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Archived letters

Letters to the Editor, April 2006

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 2006.

Index of contributors

Other Correspondence Pages

From: Tnaught
Date: 4/18/2006
Subj: evolution

Mr. Harter, If you don’t mind my asking….what are your credentials?

I don’t mind. I don’t have any formal credentials in the field of evolutionary theory. However … I have a rather large library. It includes popular science expositions, e.g., the works of people like Gould and Dawkins, and rather more serious works such as monographs and collections of significant papers.

I also carry subscriptions to Nature and Science, and at a less formal level, Scientific American, Discovery, and Science News. For what it is worth I have published a few papers in Geophysics and in Computer Science. I also have put together a number of web pages that are regularly used as resources in university courses.

Is this what you wanted to know?

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From: buzz brandt
Date: 4/16/2006
Subj: Pizza

You can’t duplicate restaurant-style (e.g., Giordano’s) deep dish pizza using your recipe. A good formula is 3TBS (not tsp) oil/1 cup flour (Giordano’s uses a canola/olive oil blend, which is probably about 95% canola), and knead only two minutes.

I’m guessing that you are referring to Pete McCutchen’s recipe. I haven’t tried his recipe personally, so I can’t argue the case from personal knowledge. However I will say that three tablespoons of oil per cup of flour sounds like a lot.
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From: Kurt Ward
Date: 4/15/2006
Subj: Where convulsive charitable

door accomplish alcmena parcel showboat reside nitrogen nu tortuous haughty buzzy goldfish tome winston osullivan contraceptive bethel bedridden sean mnemonic berkelium cheesy endothermic aerobic hewn ova rockabye applicant spider compline danzig rude myth aerodynamic diana electronic granola mask

I take it that this is a recipe for word salad meant as a contribution for my recipes section.
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From: catarinapmachado
Date: 4/12/2006
Subj: warning

your name is wrong

Thanks for letting me know. I knew it wasn’t Wright, but I kept thinking it was Dude.
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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 4/11/2006
Subj: Belize vs. SD

You state:

‘The notion of “the image SD is giving itself in the news” is amusing in its own right. SD appears in the news about as often as Belize (and I wouldn’t be surprised if more Bostonians have visited Belize than SD) and for much the same reasons. It is not even on the radar screen – it just shows up as a noise blip now and then.’
Suford and I were in Belize last April. There is a very nice zoo about an hour out of Belize City on the road to Belmopan.

It is a private zoo and said to be the “best little zoo in the world.” A woman was animal wrangling for a documentary on local animals and by the time the film was finished they were semi-tame and couldn’t survive in the wild. She decided there was a need for a zoo to keep them in their native habitats. They now get animals that are born in captivity, found damaged, or seized by the government from illegal animal traders.

They have ocelots, jaguars, pumas, and also non-feline animals. There are tapirs and peccaries and other unpleasant looking creatures. Birds include a stork, a hawk-faced eagle, and a harpy eagle which is huge; it is the largest of the eagles. While we were going through the zoo one of the women on the tour was standing under a tree when a howler monkey did what monkeys often do. We were all careful not to step in it. I got some Belize coins at the store as cheap souvenirs as well as some ice cream.

How are the zoos in Hyde county?

It sounds like a nice trip. There you are, though, the average Bostonian is more aware of Belize than they are of South Dakota. Er, you are an average Bostonian, aren’t you?

We have a nice zoo in southern Hyde county. Currently it has 1440 acres of native prairie with another 800 acres being added in the near future. (I forget whether it will be in 2007 or 2008.) It is strictly a native ecosystem zoo, though. There are no cages for the animals – they are allowed to roam free. I admit that this is less convenient for the ecotourists; you have to walk a ways to see the animals, and there is always the chance you won’t see any at all. Cages are really much more convenient for the tourist; more than that, the animals get rather better medical care in zoos than when they are on their own.

Another inconvenience is that there is no ice cream stand at the zoo. However there is one in nearby Highmore where they will give you real South Dakota coins in change.

All things considered, you probably made the right choice. South Dakota has a distinct shortage of ocelots, and pretty much everything else.

… continued on next rock …

Not exactly an average Bostonian–a mean Bostonian

I take it then that yours is not a standard deviation.
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From: Roberta Welden
Date: 4/7/2006
Subj: A Word Of Thanks

I wanted to thank you for adding my essay to your site. I feel privileged as I see not everyone receives such an honor, it is greatly appreciated. Now, before you need a Head Transplant I have this to say. With the electrician problems, gophers (moles whatever), and everything else I’m sure it was an oversight omitting the web links. So I send them to you once again. You can post them on your site or choose not to…my feelings will not be hurt.

