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Letters to the Editor, August 1998

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 1998.

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From: Rich & Shellie
Date: 07/23/98
Subj: Far Right

Please get a grip. The far right is called extreme because they want to adhere to the Bill of Rights. The far left wants to rewrite the Constitution. The far left has always depended on the courts to misinterpret the Constitution to form penumbra rights. The far left of the progressive movement started the war against the Constitution and the modern far left continues its attack.

In 1935 Hitler told the people,”This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow into the future.”

If this is the future that the far left intends, please leave me out. My grandfathers fought against the world the far left Nazis made for Germany. I pray to God that my grandfathers and the others who fought against the far left in World War 2 did not do it in vain.

Thank you for writing. From time to time I get a letter that truly stands out from the usual correspondence. Yours is such a letter.
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From: “Daniel E. Hart, Ph.D., EMT-P”
Date: 07/26/98
Subj: Web site

Looking at the lions and zebras poem, I can see it is possible to be over-educated after all.

Chortle. I have my fun with “literary interpretation”. Check out Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 07/6/98
So where are they?

I’m not sure about the count of inhabitable planets. I recall reading that on closer inspection more and more stars are turning out to be close doubles; Anderson et al. aside, such stars seem unlikely to let planets stay in the life zone instead of whipping them through some complicated orbital mechanics. But I suspect this would only shave off another order of magnitude, which leaves plenty of possibilities.

I doubt that the percentage of doubles is significant – whether it is 50% or 90% doesn’t matter that much. The commonness of large planets close to the primary (granted that these are easy ones to find) is disturbing. It is doubtful that such systems can have planets in the life zone.

However fiddling with the numbers on the front end of the Drake equation is not to the point. There are upwards of 1.E+11 stars in the Galaxy. If one in ten million is a host to a sentient race there will be 10,000 of the them over time. Ergo it is unlikely that we are first. More than that it is very likely that the first races are ahead of us by a billion years or more which is more than enough time to colonize the Galaxy.

It’s also possible “they” just haven’t gotten around to us. According to Cherryh, who had a 3D map built so she could more easily work out connections in the various branches of her universe, we’re in a relative backwater (even by local-area standards, which are thin) in terms of how close the nearest star is, and our nearest neighboring stars (the Centauris, Barnard’s Star) are very different from ours; if colonizing trips are slow, they might also work along threads rather than spreading uniformly. (Or they might not ever get out of the densest core areas in which life can appear, to our point ~2/3 of the way from the core to the rim.)

Even if the colonizing trips are slow, it doesn’t matter much. The colonies send out colonies which send out … Backwaters are filled last but the principal limiting factor is the speed of propagation.

Which brings me to the big hole in your reasoning. I don’t know how you estimated the probably speed of interstellar travel, although one of the magazines had a very disappointing article working out an upper bound of ~.3c on a Bussard ramjet (which could be the most efficient ]rocket[ available — let’s leave out space warps, Doc Smith, etc.). But if .001c really is the maximum reasonable, trips between immediately neighboring possible stars are going to take several thousand years. The lesser problems this raises are why anyone would do it at all, knowing how far off the results are, and how you would maintain a tiny, closed, society stable for that long (success would make ancient China or Egypt look like a tea party thrown by orangutans). The greatest problem is how, if you can achieve such a stable society, do you persuade it to fission, or universally abandon its metal womb, when you reach your destination? The other classic long-travel trope isn’t any better; based on our improved knowledge of “hibernation”, I’d say any form of suspended animation (preserving agoraphilic colonists while generations of agoraphobic crew run the ship) is far more improbable than a ship making a respectable fraction of c.

This I will disagree strongly with. The objection that trips would take too long is very parochial. Consider that we are talking about technological societies that are stable over periods of millions of years. This implies the capability of long term planning and purpose over periods much longer than human societies are accustomed to. There are a number of ways that this might be achieved. Two that occur to me are (a) very long lifetimes of individuals and (b) mixed machine/lifeform cultures in which the AI components have effective (probably distributed) immortality.

I like the ending, though — if you grant the other improbabilities, it’s at least an explanation that wraps them up nicely.

