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Letters to the editor, October 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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 October 2006.

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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 10/19/2006
Subj: Marine training

You might want to link to


This is sort of interesting. It turns out that I have the original version of the story on my website, or at least the oldest one than snopes knows about. The URL is https://richardhartersworld.com/~cri/2002/zeb.html.

The story has mutated a bit over time. In the original story it was the army; in the later version it is the Marine Corps. In the original it was a son writing; in the later version a daughter.

A new paragraph has been added about unarmed combat, and the PS about shooting craps has been deleted.

Other than these changes the two versions are the same, word for word.

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From: Doris R. Noveck
Date: 9/14/2006
Subj: chicago pizza

thank you for the lovely recipe. but what size is the pizza pan that one should buy?

To be honest, I just don’t know. I’ve never actually tried the recipe, though Pete McCutchen swears by it. For one thing I don’t have a deep dish pizza pan, and it isn’t handy to get one – I don’t think that there is an Italian food store within five hundred miles of where I live now. However I’ll check with Pete and see what he says.
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From: Jacksprat
Date: 10/3/2006

[snip long winded, badly formatted, scientifically illiterate letter]
P.S.if you have noticed any factual errors in this presentation please inform me of them And if you have reason to disagree with my conclusions let’s discuss such matters such reluctance to relinquish cherished errors?.
I don’t much like the format you have chosen – you might wish to adopt a simpler and more legible one. That said, there are so many factual errors in your article that it is quite beyond me to go through them all. I will mention only one; the main thesis is false. Chromosome numbers are not invariant nor do they all have to pair up. Chromosomes can fuse and can split apart. Not all fusings and splittings are viable, of course, but they have been observed. There is a species of ant with only one chromosome, and a number of species that have a variable number of chromosomes. And so on and so forth. You need a much better knowledge of biology.

As a general rule I don’t argue creationism/evolution in email. Life is simply too short for that sort of thing, so I am not going to argue the matter with you. There are many public forums where you can present your case. If you wish to learn something pick a forum where people will happily point out your errors.

In any event, I do thank you for writing.

… continued on next rock …

Thankyou for your reply,…
[Snip long winded defense]
There are not many public forums in my neck of the woods,and this problem is very specific,and specifically concerns University professors of biology,because that is where the fallacy of evolution survives,for reasons which are difficult to ascertain.
You might check out the talk.origins news group. You can access it (and other newsgroups) through google. It is an open public forum; many people who post there will be more and willing to comment on your theories at length.
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From: Jean O’Connor
Date: 1/2/2002
Subj: onions

This gave a real chuckle

Thanks for writing. Most people seem to think that I have some good jokes on the site amidst all the rubbish. They just disagree about which ones they are.

[I do seem to get a lot email from time travellers. I think it has to do with the timeless quality of my website. It is a point of stability in a time-ridden universe.]

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From: Melissa Williams
Date: 10/5/2006
Subj: Anger Management

Dear Whoever. My name is Melissa Williams and I am writing to tell you that this made my day! As well as all my coworkers!! We have read this thing soooo many times and it gets funnier and funnier everytime you read it!!! Thank you!!! Melissa Williams

Thanks for reminding me of it. You’re right – it gets funnier every time I read it.
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From: Best Reklám
Date: 10/17/2006
Subj: GTA


Az általad ajánlott oldal már szerepel a linkek között:

–> Codename: GTA – http://codenamegta.hu

Azért köszönöm!
Best Reklám

Alas, Babelfish doesn’t speak Hungarian, and neither do I.
(What are the odds that one of my readers does?)
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 9/18/2006
Subj: September letters

Michael Durinx makes one error in his assessment; the current holder of most of the contracts for voting machines is not IBM but Diebold. Speculation is welcome on the strengthening or canceling effects of systems that fourteen-year-olds can hack vs the Diebold chairman’s public statement (in his role as an Ohio political activist) that he would deliver Ohio to the Republicans.

Quite right, it’s Diebold. I assume that you are aware Diebold voting machines can be opened with a hotel minibar key. Apparently the specs called for a key and lock system. The features checkoff must not have mentioned security.

The supposition that the Diebold people rigged the Ohio vote with their magic machines is one to gladden the heart of any Democratic conspiracy theorist, but I don’t much think it works. However the impropriety of a manufacturer of voting machines being a “get out the vote for my party” activist is quite boggling. The Diebold machines and the associated rush to electronic voting would make a good Harvard B School case study.

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From: Bjørn Halden Parramoure
Date: 9/27/2006
Subj: Crazy Eddie

thanks for that explaination. i read Mote as a kid, and i’m re-reading it now, and I never quite understood the concept till now.

