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Archived letters

Letters to the editor, January 2007

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 January 2007.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 1/15/2007
Subj: President Phillies?

I believe that “Skinner of MITSFS” is a legitimate title and that he may well have legitimately held it. The others attest to his vivid imagination. Why hasn’t he taken his hand to writing Sinus Friction as well? Others less talented have certainly attempted it.

Skinner of MITSFS is indeed a legitimate title, and he did hold the post at one time, probably at the time of the proclamation. I have the suspicion that I might have elaborated a bit when I penned the proclamation. This, by the way, is one of the those little points of usage that I rely upon you to illuminate. If one does not do the actual composition, the authoring if there were such a word, but simply puts pen to paper like a scribe producing an illuminated manuscript, then what is the proper term?

I suspect that He (I opine that in this context the royal He is appropriate) tried his hand (or perhaps his nasal passages) at writing Sinus Friction at some point. So many of us have, you know, and the results are almost always what you might expect. I imagine that His efforts along these lines might resemble Ralph 124C41+ though not, perhaps, with the same depth of characterization and brilliance of style.

It may be that I do him (so much for royalty, up with democracy) an injustice. In any event, if he gets the nomination I shall vote for him. I’m willing to do that much, but asking me to read any Sinus Friction he might have written is asking too much.

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From: Carl Jung
Date: 1/20/2007

Dear Sir

I want only to ask you a question being yourself a expert pioner in Comoputing.

I have an IQ of Mensa 142 and am quite good at maths.

I tried to study COmputers 10 years ago but dropped it in University as i COULD NOT understand sorting algorithms and data structures.

Why ? IS this so difficult ? SHould one be evxtremelly clever to Program ??

I have a 10 years sadness and obsesssion about my deficiency.

PS Are all programmers in USA exttremmely well paid ? What is the salary od a University Profesor in USA ?

This is a rather interesting question. It is evident from your letter that English is not your native tongue and that you are unconcerned about typing errors. You do not need English for programming; however you do need to be obsessive about eliminating errors.

Be that as it may, the question of interest is whether a person with an IQ of 142 who is good at maths could not understand “sorting algorithms and data structures” and, if not, why not. I have observed that people who are good at puzzles and intellectual games tend to be good at programming. My thought here is that both involve the mechanical manipulation and placement of symbols. However there is something more going on with drawing a blank on algorithms and data structures. My guess is that it either involves not being able to play computer, i.e., not to being able to walk through the steps of an algorithm, or else not being able to make the jump from “playing computer” to capturing the concrete steps in abstractions.

The pay of programmers varies a lot. People who have arcane skills that are in demand do quite well; when the demand fails they may have difficulty finding jobs. The salaries of university professors also varies, depending on the university, the field, and tenure. Both programmers and professors have upper middle class incomes.

I hope this helps.

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From: Mark Weiler
Date: 1/4/2007
Subj: Piltdown Man

I was looking over the Piltdown Man website ( http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/piltdown.html) and was wondering if you might be aware of discoveries in paleontology that involve mistakes based on erroneous interpretation rather than fraud, as was the case with the Piltdown Man. The reason I ask is that it seems to me that good science accepts that erroneous interpretations occur; the fallibility of science is what allows it to produce more robust knowledge. There’s surely many examples of this in other scientific fields (physics, biology, chemistry, etc.) and I was just wondering if there might be cases of this in paleontology.

If I understand you correctly, there are many cases in paleontology. For example, iguanadons were originally reconstructed as sprawling quadrupeds as though they were giant lizards. Then there was the notorious incident in which Cope has the head on the wrong end of Elasmosaurus. The history of the hominids has undergone a number of reconstructions over time. I would have to hit the books to come up with a good list of erroneous interpretations. Stephen Jay Gould’s essays would be a good start.

Maybe when I finish renovating my house I will tackle that.

PS: The talk.origins version of the Piltdown Man website is a mirrored copy of the original site currently at https://richardhartersworld.com/cri_a/piltdown/piltdown.html. The mirrored copy hasn’t kept up with the original site, and is obsolete in various minor respects.

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From: Leo George
Date: 1/13/2007
Subj: Iraq vs. Washington D.C firearm death rates

Based on your firearm death rate calculations, you need to go back to the third grade!!
Let’s look at the real numbers:


2112 firearm deaths per 22 months per 160,000 troops = 1152 deaths per 12 months = 720 deaths per 12 months per 100,000 troops.