Sort of the dark side of the zoo hypothesis.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 07/13/98
YA Fantasy list

on the grounds that the protagonists of YAF’s are not generally children. That is inconsistent…

It certainly is. From your list, not just Narnia but also the works by Alexander, Baum, Carroll, Cooper, Garner, L’Engle, and White all have young protagonists. (At least, no less young than much of Nesbitt — I tend to read “YA” as “can read at adult-average level but isn’t ready for unrestricted plots/themes.”) I suspect Pinkwater should be included (I don’t know which works are in FIVE NOVELS but most of his work has YA leads); HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE is close (character starts as a girl but marries at the end). I suppose it depends on where your cutoff for “child” is — I suspect a lot of YA’s will drop anything in which they think the characters are younger than the reader.

Is a problem. I think the distinction is thematic – the protagonists are young but they old enough to undertake physical adventures. They aren’t concerned with adult themes – sex, work, school, or even day to day home life. Nor are they so young that they are focused on childrens games. Even in the Narnia series where the protagonists are definitely children they become “older” while in Narnia.

There is a lot of Jones I’d recommend — EIGHT DAYS OF LUKE, THE OGRE DOWNSTAIRS, and maybe even THE HOMEWARD BOUNDERS and ARCHER’S GOON if you don’t say “this has X so it must be SF instead of fantasy”. The one constraint with a lot of Jones is that you mustn’t give it to any YA you want to become an obedient little robot. The Christopher Chant series is a bit less anarchistic; FIRE AND HEMLOCK is a riff on Tam Lin (much looser than Pamela Dean’s version), but I’d hesitate to recommend for a YA I don’t know even if it changes the final duel enough that the Janet character doesn’t have to be pregnant.

I will check some of these out. I do think that there is a difference in feel between YA SF and YAF. For example, Heinlein wrote very good SF juveniles (granted they are dated) but they definitely aren’t YAF. I opine that good YAF has a moral element beyond the adventure.

wrt YA non-fantasy — have you read GROWING UP WEIGHTLESS, by John M. Ford? I thought that this better than anything on the 1994 Hugo ballot (not that that’s hard, some years…).

Haven’t read it. I will put it on my list.

wrt the previous mail, note there’s also a moral element in much of Heinlein’s YA SF (e.g., continuing strains wrt personal responsibility); Barnes’s first novel, ORBITAL RESONANCE, also has such an element, although one of the punchlines is that adults tried to insert the wrong elements. (I also don’t know how many children I’d care to give this to — a lot of emphasis on whether anyone has “executed the docking maneuver” (yes, that’s the term they use!).)

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From: Sheryl
Date: 07/14/98
Darwin awards

Just wanted to submit my entry, I like to exercise and all but damn man, I think he just took it a little too far. the 49 year old runner who was zoning off of cliff has gotta win for this year.

Thank you, Sheryl

Patience, patience. The year is not yet over and there is time left for truly monumental flakiness. I have to admit, though, that the hapless runner is a strong contender. When you think about it, killing yourself in the name of health sort of misses the point of exercise.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 07/16/98
Fan Curriculum

Then of course there’s Fan ROTC II: being a professional jackass about convention weapons policies, claiming to be exempt on account of being a pro, and declaring one feels much more comfortable at a con with a real battleaxe by one’s side….

But, but, but … Fans are slans, superior members of the human race, distinguished by their keen analytic minds and their exquisite rationality.

Excuse me, I have to go tend a pig who is taxiing for takeoff.

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From: Alan Geisler
Date: 07/25/98
Subj: Thanks for the Mathematician Jokes

Richard: I was the 1773rd person to hit your page since June of 1996. And I thought you would want to know what a half awake 42 year manufacturing systems manager was doing cruising your page on a sleepy Saturday afternoon in July of 1998.

You’re absolutely right. I did want to know that.

This is not a joke, I was in a counselor’s office today, waiting for my son, and I got so sleepy. It was nearly time for the session to end and I could bearly keep my eyes open. I stood and walked around the office and noticed a buzzing sound coming from behind the chair I recently occupied. At first I thought it was some kind of room freshener. I located it and when I saw it and thought it was either a humidifier or dehumidifier of the strangest design. I finally picked it up and read the label (I am not making this up) it said Sleep Mate on turning it over it said Sleep Conditioner… I have never heard of such a device so this afternoon I am seeking info on the danged thing and run across your web page because in the wisdom of the search engine you story of the sleeping mathematician was close to what I want…

Sleep conditioner, eh? Now that’s a nifty gadget that I’ve never heard of. I think I could use one of those.

Search engines are odd. At various times different pages of mine haven’t gotten large numbers of hits because they made their way (irrelevantly) to the top of search engine lists.

It’s not but the jokes made me laugh… Have fun on your page… And like quilters say “Leave them in stitches.”

