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May 2002 TOC
Archived letters

Letters to the Editor, May 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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 May 2002.

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From: Mary J
Date: 05/24/2002
Ohio Drivers

Funny, real funny… being from Ohio, I thought this article was pretty funn. Surprisingly, I wasn’t offended. You must have had a bad experience driving through Ohio, or maybe you ARE from Ohio… but, I will tell you one thing. We AREN’T the worst drivers in the country… TEXAS is! If you haven’t driven through Houston, I suggest you don’t. They are the absolute worst!!!

I got the piece from an Ohio resident. There are many places in the country that are proud of their bad drivers. For many years I lived in Massachusetts; Boston drivers pride themselves on their horrid driving habits (with good reason, I might add.) I always explained the difference between New York drivers and Boston drivers with the explanation that New York drivers were more agressive but Boston drivers were more unpredicatably stupid.

I was in Houston thirty years ago. I see that it has not changed in its fundamental characteristics.

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From: Nonie Rider
Date: 05/16/2002
Loved the Freudian analysis!

Loved the Freudian analysis, including opening and closing paragraphs.

But I do have one objection. Galadriel is not the virgin next door but a mother–Arwen’s grandmother, in fact, though I guess the movie doesn’t mention it.

Clearly, she’s therefore the Mother figure–both infinitely desirable and dangerously unattainable. Her perilous favors, given or withheld, can help Aragorn towards his limited manhood or turn a sword-wielding Real Man like Boromir into a Ring-whipped weakling.

You’re quite right. “Ring-whipped weakling”. Snort. I must incorporate your analysis into the paper.
And we haven’t even started talking about all those thrusting Towers, whether exploding in spurts of lava like Barad-Dur, too old to really do much like the statue-pillars over the falls or Minas Tirith, or contaminated by the veneral disease of evil girl-cooties like Orthanc and Minas Morgul. Orthanc is even kinky enough to be shaved all over by Sauron and his Uruk-hai. Only the androgynous Elves have a healthy standing Tree-tower, and it’s all frilly with leaves and decorations like a girlyboy oughtta be.
And this too is material that clearly should be present.
Besides, the Elves are ultimately doomed to Go West (standard British slang for dying), presumably because perty androgynous boys don’t usually have children.

So, lemme see, Sauron’s the only one who really gets laid, even if it’s only by himself, when his feminine ring-half is finally reunited with his thrusting tower-half in an explosive act of consummation.

Considered as the ultimate act of auto-eroticism, the consummation can only be regarded as a really bad hairy palm day.

I may rewrite the thing, giving you credit.

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From: Sachi
Date: 05/12/2002
Subj: Evidence Request

Is there any truth ot the belief that males during the Vietnam War had sex with sheep- who eventually gave birth to half-humans/half sheep? Thus, the US Government dropped a bomb on all sheep?

Unfortunately there isn’t. It’s a good story though.
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From: BombWip
Date: 05/12/2002
Subj: hi

hi i just wanted to say u have horrible site!!!!!!!!!!!!! lollol (l)augh (o)ut (l)oud

Lot’s of people say that. I pay them to say that it is horrible. You’ve just saved me a bunch of money by volunteering to say that it is horrible.
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From: Wesley Toews
Date: 05/13/2002
Subj: A math question

Hello Sir,

A friend of mine has an assignment in which she is to present a math question to a variety of age groups and then analyze the answers by age category. Since you seem to be ‘Mr. Math’ and also somewhat above the median age of the population, she might find your answer useful. If not, I’d like to see how you answer this difficult question. I’m sure she/I would not be opposed to creative answers.

“If six cats can kill six mice in six minutes, how many cats will be needed to kill 100 mice in 50 minutes?”

This is a non-trivial question because the answer depends on how cats go about killing mice. If we assume that the six cats collaborate to kill a mouse, then six cats collaborating can kill one mouse in one minute, six mice in six minutes, and fifty mice in fifty minutes. Clearly, then, it would take 12 cats (two sets of six) to kill 100 mice in 50 minutes.

However that is an unrealistic scenario – one should assume that each cat kills its own mouse, i.e., it takes a cat six minutes to kill a mouse. There can be no exact answer because 50 is not divisible by 6. Under this reading it will take 13 cats. 12 of the cats will kill 96 mice in 48 minutes, each one killing 8 mice. The thirteenth cat need only kill 4 mice in 24 minutes. Since the entire mouse slaughter is supposed to take 50 minutes, one of the cats will have to wait until the 44th minute before killing its last mouse.