Sorry about that. I’ve added the links.
I’m happy to hear your “house work” is coming right a long. My new bathroom tile is still in the box awaiting someone to arrive to lay it.
I have more than one project like that.
Deborah, could be right about the mole digging outside. Maybe you should open the door and invite him in for dinner sometime, perhaps he’ll stop digging. Or better yet, hire a sniper to be his friend.
A sniper for a “friend” – the very thing.
My husband is recovering nicely. He rode his Harley the other day and enjoyed it very much. He still has awhile before he’s back to “normal”, as it has only been a little over 3 months post transplants.
That’s good to hear.
BTW, I tried to email you from your site, and it didn’t work (hence “tried”). I don’t know if they are paying you, but sometimes when I click a link on your site it takes me to an EarthLink Ad . Got Me???
They’re not paying me, that’s for sure. The “Earthlink Ad” probably is their broken link page. If you run into the problem again, I would take it kindly if you would let me know about the bad link.
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From: Dave Weaver
Date: 4/5/2006
Subj: Nice USMC page!

Great story, fun site.

I was in the Old Corps, though it would have been “not even a gleam in your DI’s eye” Corps when I went through San Diego in ’79.

It looks like we shared the same squadron, the radar you speak of sounds like the AN-TPQ-10, for the ASRT, in a MASS unit. I did a little time in the ASRT, but mostly I was a DASC-eteer, as an operator, not a tech. Thing I loved about that gig was that one spent about 75% of the time in the field living in muck, and the other 25% trying to wash the muck off so as to find women and whiskey. And, that there are never more than about 100 Marines in the entire Corps with my MOS.

One thing is for sure – from the time you were in to my experience, not a dang thing seems to have changed about the basic attitude. Not so in the Army: http://www.collegejournal.com/successwork/onjob/20060216-jaffe.html?refresh=on Word has it that today’s crop of recruits makes for an even higher quality Corps, with higher enlistment standards, better retention rates, etc. And that is good news indeed.
Thanks much for the warm and fuzzies…
Dave Weaver
USMC 1979 – 1984

My memory is a bit on the rusty side but that sounds right. If I recall correctly the radar was an AN-TPQ-10 and the analog computer was an AN-MPQ-10. By your time the analog computer probably was digital and may well have been something off the shelf.

I dunno about the army’s kinder, gentler boot camp. It makes sense, I suppose. The army needs a lot of clerks and truck drivers. I don’t think it would do for the Corps, though.

Good hearing from you.

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From: Bswerver
Date: 4/6/2006
Subj: darth sidious

your wrong Sidious knew about anakin all along.Sidious’s master Darth Plagueis taught sidious how manipulate the midichlorines to create life but did’nt teach sidious how to bring dead people back to life plagueis took that to his grave.anyway once sidious knew how to create life he did’nt need plagueis anymore sidious killed plagueis shortly after that.with his new found power sidious could finally put his plan into action.by manipulating the midichlorines in a slavegirl named shmi skywalker unfortunately sidious did’nt realize that he was bringing about the prohpecy of the chosen one.

So you see it was all a carefully laid plan created by Sidious.

I have the feeling that you’ve read The Insidious Darth Sidious by Ross TenEyck (written in 2001 after “The Phantom Menace”) but not ” Sith Love by me, written in 2005 after “Revenge of the Sith”.

I’ve read the novelizations of the six movies but not the various Star Wars novels, so I’m sure what the canon is. This is my take:

One thing to remember is that we can’t rely on what Sidious tells Anakin. It seems clear that the Sith (either Plagueis or Sidious) manipulated the midichorians to produce the Chosen One. From the Sith’s viewpoint “bringing balance to the Force” meant the Sith taking their turn at being in power. However the Sith didn’t necessarily know where Anakin was or who he was – all they needed to know was that the chosen one had been born and that he would come to the attention of the Sith in due course.

Ross TenEyck’s article reads pretty well except for not guessing that the Sith created the Chosen One, and for not recognizing that Sidious would be after revenge as much as power. Sith creating the Chosen One was an act of the plot gods, no blame for missing it. Revenge as a primary motive was forseeable; after all when Luke Skywalker shows up on the scene the Jedi have been destroyed. What goes around comes around.

