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Letters to the Editor, December 2005

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 December 2005.

Some of it is a little ancient; I’m slowly catching up – very slowly.

Index of contributors

Other Correspondence Pages

From: Skip Harter
Date: 12/12/2005
Subj: Harter page

suggestions for Harter page:
Thank you

Thanks for the suggestion – I’ll add his pages.
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From: Rudlieb Gräter
Date: 12/10/2005
Subj: Jane Goodwin Austin

Thanks for mentioning Jane Goodwin Austin. She had been a very popular writer and – in the words of today – one of the first female journalists in the USA, contibuting many stories and books about early Massachusetts history.

I have collected many of her books – some of her contributions to magazines are publised in the internet. The history of early Plymouth Ma and the Mayflower was her fav. subject.Her stories are all based on solid historical research and draw a good picture of the Old Colony in Plymouth Ma.

Rudi Graeter

Thank you for writing. As it chances I lived in Massachusetts for many years. I dare say I would enjoy reading her work. I shall put her on my list of authors to read. I am uncertain as to whether I will actually get around to reading her – my lists of things that I mean to do sometime keep expanding.
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From: Carol
Date: 12/13/2005
Subj: Nameless Crimes

Why did you choose the name Stibbins? Did you know someone by this name to draw it off of? What was their first name? Was it Scott?

To tell the truth I really don’t know how or why I chose that name. No doubt there is a real Scott Stibbins about somewhere – I fancy, perhaps incorrectly, that you know such a one – but he wasn’t the model for the story.

There was a real person who was the model for the story. His monomania was something other than crimes. However he never went on to do anything atrocious other than becoming an engineer, and his name definitely wasn’t Stibbins.

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From: Glenn Barton
Date: 12/12/2005
Subj: just curious

Just curious. The death rate (60/100,000) in Iraq is a per month basis. Is the DC rate based on a per month or per year basis. If it is a per month basis, that is a terrifying figure.

My understanding is that the DC rate is a per year rate. The page you are referring to is a joke, an example of lying with statistics. That said, the DC rate is none-the-less terrifying.
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From: Larry M. Wright
Date: 12/12/2005
Subj: Get it right!

The stats on your page are completely wrong! Even using your figures, the annual rate of death from firearms (I’m sure you’re including all combat deaths here) in Iraq is 720 per 100,000 per year. The CDC shows the rate for black males aged 18-24 in the year 2000 at 80.8 per 100,000, and that is the highest for any demographic group in the nation. For Washington D.C., the rate is about half of that.

I suggest you check your sources, check your math, and shit-can (a military term) your pages contention. The current regime in D.C. is doing enough lying and distorting of facts. We don’t need to help.

It’s very good of you to write. Statistics are a funny thing. For example, 97.2% of all people who write indignant letters about the Iraq page never notice that it is in the humor section. Now why do you suppose that might be?
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From: James Musser
Date: 12/12/2005
Subj: another verse for you

Your “Life is tough…” note at the bottom of the “Well I thought it was funny” page reminded me of a lesson given us in Jr High English, where the Prof had this chalked on the blackboard one day…

“When promulgating your esoteric cogitations, beware of platitudinous ponderosities”. Later we came to understand we should avoid the mistake of including too many big words in our essays. It seemed funny at the time.

Good advice, advice that I would do well to keep in mind according to some who accuse me of being an abecedarian.
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From: Dr. george Damask
Date: 12/7/2005

I am Dr.George Damask. I am the personal assistance to ,a foriegn client, who used to work with shell development company in Nigeria.

On the 21st of April 2002, my boss,Richard Harter his wife And their three children were involved in a car accident along Apapa express road. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost there lives. Since then I have made several enquiries to your embassy to locate any of my boss extended relatives this has also proved unsuccessful….

Not only were you a lazy employee, George, you’re not too honest. As Mr. Trump would say,

You’re fired!

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From: Sascha Bay
Date: 12/12/2005
Subj: Help on School Project

my name is Sascha Bay, and I am a student at the Taipei European School (www.taipeieuropeanschool.com) currently doing the IB Diploma program in my 12th and final year of school. One of my subjects in this program is Theatre Arts.