Washington D.C.

200 total violent deaths per 12 months per 550,000 people = 36 deaths per 12 months per 100,000 people!


I do thank you for writing. One of the many small pleasures associated with running this web site is receiving letters from twits. The page you refer to, https://richardhartersworld.com/~cri/2005/iraq.html, is a twit trap. A twit trap is a page that arouses the ire of twits that have no sense of humor. A good twit trap presents some outrageous and obviously false conclusion with a straight face. My site has a number of twit traps. For the most part I don’t cheat – twit traps are labelled as humor, just as this one is. The nice thing about twits is that they never notice the markers – they just plunge straight into indignation mode.

Of course none of this applies to you. I just thought you would be interested.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 1/8/2007
Subj: President Phillies?

I see from the invariably true Internet that Phillies (yes, the MIT Phillies, MITSFS and Course VIII, I believe) is running for President.


Teaching physics at WPI must have become very boring.

George has always been political. I have in my possession a proclamation hand lettered by me and done more or less at his behest. I Quote:
We, George I, protector of the right, defender of the rich, beloved of the poor, Emperor of the planets and the spaces inbetween, Duke of Hawaii, Count of Alaska, Lord Protector of Puerto Rico, the apanage of the Lesser Antilles and the Virgin Islands, Lord Mayor of New York City, Lord Provost of Highmore, South Dakota, First Citizen of the Union, Lord Mayor of Terminus, Prince of Saxe-Coburg, Skinner of MITSFS, Bearer of the Ring, Protector of the Faith, Lord Protector of the High Martian Nests, Lord of the outer darkness, Kha Khan, and Tex Imperator of Our United States of America, as a token of Our Royal gratitude and pleasure in Our faithful subjects’ efforts in establishing Us on Our throne do command them and proclaim it to be Our wish that they continues these efforts that they may gain pleasure in Our Gratitude.

Commanded this 28th Day of March, In the Year of our Lord, One Thousand, Nine Hundred, and Sixty Nine.

George, R.I.

I should think that being President would be quite a bit of a step down.
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From: Glenn Webster
Date: 1/8/2007
Subj: positive urine test

My Question is this. I was wondering if there are any conditions that would make a urine test show positive for T.H.C. after 4 months of non use

I really don’t know. I do know that eating poppy seed pastries can cause a false positive in opiate tests. (The popular mythbusters TV program tested this.) I also know that residual THC stays in your system for a while. I don’t think that it lasts as long as four months but if I were you I wouldn’t rely upon that.
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From: Reed Terry
Date: 1/6/2007
Subj: Link Exchange Request (Please Respond)

Hi, richardhartersworld.com

My name is Reed Terry and I have a cool little site called reedstickets.net This is a PR4 site which is related to everything about New York entertainment and travel tips The site is based 100% on it’s content and only uses pure “white hat” techniques, I enjoy working on it and am currently looking for some marketing partners, so please read my ideas to improve our sites

Since it seems as if reciprocal linking is out, I am hoping for…

  1. You decide my site is a great resource to your readers and are happy to put my link on your site (and I would love you for this!)
  2. I will write a nice content rich article for your site on a topic, so you receive free content This article will be a one time only writing for your site only, no duplicate content and only written by me. and I would hope that you let me put a small resource box about me (a couple sentences) at the end, or link in the content
  3. I can also offer you a link to another related quality site in exchange for the link on your site since if we reciprocate it is not worth much, if you want, for the link on your site, I will find a related site to yours and get your link placed on a great site, this will provide us both a 1 way link from related sites and help us.

    Option 3, of course is a bit difficult, but it is what has to be done now a days I suppose.

here are my linking details

URL: http://reedstickets.net/tarzan-tickets.html
DESCRIPTION: A New York entertainment site with great resources for events and venues including Tarzan tickets links.
TITLE: Tarzan Tickets

My site is not at all suitable as a marketing partner. However I will be happy to mention your site somewhere on my site, probably in the correspondence column. That said, your site looks to be quite useful if one wants to hit the New York theatre scene.
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From: Lainie
Date: 1/14/2007
Subj: Dinosaurs

I’m gonna enjoy reading this website. Have a look at my Astronomy website below. I have a piece about Dinosaurs..After 65 Billion years, I still find the subject fascinating.