Oh, I do have fun. Thanks for writing.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 07/28/98

This would be funnier if it were less unbelievable — the CONSTITUTION first sailed 200 years ago this summer…. (Some of the other figures also look like they slipped a decimal.)

Supposedly it’s official, although I have my doubts. The British Navy used to have an ungodly standard ration of grog per man. Could it be that the “rum” was actually watered down to about the alcohol content of beer?

Chip continued with …

I wouldn’t think so; two gallons a day even of beer is quite a lot. (Under current standards, a 150-pound man would be legally drunk on less than half a gallon of beer; the alcohol tolerance of a hard-working sailor with a daily ration might be higher than ours, but the capacities of, e.g., men in the rigging could be significantly affected at less than the current definition of “drunk”. Also, I would expect rum and water to be kept separately and mixed as needed (so full-strength would be available for, e.g., pre-anesthesia surgery).

I also noticed two other questionable items:

And a calculation: the article claims 128,000 gallons of liquid to start. This is over 4000 barrels, which would make a heap 20 feet wide and 6 feet high running the length of the ship. I don’t know that they had that much room….

If the consumption was 2.26 gallons per man-day, there were 463 men on board (treating the wine as 1/4-equivalent rum — leaving this out entirely gives 459 men). Beef and flour might have been officer privileges, where the men were fed hardtack that isn’t listed — but there are obviously numbers missing, and my guess is that the necessary food to match that liquid would have doubled the storage space I figured in the previous msg. (Isn’t it wonderful how many calculations you can do while waiting for the net?)

Sigh. No doubt you are right but it really is quite unsporting to ruin a good story with mere factuality.
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From: Jason Afinowicz
Date: 07/28/98
Subj: Changing views of the history of the Earth

In response to the introductory paragraph of your electronically published text entitled “Changing Views of the History of the Earth “, I would like to mention an error in one of your assumptions. When posing the situation of a modern “educated” individual faced with a question as to the creation of the Earth and the validity of Genesis as a whole, you indicated that the person would definitely side against the Biblical account. I believe myself to be a relatively well educated person as described by your writing, but yet I believe the literal account of creation stated in Genesis. I am not in any way trying to discredit or disrespect your views just as I understand that you were not attempting to do the same for mine. I know my opinions must seem as bizarre and backwards to you as yours are to me. I only prefer to rest my faith in higher powers than the scientific powers of us imperfect humans. I just wanted to mention that there are many “educated” individuals who share my beliefs, and, despite our differences, would like to thank you for this interesting reading.

Thank you for your letter. It is true enough that there are many people who insist on believing that the account in Genesis should be taken as being literally factual. It is also true that there are people who are formally well educated who believe in Atlantis and reincarnation and any number of other beliefs. The “educated European in AD 1900” is meant to be representative of the general prevailing viewpoint.

Perhaps I should add a footnote to that effect.

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From: kazul
Date: 07/29/98
Subj: HA!!

Richard Harter you are a very funny man! I looked everywhere for a man with your sense of humor but must have been confused by the S.D. landscape when i was there or maybe it was the stupid horse i was on that kept looking at the sky.Well,now it’s too late..the horse got a tie down and so did i so.. i will keep reading your site a little at a time until i see no more!!


It’s a pity we missed each other. Maybe it had something to do with being born in different decades or maybe it just had to do with riding different horses.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 07/29/98
UNIX time problem (March lettercol)

– the basis point is not 1976 but New Year’s 1970 in Greenwich (7pm 31 Dec 1969 EST is the way the manual frequently puts it.) That puts the breakpoint in January 2028.

– we’ll have this problem only if we’re lucky and MicroSquish doesn’t take over the software universe. (No, it’s not a prejudice; I’ve worked with QDOS’s descendants. The bugginess of PC software is easy to understand when you see the tools the engineers don’t have….)

A similar problem has already been dealt with; when NFS was invented, it was possible for a system to see write dates that hadn’t happened yet, which some systems found very upsetting (but haven’t for 10+ years).

You are right, of course. Due to some embarrassing programming errors by a party who shall go nameless but who lacks a middle name, a number of files on one of my machines purported to have been created on Dec 31, 1969.

The latest Forbes (August 10, 1998) has Linus Torvalds (The Linux man) on the front cover with the text:

Linus Torvalds wants to set operating systems free. Should Microsoft worry?

The upshot is that Linux (and free source generally) is beginning to be taken seriously in industry, the basic considerations being (a) the technical inferiority of NT for networks, (b) distrust of Microsoft, and (c) the existence of commercial support for Linux.

