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May 2009

Letters to the editor, May 2009

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 May 2009.

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Other Correspondence Pages

From: Peter Neilson
Date: 12 May 2009
Subj: Too many lawyers

You are receiving jokes from too many incarnations of Joe Ross. What’s worse, you are reprinting some of them without assessing blame. That he did not originate them does not absolve him. Or you.

Please consider showing attribution: “This joke received from A. Joseph Ross, Esq., who forwarded it mostly intact as he received it from someone else who forwarded it to him.”

But, but, but … it is one of the rules that one never gives an attribution for jokes that appear on the internet. I don’t know who made that rule, but everyone seems to know it and follow it.

Still there is something to what you say. I reckon Joe sends out upwards of a hundred a month. Of these I pick out five or six that I deem worthy of publication. Do you think I should change the department title from Humor to “Best of Joe Ross”? Your opinion on the solicitor is solicited.

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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 11 May 2009
Subj: Spelling

“Prairie Moments” not Pairie Moments” on your home page.



So it was. Shame indeed. Let that be a lesson to me not to make changes on my web site without enough coffee.
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From: Khalid El Amin
Date: 9 May 2009
Subj: Permission to repost

I’m contacting you in order to ask for your permission to translate parts of your article “The Piltdown Man” posted on . The translation will be to Arabic and will be posted on which is a sort of a wikipedia for the theory of evolution. The website is dedicated to counter creationist arguments and will base most of its information on relevant articles posted on . This website aims to spread the correct understanding of the theory of evolution among Arabic speaking individuals, especially with the current rise of Islamic creationism. No profit will be sought behind posting your aforementioned article and acknowledgment of your rights will be emphasized.

Your reply is greatly anticipated.

Thank you for your attention

You are more than welcome to reprint anything that you need. I wish you all the best in your efforts. Sites such as yours are very important. The people who profit from them are people who would otherwise be deceived by creationist arguments.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 4 May 2009
Subj: Sleep

If God intended us to sleep, why did he give us caffeine?

Good question. There is a caveat though. God wants you to work by the sweat of your brow. The caffeine is for help in getting through fourteen hours of hard labor.

… continued on next rock

Then what did I do all that extra work for?

To bed, Friday 23:59
Arise, Saturday 03:00, drink caffeine
Work all day hoisting kids onto ponies
To bed Saturday 23:59
Arise, Sunday 04:30, drink caffeine
Work all day hoisting kids onto ponies
To bed Sunday 22:30

Why can’t I get an easy job like setting concrete forms or maybe running a 27-mule combine? This “Job” stuff gets difficult. Can you explain Job? Did God give him caffeine? Or did Lucifer?

It’s the Lattes. You have to take your coffee straight. Once you start polluting your coffee with that white stuff your whole system goes into overdrive and it’s nothing but ponies, ponies, ponies, and kids, kids, kids, until your drop.

Job? It’s really very simple, Job got jobbed.

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From: Michele Chitson
Date: 27 April 2009
Subj: sliding minimum window

Hi there’s a bug in the code doesn&’t seem to work for n = 10 and k = 3. any ideas why?

The code is indeed broken; the problem is the recorded index should be the index when the element will be deleted from the window. See the C code below for the correct version. Incidentally, the analysis is a trifle cheesy. I will shortly replace the page with corrected code and analysis.

Thanks for calling this to my attention.

#include "stdlib.h"
struct pairs {
    int value;
    int death;
minwindow(int *in, int *out, int n, int k)
    int i;
    struct pairs * ring;
    struct pairs * minpair;
    struct pairs * end;
    struct pairs * last;
    ring = malloc(k * sizeof *ring);
    end  = ring + k;
    last = ring;
    minpair = ring;
    minpair->value = in[0];
    minpair->death = k;
    out[0] = in[0];
    for (i=1;ideath == i) {
            if (minpair >= end) minpair = ring;
        if (in[i] <= minpair->value) {
            minpair->value = in[i];
            minpair->death = i+k;
            last = minpair;
        } else {
            while (last->value >= in[i]) {
                if (last == ring) last = end;
            if (last == end) last = ring;
            last->value = in[i];
            last->death = i+k;
        out[i] = minpair->value;
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From: Erik Sigra
Date: 9 April 2009
Subj: Array rotation revisited

Thank you for fixing it. The problem that I was solving was a bit more complicated. I had to rotate a 2-dimensional map. So I had to rotate it vertically and then horizontally. So it uses the algorithm twice. Not only that, it is a triangular grid (see []), so I had to fiddle with odd and even rows. Maybe there are even better ways to solve this extended problem. Have you experimented with anything like that?

