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Letters to the editor, January 2008

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 2008.

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From: Ray Hanson
Date: 14 January 2008
Subj: Your web page

While strolling through the online pages of the So. Dak. Mag. imagine my surprise at seeing a picture of Richard Harter. I also found a link to your web page and here I am. There’s a lot of stuff to wade through but there is enough of my lifetime left so I think I’ll make it.

I’m going to have to write a lot more just so that you will have to live a lot longer. Remember, I’m counting on you as an audience.
About 4 years separate us so I’m thinking back to when I was probably 10 and you were 6. You had just gotten home from school and we were playing upstairs at your house and you were trying to explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to me. However I hadn’t solved the bed wetting thing yet.
I can’t imagine what my explanation of the theory of relativity must have been like when I was six. In fact, I’m not sure that I could give a good coherent explanation now. I more or less recall the equations and derivations of special relativity as long as I have a physics textbook at hand. As for general relativity, tensor equations just make me tense.
I try to spend as much time as I can steal, playing golf and I’m often reminded of your dad’s unique golf course carved out of a pasture. I’ve told the story many times of the sand greens, smoothing the path from the hole to my ball and proceeding to putt.
I miss the old sand greens. Nowadays they have disastro surf or some such. I play a little bit of golf on the local course when I get some free time. Unfortunately I’m retired which means that my supply of free time is limited.
Going to your house was always a treat when we were kids because you had electricity, thanks to the wind charger, which meant you had ice cream. I haven’t changed. I still like it.
So do I. Every once in a while I make ice cream, usually with real vanilla beans. However I don’t rely upon a wind charger for electricity. Given the way the world is going, maybe I should.
Well, I’m going to continue to wade through through this interesting mess of antecdotes, humor and philosophy. wish me luck!
I wish you luck. I hope you have lots of free time. It was a great pleasure hearing from you.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 14 January 2008
Subj: those bidets

Australian bidets, not French? Aren’t they afraid all the water will fall out?

Not at all. They use upside-down water.
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From: Nina Foster
Date: 14 January 2008
Subj: South Dakota Magazine

I was especially glad to see the part of the article that talked about all of you, the ranch and the picture of Richard! This is a magazine I will have to keep. Love, Nina

Aparently I am quite the local celebrity, at least for the moment. However the Highmore Herald ran a long article about the South Dakota Magazine spread about Hyde county. The Herald article included mentions of every one and every thing in the magazine article except yours truly. I guess the Herald wants to make sure that I retain my becoming modesty.
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From: Henryk Tomiak
Date: 13 January 2008
Subj: link exchang

Hi my name is Henryk I like to exchange the links.

My link:

Title: Best Bidets

URL: http://www.wonderfulbidet.com

Description: Bidet is personal cleansing method utilizing a stream of water, which is more hygienic and beneficial than the use of toilet paper. Air bubbling effect to feel relax refreshing and tidy cleaning.

Please send me your Title: URL: Description: on my email if you agree to exchange the links.

Hi Henryk

I don’t exactly have a links page – actually I do but I think it is disconnected at the moment – and in any event I don’t do link exchanges as such. Your site will be mentioned in my correspondence column though. Almost you tempt me to create a links page just for you. I am firmly of the opinion that more of my readers should be using bidets.

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From: JaNahn Barnhouse
Date: 1 January 2008
Subj: pizza recipe

I know this recipe was posted in 2001 but I’m trying to make it now. I’m having a problem with the sauce being watery. I’ve tried cooking it down and it still bakes up watery. You never had that problem? I love the chunky sauce but the juice is ruining my crust. Any suggestions? Thanks,

Hi again.
I just remembered. I couldn’t find the italian plum tomatoes so I just used whole tomatoes. Are they more juicy???? Just wondering if you think that might be the problem. Thanks,

I believe that’s your problem. Italian plum tomatoes are commonly called Roma tomatoes in American grocery stores. They’re pretty widely available.
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From: Duane Tash
Date: 1 January 2008
Subj: I enjoy your web site!!!