You’re welcome. The concept in the book may be a bit more ambiguous than indicated by my review. However it is a neat idea.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 9/18/2006
Subj: My Revolutionary New Prime Discriminator

So, what’s the difference? Is the tone of voice less blustery, or the grammar relatively correct? —

I wouldn’t say that the grammar is relatively correct; rather the prose is strained to make it seem relatively incorrect. The initial paragraph is a dead giveaway, but even without it, the “proof” is funny. Real cranks seldom have a sense of humor about their work; in consequence the humor in their efforts is limited even though they dwell in their own private theatre of the absurd.
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From: John Wilson
Date: 9/29/2006
Subj: Something about your blog

Hey, I am John Wilson. After reviewing your blog, I have to say that your effort and intelligence had impressed me. I think it is great and I like it. So I wondered whether I could share interests and make new friends online with you? Because I encountered error in inviting a friend through the blog directly, I have to send you this email to let you know my request. The link of my blog is: http://funszre.blogspot.com/ . Could you give it a visit and add me as your friend if you feel it to be acceptable? Thank you! I have uploaded very funny pics to share, just take a look and have fun! 🙂

Er, ah, are you sure you looked at my not-a-blog website? I would like to believe that you have since you use words like “effort” and “intelligence”. On the other hand you didn’t say in what way you were impressed.

In any event I took a look at your blog. The pictures are indeed funny. I take it that this is a fairly new venture on your part since the content was mostly nattering about increasing traffic. I’m not quite sure what you mean by adding you as my friend. I’m not really a resident of the blogosphere so I don’t know all of the jargon. I’m guessing that it has something to do with adding links, though it might be a “myspace” kind of thing. If, however, you are proposing some sort of virtual friendship to be enacted over the internet, I must say that we aren’t quite well enough acquainted for that sort of thing.


I’m not sure if this one is a scam or virus of some kind or merely terminal klutziness. In any case his email address wasn’t valid.

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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 9/12/2006
Subj: Various

Catching up:
a few months ago you observed (answering someone else) that

I seem to recall that most mammalian species have a lifespan of about two million heartbeats whereas humans have one of about four million heartbeats. In other words, our species has already attained an extended lifetime; there was selection and it already has happened.
Was this data comparable? Human average lifespan has ~doubled in (at most) a small number of millennia; this is rather a short time to see serious evolution for species that lives decades, but the change can be attributed to side effects of intelligence (better control over the environment, healthier choices, …). Were the comparisons made with laboratory-protected animals rather than animals in the wild?
If my erratic and not excessively reliable recall can be trusted the data was comparable; the issue here is not average lifespan but potential lifespan. In the wild adult people and other animals have a life expectency of about half of their potential lifespan.

I’m rather skeptical about that ~doubled in a few millennia – a few decades is more like it. Pre WWII the average lifespan in the US was around 50. IIANM 35-45 was typical throughout recorded history.

re June editorial: “ice ages are so untidy” — but there are varying degrees of untidiness! Just leaving the rocks in the usual places isn’t worthy of notice, but one rock by itself is a “glacial erratic” (or so we learned in Alaska), even when it isn’t halfway up a cliff.
Halfway up a cliff is very erratic.
(…Massachusetts): “If you stay on the same road long enough it eventually has three different names.” Piker. I can see four different names for the same street on a 1-mile walk from my house. And a MA resident would know it’s “Plimoth” Plantation; a Plymouth is a car his father drove until recently.
Sigh. You are right of course.
(July editorial): an obvious conclusion would be that the Democrats in Jackson County are imports. (The Republicans elsewhere are merely following Rutledge’s dictum.) But this seems unlikely; are Bullock, Ford, etc. registered there, or merely vacationing like the people who overrun Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket every summer? Possibly Jackson residents are exposed to a wider range of opinions, instead of having most of the political spectrum misrepresented by ~local interests….
My understanding is that Harrison Ford calls his ranch there home. I don’t know about Sandra Bullock. She has a big place there but it may be one of her vacation spots. I suspect that a lot of the people there are imports, but not in the sense that you mean. The residents aren’t local – they come from all over to participate in the skiing etc. People who vacation regularly in places like Jackson Hole are priveleged hedonists and so naturally are Democrats.
The bit about Kmart is amusing, but it could be worse; in Santa Fe (as I was told on a foot tour) all buildings must be one of ~65 approved shades of adobe. I am quite happy not to have been at the city council meetings that chose those shades — bad enough to have to look at the effects: a plate-glass-fronted Woolworths, complete with the ugly red plastic letters, whose few framing members have been painted a murky orangish pink.
I take it that the principle is that aesthetic quality is of no concern provided that uniformity of style is preserved.
(Italian-trip report): how does OLotLBD happen to have come to/ SD, and from such a far place as Halifax? From your descriptions I would have thought SD was a place people left…. (I get the impression that Halifax has also been a place people leave — but usually to try their luck in a city.)
She is from SD originally. In fact she comes from North Hyde county whereas I come from South Hyde county. Back in the last millennium when I was much younger the distance between North and South Hyde county was enormous. It has shrunk since then; I understand that this has something to with Einstein’s theory of relativity. In her youth she married a chap who did his Master’s at Halifax. He then went to Colorado to work on his PhD. She and he came to a parting of ways when he wanted to finish his PhD in North Carolina.

