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August 2011

Letters to the editor, August 2011

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 August 2011.

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From: Nienieku
Date: 20 July 2011
Subj: Give your brain to me…

I know by the time you kick over, brain transplant will be possible, please leave me yours. I promise to add, more humor, and a female perspective of the vast knowledge you are able to write out.

What do you think of genetics, and the over talkative gene?

You know, I never thought of making my brain available for a brain transplant. I’ve known more than one person who clearly was in need of a brain transplant.

I’m not sure how that would work though. It wouldn’t be proper for you to replace your old brain with mine. After all, you are a very intelligent person. I know this because you say nice things about me. It would be a shame to waste all of that charm, wit, wisdom, and perceptiveness.

It seems to me that what is wanted here is a plug in brain which would be a complement rather than a replacement. I am sure they can do this sort of thing. After all, they are doing all of these wonderful things with prosthetics where you think about the color purple and your artificial hands pick up the knife and fork.

Another possibility is to do a brain transplant to a pet. One has to be careful here. One needs a large animal with enough space for the new brain. I rather fancy being a St. Bernard in my second life.

In any event, I shall make it a point to not pass away until they have perfected brain transplants.

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From: Suford
Date: 8 July 2011
Subj: The Barbarian Chief’s Daughter

Interesting story tree. Too bad your barbarian daughter never has the discipline to stick to it long enough to give it a good try. However, such a life choice is fraught with risk, danger, and death in battle.

Risk, danger, and death in battle are the upside.

Actually there is a path in the tree where she becomes the tribal chief and takes the Empire down. Perhaps if you recall the Mongol conquests you will find it.

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From: Sarah Evans
Date: 6 July 2011
Subj: Science resource thanks!

I’m a (fledgling) secondary science teacher and, in my curricular-info-gathering, I came across your page ( I’m trying to establish an arsenal of materials to have in place before I begin my first year in the classroom, but September is looming! Thanks a bunch for the super-helpful info, I hope it’s alright I’m using it as a resource!

While googling about on the web, I found this guide on evolution ( which is really easy to understand and has a bunch of substantial links. You should definitely include it on your page; I’m sure others will find it just as comprehensive! Again, thanks for the info!

My apologies for not answering sooner – life is exceedingly hectic and the cracks loom ever larger. Who knows what might have fallen into them. I’m pleased that you found that page useful. The entire Piltdown Man suite of pages could do with an updating – the bulk of it was done 10-15 years ago and time has moved on.

Good luck with your course, and of course you can use my page.

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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 18 June 2011
Subj: USMC


It was several years after my discharge that I learned that BAM (Broad Ass Marine) was not an official name for women marines. In the Old Corps (TM) men and women trained separately. These days I understand they get the attentions of equal opportunity lawn mowers. (Old Drill Instructor saying – your ass is grass and I’m the lawnmower.)
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From: Lee R Piazza
Date: 19 June 2011

I guess I will have to steal your time machine if I ever hope to get your monthly issue in the month it is putatively published. But of course you will say you received no correspondence and so why bother? So here is a question. Is there a map for the Reincarnation Game? Once I followed two protagonists through many permutations. If you follow down one long path protagonist A beheads protagonist B, if you follow the other protagonist B beheads protagonist A! Cool! But I have never been able to find it again. You, possessing a grand map of the Reincarnation Game, can tell me how to find that thread again. Or can you?

P.S. I hope your fences are all mended, the crops in or harvested or whatever you farmers do.

Mea culpa. My life has been, ah, hectic. There has been house remodeling going on. As of this writing I had a cataract surgery about a week ago and am having a colonoscopy tomorrow, to be followed by another cataract surgery in early July. It also turns out that I have mono, or, rather I had mono and am now recovering from it. Even as I write I would rather be outside gardening, but alas, it has been raining steadily for the last two days. The rain guage claims 135 mm has fallen – the ground are quite squishy.

I suspect that you want the executioner saga You can find it at

I have hopes of getting the June issue out for my birthday, but we shall see.

… continued on next rock

Hectic is the kindest word I have ever heard used to describe remodeling. Beware! Remodeling frequently follows marriage. Not infrequently divorce follows remodeling. You once called me a cruel man. Just because I told you when it was -2 degrees there, that it was also cold in Santa Cruz(71) and surfing might have to be postponed. So I was going to make fun of your rain but IT RAINED HERE! so I won’t Thanks again for the link. There is a beautiful if unsettling symmetry in those sequences.

That’s why we are remodeling first and getting married second. You had rain? Did any of the local population melt?

I just added another life at The odd thing is that I know the mother of the barbarian’s daughter appears elsewhere but I don’t know where. I have a map of all of the connections but not of all the interlocked narratives. Someday.

A followup note. The Warrior Maid sequence has another one of those oppositions. In one thread she saves the Empire. In another she raises her daughter to destroy the Empire. Her daughter is the aforesaid Barbarian’s Daughter.