Are you sure you wanted me to answer this question?

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From: Sally Lavery
Date: 05/23/2002
A Friendship Poem

I really loved your friendship poem – do you have any similar ones regarding friendship on the website.?

The friendship poem isn’t mine -it circulates. You might like “The Perfect Man” You might also check out my poetry pages.
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From: Mike
Date: 05/02/2002
cold equations

I agree, the stowaway is a story full of holes. You sort of sound like a tort attorney arguing why the story is lame, but I remember reading the story as a class assignment in either grammar school or high school(I couldn’t have been more than fourteen) and I always thought, from the very moment I perceived the details of the situation in the story, a mental protest in my mind “there must be something wrong here- there simply has to be a way to solve this problem without killing a person- this is just impossible” and I was right, no civilization would tolerate a situation like that. The story is good reading, but it is full of holes.

But that (… no civilization would tolerate …) isn’t true; civilizations regularly tolerate needlessly killing people to solve problems. Terms such as “collateral damage” and “acceptable risk” are there to provide a gloss over what is really going on. What the story does is to sharpen the impact of the incidental killing by bringing the victim up front, putting a human face on her, and putting a face on the person acting on the killing instrument. It is this personalization that makes the situation and its “solution” unacceptable.

… continued on next rock …

collateral damage is a far cry from having a person in custody and deciding that this individual must be sacrificed. Nowhere in America is that kind of situation considered acceptable or practiced or tolerated. When I was in the Army they had an alleged procedure that they wanted to use for determining if a battlefield area was safe from chemical warfare agents(nerve gas). The procedure called for all these tests to bedone and finally for a testing party led by an officer to order the lowest ranking soldier to open their gas mask and see if it was safe for the others to remove their masks. Even this protocol, which was loaded with safeguards and tentative steps to maximize the chances of saving the test soldier if their was any poison in the air was clearly not going to be able to be used- the soldiers just would not tolerate the deliberate sacrifice of a man, especially based on his rank. I don’t know what other units thought of it, but in my unit there was no shortage of soldiers who stated they would not,allow the command to sacrifice anyone in this way. I think this is because this type of thing is against human nature. I also think the fact that it is against human nature to throw a switch on an innocent person is why that story was so popular- it hit a truly controversial subject- even in a situation where it is necessary, people don’t find this type of thing acceptable. Anyway, I just wanted to say, dropping bombs knowing that sooner or later someone is going to die who is not an enemy is a lot different from having an innocent person in your hands and saying ‘we are going to kill THIS here person” THAT is what people don’t want to do, and won’t tolerate.

It is not, perhaps, at all different to the people who are killed.

It is scarcely correct to say that people don’t want to do and won’t tolerate having an innocent person in their hands and saying “we are going to kill THIS here person” – it happens as a regular thing. The trick is to dehumanize the persons being killed. Human beings are very good at that. Once we admit the humanity of the potential victim then it is as you say – we object.

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From: Megs
Date: 04/28/2002
Subj: wow

I’m totally addicted to your site, you write things just as they are but some how make them sound so much more wonderful, sorrowful, deep keep up the totally moving work

Thank you very much for the kind words. It is always good to know that I am reaching people one way or another with my site.
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From: Gloria Kieler
Date: 04/27/2002
Subj: creationist re: evolutionists mutation forms

I just recently took a mini course on Creationism. The question to me that seems like it was never asked is, ” If there were mutations which formed the missing links to new species, then who or what did those mutations mate with ? As cross species mating isn’t possible then the mutation, (say a bird )could not go back and mate with a reptile because of cross species. And, if it somehow could then the mutation would be declining back into its old form.

And, of course there would not be any progressive or same form to mate with as this is a mutation. The odds of having the exact same mutation in the opposite sex would be staggering, and again many characteristics are sex-linked. This is something in my very brief study I have found not answered although I have asked and continue to ask, and I wish to write my paper on it. All of these mutations and gaps would have to have a mating partner.

The question that you ask is one that is posed regularly by creationists and just as regularly is answered by evolutionists. It is a hoary chestnut.