What we don’t know is whether Sidious had the the whole plan laid out in advance. I don’t think he did. Presumably he had a handle on the future – he could foresee a lot. However getting there would take a lot of intermediate planning.

By the way, may I suggest that you work on improving your written English? Failing to use standard punctuation and capitalization makes your writing harder to read. More than that, many people will judge your intellect and your ideas by the defects in your prose. It is quite unfair, but there it is.

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From: ken
Date: 4/6/2006
Subj: please help me

This few day i cant recevied , below is the error message

您的服务器意外终止了连接。其可能原因包括服务器出错、网络出错或长时间处于非活动状态。 帐户: ‘pop.singnet.com.sg’, 服务器: ‘pop.singnet.com.sg’, 协议: POP3, 服务器响应: ‘+OK 4936 octets’, 端口: 110, 安全(SSL): 否, 错误号: 0x800CCC0F

I’m sorry, my browser/fonts doesn’t support those characters. Offhand they look like unicode, but I don’t have the tables handy. Sorry about that but I can’t read your error message.

In any event I didn’t send you any messages. If you thought you got one from me it probably was from some spam program or virus that forged a third party email address.

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From: Chris
Date: 4/3/2006
Subj: Genetic mutation

I was looking for some information on the process of aging and have found some conflicting explanations. I have read information from one website that insists there may be only a few genes responsible for aging. This does not seem to take into account the full complexity of the aging process. Instead of associating aging with only a few genes, most of the material I have read implies that aging is ingrained in human biology and depends on many gnes in a very complex way. To me, it seems that an importnat component of aging is the production of free radicals. Free radicals seem to be produced mainly in the human metabolic system. Metabolism idepends on thousdands of enzymes, and the enzymes are created by the protein instructions of thousands of genes. Thus, it would seem that rather than depending on a few genes aging must depend on thousands of diferent genes. Any attempt to alter the human metabolic system genetically and change the aging process would likely be disastrous due to the interconnected functioning of metabolic processes. Could you provide me with help on this issue? Does aging depend on a few genes (say perhas ten or twenty) or on thousadns of genes? I am sure it is difficult to identify genes “for” aging, but is there some general theory on how aging depends on genes?

I’m sorry, but I can’t help you all that much on this one. There is a general argument that there is no selection for anti-aging genes. That is, there is selection for living long enough to produce offspring and rearing them. The first young you produce are the best because (a) they are the ones you are most likely to live long enough to produce, and (b) gamete mutations accumulate over time. Ergo there is no selection against aging, or, rather, there is selection for a vigorous youth.

There is the thesis that the number of the cell duplications of non-stemcells is limited to about fifty generations because of telomere shortening. I don’t know what the current status of that is.

The ‘few genes’ probably refers to genes governing aging as a developmental process. Aging is not inevitable. Reptiles and fish do not age as such – they just keep growing until the accidents of life kill them. I would guess that the aging cycle has to do with stopping growth, but I really don’t know.

We humans do seem to have a potential lifespan of about 120 years if nothing goes wrong. There is a lot that can go wrong though. You have to be lucky and not catch a fatal disease, have a fatal accident, or live an overly stressful life. Even then you have to have the right genes – there are many gene alleles that don’t affect the young but do cripple the elderly.

Your point about free radicals is correct. There is the general problem that complex multi-cellular systems (e.g., us) accumulate damage – the task of fully repairing such systems may be beyond the capability of any genome.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 4/3/2006
Subj: accuracy?


Didn’t test the others.

I imagine that a lot of these are urban legends.
Lower Podunk Falls, Iowa :-: Why didn’t the pilot use Pierre instead? It’s not very far from Lower Podunk Falls. Oh, I think I understand. See the “Idaho” item below.
Geography. You fly in an easterly direction from Minneapolis to Chicago; you fly in a westerly direction from Minneapolis to Pierre. The besides of which, everywhere is a long ways from Pierre.
Your April correspondence at https://richardhartersworld.com/cri_c/letters/2006/let06apr.html seems to reach a 404.

Indeed, because your site allows a file listing, viz.,

 lament.html             26-Jan-2006 13:20     4k
 let06feb.html           14-Feb-2006 00:07    20k
 let06jan.html           10-Jan-2006 02:20    24k
 let06mar.html           29-Mar-2006 12:17    47k
 louisiana.html          01-Jan-2006 22:51     3k
we observe that your April letters do not exist.
Can you confirm your observation? (Actually I overflowed the space allocation; I had to move some stuff, a serious pain in the tush.)
Idaho? Why Idaho? I’d had the very same thoughts about South Dakota until I met ONE, that’s just O-N-E solitary person who claimed to be from there. Now he claims to have moved back to there, but how can I be sure?
You can’t of course; if you are referring to the chap I think you are, he is a notorious scoundrel who will make up anything at all if it amuses him. I wouldn’t trust a word he says.