Let it not be said that I plagiarize. No such thing. Please to call it research.

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From: Jason Loxton
Date: 18 June 2011
Subj: Piltdown man


I am writing up a very quick sidebar on Piltdown for an issue of Jr. Skeptic on fossil hoaxes (most of my effort will be on the fake Archaeopteryx hoax and the genuine Archaeoraptor cock up). I am wondering if you could recommend one or two solid overview articles? (I have read a fair bit in the past, but much of it is pretty hazy now. I have Langdon’s 1991 Current Anthropology article, and a few from the 50s when the debunking was in full force.) As far suspects go, what is the current consensus? Any other helpful comments would be appreciated. >

The email address is for myself, Richard Harter. I gather you were looking for Tom Turritin, author of A Piltdown Man reading list. If you still want to get in touch with Tom, I can send you his email. In the mean time I will try to answer your questions.

For your purposes the most authorative Piltdown sites by far are
(a) my site, and
(b) the Wikipedia page,

That said, the BBC page, may be your best shot for putting together a side bar.

Miles Russell’s “Piltdown Man: The Secret Life Of Charles Dawson” makes it quite clear that Dawson forged many antiquities during his life time. (Many of his forgeries were only exposed in the last twenty years.) From the accounts of the finds it is quite clear that Dawson must have been a principal in the forgery. As far as “who was the perpetrator” is concerned the only remaining question is “Did Dawson have a partner”?

The reasonable answer is – probably not. The best way to keep a secret is to let no one in on the secret save one’s self. That said, it’s fun to speculate. Among the scientists none save Woodward are plausible – they had too much to lose and too little to gain. I find Drawhorn’s observations about Woodward compelling, but not finally persuasive. On the other hand any of the minor players might have been involved. Even at the time there must have been suspicions about Dawson. Someone of his fellows, suspecting what Dawson had been up to in the past, might have suggested the ultimate scam. Actual evidence, however, is lacking.

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From: Gary Gray
Date: 1 June 2011

Hello Customer Service My name is Mr. Gary Gray, I am with the Twain Net Trading Center and with regards to your Company i will like to make an order based on (Toilet seat ) in stock for sale? If Yes kindly email me back with the types of Toilet seats that you have in stock and the total pick up price of the sizes, so that we can proceed with the order. More over i will like to know if you do accept Credit Cards as a form of payment… And allow pick-up at your location . Looking forward to hear from you soon so that we can proceed with the order…

Although I am an internationally respected authority on the use of toilet seats and their positioning, I do not actually deal in them. However if like, I can make my expertise available for a modest remuneration. I don’t accept credit cards. My accountant has made it clear that I should only accept small unmarked bills.

Hoping this helps,
Richard Harter

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From: Selina Lovett
Date: 31 May 2011
Subj: Hi, Richard (& Deborah, too!)

Hi, folks,

Sorry I haven’t written back in a long time, I have been a bit under the weather, and just have been out of touch with almost everyone. How are you doing??? I hear that you are about to have some flooding near Pierre- that’s not too far from you, is it? I hope you are far enough away from the rivets so that it won’t affect you much, bust just the same, my thoughts and prayers are with you and the people near to you.

Must be making all sorts of plans for the wedding, I assume. Dennis and I unfortunately won’t be able to make it, but I sure wish we could. We probably will only get as far as Chicago this year. Maybe. He can’t take as much time as he originally thought, and neither can I, really, so that lets out going cross country. Oh well, another time, I hope. In the meantime, I think that the two of you can get married just Fine without us.. Unless you need a bit of Little Asteroid’s funny brew for the toasts!

Not much is new here, I am still working at Mass Audubon, loving it, and have pretty much gafiated from fandom, although I still keep my nose into things a bit.

So please tell me about you!!!! Are you two ever going to make it back here? Where are you going on your honeymoon? Inquiring minds want to know. Ok, so this one does…


You take the words out of my mouth. I have just been told that I am recovering from mono, along with having two cataract surgeries, and a colonoscopy. All of which has slowed me down a bit. Can’t you and Dennis get a bicycle for two and make it the rest of the way from Chicago to Highmore? I am assured by Alice Lewis that it is a 4 to 5 day trip by car, but surely you can go better tham that cycling. In any event it was great to hear from you.

The Master of the Universe

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 15 May 2011
Subj: Alesia


Alesia (who seems to think her name is also Lesia) writes you about her availability and purported slimness.

Where do you find these nubile creatures? They do not write to me. Well, perhaps they do, but the Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail grinder offers good removal of what it considers junk. It got rid of seven issues of a daily newsletter to which I subscribe.

Anyway, you might send these pretties to my farm where they could help train horses and shovel stuff. Cheryl and I have discovered that if you put money into one end of a horse you get high-quality fertilizer at the other end. The pile of fertilizer needs minding.