The important thing to understand is that speciation (the forming of new species) is not done is one giant step; rather it happens as the accumulation of many small changes over time. To illustrate the point, consider the change from speaking Latin to speaking French in what is now France. People didn’t suddenly switch from speaking Latin to speaking French on fine sunny day. On the contrary, each generation spoke almost the same language as their parents did. “Almost the same” is not “exactly the same.” There were always small differences; over time these differences accumulated until the language became quite different.

Mutations, by the way, are very common. The average human being has about one hundred new mutations, of which about three affect the coding part of the genome. Almost all of these mutations have little or no effect.

Although most speciation is the result of slow cumulative changes it can happen that a mutation causes instant speciation. The most common example of this is polyploidy in plants – a mutant will have double the number of chromosomes as its parent species and will not be fertile with the parent species. Plants can get away with this because many plants have both male and female parts and can fertilize themselves.

PS: A standard college textbook on evolution will probably answer this and many other questions.

Return to index of contributors From: Eric Shackle
Date: 04/26/2002
World’s easiest quiz

Hi Richard. Greetings from Sydney, Australia. I’ve just found your very comprehensive and interesting website, and look forward to spending a pleasant hour or two looking through its many pages.

I am certain it will improve your mind – if not that, then it will do something horrid to your mind.
I stumbled over your URL when I was trying to find the origin of the clever World’s Easiest Quiz, which is posted on nearly 1000 websites, including yours. Do you have any idea who composed it? I’m hoping to write a brief article about it, for my free e-book.
Sorry, can’t help you with that one. I have a very vague recollection of having seen something like it long before the internet became popular. I wouldn’t be surprised if it appeared in The Reader’s Digest a long time ago.
Eric Shackle is a retired journalist whose hobby is searching the Internet and writing about it. His work has been published by the New York Times (U.S.), Globe and Mail (Canada), Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) and Straits Times (Singapore). He is copy editor of Anu Garg’s U.S.based A Word A Day free newsletter, which is e-mailed five days a week to more than half a million wordlovers in 210 countries. He has written a free e-book, LIFE BEGINS AT 80 … on the Internet, at http://www.bdb.co.za/shackle/

Return to index of contributors From: Eric Shackle
Date: 04/26/2002
That andy character

Hi Richard. I’ve just enjoyed reading your story about Forrest Gump. Laughed aloud, and so did my wife, when I read it to her.

You may be interested to learn that Andy is also the name of the swagman (hobo to you), the antihero in Australia’s best-known song. Cheers, Eric.

Waltzing Matilda
‘Banjo’ (A.B.) Patterson, c. 1890

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree
ANDY sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Waltzing matilda, waltzing matilda
You’ll come a waltzing matilda with me.
ANDY sang as he watched and waited ’til his billy boiled
You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Down came a jumbuck to dri-ink at that billabong
Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee
ANDY sang as he stuffed that jumbuck in his tucker-bag
You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred
Up rode the troopers, one, two, three
“Where’s that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your tucker-bag?
You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me.”

Up jumped the swagman and sprang into that billabong
“You’ll never take me alive!”, said he
And his ghost may be heard as you pa-ass by that billabong
You’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me

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From: matthew burton
Date: 04/10/2002
Subj: trying to find a darwin

Hello, looking for a darwin story. It concerns the height of intelligence that decided to rob a gun store (I believe in New York) with a knife????

I’m sorry but I don’t have that one. You might be thinking of the following:

A fourth-year dental student and his friends decided to rob a bank. When they arrived at the bank with their masks and guns, the police and FBI were already there. Someone had tried to rob the same bank a half hour earlier. He did twelve years in Walpole, Massachusetts’ maximum security pen.

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From: James Gordon
Date: 04/15/2002
Subj: E-Mail

This program should be set up so the jokes could be E-Mailed to friends. Thank you, Jim

You’re right, it would be more convenient for people. The trouble is that I don’t know offhand how to set that up. I learned enough HTML six years ago so as to be able to create web pages that look decent but I’ve haven’t tried to be a HTML wizard.
You should also offer insurance, because I have laughed myself sick, several times, reading these . Thank you, Jim
Good idea. It’s just the sort of scam that I would be good at.
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This page was last updated May 26, 2002.
It was reformatted and moved November 29, 2005.

table of contents
May 2002 TOC
Archived letters