OTOH South Dakota appears in the news every now and then. It produces failed Democratic candidates for President (Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern), large carved faces in mountains, buildings that don’t quite fall down, and the righteous (and rightful) indignation of the ACLU.

You might well argue that the news items about South Dakota are mere fabrications that are made up by the media on slow news days. To this argument I have no defense.

flynnd has reported finding “THe third of tghese” and “the number depends on the rtio of called to called by.” It also found “the upper hgalf called” and happily reports it has no card reader, but thinks there is some FIODEC paper tape in the attic with a copy of the source code for Spacewar, hidden in a box behind the box full >of old IMs and APAs:NESFA.
Flynnd is falling down on the job. I ran the offending page through the spell checker. It found quite a few unusual words. I wonder what a “tansition” might be. Corrections will be uploaded in due course.
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From: Michael Dobrov
Date: 4/4/2006
Subj: Evolution

It is obvious that a theory of evolution must play a fundamental role in the development of biology and anthropology. But where does evolutionary theory lie in? There is a dominating opinion in biology that evolutionary theory is all but a theory of natural selection. Genetic changeability in the population and natural selection are no doubt proved facts. And natural selection theory is good at explaining origin of diversity of animal and plant species. But evolution is not so much an origin of diversity of animal and plant species as a transition from low to high forms of animals. If evolutionary theory is treated the same as natural selection theory, transition from low to high forms of animals turns out to be accidental and devoid of laws. Thus, treating evolutionary theory the same as natural selection theory leads to negating existence of laws of transition from low to high forms of animals and hampers possible development of evolutionary theory, and also of biology in general and anthropology. Anyway, at this stage of scientific development there is no ground for treating evolutionary theory the same as natural selection theory. In full accordance with genetics and natural selection, we would like to draw your attention to two additional factors which can play an immense role in the evolutionary process. First, it is known in biology that most vital traits of animals have preadaptation in ancestral forms of these animals. Now admit that there are very important traits of animal behaviour which are involved in the transition from low to high forms of animals. And each of these traits has a corresponding preadaptation, acquired in the course of evolution of organisms consisting of eukaryote cells but having no nervous system. In other words, in the course of evolution there is a consequent realization of several different preadaptations, acquired even before emergence of the nervous system. Secondly, admit that a new hereditary ability of behaviour is found in the population of animals. And this new behavioural ability is so productive that it gives a new direction to the natural selection. That is, adaptation to ambient conditions begins anew, some animal species extinct, but many new species appear, realizing this behavioural ability. Two similar factors can take place in the evolution of cells as well. These two factors depend upon one another, but they are different and it would be wrong to think of them as providing together for a linear process.

Before proceeding any further, we would like to pose a question: “Why is evolutionary theory treated the same as natural selection theory in biology?” Because information about evolution is too scarce to provide a ground for more complex scientific presuppositions. In our view, this is connected with the fact that scientists are devided into specialists in anthropology, animal behaviour, cell, mathematics, physics, chemistry and so on. Evolution does not only exist at biological levels, it exists at chemical levels and physical levels as well. Each branch of science tries to handle its evolutionary problems within its own laws. And that is right, but a larger view of scientific data may be also necessary to solve evolutionary problems. We mean that evolution at biological levels, as well as at chemical and physical levels can meet some general propositions which allow to search for solution of evolutionary problems not at random. For example, under closer consideration the abovesaid two additional factors which may have relation to biological evolution follow from some more general propositions which we have found when studying scientific data concerning evolution at different material levels.

We can also describe hereditary behavioural abilities which are stages of animal evolution as well as those hereditary behavioural abilities in which a contemporary man is distinguished from animal world. With this, all the abovesaid hereditary behavioural abilities can be proved by examples of contemporary animal behaviour.

I am probably not the right person to review your thoughts. Your thesis is interesting but rather too vague for journal publication. If you have access to the usenet news groups (you can access them through google) you might consider posting in sci.bio.evolution.

Just as a note, it no longer is true that “evolutionary theory is all but a theory of natural selection”. Some authors treat evolutionary theory in terms of natural selection; however others regards genetic drift as the driving engine of evolution. It’s a bit of a stretch to say that natural selection theory is good at explaining the origin of diversity.

