Richard Harter’s World
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September 2010

Letters to the editor, September 2010

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 from the late spring and the summer of 2010. It is being credited as the September 2010 correspondence.

Index of contributors

Other Correspondence Pages

From: Tim DeLaney
Date: 17 August 2010
Subj: Gas cylinder safety

You commented:

I sort of assumed that they must have been stored on a shelf and so could fall off of it. After all, simply falling over isn’t likely to snap the valve. In O2 bottles the valves are made out of sturdy metal – they have to be to handle pressure. Then again, I could be full of hooey. Do you think we could get mythbusters to do a special on cylinder rockets?
I worked all my life in the compressed gas industry, and I can assure you that the cylinder valve itself is indeed a weak link, and must be protected. As you suggest, it’s quite sturdy, and is never in serious danger of failing from the pressure in the cylinder. (The safety device, a frangible disk, can fail on occasion, but rarely causes serious injury.) But most valves are constructed of brass, and if the cylinder falls in such a way that the valve strikes something before the cylinder stops falling, it could easily snap off.

Having said that, such an event is rare, but when it happens, the results are scary. A full size cylinder at full pressure would accelerate at (very roughly) 1G initially if the valve were snapped off. (A smaller cylinder would accelerate faster, but having less mass, is unlikely to be in a valve shearing accident.) But it doesn’t happen often because if a cylinder falls while on a flat surface, the valve strikes only empty space.

The high pressure cylinder itself is almost impervious to catastrophic failure from external causes. For example, if a fully pressurized high pressure cylinder (with its valve protected by a cylinder cap) were to be thrown from a three story building, it would easily survive. But cylinders can fail catastrophically during the filling process if they have been damaged and the damage is not noticed by the worker filling the cylinder.

One such incident is almost spooky; this is a true story.

Leonard Nimoy, of Mr. Spock fame, was the narrator of a safety film commissioned by Union Carbide (probably) in the early 1970’s. The theme of the film was that on Tuesday, May 19, 1981, a certain person ignored a DOT (Department of Transportation) regulation, thereby causing a serious accident. There were several (perhaps 10 or so) fictitious incidents that were detailed, all occuring on Tuesday, May 19, 1981. If you viewed this film, as I did, that date would be permanently etched in your brain. It really was an excellent film, .

On Tuesday, May 19, 1981, in Keasbey New Jersey, a technician named Lorenzo was filling a trimethylamine (could have been another amine; memory imperfect) cylinder, a relatively low pressure cylinder that, by DOT regulation, should have received an inspection for corrosion. Now following DOT regulations in our industry is almost a religious obligation; they are sensible, detailed, and very competently researched. You don’t just live with DOT regulations. You live by them.

During the filling process, the cylinder bottom failed, and the extremely corrosive product caused severe, almost fatal, chemical injuries to Lorenzo. It was the worst accident in our industry (specialty gases) in many years. Many years later, I spoke to the chief safety guy in our company about this weird coincidence. He seemed convinced that something supernatural had occurred.

I hadn’t thought about the valves being snapped off in an accident. This may be why the DOT never asked me to write any of the regulations.

The accident with Lorenzo is fascinating. I thought a bit about how improbable it actually was. I opine that weird coincidences like this one happen regularly. The essence is that (in a fictional setting) someone mentions a freak accident happening on some date in the future that might only happen once in the next thirty years. How likely is it that it would happen on the mentioned date? The odds are about 10,956 to 1. Improbable as a single event? Yes. None-the-less such improbable coincidents happen all the time.

That’s one way to look at it. Another is that Nimoy played a character in an SF TV series that featured time travel from time to time. (You should excuse the expression.) Perhaps the script writer was a time traveller with a puckish sense of humor.

Either explanation sounds plausible to me.

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From: Lee R Piazza
Date: 18 August 2010

June never happened.
July never happened.
August is making a brave show of defiance

Is the above why, though I sent you e-mail in July it arrived/will arrive, Sept 1st?

