Richard Harter’s World
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March 2008

Letters to the editor, March 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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 March 2008.

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From: Robert Carroll
Date: 18 March 2008
Subj: Bar Stools

Good Day,

I was just looking at your site, and I have a number of people within our network looking for Bar Stools. I do not work as a lead broker or a referral agency. I’m simply looking to direct my clients to one company’s site that can provide a good product.

So far your site looks like it’ll make a strong fit for my people. I can be reached at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Methinks you have me confused with someone else. There are some who say that much of the material on my website reads as though it were composed on a bar stool, but I have never heretofore been regarded as a source of bar stools. Be that as it may, you have my best wishes for the successful seating of the inebriates in your network.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 13 March 2008
Subj: where’s Peter Nielson when you expect him?

The old stuff on programming/SE/CS/… is interesting in both what it includes and what it leaves out. For instance, here’s the 2nd and 3rd(?) sentence from the quote at the top of It is the theoreticians who lead the way in the development of new computing technology and methodology. but the theoretical The foundations were well in Here it is March 13 and he hasn’t spoken up; is he feeling unwell, or perhaps just waiting for the Ideal moment?

Now, now, the mangled prose you cite is not mine – I was quoting from someone else. It would have been quite improper of me to have translated it to grammatical English, and probably impractical as well. I am sure you realize that Peter is a guardian of my editorial propriety and would not have made any such improper suggestion.

Be that as it may, any lack of corrections in the correspondence column is not due to Peter’s remissness, rather it was mine. Early in March he wrote a number of letters pointing out sundry piffling inconsequential typoes that have since been corrected. These letters are now on the site as part of the historical record.

I own that I have fallen behind, but I have my reasons. Our Lady of The Large Black Dog had insisted strongly that the bathroom should be next in the great remodelling project and that it should be done NOW. This was not quite as simple as it should have been. The scoundrels that redid the bathroom originally produced a floor that was distinctly non-euclidian. Laying tile on in involved some sordid experiences with a cement grinder and leveling compound.

Then there is the matter of the beautiful code. Quite some time, 1990 to be exact, I posted some code, a storage allocator, on usenet. Recently someone whose opinion I in no otherwise respect remarked that it was beautiful code. Now as it chances I wanted to create an updated and markedly improved version of that code, using the standards and practices of the twenty first century. That has been a little project of mine that has consumed quite a bit more of my time than I had planned. I only hope that I have in some small way lived up to my reputation of twenty years ago.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 11 March 2008
Subj: Punch, Brothers, Punch

Mr Harter,

Was it Mark Twain who wrote that story? I rather think it was, and I’m not going to bother looking it up. It’s merely the theme for what follows…

At this website:

and at this one:

can be found the words and a recorded performance of Arthur Roberts’ song, The Cyclotronist’s Nightmare.

I pass this information on to you in the hope that it might leave my brain. To understand why, listen to the mp3 of the song, and you may discover that the chorus needs the same treatment the Twain gave to Punch, Brothers, Punch.

There is a hidden agenda in all of this which may not come to light for a few months.


This is very scary. The evial one used to sing that song in his laboratory. It has been said that the only thing more disturbing than physicist’s humor is mortician’s poetry. I know it has been said for I have just said it. I await developments with trepidation.

Richard Harter

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From: Melissa Hirschi
Date: 16 March 2008
Subj: the Bra Poem

I am Bill’s daughter-in-law and I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know Bill Hirschi is who wrote the Bra Poem. He is an extremely talented cowboy poet and has written many, many other cowboy poems told only to close family and local social gatherings. “The Bra” no doubt is one of my favorites, but Bill has composed so many others that are just as awesome and better, (none of them ever being published). He seems to have a gift of going out and working with the cattle and horses, his wife, family and friends and then coming home sitting down and writing down the events of the day with a little of his humor thrown in and making it a hit for all of us lucky enough to hear it. Bill has written poems on many different subjects ranging from bra’s to Christmas and even some very special ones, dealing with the more serious side of things. People who hear him give his poems usually wind up with at least a few tears rolling down their cheeks either from laughter or from the touching spirit Bill has when he speaks. I think that’s what has made him so unforgettable to all those who have heard him including those like Waddie Mitchell.

Bill is and always has been a true cowboy thru and thru. Nothing about him is fake or made up. He writes about things he has lived and things he has seen, and I personally love him for it!

