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Letters to the Editor, May 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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 May 2005.

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

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Other Correspondence Pages

From: Meredy Amyx
Date: 5/15/2005
Subj: Densa

I came upon your site while looking for references to Densa. I know the origin of Densa; I was there when it was born. Couldn’t quite figure out what your site is, though, or how Densa came into it.

My site is a “slum city of the mind”. Whether that is appropriate for Densa is open to question, although I have my suspicions. The connection is that it has a copy of “the densa quiz” of unknown and dubious provenance. Having received several letters on the subject, I am now inclined to believe that Densa has been independently invented several times. If you wish to inform me about the incarnation whose birth you witnessed I am quite willing to have my mind illuminated.

… continued on next rock …

Interesting concept for a website. I’ll have to go back and look more closely. I definitely think that one of the rewards of intelligence is the pleasure one can take in a certain kind of junk.

Densa made its debut in the August 1974 issue of BOMB (Boston & Outskirts Mensa Bulletin), the newsletter of the Boston chapter of Mensa. I was the editor at the time. John D. Coons was a regular contributor of puzzles, and he liked to make up little storylines as his puzzle setups. By July of that year he was running out of steam in contriving original setups every month, and so he came up with a fictitious group that he didn’t have to worry about offending. He called me up, excited over his solution to the problem, and I gave him the green light to use it in his next creation. Densa members and their doings became a running theme in his puzzles, and particularly his matrix puzzles, which he called A-Bomb-inable puzzles.

The Mensa newsletters, of which there were about 120 in the U.S. at the time and a few dozen more abroad, all freely reprinted from one another, and John’s puzzles were very popular. People all over Mensa became familiar with them, and Densa jokes even began to pop up outside Mensa. As is so often the case, folks quickly forgot the origins. Other claims notwithstanding, John Coons was the author of Densa, the place was Boston, and the date was 1974. I have all the issues of BOMB (later called Beacon) for the three years in which I served as editor, and they include many Densa puzzles after that original one.

This is interesting. There are actually two different questions of invention here. One is the origin of “Densa”. I opine that the term had multiple origins – it’s too obvious. The other is the origin of the Densa quiz. In the nature of things it must have had an original author (but see “The Chameleon” – https://richardhartersworld.com/cri_b/fiction/chameleon.html) and, if I apprehend correctly, John D. Coons was the author. Do I have the right of it?
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From: Phil Mitchell
Date: 5/23/2005
Subj: huh?

Howdy, what’s scissors stuck in the temple meant to mean?

You’ve got me, boss. Offhand I would guess that the rabbi dropped the scissors he used to clip coupons in the cement while they were laying the floor for the new temple, but that’s just idle speculation on my part. A bit of context would be appropriate here.
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From: dave ng
Date: 5/19/2005
Subj: TSCQ part IV beta is up

The beta for the next issue (http://bioteach.ubc.ca/quarterly/beta/) minus pdf and one intro image is ready for view. It would be great if in particular you can check out your own particular piece for errors, broken links, etc. It will be launched on Monday afternoon. Thanks again.

Thanks muchly for the notice. I browsed through the issue and found it quite delightful. I shall commend it to my readers, particularly to those who would enjoy it.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 5/20/2005
Subj: Brain Fart or Senior Moment?

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//Netscape Corp.//DTD HTML plus Tables//EN" "html-net.dtd">
<meta name="description" content="Table of contents of Richard Harter’s World for April 2005.">
<meta name="keywords" content="contents">
<TITLE>Contents for May 2005</TITLE>
<BODY bgcolor="#fffdf0">
<h2>Contents for April 2005</h2>

<!–April seems to occur twice this year. –>

But of course. They had April in Paris and April in Highmore this year.

The reason has little to do with the charming and excessively plausible explanations you propose. In truth it is more a matter of sheer slop. I do all of my pages in raw HTML using a text editor. Sometimes my poorfreading isn’t all it should be.