~*Lainie~*The StarGazer*~

My Astronomy Website: http://community.webtv.net/LAINIE121/doc

65 billion years? I thought I was older than dirt but I see that I am just a babe compared to some.

Be that as it may, I did like your web site.

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From: Lainie
Date: 1/15/2007
Subj: Jane Austin

You had me fooled for a minute…I thought you meant Jane Austen. She’s one of my favorite English female authors. Austen is a brilliant writer. Her Pride & Prejudice was also a hilarious movie of English life during the Napoleanic War! Here is an English mother of 5 girls who need to get married, because women needed men to support them. They were not allowed to go out into the business world. In the earliest movie (1940’s) Both Greer Garson and Larry Olivier were the star crossed lovers. Clear Skies! ~Lainie~

Calamity Jane Austin was created for the benefit of students researching Jane Austen on the web who misspell ‘Austen’. It teaches them to not blindly trust material they find on the web. Sometimes my efforts on their behalf are not always appreciated. See, for example, https://richardhartersworld.com/~cri_c/letters/2005/let05jan.html#barb.
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From: Lainie
Date: 1/15/2007
Subj: Comet

Naturally I went to that article first thinking you were speaking of Halley’s. You are a very funny guy. For all I know – you could be an alien from outer space. Because I consider myself an earthling, living on the 3rd rock from the sun – folks think I’m weird. Clear Skies!

Hey, I’m not the guy who was asked “Where’s the comet”. Our Lady of the Large Black Dog claims that it sounded a lot like me. That, however, is the basest of slanders. I know where the comet is. You can see it in the evening sky.
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From: Robert Eggleton
Date: 1/3/2007
Subj: Rarity from the Hollow Won an Award!

Please see: http://myshelf.com/backtoliterature/column.htm

Thanks again.

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From: Tuesda P. Leong
Date: 1/6/2007
Subj: recruit for survivor show

Dear Sirs,

I am so talkative and I hate this. I can’t stop trying to explain matters with my ten years old son, nine years girl and a twenty three years old brother. Worse more, I try to give reasons, explain to my Chinese mother in law why she should not enter my bedroom, or check my dressing. Do you think I have illness, or something? Plus, my breath smell like old toilet.

Thanks & regards.

Tuesda P. Leong

Dear Tuesda,

To be honest, I have doubts about the accuracy and reliability of your complaints, or even about your being Tuesda. Are you sure you name isn’t Kevin? However I shall comment on your problems just as though I thought they were real.

Don’t worry about being talkative. That is an almost universal trait of women. All men know this. Actually men talk as much as women, but women talk about things that don’t interest men. Accept yourself for what you are and don’t worry about it.

Likewise don’t worry about your son, your daughter, or your brother. Children always think that their mother is too controlling. We won’t even talk about brothers.

There is little that can be done about Chinese mother in laws. Explanations are useless. The only workable strategy is to convince her not to do these things because you are crazy. This should be easy because she already believes this.

As for your breath, see your dentist. You probably have rotten teeth. If that’s not the problem, see a doctor.

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From: girish
Date: 12/19/2006
Subj: Science Fiction is trash


Just wanted to say I discovered your site by accident while looking for other people’s reaction to Cold Equations and am glad to see you have already adequately articulated why it is such a weak, weak story. 🙂