I discovered your web site recently, it is remarkably interesting!!!
Thanks, Duane Tash — *www.the-brights.net /illuminating and elevating the naturalistic worldview

Danke. In my experience the people who find my site to be remarkably interesting are particularly intelligent, insightful, and have excellent taste. I did take a look at the the-brights web site. It is interesting but not quite my thing. I fear (and hope) that intelligence will never be a mass movement thing.
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From: David M Fisher
Date: 11 january 2008
Subj: Broken link, also an idea for another page


The link for :The Alphabet Corner”, letters from the readers, is broken. I tried it and got an Earth Link 404 error. Don’t know if you are aware of the problem, or not.

I know your plate is full, but how about a nice salad of rabbit food on the side? Just an idea, but I think it would be Kool to have a page of “daffynitions” in the spirit of Ambrose Bierce.

Enjoyed your site, as usual, and wish you the best of good things for the coming year.

Oops. I moved the letters page and forgot to change the link on the home page. It’s fixed now. I hope.

My sources give me pages of punnish definitions as punnishment. However something on the style of Bierce might be nice. I will think about it.

And the best of all good things to you for the coming year.

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From: Mallam Nuhu Ribadu
Date: 8 January 2008
Subj: From EFCC Chairman!

Attn: Beneficiary,

My name is Mallam Nuhu Ribadu Chairman Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I hereby write to inform you that we have apprehended (59) Nigeria fraudsters who use government and bank officials names to defraud foreigners which your email address was involved in the scam list as a victim.

However, because of the criminal act, Mr. President Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar?adua of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has sympathized with scam victims and approved USD877, 000 to compensate each victim, and your payment will be made through a paying bank in Scotland.

Finally, I am waiting to receive your contact information such as:
1 your full name, ——————————
2 your contact address, ———————–
3 your private cell phone number, ————
As soon as you furnish me with the above information, it will help me to forward your information to the paying Bank in Scotland (ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND).

Have a nice day!

Mallam Nuhu Ribadu
Efcc, Chairman.

It’s a pity that I’m not a victim of a Nigerian scamster; however I’m certainly pleased to see that Nigerian government is stepping up to the plate – or not as the case might be.
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From: Anthony R. Lewis, FN, PhD
Date: 8 January 2008
Subj: Shame


you wrote

“In the meantime I’ve been using my little pickup. A few days before Xmas it’s battery went dead. This isn’t surprising – it mostly sits around waiting to be driven to the dump. I let it sit for a day and then charged it up. It’s a 1989 vintage vehicle so it can be fixed.”

IT’S battery? For shame (and shame on Peter N. if he doesn’t catch this one).


I am pleased to inform you that the typo you allude to does not exist in this space-time continuum.

… continued on next rock

Ah, the good old Memory Hole. Who controls the past controls the future. I assume that typo never did exist.

Just so. This really is a problem with oldspeak. It allows people to talk about things do not and never did exist. The “typo” only has/had a linguistic reality.
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From: Arnaldo Blondel
Date: 29 December 2008
Subj: please change your background from black to light green…

I like your writings, they are instructive, educational for me even.

Please, your texts appear in bold, please choose a non bold font appearance, it is easier to read.

Do you have any comments on Buddhism?

Please also put a search box in your website, I don’t see any.

And please change your background from black to light green… or any color where your text should be black and will come out most visibly.

Thank you; I’m pleased that you find them instructive and educational.

The issue of bold/plain is a, well, issue. (I will leave it to wiser heads than mine whether that should be “a” or “an”.) The truth is that I prefer bold on computer screens, at least in small texts. On most monitors I find plain text to be grayer than I like. On longer articles it is a bit overwhelming.

Be that as it may I can’t easily go back and alter the old pages. This is an old site that predated style sheets. Most of the HTML in my pages is generated by scripts that are then hand edited for content. As a result it is impractical to go back and do things like changing fonts en masse. One of my projects for 2008 is to do a bit of modernizing so we shall see. I promise nothing.

I would love to put in a search box. I haven’t found one that I like. There are little problems. If anyone has any good suggestions I would take it kindly.

I am a little surprised by your comments about black backgrounds. As far as I know there are only three pages or so (all dating from when the site was first created) that have black backgrounds with white text, those being the talk.origins page, the creationist FAQ, and the “I am infantry, Queen of battle” page, which doesn’t seem like an excessive number of pages out of the several thousand on the site. Perhaps there are more; I shall have to check.