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From: JoJo Zawawi
Date: 5/19/2005
Subj: Your web site

Very funny !!! I’ve only barely looked at it (a couple of recipes). Thanks for the laugh !!!!!

Thank you. Continue to explore my site. There is much in it that is amusing, including the pretensions of its webmaster.
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From: Ariella Bernard
Date: 5/19/2005
Subj: Arun Ausley

Ashley Bili

My thought exactly.
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From: t daniels
Date: 5/17/2005
Subj: On Not Being A Professional Poker Player

enjoying your site very much.

i currently write a popular poker blog (type it into google – i come up #1) called guinness and poker.

i was wondering if i could use your essay:

On Not Being A Professional Poker Player

with full credit and links (i send alot of traffic) on my blog.

if not, no biggie.

thanks for your time,

Sure, go ahead. You’re right – a search on “poker blog” on google turns you up as number one. It also says that there are about 61,300 pages that mention “poker blog”. That, my friend, is a truly scary thought.
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From: Lee Bowers
Date: 5/16/2005
Subj: New Site

I’m a 52 yr old disabled USAF vet who’s a big fan of your show. I do know in my prime I could’ve given many of your contestants a run for their money, especially in Australia where I lived and worked four great years in the outback. I also could’ve done well in Vanuatu since being a Black American I have Melanesia backgrounds. I just want to suggest maybe a couple more island sites since you focus on them. WHY NOT “PALMYRA”? I’d love for the winner to maybe solve the “CURSE” of that island. OR MAYBE CLIPPERTON? CLIPPERTON MAYBE HARD SINCE THERE’S NO AVAILABLE RESOURCES THERE BUT I DO KNOW THAT YOUR STAFF COULD COME UP WITH SOMETHING AS YOU USUALLY ARE GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO. What about the GALAPAGOS OR MAURITIUS? I think they would be very challenging sites. I DO THNK PALMYRA WOULD BE A PLACE WHERE THE WINNER “WOULD EARN HIS OR HER $1,000,000. Anyway, I just wanted to broaden your horizons with my picks. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.

Bad news; this isn’t the survivor show website. Try the CBS website. However it was good to here from you; you sound like an interesting chap. If you like meander about my website – there might be something that tickles your fancy.
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From: hostmaster
Date: 5/5/2005
Subj: hi, dude, do you remember me ?

i need my money back!

You have my sympathy. Let me know if you ever get it back.
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From: bayoumy elgammal
Date: 5/11/2005
Subj: somerhing i need badly

want to know the fields of postmodenism so quickly please i need it badly please recommend me the sites

A good starting point is to read the postmodernism FAQ’s by Van Piercy (http://www.tamilnation.org/oneworld/pmfaq.htm) and Adam Blatner (http://www.blatner.com/adam/level2/pmodfaq.htm).
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From: Mr. Turan
Date: 5/12/2005
Subj: We are looking for selfadhesive paper

We are looking for selfadhesive paper.
The specifications of the paper as below:
– Normal 80 gr vellum,acrylic adhesive.
– Roll Lenght : 1500 – 2000 M.
– Roll Wide : 25 cm

We look to forward to hearing your best quatition with related material soon.

Do you suppose they wrote to me because they thought I was stuck on myself.
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From: Beverly
Date: 5/6/2005
Subj: Mate

Let me know about you first. ….only if you are 70 to 80 and live in San Fernando Valley.

I’m not quite in your age range, albeit I will be there soon enough. However I do not live in San Fernando Valley, never have lived in San Fernando Valley, and have no intention of ever living in San Fernando Valley. Add to this the fact that I am quite happily attached, and I fear that your interest, while flattering, may well be misplaced.
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From: Clint Olsen
Date: 5/3/2005
Subj: Yet another question about hashing

Sorry to bug you againt directly, but we had a discussion quite some time ago about an interesting algorithm you mentioned regarding resizeable hash tables. The technique you describe sounds very similar to ‘linear hashing’ proposed by Litwin in 1980, however your implementation of calculating the bucket from the hash function is a bit more straightforward by stripping off the leftmost bits until the result is less than the number of buckets N.