I would disagree (and I think that most evolutionary theorists would disagree) that evolution is about the transition from low to high forms of animals. Biological evolution is about much more than that; broadly it is about understanding the process of the diversification of the species of life and the changing of their characteristics over time. There are so many ways the question of evolution in the large can be approached, e.g., the origin and diversification of the hox complex and complexity theory applied to ecosystems. One of the difficulties is to accurately describe and understand historical trends in the large; we simply don’t know enough.

I am not quite sure where you are going with preadaptation. It is generally assumed (sometimes with evidence and sometimes as a matter of logic) that the evolution of novel traits is preceded by preadaptation. I am sure you aware that theory says such preadaptations are adaptations for existing traits that turn out to be useful for the development of novel traits. Evolution has no foresight.

I don’t think it is quite accurate or fair to say that: “If evolutionary theory is treated the same as natural selection theory, transition from low to high forms of animals turns out to be accidental and devoid of laws.” Natural selection theory in its own right explains how the selection process works but it doesn’t account per se for what there is selection for.

Finally, most evolutionary theorists would look askance at the terminology “lower and higher life forms”. Though the terms have a general sense (we can distinguish between an amoeba and an armadillo) they have a bad history of being misleading.

I hope this is of help and I thank you for writing.

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From: Roberta Welden
Date: 3/26/2006
Subj: Bridal Shop Workers Resist Bandit

I think it would have added insult to injury had the young women used his “bomb” to call 911?

Oh indeed it would have. The sad thing is that one never thinks of these things until after the fact.
In addition, about that mousetrap “dude”, I downloaded his manual and did not see one mouse in it. I seem to recall you having declared you had some evidence of a “few” members of the rodent family. Did you make one and if so did it work? *grin*
Somehow it never occurred to me to make one. In any event the mice plague has abated. Filling their royal highways with cement seems to worked. However I now have a mole in the garden. Deborah claims that he is digging outside because he can’t get in the house.

By the way, the house project is coming along nicely. Now if I can just get the electrician to show up….

Okay, I am off to get a life now.
Better to get a life than to take one.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 4/1/2006
Subj: The Confessions of Ayn Rand

In a moment of lapsis sanitatis [Did I get that right? I’m *not* going to look it up.] I chose to re-re-read your review of Varinoma’s book on Rand, and again I thoroughly enjoyed it. You get altogether too many hostile letters from Rand’s fans who seem to have swallowed her writings without acquiring even the tiniest bit of her critical abilities or sense of humor. Hence this note, as a small antidote to the poison sent you by those who I would hate to call my friends even though I share their admiration of Rand.

I confess ignorance about the linguistic propriety of lapsis sanitatis. A search on google turns up nothing and Babblefish doesn’t do Latin translations (a severe defect in my opinion.)

Whatever the merits and demerits of Rand’s works, they do have the defect of attracting the sorts of persons who need to be cultists with the ANSWER.

Your selection of reviews of Varinoma books, lush though it is, still does not seem to receive frequent contributions. Do you happen to have a list of favorite titles awaiting the reviewer’s attention?
Indeed I do. The webmaster at Varinoma Press seems to have been quite remiss. Perhaps he takes his presidency of the Oxnard Wine Tasting Club a bit too seriously. However I am pleased to announce on behalf of Varinoma Press that they offer the following works:
  • A Treatise on The Common Hangnail in 17th Century French Literature, in ten volumes, Asa Moff.
  • Revenge of the Turtle Necked Aardvarks, B. Goode as to told to B. Cairfl
  • 1984! Unexpurgated, C. K. Kornbluth
  • William Martin, by Nathan Childers
  • Wittgenstein’s Ghost, Rodney McFinister
In addition Varinoma Press in collaboration with the Texas Ahistorical Society, plans to reissue the entire corpus of Calamity Jane Austin. I look forward to the event. Austin’s novels are not just your ordinary works of fiction.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 3/29/2006
Subj: A Lament For Harvard Square

I’m curious about the introduction, which I read as saying not much has changed since 1976. In fact the gentrification has gone a lot further: more bookstores have closed (and the SF bookstore has moved to Central Square); several smaller stores at the SE corner of the main intersection were replaces with a chi-chi chain — not Gap (they bracket, in Porter and Central Squares), but something in that line (maybe Urban Outfitters?). IIRC, you were last here in a very cold spell, so the punk collective in the Pit (the depression where the central subway kiosk used to be) may not have been there; see your comment on chic and exotic elements.