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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 07/31/98
fan courses

Worldcon Bidding II is a bit out of date; for a while there was a belief that Japanese fandom would buy a Worldcon just because they could. But it’s become a lot harder (membership fees have gone up much faster than inflation), and it was never clear that anyone but the Shibanos had enough respect to run the convention (and they knew enough about the scale not to try. Let’s not talk about the Krazy Kroats….)

I expect you’re right. The problem with writing satire is that the world insists on proving that one was a hopeless conservative. I expect that I shall have to update the page.

From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 07/30/98
Horse’s Ass Milspec

I’m curious about this one — I’ve heard it before, but I’ve also heard that Roman roads were paved (graded, drainage provided, etc.), in which case they’d be less likely to be rutted.

I’m also not sure whether the milspec came before civilian use; in preserved Roman cities (e.g., Pompeii) you can see stepping stones set to allow pedestrians to cross rain-or-sewage-filled streets without blocking wheeled traffic, which implies a relatively standard size for oxcarts and such.

But it’s a good story anyway….

The truth is probably less dashing – it generally is. However the essence of the story is probably correct; once a standard is formulated it tends to be stable. The most enduring standard, one that seems to have held up for billions of years, is the genetic code.

Continuing …

Actually, I heard on NPR this weekend a reminder that the code had at least one major change, I think less than a billion years ago — the shift to DNA from RNA for storage (as opposed to transfer).

Something is wrong with your recollection. DNA for storage is several billion years old. The currently popular theory about abiogenesis (the origin of life) is that it went through an “RNA world” stage in which RNA was the storage medium. This happened back at the beginning of life, circa 3.8 billion years ago.

And then of course there’s the Christian nominee for the novel Hugo this year, in which Robert Sawyer’s punchline is that all of the “unused” information in the human genome is actually the rest of our evolution, as programmed by God. (His early books were just lame; the last two are appalling. Roger Elwood would come back just to see this…)

Oh, yuck. Does this come under the category of hard non-science SF? Some one of these days I will have to do an essay on the death of science fiction.

Continuing …

Did you ever, in your arcane wanderings, find out which set of expatriates gave us that gauge? I found during my Aussiecon II trip that Australia has at least three major gauges:

– ~3.5′ (Queensland)
– 5’3″ (New South Wales)
– 4’8.5″ (Victoria, and the line connecting Sydney (VIC) to Melbourne (NSW).

This ignores specialty gauges, like the ~2′ lines that connect sugar-cane fields to processing plants (which leads to some strange-looking crossings with the Brisbane-Cairns line — I don’t know how many other places in the world you see right-angle intersections of two different-size tracks).

And I don’t know the gauge of the “tea-and-sugar” line (Adelaide-Perth, described in SMITHSONIAN ~1986), which features the longest piece of straight track in the world — ca. 180 miles (don’t ask me whether “straight” means a continuous compass heading or a great circle), but when you’re going through an area described as more desolate than south Libya what do you have to turn for? (I heard of two fen who drove Perth-Melbourne and sold their car for plane tickets rather than drive back, although the teller was someone I don’t necessarily believe.)

So what I wonder (popping several levels of discursions) is where the other gauges came from? Australia is probably more British now than the U.S. was when the first locomotives were built, so my guess is the variations probably come from the same regionalism as U.S. vs Imperial volumes (in which, I’m told, the pint is 20 ounces, accounting for most of the difference between larger pairs of units) — but which region gave us which gauge, and why?

Could it be the Romans didn’t have a standard (perfectly spherical?) horse?

Good stories often don’t stand up well under close examination and this is probably one of them. Railroads used a number of gauges in the early years of railroading; standardizing on a single standard gauge was an important action in the early years of railroading. There are still narrow gauge lines in use. Standardization was a transport revolution much like containerization.

Given that in ye goode olde days there were quite a variety of measures (remember the kettle of Ulm) the process of standardization sort of resembles evolution – there is a vast winnowing of early alternatives.

Assume a spherical pony.

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From: Kanten (
Date: 08/02/98
Subj: Lost link?

The haggis page has evaporated.

your link is

PS – your site is the best site that has found the most interesting sites collected – well… for one reason or another. Ciao.