It will have arrived September 1st, yes. (English was invented by people with the most superficial understanding of time machines.) Unfortunately our finances here at the reality repair shop are not all they should be, so some of our equipment is a trifle makeshift. Thus our Temporal Adjustment Device is a TAD irregular. It doesn’t help that all of our manuals are on Sumerian clay tablets. We are having some difficulty getting the settings correct on our combination universal translater/printer. Alas, the translater/printer manual is also on clay tablets. We make do, though, and I am certain that the problems with your correspondence will sort themselves out.

Richard Harter,
Supervisor, Hyde County Reality Shop

PS: If this message arrives in German, do not translate using Babelfish. We cannot be responsible for the consequences.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 12 August 2010
Subj: Whatever happened to Ernie? (Another story, as promised)

Below, Peter had written:

(Similarly, my late Uncle Ernie is still at work ensuring safety of compressed-gas cylinders, but that’s another story.)
Uncle Ernie worked at Raytheon. He was a machinist or something like that. It was a union shop, probably IBEW.
IBEW. Once upon a time I worked at Raytheon
Raytheon had, and probably has to this day, strict safety rules. One of the simplest rules concerned compressed gas cylinders. Either the cylinder’s steel hood was screwed on tightly, or the cylinder was chained to the wall.

Why? Let’s consider what might happen if an unprotected cylinder were to fall off. The valve on top could strike the wall or a bench, and break off. The cylinder would become a rocket. Most of us have a pretty good idea what a rocket will do. In this case there would be no guidance system. The rocket would go in whatever direction it anthropomorphically felt like. The speed? 200 miles per hour is a good guess.

Just so. Reminds me of driving school. Think about all those oxygen tanks that people with breathing problems trundle about with them. Think about the combination of an unsecured tank and an automobile accident.
How to prevent this accident? Raytheon assigned each cylinder to an individual employee. If it were ever found out of proper configuration. the employee was Fired On The Spot! And the Union agreed. They would not stand up for any member who so callously would put other members’ lives at risk.

But what (I hear you ask) about someone sabotaging someone else’s cylinder to get him fired? Well, if it were your cylinder, you would watch it Very Carefully, wouldn’t you! Maybe even turn on a bit of creative paranoia.

Now Uncle Ernie told me all about this policy maybe 35 years ago. He’s passed on to the Great Machine Shop In The Sky, but he’s still hard at work, protecting people from gas cylinders.

How? Whenever I visit a grocery store and see helium-filled balloons for sale, I think of Uncle Ernie and I inspect the disposition of the helium tank. Properly chained? Likely not. I ask to speak to the manager. “Hi, you are so lucky. I’m not from OSHA and I’m not from the fire department. I’m just me. I can’t fine you $10,000 for a safety violation.” I go through the whole explanation, and usually credit Uncle Ernie for inspiring me to my unpaid task.

Unpaid. I wish there were a way to make money out of this work. No, I don’t want to work for OSHA.

You are a good man, Peter, and you do your uncle credit. Though to tell the truth, when I hear “Uncle Ernie” it triggers a flashback to Tommy. Mind you, I don’t think any such thing. It’s just one of those random connections.

… continued on next rock

Above Peter had written:

Why? Let’s consider what might happen if an unprotected cylinder were to fall off.
Um, George Flynn says that should have been “fall over”. George is hard at work, too, in the same space where Ernie is.
I sort of assumed that they must have been stored on a shelf and so could fall off of it. After all, simply falling over isn’t likely to snap the valve. In O2 bottles the valves are made out of sturdy metal – they have to be to handle pressure. Then again, I could be full of hooey. Do you think we could get mythbusters to do a special on cylinder rockets?
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From: William Board
Date: November/1/2010
Subj: Face upon the floor

I also memorized it in college at the university of Colorado . We went to central City many times from Boulder. I love the poem and can recite it flawlessly, if I have had only 2 beers

Or a glass of wine. Once a group of us were at restaurant in Deadwood. My sweetie insisted that I recite it for our friends. I was about half way through it when the waiter arrived to take our orders. Once he had left I resumed the recitation from where I had left off. I didn’t think much of it at the time but apparently this made an impression.

Anyway, I am quite certain that there is something special about the poem and the people who love it.