People leave SD as a regular thing. Many return sooner or later. Think of them as Land Salmon.

Since when does Casino involve fifteens for two points? That sounds like cribbage; maybe it’s one of your unfinished bits?
It was cribbage. My bad.
I wonder if the wine pumps are an aspect of country living? I once vacationed in a moderately dense tourist town (near Barcelona) where wine was delivered to your door, as if it were milk; this had the further advantage that there was a fake pearl in each bottle’s stopper. (The pearl may have been worth more than the wine.)
I’ve had Algerian wines like that. I like the idea of having wine delivered to your door. Around here though it would have to be beer.
I’m not sure “tough it out” describes what the people who died at Pompei did; what I’ve read suggest it was a combination of fatalism and unpredictability (cf our recent argument — volcanoes are harder to predict than hurricanes even now, and looters would have been much more likely).
Another factor might have been that people at the time had rather less of an idea of what a volcano could do to them. Major eruptions in any one area tend to happen centuries apart; without a lot of history it is easy to not appreciate that something more than inconvenience might be in the upcoming wind.
Considering the goings-on at another Bristol in _What’s Up, Doc?_, I might have been the least bit uneasy about staying at a place of that name; OTOH, I suppose just having them recognize you was victory enough after some of your other adventures.
At least it wasn’t the Bates Motel.

PS: in my previous I corrected what I thought was my typo, but I’ve checked the editorial and found you really did refer to Sandra Bollocks. Was this Freudian slip a comment on her politics or her acting? —

PPS: wrt “Whose window is that?”: having an extra window is better than being one short. There’s a story of an MIT East Campus resident who was sufficiently obnoxious that his hallmates took his door and frame out of the wall and replaced it with a surface solid enough to paint; when he came back from vacation and said “Where’s my room?” the answer was “Who are you?” He tried to prove that there was a missing room by comparing the number of windows on the outside of the building to the number of doors inside, but everyone else counted one less window than he did….
Chortle. I hadn’t heard about that one. I suppose if he had found his window and had crawled through to get into his now doorless room they would have nailed the window shut behind him.
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Date: 9/17/2006
Subj: ???

las mejores chicas de internet
si estas caliente ven a vernos
visita nuestra pagina nop te arrepentiras
que po des perder
ven a ver lo mas hot de la red solo chileno

No hablo espanol
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 9/25/2006
Subj: on heartbeats

I happened to look back at this again and guestimated you dropped a comma; a year is ~3e7 seconds, so human lifespan is around 2 billion seconds. (More in most first-world countries; less elsewhere.) An observation that man lives 4 billion heartbeats (not million as quoted) seems implausible; anybody with an average pulse of 120 is not likely to live 70 years. (Depending on which source you read, 120 is higher than the safe maximum rate during exercise at that age; the tables I’ve seen all say to start with 220 less your age but differ on whether to work to 70, 80, or 90% of that.) 3.4 billion heartbeats (80 years at average pulse of 80) might work but still sounds so high. (What is “average” pulse? Mine’s ~60 when awake, but I’m in fairly good condition.) We’re probably still lasting longer than the mammalian average, but the gap isn’t as large as reported.

I wrote what I recalled but my recollection is always likely to be at fault. However the numbers depend upon assumptions. Let’s recap.

# of minutes in a day = 1440
# of minutes in a year ~= 365.2425*1440 = 525949.2

Here things depend on the assumptions; If we assume a potential life span of 70 years and a pulse rate of 60 hbpm then the total # of heatbeats is ~2.2 billion; if we assume a life span of 110 years and a pulse rate of 70 hbpm the total # of heartbeats is ~ 4.0 billion. If the statement is about potential lifespan and we take into account that pulse rate rises during intense activity then an average of 70 may be about right. So, I’ll stand by the four billion. I don’t know about the two billion for most animals though.

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This page was last updated October 20, 2006.
It was moved January 9, 2008

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Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck Capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2006!