Thanks a lot, Melissa. There are a lot of wonderful things that circulate through the internet without proper attribution. It’s nice to get these things right. Your father is a wonderful poet – maybe you could get a collection of his poems printed up and present them to him as a Christmas present. What do you think he would think of that?
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From: Niels Martin
Date: 9 March 2008
Subj: Website suggestion


May I suggest our website for a possible inclusion on your website at

Our website:
Description: All about the term Sir in the UK

Please feel free to get a link back immediately using this form:

To link to us, you may use the following information:

Title: Monsieur and Sir
Description: All about the term Sir in the UK

This has to be one of the more unusual requests for a link that I have received. I don’t quite think that it would be appropriate for the Piltdown page, but I will mention it in my correspondence column.
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From:David Gill
Date: 7 March 2008
Subj: President of the United States

Mr. Harter,

I differ with your response to Mr. Hagar regarding the eligibility of George Washington to become President of the United States. General Washington was eligible because he was a citizen at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, not because he was born in Virginia. The U.S. Constitution sets out four requirements to become President of the Republic. The most commonly recognized are to be a natural born citizen (or a citizen at the time of adoption of the Constitution – a loophole I anticipate to be rarely used today), have attained 35 years of age and have lived in the United States for the previous 14 years. The fourth requirement is somewhat more elusive, but I anticipate that a person of your capacity will quickly intuit the requirement.

Regards, David Gill

I don’t have my copy of the constitution and its interpretation immediately hand. You are right in that he was eligible because he was a US citizen at the time of his election. But how, precisely, did he become a US citizen? IIRC the United States existed first as a congress of states and then as government of sorts under the articles of confederation. It seems to me that at that time the citizens of the United States were citizens by virtue of being citizens of some individual state, in Washington’s case Virginia, and that citizenship by virtue of birth.

The fourth requirement is somewhat elusive, there being several bodies that can elect a president, depending upon circumstances. The usual body is the electoral college, but the house of representatives undertakes the task upon occasion, and even the supreme court in a notable recent election.

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From: Paula Bright-Weiss
Date: 5 March 2008
Subj: Highmore

Dear Sir,

I just wanted you to know what happened to me tonight.

I was searching for the Rainwater Basin Wetland Management District and the Funk Waterfowl Production Area. I found the information I was looking for but continued to look at other waterfowl production areas just for fun.

This led me to The June Harter Waterfowl Production Area. I found this very interesting because I was in Highmore this fall for an auction with my Dad. Then I clicked on a link that led me to your web site. I started reading about you and realized you graduated with my father, Richard Bright. I called him. I also sent him the web address. It is so neat to start one place and end up somewhere so unexpected. I am sure I will return to you home page often.

Sincerely, Paula Bright-Weiss

Thanks very much for writing. As you might have noticed, my web site is eclectic, covering a wide variety of odds and ends. Not nearly as much has been done with making the public aware of my mother’s Waterfowl Production Area as I would like – it is a natural area for birdwatchers and nature walkers to visit.

I’ve only seen your father at a couple of high school reunions since we graduated. I will say this for him – he has aged remarkably well. Give him my regards when next you speak to him.

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From: Ryan Rosenau
Date: 1 March 2008
Subj: (no subject)


Now that’s what I like, a quiet gentleman.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 5 March 2008
Subj: mathmematical

Hunt for that word on your web pages.

Fair enough. I found two entries. How many did you find?

Richard Harter

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 5 March 2008
Subj: Handling storage allocation failure in C

You have asked yourself this question:

“But what, the skeptic says, do we do want to do something special such as retrying with a smaller size or using an alternative less memory intensive algorithm?”

The Grammar Police suggest that you had an unchecked storage allocation failure while writing that question. You might have intended, “…do we >do when we want to do…,” but the excess of Dewey’s doo-doo remains.

I take it that this is a case of of the foggy, foggy do.
I leave the refactoring of the paragraph to the author.
I did a bit of refactoring, and shall have it up anon. I haven’t bothered to translate it into English, that being beyond my poor capabilities.
Have you ever considered the question of the development of a general test harness for testing test harnesses? Googling for “testing test harnesses” produces no valid results.
That’s a good question. The obvious objection is that anything that tests a test harness should be in the test harness In reply, clearly the test harness test tests the test coverage of test harnesses, i.e., it is testing the test harness testing. Those that do not pass the test would be detested. I will include this subject in my agenda of projects to be completed in the latter half of this century.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 5 March 2008
Subj: Production quality

What are eespects, as mentioned in your afterword?

I am surprised that you ask. As should be obvious respects are repeated spects. As should be obvious to anyone knowledgable in computer science, eespects are electrical engineering spects.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 5 March 2008
Subj: Decline of ARL?