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From: juliana upeh
Date: 10 August 2010
Subj: hi


My name is Juliana,i saw your profile today in ( and became intrested in you,i will also like to know you 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 (ADDRESS DELETED)

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 alot in life)

Well, Juliana, this is all very fascinating and I’m sure we would have had a wonderful relationship if it weren’t for the fact that I already am in a wonderful relationship. There are a few odd things though, about your letter that puzzle me.

As far as I know, doesn’t have profiles. Perhaps you found me somewhere else.

Another puzzlement is that your email was sent to “undisclosed recipients”. I suppose I must be the only person on your list. After all, I am the most charming, witty, wise, and fascinating contributor to, so I can’t imagine there would be anyone else to have caught your fancy once you noticed me. Surely, though, it would have been simpler to address me by name.

By the way, did I mention that I am famed for my modesty?

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From: Silvia Marlen
Date: 08 Aug 2010
Subj: eneqq 1xf


Is this that texting thing that I keep hearing about?
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From: Jonny Trimboli
Date: 03 Aug 2010
Subj: Oh my god..

I know that you probably get a shit ton of emails, but i just wanted you to know that I love your article about arguing. oh my god.. please please pleeasseee keep writing.

Well it’s not actually mine, you know. I just run the website. Sometimes I find good stuff, sometimes I just write it.

Anyway thanks for writing. I’ll do my best.

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From: Ramesh
Date: 2 August 2010
Subj: Fabulous

I just wrapped up my GMAT a few days ago and did a dismal and unexpected 4.0 on an argument analysis section. While googling around, lost in deep sorrow, nursing a terrible ego-jolt, and searching for “how to argue”, I hit upon your nifty little blog on arguments. Had me roaring in splits, forwarding it to bunch of other people and eventually reading many other sections. Given the sarcasm-hungry animal that I am, I find your site absolutely awesome!

p.s. Also cool that you seem to be a coder as well. We are much too maligned for being much too boring.

My mind has many mansions, most of them ramshackle shacks.

Thanks for the kind words; those are the kind of words I like to read.

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From: Lurline Cari
Date: 07 Aug 2010
Subj: bgr br7


Are you sure about that? I always thought it was lo as in

The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly – and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

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From: Darren Nuroski
Date: 2 Aug 2010
Subj: Briefing


I am Darren Nuroski. I have a legitimate business proposal for you.
for more details. ← This sentence no verb


My Regards,
Darren Nuroski.

My dear Darren Nuroski,

I am delighted to hear from you. Unfortunately I am already very busy with a profusion of business endeavours so I cannot possibly devote time to your incredibly worthy proposal.

May I suggest a simple alternative. Why don’t you draft an agreement sharing the profits 50%-50% with me. As a show of good faith please send me $9,990 is small unmarked bills. My address is a matter of public record; you should have no trouble finding it.

Richard Harter

PS: Please do not send by mail. The postal inspectors, you know.

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From: Lee R Piazza
Date: September/1/2010

You must have the best fences in S.Dakota(Nebraska too). Here it is almost August and were looking at May which at least was published in May as opposed to March that was published in April(or was it the reverse?).

Some YEARS ago you said you would be adding to the Reincarnation Game.

Er, well yes, I did say something about that, didn’t I. At the time I in the midst of the trials and tribulations of the daughter of a Barbarian chieftain. Her life is one of the those complicated things where there are seemingly endless choices. There are two great choices in her life – does she stay within the tribe or does she leave the tribe and study martial arts with the Sisters of the Sword.

At this remove in time I have no idea what happened to her in her sojourn in the Empire with the Sisters of the Sword. I suppose I shall have to think of something.

I should also finish my epic poem, “The Troll Queen”. Her majesty has been awaiting the arrival of her lover quite some time now.

As to the delay in publication, this is our summer of no content. However September will happen. I have decreed it.