I am writing this mail to ask for help in a project for this class. The project is a Research Commission. It consists of each student choosing a theatre tradition and a script, and then applying this hypothetical situation:

An imaginary director/actor/designer (in my case, an actor) is working on the chosen theatre tradition and the chosen script, but needs help. It is then our job to find as much information as possible and to then give advise to the person needing help. Since in our research we also have to find primary sources, I am now writing this email.

The theatre tradition I have chosen in Melodrama, with Sweeney Todd as the corresponding script. The actor I am giving advise to has been acting heroes in Melodrama for many years, but now has to switch and play villains. I am therefore looking for differences of acting between Melodrama heroes and villains, with a clear focus on guidelines on acting villains.

However, now comes the part where I have to apologize to you. The due-date set by our teacher is Tuesday, Wednesday 13th. Had I been able to find your website earlier, then I would have indeed written a mail with more time to spare. Yet, as things stand, I did not, and thus I am sorry for any inconvenience caused by this request and tight schedule.

In any way, I would be grateful for any help or information you can give me.

I’m not certain that I can be of much help to you, particularly in view of the time constraint. However here are a few thoughts. One of the elements of melodrama is shameless overacting and playing to the stereotypes of character. Each stock character has his or her characteristic gestures and bits of business. The villain’s getures include:

The gloating villanous laugh, often accompanied by lines such “Now my proud beauty, I have you in my power.” It is at moments such as this that the villain unmasks his villainy and gloats in his triumph.

It is traditional for the villain to wear a black opera cape. One of the classic gestures is for the villain to lift his arm, raising his cape as a shield, and peeking from behind it. This is a skulking gesture; he is doing some diry business that he is concealing.

The cape twirl is another gesture. This is a “cat playing with a mouse” gesture.

The villain often is bombastic, puffing his chest out and adopting a sneering pose. He is hunched down when he is sneaking around. When he lies and is deceiving he uses “the soft insinuating voice of satan”.

And so on so forth. I hope this is of some help.

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From: Henry Norman
Date: 12/5/2005
Subj: Mutation Rates

Dear Mr. Harter,

I’m sending you this email after reading your FAQ from the talk.origins archives. Very informative. Thank you!

Recently, I’ve been looking at some numbers which are supposed to be “correct” according to “current scientific knowledge,” and I cannot make any sense at all out of what I see (or rather, what I think I see a big difference!), and I wonder if you would be kind enough to give me some hints, to enlighten me, as there obviously is something I’m missing.

Please do not get me wrong I am not a creationist (these guys are simply nuts), but rather a card-carrying atheist, but since I’m here and am able to ponder this fact, I do recognize that there may be forces in this Universe of ours that we do not yet fully understand (how’s that for an understatement?): I’m looking for insights, not for an argument.

These are the numbers that bother me (and if these are way off the scale, please let me know what they “should” be):

Elapsed time since the first multi-cellular organism (T) : 800,000,000 years

Number of base-pairs in the genome of the first multi-cellular organism (M): 150,000,000 (probably a generous assumption)

Number of base-pairs in the human genome (H): 3,150,000,000 (appears to be the consensus of most genetics related websites)

Now, my understanding of evolution and genetics is sketchy indeed, but it seems to me that unless we introduce “divine intervention” (which I simply cannot accept), the only possible way the genome size can increase is by some form of random mutation (replication error, radiation damage, chemical damage, whatever) in the germ line.

Doing the math using the above numbers ( H * M ) / T ), I arrive at the following mutation rate:

On average, per year, 3.75 base pairs has been added to what eventually became the human genome.

How can this possibly be? (The FAQ, Appendix I, says Walker and Kneightey estimate that the mutation rate in the effective genome is a bit higher, 4.2 mutations per individual, of which 1.6 are deleterious (emphasis added).

Like I said: Obviously, I am missing something important.

Can you help clue me in?

So you are a card carrying atheist, eh? I didn’t know you could get a membership card for that sort of thing. You wouldn’t be putting me on, would you?

Your numbers might be a little off but not significantly so. What you need to appreciate is that the human genome (and that of many other multi-cellular organisms) is bloated by a large amount of “junk” DNA. In humans about 3% of our DNA is coding DNA; some of the remainder has structural function or is otherwise useful; however the bulk has no utility whatsoever.