The cold spell was a Boskone/Blizzard – Deb and I were on the last taxi to Cambridge. We’ve been back a few times since. They had this big convention in Boston …

From my perspective there hasn’t been much change in the tone of Harvard Square since then. Yes, it has become more gentrified over time, but that is a case of more of the same.

“Urban renewal” is the great American invention of the late twentieth century. An area is converted into bricked paving, some street entertainers and faux medievalism, and expensive chi-chi shops. It is rather like an outdoor high end shopping mall with some theme park elements.

I suspect Hayes-Bickfords, like Charlie’s after it, closed partly because it was not very good or interesting, as there are still lots of good cheap eats (many of long standing) within a block or so of the main intersection — cf Skewers, or Grendel’s. But the Square as a whole isn’t what it was. (Was it ever?) The atmosphere moved up the Red Line to Davis Square (site of the long-gone original Steve’s Ice Cream); Davis still has a working variety theater attached to its multiplex (the Harvard Square movie theater sold its front and put screens on its stage in 1983), but even Davis (despite the academic effects of Harvard and Tufts) is getting a little precious.
The immediate cause of closing Hayes-Bickfords (I believe it was an HB) was the tripling of rents. The food wasn’t terribly good but it was cheap. It was one of those places where you took a tray and went up to a counter where they dished stuff out – not quite a Horn and Hardart automat, but close to it.

I wouldn’t count Grendel’s Den as being cheap, at least not starving student cheap.

I never got into the Davis Square scene. When I was living in Concord I mostly went to the Brandeis theater with the occasional trip to the Rep off Harvard Square. Theater in Highmore SD is, ah, limited.

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From: Xxlilcj11xX
Date: 3/25/2006
Subj: hard

this s hard stuff i’m not even smart

Not even smart? You should take pride in your work. You’re not even dumb.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 3/29/2006
Subj: A Violation of Trust

There have been a few laws passed without gross excess — Massachusetts enacted limits on floating of checks not long after you wrote this — but it’s true the excesses of the Reagan bubble (and of the end stages of the Clinton boom) produced spasms of legislation.

That has been the general pattern over time. Every boom is accompanied by excesses; in the aftermath we pass laws.
“And the prevailing ethos is and always has been that sharp practice and working the angles is something to be achieved, not something to be rooted out.”

An interesting comment on the feigned Christianity of some businessmen. (Others don’t even bother feigning….)

There is a wonderful passage – I believe it is from Kierkegaard’s “Attack on Christiandom” – in which he goes on about how the road to salvation, once narrow, has become a great broad avenue. Today we have Christian songs, Christian businesses, Christian politicians, Christian peoples, Christian nations, and, indeed, even Christian whorehouses.
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From: John Wong
Date: 3/25/2006
Subj: Waiting for Godot

Hi, Interesting site.

It was referred to by my newspaper on the play but I couldn’t find it in your website. Can you assist?

Try https://richardhartersworld.com/~cri/1996/godot.html.

It’s not about the play as such, it is about how the play might be interpreted in various modes of criticism.

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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 3/25/2006
Subj: January

The eastern-SD county emergency manager is an arrogant jackass — and that’s one of his better points. (He also has a weak concept of a serious storm; around here two feet may be a lot but it’s hardly a record, and afterwards nobody goes on about how much more virtuous they are than people in New Orleans.) Perhaps he should be pelted with iceballs, or presented with a house with several feet of snow inside/, so that he can learn the difference between a snowstorm and a flood.

Repeat after me:
    Calamity Jane Austin is not a real person.
    The USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) did not sail in 1779.
    Kitty Litter Cake is not made out of kitty litter.
    This is not the email address of mutantwatch.com
Adjust your sense of humor accordingly.

As a side point I opine that you don’t quite appreciate the impact of the storm in question. It was one of those combinations of freezing rain followed by a blizzard followed by subzero weather. Hundreds of miles of power lines, went down. People were without power in a large area for days and in some cases weeks. Storms like that happen elsewhere of course, but the impact on that particular storm on the locals was severe for two reasons: It was unusually nasty, and it was in an area where the infrastructure is necessarily marginal.

The latter issue is easy for someone in an urban area to underestimate. I have been through more than one northeaster and more than one Dakota blizzard. Weatherwise they are comparable (Dakota weather is the worse of the two – windier and colder). However high population density means that there are one hell of a lot more resources for dealing with the aftermath of storms.