Now that’s not fair. Granted that the writing is clumsy and mawkish, and that the cardboard characters and scenery are made of second rate cardboard. But it is not weak. That is the curse of science fiction.
Another reason I write is, I am reading the Science Fiction Hall of Fame,(edited by Silverberg) and found something to disagree with you in your Science Fiction is trash essay.
It’s always worth while disagreeing with me. Granted that I will be in the right, but the experience will be refreshing for both of us.
To wit:
The two stories I have so far most enjoyed in the collection: The Weapon Shop and Surface Tension and extremely skilled explorations of literary themes.
Both are excellent stories in their way, though “extremely skilled explorations” is a serious overstatement. To be fair, it’s been quite some time since I’ve read Surface Tension and I don’t recall the story clearly. That tells its own story – whatever the merits of the story, being memorable seemingly isn’t one of them. I’ve read The Weapon Shop more recently and recall it more clearly.
Surface Tension explores the contrast between the practical man of action Levan(sic) and the intuitive scientist Shar(sic). 😉 It effectively, and brilliantly shows what makes pure science as against applied science(also known as technology) just so cool – layers-of-reality-unfolding-to-reveal-subtler-truths. I might be biased, but it also makes a great case for being a vegetarian. 🙂
You might enjoy Stanislaw Lem.
Bradbury’s Mars is heaven is also quite literary, in the way I understand you to be using the term – stories that tell something useful about us as people. 🙂
I opine that interpreting “literary” as “stories that tell something useful about us as people” is already off the track. It’s the engineering mode of thinking – stories as instruction manuals.
My reaction to The Weapon Shop
I used to follow rec.arts.sf.written but dropped it a while back for lack of time; it was fun to read the thread. I opine your are overly impressed with the sociology – that sort of thing is the bread and butter of literature. I suspect that you have been overwhelmed by the Van Vogt “WOW!” factor. Van Vogt’s writing has a dream like quality. There are two factors that make for this. One is technical – VV breaks his fiction up into 800 word action scenes. The effect is that the action moves from scene to scene in a dream like fashion. The other is his personality. On one hand he seized on nostrums – general semantics, dianetics, bates eye exercises, etc. On the other his thought is positioned within fantastic imagery.

Any way that’s my opinion.

So it is not as if SF is too tight a strait-jacket!
Quite true. It’s not a strait-jacket; it’s just shallow, an indulgence in the pleasures of superficial cleverness.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 12/13/2006
Subj: David John Harter and brain chemistry

Have you, or any other Harters, or for that matter anyone at all ever considered the phenomona that might be due to brain physics?

No doubt it has for sufficiently broad interpretations of physics.
I once was cutting brush in my swamp, and accidentally stood up, bareheaded, underneath a strand of my electric fence. The vision I saw was remarkable. There was a blinding white flash from a previously undiscovered portion of my brain. I would suggest that someone write a science fiction story in which the implantation of electrodes directly into the brain, for the purpose of pleasure stimulation, is one of the gimmicks, but I fear it’s been done. Dr. Lewis, among others, will remember chapter and verse.
It’s been done numerous times. In fact, numerous times by Larry Niven in his Known Space stories.
There are also brain economics, brain sociology, brain drama and brain French.
It is my understanding that learning to speak French as a child alters your brain. The proper pronunciation of French requires that the speaker munge phonemes together in a manner that is quite incomprehensible unless your brain has been Gallicized. It also helps to have chronic bronchitis.
I leave it to others to elaborate upon those and other disciplines.
Perhaps we should leave it to Dr. Lewis to illuminate our minds on these matters.
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From: Bob Smith
Date: 12/30/2006
Subj: Caliban’s [W]ill

I am enjoying you site and I have just two quick questions. How is it that you infer that the three recipients to Caliban’s will are all “persons”?. They, the recipients, may just as well be the proper name for a person, place or thing and; why do you suppose that where it states “Caliban’s will” the word “will” is not capitalized? It is, after all, the proper name for a Last Will and Testament. Thank you.

It is immediate that all three are persons; a bequest can only be made to legal persons. Moreover it is clear that these are three distinct persons. This is established by the language “each of Low, Y.Y., and ‘Critic,'”. Finally, it also necessarily the case that each of the three are human beings. This is evidenced by the fact that they can see, remember, and fall in love.

The matter of the uncapitalized ‘will’ is considerably more obscure. The genesis of the lack of capitalization is, of course, a mere accidental idiosyncracy on the part of your humble correspondent. However I believe it to be a happy accident. The document in question is a will (lower case); it is the document’s title that is capitalized.

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From: Jim Fehrle
Date: December 11, 2006
Subj: https://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2001/mlas.html

I found a bug in the minimal longest ascending subsequence algorithm.

The pseudocode for extracting the sequence at the end seems incorrect:

      las[n_as-1] = seq[terminals[n_as]]
      temp        = terminals[n_as]
      begin loop i = n_as-2…0
         temp   = backptrs[temp]
         las[i] = seq[temp]
      end loop

n_as is not the length of result sequence. Also I found temp had to be set to terminals[n_as-1] rather than termainsl[n_as].