No doubt there are many who are much more qualified than I to comment on Buddhism. Here, though, are a few comments.

Westerners tend to be attracted to Zen (the Japanese version) or its Chinese precursor. (I used to know the history of that tradition but that was long ago.) I opine that that is wise. Zen comes out of a branch that focused on practice rather than theory. As a result there is less cultural baggage to deal with.

It is really difficult for most Westerners to grasp how different the great Eastern religions are from Western religions. In the West the tropes of Christianity are pervasive; the language of Christianity is used by atheist and Christian alike. The tropes of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism are equally pervasive in the East, and are quite different from those of the West. What this means is that Eastern religious writings are regularly misunderstood by Westerners since the authors write within an Eastern context and the readers interpret within a Western context.

That said, Buddhism has a universality in the East not shared by the other great religions, in large part because it has no gods and no cosmology as such and hence can meld with local religions.

Another thought is that on the whole Buddhism is passive and apolitical. The consequences were major. For example, in Europe the warrior class (the nobility) was constrained by the Church whereas in Japan the warrior class (the Samurai) was not constrained by Buddhism.

Another political consequence is that in regions where Buddhism became dominant, significant percentages of the population resided in monasteries dedicated to contemplation. The consequence is that the areas in question tended to fall militarily. Thus, Buddhism in India was wiped out by the Islamic invaders and Tibet fell to the Chinese. The Mongols were tamed by the Chinese by sending in Buddhist missionaries.

All of that said, and it is much that might be said by any Westerner, I did attempt to study Mahayana Buddhism in my youth. The truth is that I was not equipped at the time to comprehend what I was reading.

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From: Addibeth
Date: 24 December 2007
Subj: Anastasia…

just read your confessions of an Anastasia Junky quite by accident (long story, suffice it to say) and thoroughly got a kick out of it…lol…felt compelled to let you know!

People find pages on my website in strange ways. Given the strangeness of the website that seems appropriate. You inspired me to reread the essay – I suppose that is what it is – and I rather immodestly enjoyed it. Personal babbling is an artform; sometimes I have pulled it off.

Be all of that as it may, I’m glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for writing.

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From: Victor Katkowski
Date: 23 December 2007
Subj: (none)

[email protected]

Er, I already know my email address. Perhaps you meant to write a bit more, or else meant to write to someone else?
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From: Robin Gleaves
Date: 20 December 2007
Subj: The Cold Equations

Spot on analysis of the Godwin story. I recently read it in “The ascent of wonder: the evolution of hard SF” and couldn’t believe the incongruity between Gunn’s quote in the intro and the actual story.

A certain amount of philosophic pretentiousness has been a staple in writings about science fiction.
I was so miffed that I was going to re-write the ending – it’s clear as you say that you could easily strip her body weight equivalent from the vessel -clipboards, the blaster, clothes, boots – and here using the word strip immediately brings other possibilities – a young girl stripped with a hour to live – and then the fixtures – doors, instrument panels etc until the situation was resolved. My twist would then have been the oxygen alarm warning going off as they bask in a post-coital glow! Although this is marginally better than the original, it simply confirms the science versus engineering comments (i.e no margin for safety) and if we could have gotten into space then I’m sure we would be able to recycle respired air. Perhaps the real story should be the “Cold-hearted B@stard” – he tells the naive, young, nubile stowaway about the rules, she reacts badly, he has his wicked way and then she finds out that she’s been duped. Gosh this really makes me sound like a pervert.
If you say so; offhand your version sounds like something from Sexy Science Stories.
The reason I googled it and found you was that I was so annoyed by Gunn’s comments – they really categorise the SF-reader as a geek, mirroring the “cold logic” of Mr Spock in Star Trek when real intelligence, as any smart kid watching could have spotted, should involve solving the problem however pragmatically rather than inflexibly sticking to false notions of logical deduction. “A tautology, Captain”.

I’ll look out for the Cold Solution now.