As I understand it, your family more or less gave up on keeping horses a long time ago. No wonder you reject Alesia’s offer.

We would be willing to accept Alesia as our gardner if she will also do other chores. No, not Windows. We are a Linux farm. Our horse droppings are clean and open-sourced.

yr obt svt etc etc

One of the disappointments in my life is that the aforesaid nubile creatures all seem to be slim. There doesn’t seem to be a well muscled amazon among the lot. I try to be polite and let them down gently, but it’s not easy. Why can’t I get letters like these:
Ya, it is me here, Helga. I am reading about your operation in Farming and Ranching Quarterly. I am happy to work on your place. Good I am with horses and with shovels. I keep your barnyard clean, ya? Weeds die in my hands and gardens bloom. I be strong. I lift 40 kilo bag and toss on truck.
If I hear from Helga I will forward her letter immediately to you.
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From: Arv Edgeworth
Date: 4 July 2011
Subj: Origin of man

Have you considered at all the possibility that maybe the reason that no clear “missing link” has been found in human evolution, is that maybe humans were planted here by aliens as they supposedly claim through their contacts? I’m not saying I believe this, but have you given that any consideration at all?

Let’s say hypothetically that it happened. What about other forms of life on the planet? Did life evolve on this planet, or could other forms of life have been started by alien life forms as well? How much of life actually evolved here, if any? Maybe evolution only occurred within the different classifications, and not between them.

We know the early atmosphere on our planet contained too much oxygen and presents difficulties for evolution to occur naturally, but what if the early environment was much different on another planet? Have you considered the possibility that we have all been asking the wrong questions? I know, you probably think I have too much time on my hands, but come on, hasn’t any of this at least crossed your mind a time or two?

Before I answer your questions, I have a little one of my own. I noticed that you sent your missive to a mailing list with an undisclosed list of names. How many people are on your little mailing list? In other words, how many fish are you trolling for?

As I said when I received another of your fishing expeditions, I don’t argue creationism/evolution in email. Doing so doesn’t have, ah, a favorable cost/benefit ratio. That said, I will respond to this round of bait this once, paragraph by paragraph.

P1) The theme of humans coming from somewhere else has been a popular theme in science fiction over the years. I need only mention H. Beam Piper’s Paratime stories in which humanity came from Mars about 80,000 years, Niven’s pak who became Homo Habilis, and Michael Shaara’s “All the way back”.

The idea is out of style these days for a number of reasons – in the early days of SF variants of childhood’s “I’m really the child of someone fabulous” fit with both of the youth of the readers and the youth of the field. Then, too, developments in science pretty much eradicated the attractive scenarios. Fifty to eighty years ago the fossil record of human evolution was sparse. It isn’t today; we’ve got a fairly clear record running back to the autralopithecenes. We know much more about the biochemistry of life and inter-relatedness of life now than we did then. We are children of the Earth and members of the family of life.

This is not to say that there isn’t room for speculations about aliens messing around with terrestrial evolution. There is. However the notion of aliens buzzing around in our times picking people up, inspecting them (or whatever it is that they are supposed to have done), and asking them to deliver sappy messages to humanity is, to put it bluntly, codswallop. I don’t for a moment believe in these aliens and their human contacts.

p2) This is a bit difficult. Since the hypothetical is wildly inconsistent with what we know of geology, biology, and paleontology we might as well go whole hog and postulate that our entire planet is a fabricated collection of stage props. If you want to go there you might as well go all the way.

p3) As it happens we don’t know that the early atmosphere had too much oxygen for evolution to occur – your claim simply is so much flapdoodle. I suspect that you meant abiogenesis rather than evolution which makes more sense even though it’s wrong. A lot of early oxygen is inconsistent with our current understanding of abiogenesis. There is a lot we don’t know but we are pretty certain that it happened in an anoxic environment. It is possible that there may have been trace (abiotic) oxygen in the early atmosphere. However the oceans were definitely anoxic and that was where abiogenesis occurred – if it occurred on Earth at all.

The simple fact is that we don’t know if abiogenesis could have occurred on Earth, or even if early Earth was a favorable environment. For that matter we do not know how abiogenesis can occur; We simply do not know enough. That is the nub of Crick’s argument. Crick was forthright enough to admit that his argument was more science fiction than science. For the working scientist Crick’s proposal is sterile; there is no way to proceed beyond idle speculation. However the the hypothesis that abiogenesis happened on Earth offers many lines of research.

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From: Peter Neilson
Date: 15 May 2011
Subj: Id-dinja ta?

Istagħġib tiegħi li inti titkellem bil-Malti ma jistgħux jiġu mrażżna. Fejn hi falkun tiegħi?

M’hemm l-ebda ?tieg.a, perverz.joni biss.
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This page was last updated August 6, 2011.

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August 2011