I’m racking my brain about this topic since I’d like to come up with an algorithm like yours but avoid chaining and use the ‘open addressing’ scheme where the bucket itself is the hash entry. My thought was to use double hashing for collision resolution. The problem is that Knuth says that if the table size is prime, the second hash function can be any value from 1 -> N-1 but if you make the table size a power of two it only needs to be odd. The goal of course is to produce two numbers that are relatively prime so in the pathlogical case of a near table full condition you will eventually hit every bucket at some point.

So, with your flexible algorithm, the problem is that N can be any value and there’s not an easy way to ensure the secondary hash value is relatively prime to the number of buckets.

I was wondering if you thought at all about this scheme and whether it has merit? What’s nice about your scheme is that we can have more fine control over the load factor of the hash table and avoid memory waste by plainly ‘doubling’ the table at discrete times as elements are added. We can still choose discrete points at which to resize to avoid the penalty of rehashing keys and reallocating buffers, but at least we can have arbitrary watermarks for when to do so.

I haven’t thought this out thoroughly but here are some thoughts. The first is that linear probing with c=1 may be acceptable in this circumstance, the point being that clumps are broken up by elements being from the lower section to the upper section. If that doesn’t suffice we could make n odd (we can force it to have convenient properties) and then select a power of two for the secondary hash. Continuing on the same thought, force n to be relatively prime to 2 and 3, and pick m a product of powers of 2 and 3. The catch here is that if n decreases we don’t want to end up in a situation with m>n (m being the secondary hash). We could bound m to be less than the initial n; again I’m not sure that this buys us anything. I am confident that there is something clever that one can do but I haven’t thought of it yet.

It is unlikely that one can avoid memory waste using this general scheme. The catch is that we have to allocate space for the increasing table to grow into. There are some cute things that one can do, e.g., fibonacci sized blocks, but I opine that one has to accept some fixed percentage of wastage. This generally isn’t important if the table holds links rather than raw data.

Let me think on this a bit next week; perhaps I shall have something more useful to say.

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From: Al Kossow
Date: 5/4/2005
Subj: What ever became of Whirlwind…

Hi, I ran across your page https://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2005/comphist.html about your experiences with Whirlwind at Wolf Research, and wanted to let you know that there are parts of the machine at the MIT museum and at the Computer History Museum in Mtn View, CA. CHM has a collection of magnetic tapes from the machine (some labeled as late as 1966) along with some documentation and a very large collection of original paper tapes but with no index of their contents.

There are some documents which I’ve scanned and put up on the bitsavers.org archive http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/mit/whirlwind

Is there any chance you have any additional documentation on the machine while it was at Wolf Research?

I did a check, but didn’t turn up anything. Pity that. I suppose there must be emulators out there for the Whirlwind. Surely there are hobbyist programmers who program virtual versions of old machines.

In any case, thanks for the link. I may amble through the pages and see if they stir up any memories.

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From: fhp
Date: 5/12/2005
Subj: why do you ignore me ?


No, you want your money right now. What you need is to stop letting your computer get infected with viruses.
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From: Mr. Ernest Ebi
Date: 5/10/2005
Subj: Your Long overdue Payment

Please we are sorry for the delay,but at the same time as the new executive in this office we shortlisted your name out(in the Central Bank of Nigeria’s payment file)among the list of individuals and companies that the Central Bank of Nigeria had been owing for long.You were shortlisted because some information are not complete and this was as a result of mismanagement from our past executivesstaffs.According to the information retrieved from the computer, you are owed the sum of nine million five hundred thousand U.S Dollars.I am presently processing your payment and would like you to furnish us with the following details:

(1) Your current physical address. This is to enable me to send your cheque(Bank Draft) as soon as it is ready.
(2) The name that your cheque(Bank Draft) will bear.
(3) Your telephone number. This is for voice communication.