Where does this junk come from? There are three major sources – viral insertions, duplication, and DNA sequences that trick the replication machinery into adding them. Insertion of viral DNA by retroviruses happens all the time; sometimes it happens in gametes. When it does the viral DNA gets replicated along with all of the host DNA. Sometimes sections of DNA within a chromosome, whole chromosomes, or even whole genomes are duplicated. And then there are DNA sequences (notably the notorius ALU sequence) that co-opt the replication machinery to multiply copies of themselves in the genome.

The important thing about these types of mutations (they all count as mutations since they all change the genome) is that they all can make substantial changes in the size of the genome. For example, five doublings would change the size from 150,000,000 base pairs to 4,800,000,000 base pairs. If my recollection is correct about 30% of our genome consists of ALU repetitions.

Interestingly enough, the size of the effective genome (that part of the genome that has real utility) probably hasn’t changed much at all. Note that in the table in Appendix I the size of multicellular effective genomes is in the range 12 million base pairs to 80 million base pairs.

I hope that this clarifies things for you.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 12/4/2005
Subj: flynnd on vacation

While the flynnd is on vacation, I have taken the liberty of looking at https://richardhartersworld.com/cri/dinosaur.html

It’s a spot that flynnd must have overlooked. There is a quote mark missing in its html.

For this: <a href=”http://www.bearfabrique.org>Ted Holden</a>

Substitute this: <a href=”http://www.bearfabrique.org”>Ted Holden</a>

That no one else has seen fit to haul you backwards over a bed of hot coals for this error suggests that no one is interested in finding out who Mr. Holden is. I’ve not explored his website at all, not yet. With luck he won’t need a clone of flynnd.

… continued on next rock …

Took a peek at his website. It attracts a different kind of error than does yours. Improving it is far beyond flynnd’s scope. Perhaps it would be best to leave uncorrected the error on your dino page that I reported in an earlier e-mail.

One cannot repair the errors in the aforesaid website; it can only be appreciated as a monument of interconnected crackpottery. In years past Ted defended some of his more exotic theories in the talk.origins newsgroup. He was greatly appreciated. Your average creationist has virtually no ability to reason or argue, his commentary being confined to the regurgitation of cheesy creationist arguments and sundry personal remarks. Mr. Holden wrote at length and with great vigor.

One of his most popular arguments was the feral chicken argument. He reasoned thuswise: Over time chickens escape from their confinement, ergo there must be a population of feral chickens from time to time. If evolution were true, then these feral chickens would have evolved flight, and you would see flocks of feral chickens flying over the DC beltway. Ergo evolution must be false.

Ted was a proponent of the Saturn Myth (look it up on google). Part of this theory is that Earth and Mars were once locked in synchronous orbit about Saturn, which was much larger and much closer to the Sun in those days. The north pole of the Earth was pointed towards Saturn and there was a northern “world mountain” due to the gravitational pull of Saturn. Ted’s contribution to this farrago was to argue that the sauropods were too heavy to walk around in present day Earth but that they could exist in those days because of the reduced felt effect of gravity. In the end proto-saturn blew up and the solar system rearranged itself. Neither sanity nor momentum were preserved in the Saturn Myth.

The “felt effect of gravity” became quite a catch phrase for a while. BTW I am told that James P. Hogan has become an advocate of the Saturn Myth and that he used in his latest works which I am privileged not to have read.

… continued on next rock …

Re feral chickens

That’s neat. Of course, recent evolution has been pretty much the opposite direction, with humans selecting for yummier birds, and those are the ones with too much meat to fly, thank goodness. What would Frank Perdue have done if his chickens suddenly revolved backwards?

Good question. Actually I prefer dark meat myself, contrary to the general American preference. The advantage of the chicken breast is that it is a relatively bland substrate for all sorts of interesting sauces and breadings.
Re The Saturn Myth

Ah, yes, the false story that I own a car. All I have is trucks. Um, hold on while I gooogle… … …

Keep on trucking.
Oh, Velikovsky and such. I went through a phase of reading that junk when I was in high school or college or something. Found the Norse Eddas more believable. Even my Swedish grandmother preferred the Norse mysticism to Christian myths. “I think I like the Old Religion better,” she once told me.