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From: Dr Murray Goulden
Date: 28 Jul 2010
Subj: Piltdown man

Dear Richard

A few years ago now I emailed you asking for information on Piltdown Man, for research I was conducting for my PhD. I was just googling myself today (again research purposes… ahem) and came across the email I sent you that’s listed on your site. I thought you might be interested to know that Ive since had a couple of papers on Piltdown published, and assuming that you’re still updating the page, they might be worth linking to.

I would be happy to add links to them. Congratulations on getting your PhD. And, of course, we all understand that googling ourselves is fundamental essential research. We researchers are a dedicated lot.
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From: Mary Beth
Date: 20 July 2010
Subj: Broken link


Your humor archive link doesn’t work. Didn’t know if you were aware of it.

Mary Beth

My apologies for not answering sooner. Ooops. At some point in the past I switched from having one archive to having an archive for each year. I never noticed that I broke links in the process. It shall be fixed.
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From: Jay Burton
Date: 16 July 2010
Subj: The ‘old’ melodrama

Not sure how I found your website, but I do know I was searching for Rockerville “stuff”.

My grandparents ran the Rockerville Trail Motel and the gas station. I also was in the melodrama as a boy……this was in the ‘new’ wooden structure across the street from the ‘old’ tent structure. I was Tobias Ragg in “Sweeney Todd….the 3 penny Opera”……..

I also was a wrangler at the Rockerville Trail rides up the back road. I also was the outlaw/robber that ‘attacked’ the stage coach.

Much more to remember…….about those days.

Thanks for writing. It sounds as though there was more to Rockerville in your day than in mine. There was a certain magic about the old Rockerville melodrama.

I haven’t been there for lo these many years. It’s always problematic visiting places that were a part of your memories. Times change, and what once was there has been gone long ago.

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From: Bettie Masse
Date: 8 July 2010
Subj: Greetings, Joe Saad Harter

My name is Bettie Masse.

Our Corporation introduces a brand new vacant position in your region. Our corporation is one of the rated multi-national holdings with departments at EuropeanUnion.

– Up to USD4,000 monthly salary (up to USD30,000 In case you are incorporated)
– Your salary from each transaction is credited the same moment as wire transfer is cleared
– 100% official business. No WU/MoneyGram. No cheques cashing

Main actions :
-Accepting and processing money wire transfers
-wire transfers keeping and Corporation representing

PS: This is not a customer service vacant position. In case you are interested to learn more or have any inquiries please reply to this email.

Best regards, Bettie Masse

That sounds wonderful, Bettie. I certainly could use an extra $4000 a month. Unfortunately I’m Richard Harter and you were writing to Joe Saad Harter. That’s just my luck. I get a sniff of the big bucks but they never come my way.

The guy I’m sorry about is poor Joe. He missed his chance because you sent the email to the wrong guy. Now what you should do is get hold of him and find out if he is still interested. It’s the right thing to do.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 6 July 2010
Subj: more missing stuff not found

Most of your “Harters on the Web” go to some sort of 404 land. Time for new research. Or perhaps you don’t have time for new research.

I think it is past time to get rid of that page. Harters are an unreliable bunch. They move around, they keep changing their web sites and their email addresses, and there are just too many of them.

As it is, I don’t have time for new research. Hell, I don’t even time for old research.

PS: Don’t mind me, I’m just catching with the universe.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 6 July 2010
Subj: Whatever happened to June?

No, not your mother. She’s still busy taking care of the waterfowl. (Similarly, my late Uncle Ernie is still at work ensuring safety of compressed-gas cylinders, but that’s another story.)

I’m referring to the June issue of Richard Harter’s World, the July issue of which is already overdue. Have you no sense of social responsibility? Thousands of people are poking aimlessly about the internet, looking at random worthless material. You have failed them.

Social responsibility!!??? None, sir, none at all. What is worse, August went down the drain too. However September is in the cards. You know the phrase, “summer of discontent”? I got confused and ended up with “summer of no content”.
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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 5 July 2010
Subj: Making liars of high school science teachers


This is another thing they told us we would never be able to see.

It’s a wonderful picture. Speaking of high school science teachers, mine told us that atoms were made of protons and electrons. I asked about neutrons. He said he wasn’t going to talk about them because they weren’t in the text book.
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From: Robin Jackson
Date: 3 July 2010
Subj: hilariously sick and twisted…

perfect for my family.