On a cheerier note: thanks to the Lieberman, I knew the tune for Tech Coeds without having heard the original; I sort of figured it was a filk, but was nonetheless surprised when the tune showed up on NPR in a segment about a farmer who built his own calliope. I expect a number of Tech grads were amused.
Chortle. Dead Marxists are turning over in their graves everwhere.

… continued on next rock …

The humor is strained at best — especially given the image SD is giving itself in the news recently, and similar statements about Katrina from similar parts of the country.

I wouldn’t try to sneak that sentence past a professor in a logic and reasoning course if I were you.

The notion of “the image SD is giving itself in the news” is amusing in its own right. SD appears in the news about as often as Belize (and I wouldn’t be surprised if more Bostonians have visited Belize than SD) and for much the same reasons. It is not even on the radar screen – it just shows up as a noise blip now and then.

The converse is true. In SD the real news is what happens in the local area, principally local sports and the weather. With the advent of TV residents do see news of the outside world, but for most it has the same impact as watching Oprah or going to the movies.

They mostly march to a different drummer here, and the music is usually discordant.

I’m also not that impressed with losing power; my childhood home outside DC lost power most winters due to wet snow, although usually not for that long.
Try a week or two without power, living in a town with a few hundred people, or in the country ten or fifteen miles from town on a gravel road that won’t get plowed for several days after the storm. No power means no heat unless you have your own generator. No heat in sub-zero weather is not good.
wrt infrastructure, are homes really that short of stored supplies? The household where I usually game puts away reserves each Fall against a bad winter storm.
I don’t think you quite understand. Infrastructure resources are things like power repair crews, snow removal removal crews, etc. Central South Dakota has perhaps 200,000 people in an area somewhat larger than New England, excluding Maine. It is one of the poorer parts of the country; the tax base is low. There are more many more miles of power line per person in central SD than in New England. Similarly there are many more miles of road per person.
I also note that rural areas don’t have the ultimate urban nightmare: running out of land (or in one famous Buffalo case, lake) into which to push the snow when you’re trying to clear the roads.
Point taken, though it depends on what kind of snow moving equipment one has. When I was a lad we lived along a gravel road eleven miles out of town. When the first blizzard hit they would plow the road and pile snow a couple of feet high in the ditches. When the second blizzard hit it filled in the road two feet deep. When they plowed the snow in the ditches was six feet high. When the third blizzard hit the snow in the road would be six feet deep and they would be done plowing for the winter. We got to town using a horse and sleigh and driving across the prairie.
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From: Ruth Arnett
Date: 3/26/2006
Subj: jerry

Hello Jerry my husband and I watch your show Monday through Friday.We are avid fans.we always make sure we are home in time to watch your show.Jerry we are both medically retired,with all our medical problems neither one of us can travel anymore.the one thing I would like to have is an autograph from you and Steve plus could I get some Jerry beads.thank you so much for your time.

I’m sorry, my site has nothing to do with Jerry Springer. I don’t have an email address for him but I’m sure you could reach him through the network.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 3/28/2006
Subj: MOTE

Your assessment was kinder than that of others in our area. An essay in Mythologies said the characters were not only wooden puppets but unbelievable; there was a report that Pournelle tried to lead a boycott of Boskone after his bad-tempered response to the essay got dissected. Your Carolina Conscience is also behind — in the penultimate paragraph “life life” should probably be “like life”.

Chortle. I can picture Pournelle being indignant. I am confident, though, that if you asked him, he would say that he got the best of the exchange. He always wins these little debates, at least he does when he is reporting them.

I expect that you can make a case that the characters were unbelievable wooden puppets but that doesn’t strike as a particularly serious complaint. There is very little science fiction or indeed fiction of any sort that isn’t open to a similar charge.

I shall see if I can sneak in a correction before my Carolina Conscience catches up with me.

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From: Kyris Betheley
Date: 3/28/2006
Subj: unobtainium

for school info, where could you find Unobtainium Conundrum, which wholesale company sales it, and what products is it used in?

The best source for Unobtainium Conundrum is in the interior of black holes. However it can also be refined from the sediments in containers of universal solvent. It is sold by General Products, Inc. It is used in high precision equipment that requires military grade atoms.

PS: You probably shouldn’t use this information in a school essay.

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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 3/28/2006
Subj: twinkies

“Most of us, perhaps, would be hard pressed to spend $100 on a dinner for two.”