Once again ,i apologize to you on behalf of the Central Bank of Nigeria for our failure to pay your funds, which according to records in the system had been long overdue.Send the requested information by email to this addresses [email protected] and [email protected]. You may call me on this direct phone number 234-8030857196.

Yours faithfully,
Mr. Ernest Ebi (Deputy Governor CBN)

Very clever of you chaps to track me down. The odd thing is that I have no recollection of anyone owing me nine and a half million dollars. How utterly absent minded of me. I suspect somehow that claiming my mislaid funds would involve some up front expenses on my part. It’s a pity but it seems that I have no spare funds. Apparently I just can’t afford to be rich.
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From: janet
Date: 4/20/2005
Subj: Aqua shoes

Products :Aqua shoes
The price : USD2.5/pr
The qty : 3,000prs
The price : USD1.80/pr
The qty : 10,000prs
The price : USD1.6/pr
The qty : over 20,000prs


I dunno. The price looks good, but what in the hades are aqua shoes and what would I do with 20,000 pairs?
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From: Left Behind Prophecy Club
Date: 4/10/2005
Subj: 2004 Year in Review

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I don’t suppose they would take a post-dated check. For that matter I reckon that they aren’t selling collector’s editions.
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From: Clayton Truman
Date: 4/28/2005
Subj: The little bull dog

Hey there, Meant to come up a couple months ago to get the work done on the machine. Have not been using it much, maybe 10 hours this year so far. Just seem to not be able to get up there. Hope to come up early next week. How is this for you?

Methinks you sent this to the wrong email address. One never knows, though. I recall some of our earlier correspondence.
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From: Cynthia C Little
Date: 4/22/2005
Subj: your website

I just came across your website while doing some dissertation research–I loved it! I especially liked your story, Dinner at Andre’s. I also found it interesting that you have information about theory of mind on your site. I am a PhD student in Educational Psychology who has an interest in metacognition (the theory of mind you mentioned on your site is also a component of Flavell, Miller & Miller’s 1993 theory on metacognition). ANYWAY, I also have a Master’s degree in gifted education and an interest in Sci-Fi. As a result, my dissertation is going to be on the development of and manifestation of intense interest in science fiction among highly intelligent young adults. What I’ve found over the years is that folks who are avid sci-fi fans are usually very intelligent. No one seems to have looked at this connection before. ANYWAY again, I really appreciate your site because in essence you have “let me in” to the head of highly intelligent sci-fi lover.

Now I shall have to search the web for metacognition (it occurs to me that that may be an unfortunate phrasing.) The connection has been made in the fan community, particularly in the early days of SF fandom. There is a novel by A.E. Van Vogt about superhumans called slans that was enormously popular in the 1940’s; one of the slogans of the time was “Fans are Slans”. There were people who really believed that SF was the cutting edge of the future.

When I think about it, it seems to me very intelligent people can be roughly divided into the obsessive and the non-obsessive, i.e., those who really get into something and those who do not. The obsessive are prone to becoming entranced by the glittering toys of the mind, e.g., games such as chess and bridge, science fiction, and computer programming.

Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills. You know, like numchuck skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills…–Napoleon Dynamite
The great tragedy of my life is that they didn’t have computers when I was young (rumors that they didn’t have gun powder are the basest of libels). If they had I might well have been a big hit with the girls.