Mr Harter!

After reading certain contributions to your lettercol, I feel grave, not amused. I must be a snark, not a pundit. Several possibilities suggest themselves:

1. The general quality of your website is dropping, in spite of our joint effort on correcting grammar and spelling.

I am not certain whether it is possible for the general quality of my website to have dropped.

2. My ability to appreciate good humor has been ruined by years of subscribing to Joe Ross’s re-toiled jokes.

Don’t blame Joe for the quality of his jokes. He gets them from various mailing lists and reprints them. I suspect his sources do the same thing. There is a huge stock of these stories that circulate endlessly. Joe is not famed for his sense of humor, but he does essay an attempt at wit now and then. When he does the results are, ah, quite oritingal.

3. ARL is absorbing Joe’s joke-telling abilities through the luminiferous aether.

It’s a good guess, but quite incorrect. As you may know the evil one has been jaunting off to Asia, first to China and then to Japan. Since his latest return he has been going through withdrawal symptoms and is quite disoriented.
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From: Roger Hagar
Date: March/1/2008
Subj: a question

Hello there …
I had an argument with a friend on the question , do a
Jew can be elected as president of U.S.A.
I – in my memory , a Jew can’t be a candidate by law – he said
, no , only a native can be – I wonder if George Washington was a
native …

any answer we will appriciate I hope this helps,

To be eligible to be President you have to be a native born citizen. What this means is that you were born in the United States – this not only includes the various states, it also includes posessions and territories.

George Washington was a native born citizen because he was born within one of the states that formed the union.

Of course, a Jew can be president. Whether one is native born or not has nothing to do with their religion. There has never been a Jewish president; however there could have been. Barry Goldwater, who ran for President in 1964, was half Jewish.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 21 February 2008
Subj: Channelling Dr. Flynn

Mr Harter!

Your mother’s webpage has a newspaper article and a dedication brochure. The typographical errors in each are no doubt of historical necessity, but I’ll point them out disregardless.

The news article contains both the word camoflaged and the word camoflauged. One trembles at the thought of being camoflauged.

The brochure contains not only the word “Lookjng” but also this paragraph:

“In 1907 Mary came north, and the couple began life together in Hyde County. Life in those days was hard. Their initial quarters were a one building with a lean-to used as a kitchen; the kitchen ceiling was an oilcloth tacked over the stringers. They persevered. In 1910 they built a story and a half ranch house, and in 1913 they built a big new barn.”

One surmises that “a one building” ought to have been “a one-room building” or perhaps simply “one building”. The Grammar Police also recommend that the story and the half ranch house be combined into a story-and-a-half ranch house.

History is meant to be rewritten; it was never true in the first place. You and I know that the errors you pointed out existed. I fear that all my other readers will not, since I mean to correct them before posting your letter.

Always remember, Big Sister Loves You.

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From: John Kennedy
Date: 18 February2008
Subj: Chutes Request

At 05:29 AM 2/18/2008 -0800, you wrote: HELLO SIR/MADDAM


Sorry John, I don’t carry cattle chutes. With luck, maybe one of the other people you wrote has them.
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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 22 February 2008
Subj: A joke

Dear Mr. Harter,

perhaps you have already heard this…

A man who owned a Chinese restaurant awoke in the night and, feeling amorous, nudged his wife and whispered “how about some sixty-nine?”

To which she replied: “Why you want chicken with broccoli at three in the morning?”

Keep up the good work.

I hadn’t heard it nor had I read it. It’s a completely different version of a very old joke.
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From: Meredy Amyx
Date: 17 February 2008
Subj: The Densa quiz

>Hi there–to answer your question at long last: no, I don’t think John had anything to do with the Densa quiz. He came up with Densa, and the idea of Densa spawned a lot of things of various origins.

I’d been in Mensa for some time when Densa was born, and I knew it well. If there’d been anything like Densa around, I’d have known it. It was John’s brain child. But he never tried to hang onto it, and anything could have happened to it from there. The fact that it seems obvious after the fact doesn’t mean it wasn’t original when he introduced it.

Thanks for the followup. It seems likely enough that John was the first. I think that you and I would agree that there must be somebody who thought of it first. On the other hand, I once wrote a little fiction that suggested that not all would agree with that thesis.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 14 February 2008
Subj: Statistics

As you know, one is always admonished in one’s science education to present measurable scientific information. “If it’s not numbers, it’s not science.” Well, here’s a number for you…

I have just learned of a study that shows that 71.58% of the statistics that are quoted in papers, studies and on the internet are simply made up out of thin air!!!