She was also full of complaints about how things were better in the Old Country. “If it was that good,” said my mother (her daughter-in-law) then why doesn’t she go back there? And stay!”

But if she went back to the old country she wouldn’t have an old country to brag about.
So you really should not believe anyone about anything. You better believe it!
I always believe what people tell me as long as it doesn’t cost me anything and doesn’t put me to any trouble.

BTW the flynnd error correction generator has a glitch. The missing double quote mark was in the McRae link and not in the Holden link. The mechanism may need some oil or perhaps some ale.

… continued on next rock …

The Danish word for beer is øl, pronounced much like its cognate in German, Öl. But the German word means oil. German for beer is Bier. So the Germans have fun with jokes about Danes getting “oiled”. Ale is of course cognate to øl.

One might say that both come from the same root word that “earl” comes from. It would be wrong to do so though, so I shan’t.
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From: Wendi Rinehart
Date: 12/3/2005
Subj: a guy thing


In all due fairness, I must come to the evil and ominous “Jimmy Kat’s” defense. I will admit I have been witness to his humorous treatment of certain persons. Mainly…..You and Nick. Hmmmm….could it be a guy thing? On the other hand, when occationally sharing lovely bottles of wine with Our Lady and you, “Jimmy” reclines on my lap. I don’t believe he’s taken liberties with a nip while being stroked. Hmmmm…….sounds like another guy thing. Anyway, this big pampered yellow & white tabby has simply got your number and loves to count it off……I reckon. 😉


It’s not quite that simple. Jimmy is no wise constrained to be consistent in his evil-mindedness. Children adore him and he will suffer them to haul him around like a rag doll. Contrarywise he treats Our Lady even worse than he does me, albeit he doesn’t chase her down so as to end in her lap immediately after her sitting down.

I’m skeptical about this “guy thing”. It may simply be that he regards you as an honorary small child. I’m sure I don’t know what gave him the clue.

P.S. I just know your fingers are itching to reply with creative words I won’t bother looking up in Websters, but go for it. I’ll respect you always.
Piffle and likewise codswallop. You must understand that my vocabulary is of the simplest, and that I use no word that is not in some dictionary, either past, present, or, in some cases, a dictionary that has yet to be written.

… continued on next rock …

Ho-Ho-Ho Richard,

My how you have just made my day!

Even in my earliest years of childhood recall, I have never been referred to or considered SMALL by humans or animals. Having reached such a height of 5’14” prior to maturity has left….” small “…..out of any description concerning my person. What a treat, to have you offer the opinion that Jimmy would regard me as such.

P.S. Jimmy isn’t the only 4 legged creature that has your “number”…….there is Bridger, that looks as though he is trying to pull your arm out of its socket while he is taking you on a brisk walk. Tee-Hee

Ah, it’s Wendi “short stuff” Rinehart. I will have you know that Bridger and I are on the best of terms, and that he is the most obedient of dogs. I have but to tell him to do what he wants to do, and he does it every time.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 12/2/2005
Subj: flynnd on vacation

At 10:09 PM 12/2/05 -0500, you wrote: Your faithful flynnd has decided to abandon the Harterite kingdom for a virtual while. You might imagine it would be visiting its pseudo-ancestral home where “Brea, bûter, en griene tsiis is guod Ingelsk en guod Frysk.” but it’s not. Instead it’s been to see the periodic table table at http://www.theodoregray.com/PeriodicTable/index.html

That site is a veritable (see, another table) mudbath of elementary chemistry, suitable for hours of happy wallowing.

As always, flynnd found and reported several errors.

I’m not sure my mind is prepared to deal with oxygen elements that come in a bottle. No doubt they have completely revised the science of chemistry since my days as a college student. I see that I must rely on the internet to keep in touch with the new reality.
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From: Bukwurm
Date: 12/1/2005
Subj: Site Map errors

While looking through your Site Map (http://www.tiac.net/cri/toc.html), I discovered the following incorrect links. I have them here with the name, then the incorrect link, followed by the correct one, to save you some research and editing time.
The Darwin Awards

The Reincarnation Cycle

Find Billy!!

The Piltdown Man Hoax

I think that’s it for this page. It looks like you just got tired, and forgot a few tiles. <g>

Great site. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen so far trmendously.