[snip Java implementation with the differing logic highlighted]

There is indeed a bug, but it’s not where you think. The line that reads
if (low .ge. n_as) n_as += 1
should read
if (low .gt. n_as) n_as += 1
With the correction n_as is the length of the ascending subsequence.

When implementing the algorithm from the pseudocode you have to be careful about indexing. The seq, las, and backptrs arrays are 0 based whereas the terminals array is 1 based. I will recheck, but I’m fairly sure that is the only problem.

Thanks very much for pointing out the problem.

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From: L. Bishop
Date: 1/1/2007
Subj: hi {OCVC Scanned}

helo there that is a lood of shit and you no it so dont go there so dont go there coues they man are gay and nortey

if you dont like it go and get some more books about love

hi there would you like to haer my storey if you do tell me send me email saying year

I don’t think so. I know your type. You pretend to be an illiterate deranged student who’s had one too many dots of LSD, but you’re actually a Nigerian scammer who is going to offer me 25% of several million dollars stolen from widows and orphans.
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From: Franco Castaneda
Date: 1/1/2007
Subj: recruit for survivor show

How can i apply for the show?

Your best shot is to check in with the CBS web site; they run the survivor show. You’ve reached Richard Harter’s World – there are no survivors here.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 12/20/2006
Subj: Vistors from the East

wrt our recent visit to Minneapolis — perhaps you didn’t get the memo; the posted picture was a mixture of locals, NESFen, and others (I know DC and ~Detroit were represented), all in town for Mike (John M.) Ford’s memorial service. Traveling 300(?) miles west was a bit much to add.

I did get the memo; unfortunately I couldn’t get there. I quite agree that travelling an extra 300 miles west would have been a bit much.
Perhaps you might get more visitors if you were less dramatic about the difficulties of traveling between chez Harter and the known world, as in https://richardhartersworld.com/~cri/2006/flight.html and https://richardhartersworld.com/~cri_c/travel/italia.html. (I don’t count your tale of misplacing your passport on the way to Italy — having reached the age of XX without growing up, I suppose you can claim you’re no longer required to — but a 3-hour drive just to get to a feeder airport seems excessive.)
You get used to it. Remember that that same three hour drive is required to get to the nearest Barnes & Noble. The truth of the matter (or at least that truth to which I am willing to entertain) is that the difficulties are rather greater than might be suggested by my modest narratives.

Things are improving though. My mother used to forbid people from coming to visit her during the winter. I think she feared that they would get snowbound and that she would be stuck with them for the rest of the winter. What with global warming winters are milder here now. When I was a wee lad I recall it being 40 below a time or two. These days people actually think that 20 below is a cold spell.

As to the visitors you did get — well, you learn something every day. I knew Al was the sort of precisionist who did wonderful drawings of the complexities of assembling Dexion, but not that he was the sort of person who would drink sweet white wine with red meat. Some people’s tastes are Just Strange.
Let’s just say that it is an unusual preference.
PS: in searching for references for the above, I noticed that https://richardhartersworld.com/cri/2006/techcoed.html appears to be missing a line in verse 1. (The scansion is what it is throughout, but the lines don’t stretch/squeeze far enough for this.)
Good catch. There is a missing line four that reads “She always studied late, she never had a date” I will correct it in due course.
PPS: I’m surprised Peter Neilson didn’t spot the missing line…. —
I believe that flynnd is on an extended vacation.
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From: Bob King
Date: 12/22/2006
Subj: Dr Harter


Nothing new yet, but I will let you know if I learn anything.
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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 12/22/2006
Subj: Creationism



for Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ’s take on Creationism. In addition to being a Vatican astronomer and Curator of the Vatican Meteorite Collection, Brother Guy has a PhD in astronomy.

He was also a member of MITSFS and edited Twilight Zine #27.

He’s Special Guest at Boskone 44 in February 2007.

hang in there.

Brother Guy has the right of it, but then he so ofen does. Or not as the case may be – after all, past editors of TZ are all suspect, as are past editors of Stroon. I doubt that I shall make it out to Boskone, which is a pity. I would have liked to have met him. For what it is worth, give him my regards.
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This page was last updated January 22, 2007.
It was moved January 9, 2008

Site map
January 2007 TOC
Archived letters
Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck Capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2007!