In any major city, try a big-name steakhouse or ask anyone with elementary Google-fu to find places. It’s certainly possible to get a good — even exceptional meal for less, but it’s easy to spend that much.

Quite true. However the article was reprinted from a PN#7, circa 1978 or there abouts, and the dollar purchased more then than it does today. I should add a footnote to that effect.

… continued on next rock …

True enough — IIRC, on that date the Blue Strawbery (which I expect you remember) was charging $20 for a “6-course 9-dish” dinner.

Sigh. One really should save the menus from the very best places to eat. I recall well enough that the Blue Strawberry was wonderful, but I no longer recall what I ate. What is the use of a great meal if you can’t savor the memory.
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From: Sam Hine
Date: 2/26/2006
Subj: opinion piece submission

(re: article appearance)

That would be perfectly fine and acceptable. My hope in distributing this piece was to start a discussion. And I know Mr. Arnold would be delighted. Could you send me a link if/when it appears?

Fair enough, it will probably appear in the April issue. I will let you know when it appears and send along the links.
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From: Miroslav Provod
Date: 3/5/2006
Subj: Antics and physics

I was surprised when I received one of the final answers from the known physicist who alerted me that the energetic raster that I’m describing on my website in the graph no. 6 looks similarly to the ether that was reprobated by Einstein. I had never thought like that because Albert Einstein laid ether definitively down from physics. The hypothesis that brings back the thought about the existence of ether, is indirectly confirmed also by the very difficult to explain fact that the radio transmission on the Earth is worse during the in-line position of two or more planets in our solar system, including our planet – the Earth.

We can easily imagine how great the decrease of intersections of spherical rasters of planetary zones and interzones is during this “planetary eclipsed” situation when the planets are located on one line. We can also imagine the decrease of these virtual paths for the radiosignal on the earth. If we totally accept Einstein’s hypothesis that is describing the magnetic fields, we can’t explain this “radio effect” in full detail. These and many other facts bring up a thought if Einstein could have somehow been wrong with saying that ether doesn’t exist and if there could be something we can’t register in space, which doesn’t interact with gravity and what we can’t sense. Because of that we rather say it doesn’t exist. But we really have some indices that suppoert the existence of “it”.

There are similar thoughts found by the learning of the antic scholars, some of which haven’t been explained yet. 2500 years ago there was a greek philosopher and grounder of the atomic theory of nature, Demokritos, who said that matter consists of an unlimited amount of different undivisible and unvisible small particles (atoms), which are moving in empty space. This Demokrites’ thought about matter, to which nobody paid much attention in the antics, wasn’s confirmed until our atomic physics.

About 20 years after Demokritos, a greek biologist, philosopher, doctor and politician Empedokles, grounded the theory about four ever lasting elements (fire, water, air and ground), and that all the things are creating by mixing these 4 elements. Later, Aristoteles added a fifth element to these four – ether. Ether was supposed to be some type of a sea of a very soft nature, in which stars could move without any resistance. Nobody knew how this medium looks like and also, nobody proved it’s existence experimentally. Ether was thought to be unimpugnable reality until the first half of the 20.th century, when Einstein in connection with his research declared the word ether dead.

I started to understand the elements of the antic scholars, when I connected them to the experiments. Fire, water air and ground are important natural sources of cosmic energy, the omnipresent ether looks like a conductor of cosmic energy. However, the four antic elements had the same destiny as Demokrites’ thiught about matter – in the following history they stayed unnoticed. The presumption that antic scholars used kosmic energy and concentrated it, is confirmed by many architektonic elements.

The existence of some energetic raster in space is also confirmed by the fact, which was documented by optical satellites, that discharges from thunderstorm clouds of potential 100 000 000 volts, don’t occur only between the clouds or between clouds and the ground, but also between the clouds and the other side, which means they are dirrected somewhere into obscurity, from the Earth. How and where does this enormous energy go? The cause and principal of this phenomenon hasn’t been explained yet. Similar physical vacuum is related to the origin of enormous energy in the form of up to 1000 times greater energetic discharges of lightning on Saturn, which were documented by the Cassini probe.

The yet unexplained phenomena of natural character show us, that we shouldn’t unambiguosly deny the existence of ether. What is the origin of the conductivity of energetic raster? We don’t know the cause of the condictivity, but we demonstrate it’s existence in many cases. There seems to be a connection between ether and energetic raster, that it’s just one phenomenon that is designated by two names.

This should answer Kierkegaard’s conundrum – where to find ether ore.
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