Thanks muchly. May I assume that “tiles” was intentional and “trmendously” inadvertent? It would entirely suit the topic. I’m pleased that you enjoy the site; few, perhaps none other than myself, have read the entirety. In fact, given the quality of the proofreading, apparently not even I.
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From: Jakub
Date: 11/29/2005
Subj: Hello I’m student from Poland

I need book: Theories of Theories of Mind

very much for a basis of my thesis.

Please, could you help me to get it. I have check out all possibilities to get it in Poland, but it’s impossible. There is no ability to buy it anywhere. So, please send me some WWW side of a Internet bookshop, that I could buy it.

Thank you very much.

Is there some reason you can’t purchase it through www.amazon.com or one of the other on-line bookstores? Is there some problem with international purchases from Poland?
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 11/25/2005
Subj: flynnd >> flynndlog &

In https://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2003/queue.html
paragraph 3
replace facty with fact.

Well done sir. You have found almost all of the errors.

Shutdown mode initiated:
Error: exception raised in shutdown mode
Exception caught: shutdown aborted

Exceptionally cheerfully,
Richard H.

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From: Satsuki
Date: 11/22/2005
Subj: About Banning Dihydrogen Monoxide

Hello, I’m e-mailing you because of the fact you want to ban Dihydrogen Monoxide. Have you, by chance, looked at the chemical formula to this “dangerous” chemical? Dihydrogen Monoxide is water. As simple as that, it’s just an obscure name for water. The chemical formula is H2O. Unless you want the human race to be extinct then you should understand your banning of Dihydrogen Monoxide is not valid. Dihydrogen Monoxide just means “two hydrogen, one oxygen.” I suggest you stop this, or you are most likely aliens who wish to exterminate the human civilization.

You are putting me on, right? If perchance you are not you should know that the page you are alluding is a joke.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 11/21/2005
Subj: flynnd >> flynndlog & # can’t we shut this thing down?

In https://richardhartersworld.com/cri/ the entry “Big box of bookmarks” goes to an error message.

That is correct. This is a known problem; it has been assigned error correction identifier RSN2007.
In https://richardhartersworld.com/cri/weird.html the pointer to news of the weird indicates http://www.nine.org/notw/notw.html when it probably should go to http://www.newsoftheweird.com/
Probably. I’ll check it out. Thanks for finding it.
It has been noted that flynnd’s rate of finding errors has been extremely variable. Creation of a daily error in a known place might alleviate this situation.
I sympathize. I am considering activating the dungeon. If I do I will create such a place for a daily error. As is the nature of dungeons, the path name for the place will change each day; the place will remain the same; only its name will change.
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From: Fulacar Barnes
Date: 12/1/2005
Subj: be of assistance


I am Fulacar Barnes a Liberia by nationality seeking political asylum in Ghana my address is buduburam refugee camp in Accra Ghana. It is my wish to inform you about my interest of investment in your country, please so you can help us.
[Snip the usual scam pitch]

Fulacar? What sort of name is Fulacar?
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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 11/17/2005
Subj: Naval jack

You probably already knew it but on 11 September 2002 the 50-star naval jack was replaced by the first naval jack in use 1775 to 1794.

Stay clean,

I didn’t know that; it seems appropriate.
[The first naval jack was the “Don’t tread on me” flag]
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From: Frank Hartigan
Date: 7/11/2005
Subj: topic

oh man, your site is wise and funny and I haven’t laughed so much in a looooooong time.

Wise and funny – those are words to live by.
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From: Adam
Date: 12/1/2005
Subj: Sin

To Whom It May Concern

For many years now my wife and I have been subject to many and serious calumnies, having variously been called irresponsible apple-stealing nudists. We have, quite unfairly I think, been held responsible for the manifold derelictions of our all too numerous progeny. It is undeniable that we were the inventors of sin. However the patent rights ran out many years ago and the present improvements in the state of the art reflect the notable contributions of our successors. Therefore I now serve notice that sin is in the public domain and disown and disclaim all rights, interests, and responsibilities thereor.


I don’t think that works Sir. Earlier such a disclaimer might have held but under the new intellectual property laws your rights and responsibilites remain intact until at least the second coming. The besides of which, have you thought about the money to be made from licensing fees?
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This page was last updated December 14, 2005.
It was moved August 6, 2007

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