… continued on next rock …

Thanks for your comments–thus far in my studies of highly intelligent folks that love sci-fi (I married one for starters and also grew up with a brilliant father who loved Star Trek) I have to concur with your observations of “glittering toys of the mind” and the two camps (obsessive and nonobsessive). I’ve seen more obsession than nonobsession though. In fact, I don’t think I’ve come across a highly intelligent person who wasn’t at least bordering on obsession over something. As for metacognition and theory of mind, its interesting stuff. I encourage you to read Premack and Woodruff’s landmark 1978 study on whether or not chimpanzees have a theory of mind. The whole thing was a little “Planet of the Apes” to me though (I detest bananas:) )

Thanks again for all the wonderful musings on your site. I have it bookmarked.

I may have read it or at least a summary of it. The “Theories of Theories of Mind” volume has descriptions of the experiments and may contain P&M’s paper. If my library weren’t in its usual state of disarray (it was well organized sometime long ago in the last millennium) I would check and see.

I grant that the highly intelligent tend to obsess over something, though that may just be a universal human characteristic. My model for this sort of thing is the two world chess champions of the twenties and thirties, Capablanca and Alekhine. Capablanca was a natural – he was enormously talented but he didn’t take chess sseriously (or anything else, seemingly) to work hard at it. He can be taken as the very model of the nonobsessive man. In the end he was defeated by Alekhine who in turn was the very model of the obsessive man.

I do not know who was the happier, but it is true that Alekhine’s presence in the chess world was greater – he was the creator of many standard openings and lines of play.

The stereotype of the English gentleman can be taken as a model for the nonobsessive man. He is educated but not “bricky”. He plays games but is not driven to distort himself in pursuit of the prize. I don’t know if English gentlemen quite met the ideal though. Rumor has it that the obsessive element retreated to the kinkier areas of their private lives, but that, after all, is mere rumor.

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From: dave ng
Date: 4/27/2005
Subj: permission to reprint (again)

Hi Richard,

Just wanted to let you know that the humour site has closed its doors, which is a shame because it’s been kind of fun to play around with. Still, it never broke the 1500 visitors per month traffic mark, despite being at that level for the several months. I took this as a sign to give it a rest.

Don’t complain. My site has over 2500 visitors a day; I keep geeting notes from Earthlink about excess traffic.
Anyhow, a big part of why this happened, is that in collaboration with some folks over at our Journalism school, we have just launched a new project called The Science Creative Quarterly (http://bioteach.ubc.ca/quarterly/) which aims to take in and present science writing of all connotations.
I shall check it out. I expect it to be excellent. (It is.)
Anyway, your creationist FAQ piece (https://richardhartersworld.com/cri_d/cri/1996/crefaq.html) has always been a favourite of mine, so I’m hoping to reprint it again in this new format.

Thanks again, and please let me know if we can run your FAQ piece again. No worries if you decline, but a response is appreciated.

But of course you may reprint it.

… continued on next rock …

For the Quarterly, we’ve been asking for a short contributor bio. Could we get one of these from you. Examples can be seen at the end of each piece at the quarterly (http://bioteach.ubc.ca/quarterly/). And I’m impressed with your visitor stats, it’s pretty much the same as our http://bioteach.ubc.ca education site.

I dunno, the request to create a short bio creates within me the almost irresistable urge to compose some truly outrageous farrago. I shall resist the urge, though, and write something that has verisimilitude.
Richard Harter is an eclectic auto-didact, a man of letters and software. By turns a mathematician, a software maven, and an entrepeneur, he has retired to the wilds where he tends his garden and his web site. He has a keen interest in science, the philosophy of science, and science fiction, and professes to have the wit not to confuse the three.
Will that do?
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From: Dan Twyman
Date: 4/25/2005
Subj: topic

We get about 18,000 hits per day and can place your link on our site. Can you place this link on your site? http://www.artistwebsite.com
The Film Casting Web Site

It appears in the correspondence column where hordes of my readers will delight in taking advantage of the many features you offer. Er, hordes may be as many as one or two or even more. Still, publicity is publicity. As for putting a link to my site, you may if you wish, but the truth is I am not excited by the prospect.
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This page was last updated May 23, 2005.
It was moved August 6, 2007

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