You are a small sick child who has lost her way in a wicked world.
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From: Fred Walker
Date: 24 Jun 2010
Subj: ORDER………….

Good Day

Am Fred Walker i want to know whether you carry (Saeco Primea Touch) in stock for sale if you do so email me with the sizes and the price range on that so that i will know the quantity to offer .Awaiting for your prompt reply.

Fred Walker.

I’m sorry, we’re strictly a cafe americano shop here.
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From: Tim Rentsch
Date: 19 June 2010
Subj: Splitting a source code file

Hi Richard,

I’m curious to hear if you ever settled on an approach to solve your source code file division problem. I was thinking of posting something, but it may be a little late, and I realized I didn’t know enough about your environment to target a solution effectively.

best regards,
Tim Rentsch

Hi Tim,

One of the issues is that defining the environment is part of the process. Here, hopefully, is a brief summary of the situation:

The whole thing is part of a (slowly) on going project. The original genesis was the specification of a programming language I called San. Here is a link to the specification.

There are a lot of interesting ideas in there, some good, some not so good. One of the ideas is the section on agents. I quote:

A San program (execution process) consists of agents that are separate, independent threads of control. Unlike threads in many implementations of theads, agents do not share data. One can, if one likes, think of an agent as being a mini-process.
In short the nascent San language would provide a data flow capability. One of the many things that makes data flow languages different is that the compile/interpreted programs must reside within a data flow management superstructure which takes care of scheduling, input queueing, etc.

Ergo San needed a data flow engine. The dfe.c file is an implementation of an underlying data flow engine. So much for context.

As it happens I prefer that source code files be well defined units that are not overly long. I am not fond of the “stuff it all in one big file” school of thought.

The current structure of dfe.c is quite simple; it is divided into a public part and a private part. The public part is an API; the private part implements the engine and the associated data structures. For the most part the API functions only do sanity checks and then call the corresponding private functions.

Being foresighted I foresee that in the future there might be occasion for other API’s (possibly even more than one in use in a single program) and utilities. For example, it would be nice to have a good report writer that would provide titillating details about the state of the various data structures. The current API is a standalone API that can be embedded in C programs. One might want a quite different API in a data flow language implementation. I can see that there are situations where one might different implementation sections. Etc.

So what I think I want is the best way to reformulate the code so that the “private part” (or parts) are only visible to the “public parts”. I can actually do this in languages with a decent module system but I am using C.

I haven’t gone ahead with splitting the file. Here is the best that I’ve come up with so far: Create a structure that holds pointers to the internal API functions. (Light bulb, we have two API’s public, and private.) This is made available to the public API’s with something like

    s = open_dfe_internal_api(version_id);
The internal calls are then made with things like
I just have an awful feeling that there is something better but I don’t quite see it yet. It definitely isn’t name mangling.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 26 June 2010
Subj: Following May

Mr. Harter, Sir!

I am so glad that South Dakota keeps you busy enough at this time of year that you have no chance to update your website. The glories of spring and summer, all too often forgotten in the bleak and desolate winter that generally occupies the northern plains states, have arrived, and are to be cherished before they vanish into yet another snowdrift.

The time that the winter would afford for hunting down and correcting typographical errors that in earlier years would have Dr. Flynn working at 78 RPM is spent instead on gathering mushrooms and on gazing over June’s waterfowl production.

Do I mean June the month, or June your mother? You decide.

Next installment? Real Soon Now?

As you can see I am catching up on answering my old unanswered email. You are due an explanation. Well I have one. We have had record rains and my lawn and garden grows like mad. I can’t even keep up with the grass, let alone my web site.
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From: Catherine Trang
Date: 20 June 2010
Subj: dxv 2jeg


Some women are tall and fiery. I see that you are one of the short and sweet ones.
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From: socratus
Date: 15 June 2010
Subj: What is the Source of the Universe ?

– What is the Source of the Universe ? Where did Existence come from?

Now we have three ( 3) sources of the Universe:
Big bang , vacuum and God.
Which of them is correct ?

