first rocking horse until it fell apart. The seed was planted early I guess.

At any rate, it has been many years since I have owned a horse but growing up I had two ponies and one horse. One was killed in an accident, sadly, the other two eventually handed down to my younger sister. We had them until they passed on.

I am 42 now and recently splurged on a riding lesson. I rode English growing up and you are right, it is harder and it is easier to look like you know what you are doing more quickly riding Western. Just the hard truth. But, having confidence and feeling comfortable on a horse is the key, bottom line.

Anyhow, I was sore for at least two weeks after that lesson and got no further than a trot. Kept trying to post and realized what a strong kid I had to have been, it was just all so much easier back when I was 10. I would love to ride again and maybe one day I will find a stable run by someone like Helga. That would sure be nice. Loved your story.

I enjoyed your letter. I haven’t ridden for a good while. I suppose I shall again one of these days but I expect that I shall be very sedate. The old bod is not quite as supple as it was in my salad days and my knees are definitely shot from playing twenty years of competition volleyball.
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From: Derek
Date: 03/27/2002
Subj: Link Request

Funny and looks good! May I link to your site?
Thank you,

Go ahead.
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From: John P. Clarke
Date: 03/26/2002
Subj: I have OCD and need help

I’ve read books, done therapy, and consulted with many for over 16 years without any substantial progress. Among other problems, I need to deal with a mental compulsion to break apart words and phrases into symmetrical groups, the continual counting and sorting of everything I see, and the uncontrollable parade of ideas in my head competing for attention. This interferes with concentration, impairs decision-making, and leads to frustration and depression.

I would welcome suggestions, possible solutions, reference materials, referrals, anything you might recommend. Please email me at [email protected]

Thank you for your help.

I’m sorry but I really am not the right person to offer you help.
Return to index of contributors From: Mtlmech63
Date: 03/25/2002
Subj: Document



I’m sorry, I can’t help you. Have you checked with your local used book store or antique shop. They won’t know themselves but they might know where to send you.
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From: Wim Mortier
Date: 03/19/2002
Optimizing the merging of sorted arrays: what about the intersection of two sorted arrays?

one of the articles on your site is on “Optimizing the merging of sorted arrays”

“Suppose we are given two arrays, x and y, that are sort in ascending value and that we wish to merge them into an array z. (This is the inner loop operation in merge sorts.)”
But what about keeping only the array elements that are present in BOTH the arrays? (How does one call this algorithm in “math speak”? Intersection of arrays?)

I’m looking for an algorithm that does just that. My book on algorithms and data structures mentions binary search, binary trees, hash lists, nested loop joins, … big O notation, … My goal is of course to minimize the number of comparisons.

I suppose the size of array A and B influences the choice of the algorithm.

Given A: a sorted array of n numbers and B: a sorted array of m numbers,

If A and B are identical, the number of comparisons is 5, that’s the smallest number of comparisons one can get. (using a nested loop join)

A   B
1   1
2   2
3   3
4   4
5   5
If n = 3 and m = 100, I can use a binary search algorithm to look up all of the values of A in B.

So: log 2 (100) = 7 => to be repeated 3 times => 21 comparisons at most.

If n = 100 and m = 100, and both arrays are identical, the best algorithm will have to compare only 100 times. If I use a binary search in this case, I would need to compare 7 x 100 times. Far slower.

At what point does a binary search become faster than a nested loop join? B needs to be a lot bigger than A to gain speed by using a binary search. But how much bigger?

Could this be true?

If n is x times smaller than m, then a binary search is faster, given x = log 2 (m).

I’m not a scientist or number cruncher, just a guy trying to get software a bit faster.

Your problem is simpler than you think it is. The simple way to do this, given sorted arrays x and y of lengths n and m, is to use two pointers, one in x and one in y. The code looks something like this in C:
for (i=0, j=0, k=0; i<n && j<m;) {
     if (x[i] < y[j]) i++;           /* x[i] is small, advance i */
     else if (x[i] > y[j]) j++;      /* y[j] is small, advance j */
     else {                          /* x[i]==y[j], output x[i], adv i and j */
           z[k] = x[i];
           i++; j++; k++;
This code is O(n+m). You don’t have to sort the arrays though. You can set up a hash table. First enter one array into the table and then walk through the other array, checking each value in the second array to see if it is present in the table, outputting those values which are present. Again the cost is O(n+m).