This (scientific) information may be of help to you in your discussions with creationists.

It would were it not for the error bars on that interesting statistic. If I am not mistaken (and I so seldom am in these matters) the error range is (-71.58%, +28.42%). Still creationists are not wont to admit error and, at least the dryer ones, are never found in bars, so perhaps it doesn’t matter.
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From: Tom Davis
Date: 13 February 2008
Subj: mongoose box

do you happen tohave plans foran “operational” Mongoose Box?

Alas, no I don’t, and it is the sort of thing that I should have. Judging from my google search, there is surprisingly little material on mongoose boxes on the internet. For example, there isn’t an entry in wikipedia. If I come across some plans or if I decide to go ahead and build one, I will let you know.
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From: Bassam Saeed
Date: March/1/2008
Subj: Integer increment

Hi, Is there absolutely no difference is the operations of ++i or i++

Yes there is, but it depends on the context. In the following statements there is no difference:
This is because the value of i is not used in these statements. Consider these statements:
   x = ++i;
   x = i++;
In both statements i will be one greater after the statement is executed. In the first statement x will have the value after i is incremented; in the second statement x will have the value before i is incremented. As a practical matter, you should only use pre and post decrement operators in simple and clear cut ways; the rules governing their usage in complicated expressions are baroque.
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From: Anthony David
Date: March/1/2008

Dear Sir/Madam,

Firstly, I would like to introduce myself to you, I am Anthony David, I am work with Crown Royal Windsor Plc, here in London. I am looking for a dependable individual that I can trust, someone who is wiling and honest enough to carry out this transaction with diligent to the best of his/her ability.

I normally travel to Holland to purchase a Product Called RHINOMUNE®Injectable.The RHINOMUNE®Injectable is for vaccination of healthy horses 3 months of age or older as an aid in preventing respiratory disease caused by equine herpes virus type 1 (EHV-1). RHINOMUNE is prepared by growing an attenuated strain of EHV-1 on an equine cell line. The RHINOMUNE®Injectable contains 10 bottles in a carton. Each bottle contains 25ml.

RHINOMUNE®Injectable product is recommended to be used for horses only. These products are rare and in high demand here in Britain, it was introduce to our company by a Chinese friend, Mrs. Christina Tan a veterinary in Holland, who gave me a sample for test on my last visit to Holland. I have searched to a conclusive point that this said product is specifically found in Holland. Now this is the deal, my company has issued an LPO for the purchase of this product in large quantity (My company will in turn sell the purchased products to other retailer here in London), since I am the marketing manager of my company, the letter has been issued directing that I should get the products in question. But I want to do is get a dependable person that will stand in as the seller of this products, and the reason I am looking for such person is simple.

The actual selling price from the dealers in Holland is $2,700 per pack (my company is not aware of this, they believe it is sold for $5000) while it is sold here in Britain at the rate of $5700 to Veterinary Companies. Meanwhile I don’t want my boss to go directly to the dealer because the company has allocated $5000 per pack to purchase the product ( we stand a chance of making $2,300 from every pack we sell to my company, while my company would be making a total of $700 per pack from selling the product to other veterinary companies) My appeal to you is for your assistance, to get the product from the dealers then re-sell to our company at the stipulated price as stated above; thereafter the profit will be shared base on 60/40% percentage. I am unable to travel for now after a bad vehicle accident; I have no intentions on losing out in profit as I need it to pay up my hospital bills. It has seriously drained me. With that I was hoping that a reliable person can assist me in supplying my company.

Anthony David
4 Mowat Industrial Estates
Sandown Road
Watford Hertfordshire WD24 7UY.
United Kingdom.

I appreciate the offer, Anthony, but I rather fancy that if I were to take you up on your offer it would be me that would be a horse’s ass.

PS: I like your address.

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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 6 February 2008
Subj: Lexophilia

Mr. Harter–this has probably been around for a while. Tony

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Police were called to a day care where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.

The short fortune teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A

The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did a number on it.

The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.

The dead batteries were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.

A bicycle can’t stand alone; it is two tired.

A will is a dead giveaway.

A backward poet writes inverse.

A chicken crossing the road : poultry in motion.

With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.

A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France, resulted in linoleum blownapart.

He broke into song because he couldn’t find the key.

A calendar’s days are numbered.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine .

When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dye.

Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.

Acupuncture: a jab well done

When I seek a chap who will relate humourous puns I seek a pundit.
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This page was last updated March 21, 2008.

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March 2008