About big bang and God my opinion is:
the action, when the God compressed all Universe into his palm, physicists had named -a singular point And action, when the God opened his palm, physicists had named – the Big Bang

And about vacuum Paul Dirac wrote:
The problem of the exact description of vacuum, in my opinion, is the basic problem now before physics. Really, if you cant correctly describe the vacuum, how it is possible to expect a correct description of something more complex?

I imagine He got a really bad burn when He opened his palm. You wouldn’t be getting your physics from a Jack Crick comic book, would you?
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From: Hiram Jacques
Date: 9 June 2010
Subj: Noah’s Ark 2010 expedition

Next Noah’s Ark expedition is this summer.

Carbon 14 dating of wood found is 4800 years.

I have every confidence that you will find exactly what you are looking for.
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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 21 May 2010

The following webpage was inadvertently discovered. Perhaps you’ll know how to get them down from their amazing altitudes.;=OTC

Now you know what happened in the gulf. BP had technical problems with high winos.
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From: Sebastian Paaske Torholm
Date: 17 May 2010
Subj: Sillysort

Hello there

I decided to implement sillysort (from for my sorting algorithm visualisation project (, and noticed that the line where m is defined doesn’t make much sense.

As it stands, m is always non-positive, which usually isn’t that good of a thing in an array index. I believe that


should be


as that would give us an index in the appropriate range.

The line in question has a typo; the minus sign should have been a plus sign, i.e.,


Your suggested replacement works; it is equivalent.

Good catch. Thanks for calling it to my attention. I will change the page and will credit you.

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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 11 May 2010
Subj: Shame on Mr Harter

To quote from the May 2010 issue…

Viz: Male fan is sitting in the video room watching the latest episode of Dr. Who. Female fan comes in, sits down next to male fan, asks “What epsidoe is this?” Male fan grunts “Dr. Who, Season 3, Episode 4.” Female fan says “Oh, the haunted library. This is good.” Relationship follows quickly.

In the new series Season 3, Episodes 4&5 is the two-parter Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.

The “Haunted Library” story is Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. That’s Season 4, Episodes 9&10

If you want the older Dr Who stories, Season 3, Episode 4 is the 12-part The Daleks’ Master Plan.

Geekily yours,


Thus we have established who is the trufan and who is the fakefan.
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From: Leslie Turek
Date: 13 May 2010
Subj: Personal Zine

Hi Richard,

I have been going through some piles of old fanzines that I thought were all Locus and a few others that I’m arranging to donate to a university library. Much to my surprise, I found copies of your fanzine, A Personal Zine. I was wondering if you had copies of them, or if you didn’t, whether you would like me to send them to you. 

Had an exciting day with an FBI raid just a few blocks away from me. Apparently there were helicopters and 20 armed men, although I missed that part. By the time I got there, there were 3 satellite TV trucks and lots of cameras.


I have two copies of a complete run of PN so I don’t really need another. If the university will take them, let them have them. If you don’t have a home for them and are just going to throw them out (sigh, the fate of ephemera) I would take it kindly if you would send them to me.

I previously had no notion that you lived in such a crime-ridden neighbourhood. One of my cherished memories is walking through the riot scene in Harvard Square during the Nam student riot. I don’t recall the reason why, but I was determined to walk down to the square and so I did. The main streets were blocked by police cars and wafting fumes, so I made my way through sundry back alleys and byways. The police never noticed that I was there, which may say something about my social visibility.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 8 May 2010
Subj: Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2005!

have decided to do this, as suggested on various of your web pages.

Excellent. we looked forward to your visit.
Which month in 2005 would be best for you? When will the weather be warm but not oppressive? I would also like to visit in 1955. Can you accommodate me then, as well?
I think your best choices would be mid June and early September if you are looking for warm but not oppressive. Of course that does depend upon your notion of warm. For example, few would classify February in Highmore as being opressively warm.

There may be some difficulty with visiting in 1955. You need to have gotten your reservations in by 1945.

Looking forward to your having visited,
Richard Harter

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This page was last updated August 23, 2010.

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