Is this clear or do you need more detail?

… continued on next rock …

thanks for the response, the source and the Big O notation of the discussed algorithms.

Let’s elaborate: I have the luxury (?) of receiving nothing else but sorted arrays. So I want to exploit this fact. I’m also calculating the intersection of _multiple_ sorted arrays. So I’ll have to intersect them one by one, or use another algorithm. (?)

Talking about costs:
array A: 35 elements
array B: 35 elements
nested loop/hash: 35+35        = 70    <-- faster
binary search: 35 x log 2 (35) = 180
array A: 35 elements
array B: 500000 elements
nested loop/has: 500000+35         = 500035
binary search: 35 x log 2 (500000) = 663    <-- faster

If the array sizes are very different, it seems wise to prefer a binary search over a nested loop or hash.

Are there flaws in my logic? If my assumption is true, how big does the size difference need to be to prefer binary search over a hash/nested loop?

If you run a comparison loop the number of comparisons is ~ n+m whereas in a binary search the cost is ~ m*log2(n). You can solve this to get
m0 = n/log2(n/2)
as the break even point, i.e., for m.gt.m0 use the comparison loop and for m.lt.m0 use the binary search. However it isn’t that simple.

Given the same number of comparisons the comparison loop is faster than the binary search because the logic is simpler. Ergo m0 is smaller than indicated by our formula.

On the other hand you can, at the cost of more complicated logic, use a more efficient search algorithm by taking into account the results of previous binary searches. Thus, suppose array A has n elements and B has m elements and you do a binary search of A for B[0] (assuming 0 indexing) to find A[k] matching B[0] for some k. When we search for B[1] we only need to examine the range A[k-1] to A[n-1]. Each search reduces the range required for the next. The obvious thing to do is to use the same trick that we use for the binary search. That is, given A and B, we search A with B[m/2]. Having found A[k] matching B[m/2] we search A[0]…A[k-1] with the lower half of B and A[k+1]..A[n-1] with the upper half of B. I will have to check to see if Knuth gives the analysis for this trick.

In any case, given that you want the intersection of several lists you will probably want to use both the comparison loop and the binary search with a cost test.

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From: skybow
Date: 03/22/2002
Subj: great site and thanks

i live in alaska and i just found your site and i have been enjoying it so very much, we have some misfit alaskans and soon i will find some tales to send to you iam sure. we live around so much nature and some people feel they overpower natures intent & they usually do not. we have mean moose and bears and people do not seem to watch out for these critters and they surely can be bothersome if you do not use precaution , again it is a joy to read your web page thanks gina laughing pony

It’s always a pleasure to hear from people with sound judgement and exquisite taste. I know you have these things because you like my web site. We have a few critters our way too. We don’t have much for moose or bear but we do have buffalo and a lot of smaller stuff. The local animals seem to think that my back yard is a game preserve or some such. We also have some of those really mean critters, the two legged kind, but over the years they have been getting scarce in these parts.
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From: Clark Whelton
Date: 03/05/2002
Subj: Request

Can you tell me where I should look, or whom I should ask, to find the name and author of a science fiction story I read in the 1950s, probably 1953-55 in Astounding, Galaxy, or Amazing Stories.

The story is about criminals in the future who are exiled to a prison planet. But instead of landing in a prison colony, they find themselves in the midst of a dangerous, alien jungle. They have to work together to fight their way to safety. Later they learn that the colony got tired of being overwhelmed by the periodic arrivals of criminals, so the newcomers were dropped in the jungle. Only those who learned the hard way to cooperate and help each other survived.

I’ve always wanted to read this story again. If you have any suggestions, I would be most grateful.

With thanks in advance, Clark Whelton [email protected]

I don’t recognize it off of the top of my head but I have posted in inquiry in the rec.arts.sf.written. One of the sharks there will probably recognize it.
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From: RedLeaf19
Date: 03/13/2002
North/South Station puzzle

That North/South Station puzzle was probably the stupidest riddle I have ever seen. The answer doesn’t make any sense and its not creative

Come on. Don’t be shy. Tell us what you really think about it.
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This page was last updated April 25, 2002.
It was reformatted and moved November 29, 2005.

table of contents
April 2002 TOC
Archived letters