So it has. It’s a pity. Some of my favorite pages have disappeared over the years – The Road Kill Fairy, Save Billy, and now the Haggis Warning Network. Fortunately the world has no shortage of warped minds. I have replaced it with the In Search of the Perfect Pork Martini page which is an item not found at your neighbourhood bar. Happy browsing. I’m pleased that you liked the listing.
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From: nobody
Date: 08/05/98
Subj: stupid

i thought that your Recent Generations Compared Webpage was ridiculous. You chose the worst of everything in society and placed it in the 1990’s blank. Also, much of your information was ludicrous and inaccurrate. if it was a joke please forgive me for taking it seriously.

Oh, you’re forgiven alright. You would be a serious contender for the flakiest letter of the year award but there are several people well ahead of you. As it is you cheered up my day no end.
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From: pubs
Date: 08/07/98
Subj: On The Road To Ventimiglia

I found a decaying paperback first printing of “The Swordbearer” in a used-book store. Very impressive. Wanted the sequel. Ran a web search on Ventimiglia and Cook, so found your page.

Sequel? Did Suchara awake?

Anyway four of your five fantasy favorites are ones I treasure (one very recently), and I’ll look for the fifth.

You might look at Guy Gavriel Kay – some of his works are excellent, if less complex than most of your favorites.

I’ll give him a try on your recommendation – you obviously are a person of sound taste. There is no sequel to “The Swordbearer” – I am reliably informed that Cook doesn’t plan to do one.

Have you read any of his Dread Empire series?

Continued on next rock …

As to the soundness of my taste, the Redwall books by Brian Jacques (noble critters) are high on my list. Balance that with a strong penchant for books by Stephen Lawhead. My fondest memory is for “Mr. Lobster and His House Under the Sea”. Somehow that all relates to a passion for reading English history, and to an insistence that honor and morality are mandates for human relations.

As to the Dread Empire, I have read (and I believe saved):
A Shadow of All Night Falling
October’s Baby
All Darkness Met

There are quite a few of them. The last of the series was IIRC An Ill Wind Rising which unfortunately was aptly named – the series was not doing well in sales and the publisher terminated it.

My recollection is that the character development was good, but I think a sequel to Swordbearer would really provide on opportunity in that area. Difficult to rank works like The Black Company with the foregoing. Cook seems versatile, and he must have a good view as to the market. It would be interesting to know why Swordbearer will not likely have a sequel – lack of inspiration, market, ?? Perhaps when he is old, and harks to his younger days, there will be a sequel.

The Swordbearer is one of the earliest books that Cook wrote. I opine that it is more florid and less gritty than his later serious works, e.g. Darkwar trilogy, the Dread Empire series, the Black Company.

One of the problems with doing a sequel to TS is that there isn’t a natural basis for continuity. In the Garett, PI series all he needs is a new case. The Black Company keeps moving around. TS wraps up the story to a natural closure. Still, the ending of TS screams for a sequel. Awakening Suchara is not going to be nice.

I am surprised at both how many of Cooks novels I have read, and how few. It must be time to read some more of them.

For a novel where magic and the gods are real, but there seems to be little clash with our normal reality (an intricate interweaving) I think Rhinegold by Stephen Grundy is fascinating. I enjoyed a readable account of how the “fate of nine worlds is forged in a single ring of gold”: Song of the Dwarves by Thorarinn Gunnarsson. My concept of the English heritage is broad!

Danegeld, Danegeld.

It is always pleasing to me to find different authors works based on common resources. In some way Swordbearer gave me the feeling that it drew strongly on the English/Scandinavian heritage. Which has a lot of good points shared by many other cultures (to be both honest and p.c. and agrammatical).

Just to mention it, I have a hodgepodge page up:

And an excellent page it is too. I commend to my readers this nice little summary of the pubs of London.
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From: Emil Silvermint
Date: 08/13/98
Subj: Changing Views of the History of the Earth

Thank you for the excellent article. This is exactly what I was looking for.

I have a long argument with believers of 6000 y.o. Universe. When I refer to the radioactive decay, they argue that God created the Earth 6000 years ago with older compositions in it. They argue that if I to meet Adam when he was two days since his creation, he was looking about 30, the age at which he was created.

It disturbs me that the knowledge cannot be shared: “You can lead horse”… Yet the lives of such people are profoundly affected and restricted by believes they have.

Have you ever convinced a person of the sort and if so how?

Thank you for the kind words. Young Earth Creationists, people who believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis, tend to fall into two camps, the active and the passive. The passive have received their views by indoctrination and have never really questioned them; often they come to recognize the falsity of those views if they encounter serious explanations of why they are false. The active are aware of the arguments against literalism and argue against them, relying on invincible ignorance.