Thanks for bothering to write it all up. Do you have any recommendations of SF stories that really do exhibit cold equations – i.e. are rationally-based and demonstrate the cold impersonal existence of the universe? I guess the point of even these would be that humans would still try illogical acts of courage (against the odds) to survive. I can only think of medical ones – a diabetic in a plane crash with only one dose of insulin and a 10 day walk from civilisation or those stories of falling into the water in Siberia where its so cold that to get out is to die and to stay in is to die. The latter though would be so quick that there would be no real build up or suspense in the story and in the former a slump into a coma is not as dramatic as willingly stepping into an airlock.

I started a thread about your question in the usenet group, rec.arts.sf.writtem, but I haven’t got many suggestions. There are some obvious non-sf examples, e.g., “To build a fire” by Jack London. If I come up with any good ones I will pass them on to you. The difficulty in producing examples probably has something to do with putting boundaries around the question.
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From: Rosalyn Scruggs
Date: 6 December 2007
Subj: Whatever

They shall be no more than.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 19 December 2007
Subj: cats et al

The old 7:1 for dog years was IIRC based on dogs living somewhat harsher lives than they do now — and, for that matter, on the assumption of a Biblical three-score-and-ten when the human average (due to the abovementioned harshness) was also rather less. I haven’t paid attention to enough dogs to even guess, but for cats I’d estimate at most 5:1, maybe 4:1 based on the ones I’ve known of.

That sounds about right; the infinitely evil Jimmy is 16 or 17 (no one really knows) and is showing the edges of his mortality.
Interesting correspondence from the eponymous Spehn; I recall the abstentions but not any explanation for them. Some customs hang on longer than others; SBLL joined Spehn for some years but was gone over a decade ago. I find myself wondering whether the MIT Musical Theater Guild still presents the Eliot Moss award “for technical sabotage with the best of intentions”. (Moss was the prop master for _Company_ (1972), which requires a full plateload of brownies; after seeing the plateload evaporate under adolescent appetites, he made a batch in which the specified water was replaced with onion and garlic extracts and added lots of salt. He got the word to almost everyone, but not to the person who had to eat one onstage.) CCA consulted this Moss back when I was working for Don Eastlake and Leslie Turek; he was rather pleased to be remembered, even if strangely, and brought a plate of unmodified brownies.
That would be a serious testng of one’s acting ability.

I hadn’t thought about this before. Some people chase fame and live unrequited. Sometimes it is found on the unchosen path; one merely need but be the subject of a good story.

… continued on next rock …

RH: “That would be a serious testng of one’s acting ability.”

It would have been if there were any to test. From what I saw, the performer in question was one of the singers brought in from New England Conservatory because the music was judged too difficult for MIT students. (Sondheim showed up for one of the performances but fled halfway through.

Snicker. My bad for making unwarranted assumptions.
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From: Lee Ness
Date: 22 December 2007
Subj: Sidney, Montana

Sidney is not in the northwest corner of Montana, it is in the NORTHEAST corner

Would you settle for next to the northwest corner of North Dakota? I suppose not. Very well, I shall have to make a correction. In my defense I must point out that I know very well where Sidney is; I just get East and West mixed up every now and then.
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From: Appolonia
Date: 20 December 2007
Subj: Whatever

Hello Dear!

My name is miss Appolonia i saw your profile today at (http://www.bertc.com/index.html) and became intrested in you,i will also like to know you the more,and i want you to send an email to my email address so i can give you my picture for you to know whom i am.

Here is my email address ******. I believe we can move from here! I am waiting for your mail to my email address above.

(Remeber the distance or colour does not matter but love matters a lot in life)

I’m sure Appolonia is a fine young lady or, if she is actually a he (one never knows about these things on the internet) a fine young man. Still, he or she as the case may be seems to be a bit confused. For example, she/he seems to think that my name is Chris Kovin. I’m fairly certain that that can’t be right – I’ve always believed that my name is Richard Harter. If it isn’t I’ve been badly deceived by my mother.

Then, too, Appolonia said that she read my profile at Bert Christensen’s website. Now Bert’s website is an excellent site but it doesn’t have profiles or chat rooms. (I appreciate that some of my readers are not aware that a web site might not have a chat room – I know it sounds odd but there it is.) No doubt Appolonia read my profile somewhere – probably from a leaked CIA file – and thought of me when she encountered my name on Bert’s site.

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This page was last updated January 23, 2008.

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