But it seems to be efficient enough for the data that it is currently used for. (By the way, the code is at [].) I have one more question. Would you allow us to include your document in our source code documentation? If not, I would just keep the link to it in the comment. But it would be better to have it included so that it is available even if the link would stop working or someone would get our source package and then try to understand while being without Internet access. We release the software under the GNU General Public License. Cheerily, Erik Sigra

My apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I have fallen behind due to the demands of work, family, citizenship, and general scatter brainedness. Yes, of course you may include a copy of the document in your documentation as long as it is properly attributed.

I did look at the problem of rotating a 2-dimensional map. Having two dimensions changes things quite a bit because the elements in the second dimension are not contiguous. In one dimension the double reversal wins because (a) the inner loop is very simple, and (b) it is cache friendly. However it is not cache friendly in the pass in the second dimension. It may pay to use the double reversal algorithm in the friendly dimension.

There is another thought that occurs to me. The pseudo code in the page is not particularly compiler friendly. That is, there are a number of standard tricks that optimizers use to improve performance. These include techniques such as loop unrolling, hoisting, and pipe-lining. One of the secrets of performance code is to structure code so that the optimizer can do its thing. I may have to revisit this issue yet again.

Incidentally, there is an algorithm for doing the two dimensional case in a single pass; my impression is that it would be more expensive. The general idea is to compute where the replacement for each element is coming from and walk through the cycles. If you can afford a tag bit its fairly straightforward; if not it gets a bit messy. I’m not sure whether it would be an improvement.

Again, my apologies for not replying sooner. I hope all goes well with your project.

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From: Rick Flores
Date: 16 April 2009
Subj: Piltdown 2003 listing update – DoD Buyers Guide


Complete or update information to list Piltdown 2003, as a supplier available for Department of Defense bid and sales opportunities in the 2009 Department of Defense Buyers Guide. The information on your company and products will be accessed by Federal and military purchasing agents and buying facilities.

THERE IS SAFETY IN MILITARY CONTRACTS- UNAFFECTED BY RECESSION –From the New York Times, Small Business Section March 26, 2009. Tells how many smaller businesses are prospering with Department of Defense and Military Contracts. Interesting story about a $1.5 million, Department of Defense contract for sports bras. The DOD buys everything and anything.

[snip remainder]

I think I will forward this email to the White House. I understand they are looking for ways to cut military spending. Now if I could just figure out some way to convert my pages on the Piltdown Man hoax into a military weapon I could be on easy street.
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From: Steve Ellis
Date: 18 April 2009
Subj: I Visited Your Website and Had a Question…

Hello, my name is Steve Ellis and I am an internet marketing specialist. I was looking at websites under the keyword religious store and came across your website I see that you’re ranked number 67 when doing a Google search for that term.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of why you’re ranked this low but more importantly how easily correctable this is. There’s no reason you can’t have a top three organic (natural) ranking for the keyword religious store based on your site structure and content. You have a very nice site.

You need significantly more one way anchor text backlinks to help improve your ranking. If you’re interested I can help you with this…I’m talking about getting you ranked for ALL your keywords. Adding new backlinks on a steady and consistent basis from high PR quality websites is what produces the rankings you are looking for with your website

The right kind of links are very critical in getting top rankings….and I can hand deliver these quality links to you. My partners and I have relationships established with thousands of websites and offer private linking to hundreds of website owners just like yourself.

[snip remainder]

I’m sure that Steve looked at my “website” (actually one page); how could you doubt it? Somehow though, I can’t see myself runing an on line religious store. It’s a pity. I’m sure I could run a very good one, and Steve is just the man to help me get it going. (See the page.)
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From: Thank you for registering!
Date: 13 April 2009
Subj: Chris McCann

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Chris, judging from the fact that you write strange emails to what you think are are strange women, you are a dirty old man. What is more, you are a very confused dirty old man.
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From: Gordon Lugard
Date: 17 April 2009
Subj: Nest of Kin

Date: Fri, 17 Apr 2009 12:49:28 +0200 (CEST) To: [email protected] Subject: Nest of Kin

Dear Sir,

I want you to act as the nest of kin of a deceased customer who has an unclaimed account with our Security Firm of US$10m. before his death.

Best regards,

Apparently you think that I am like Whitman and contain multitudes. Alas I have but a single nature.
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This page was last updated May 13, 2009.

Richard Harter’s World
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May 2009