One of the reasons (but not the only reason) that I created the history page was to provide a sense of the scope of effort it took to establish our current understanding of deep time. Creationists often have very little knowledge of what they are arguing against; I hoped that an understanding of what they were “up against” would have effect.

The people that I know who have been convinced have mostly been people who tried to argue for their position and had the intellectual integrity to look at the arguments presented to them.

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From: Doug Riddle
Date: 08/14/98
Subj: I dropped by again. Thanks for the diversions

Hello Again Richard:

I was doing some ego-surfing earlier and got depressed. Ego-surfing, in case you haven’t tried it, is where you search the WWW for mentions of your name, or links to your site. After doing this for some clients I have set up in the last six months, I took a few (very small) waves myself. Guess who popped up? Thanks for including my link with your archive. After I switch providers, again, or break down and put up my own domain, I think I will emulate your site. And update you, so you can change the link. (Don’t worry, no hurry. It takes me a LONG time to get aggravated enough to switch.) I like your way of running a personal site. Why keep all of my absurd and useless trivia on my hard drive? I mean, uh, I think I will publish my own thoughts and the valuable tidbits I have collected rather than horde them on my hard-drive. Seriously, I like your site. I am still deeply disturbed by some of the simpatico feelings I have when wasting my ti…I mean, when I am reading and relaxing at your site. On the other hand, why should I worry if I am a tad on the eccentric side? I have my mortified children and my ex-wives to do that for me.

As you may have noticed, I have considerably expanded the amount of material available for time wasting. To be sure, much of it is sleazy humor of the sort that establishes that I am not exactly prim and proper. However I have gone a long way towards the minimum daily requirements for absurd and useless trivia.

I do an ego-surf every now and then using Alta-Vista; unfortunately it turns up too many internal references – I do have hundreds of pages, after all. None-the-less it turns up quite a few links, most of them to the Piltdown Man page but quite a few rather random links to specific pages (and a number of links to the main page with “interesting” descriptions.)

Well, my youngest daughter isn’t mortified, but she is still young enough that she hasn’t been accepted into the “order.” You know, that class, or club, or whatever, all women join when they are about twelve when they determine that men, especially the dad varieties, are hopelessly stupid and gross. The youngest daughter is going to be six this year. Next year is when she will stop pulling my finger, as I recall.

Fortunately for the survival of the species women aren’t consistent about the notion that all men are hopelessly stupid and gross. As a female friend of mine observed, young women behave in a manner that optimizes the likelihood that they will become mothers. The stages of malehood per the order are:
Gross and stupid
Gross and stupid and fascinating
Household utilities

How many kids were pulling their dad’s finger when that last big quake hit California I wonder? Do you think they’ll need therapy when they fart as an adult? Or, just when dad does?

You’re one sick puppy. Good show.

It seems like you have had an eclectic career Richard. It seems like some of us put down deep roots and never leave the neighborhood they were born in, and others of us follow a different star. I wonder why that is? I don’t think my sister has ever been more than four hundred miles from where she was born, and I know she hasn’t spent a combined month away from her home town. I had to travel. I needed to take that strange path, open that door, try the thing on the menu no one can pronounce… That’s the way to adventure. It took me a while to figure out adventure is what you call that really miserable, dangerous, undesirable experience you survived… When you are talking about it from the comfort of a lazyboy, years later, with your hand wrapped around a glass of good scotch. I’m slow I guess.

Just so. The truth of the matter is that most of us never do anything truly adventurous like running guns in Central America. I have friends who have lived interesting lives – one of them once casually told me that he had seen men beheaded twice in his life, once at a public execution in Saudi Arabia and once in a drunken machete fight in Venezuela. Nothing like that has ever happened to me – damn good thing, too. Little things happen in my life, e.g., I’m sitting at a lunch counter and I strike up a conversation with the guy next to me and he turns out to be a Tibetan monk. This I can deal with. My take on life is to ramble around a bit and think of what I accidently stumble into as an adventure.

Granddaddy always told me to find something I liked to do, and then to find a way to make money doing it. Granddaddy was a pretty savvy Ol’boy. Born in ’89 in East Texas, lived to be 92. I don’t think there was much he didn’t try. A great people watcher Granddad was too. He was a pool shark on the highest order when I knew him close to the end of his days. The most important thing he ever told me I did not understand until I was decades older. “It ain’t about money boy. Either you own your stuff, or your stuff owns you.”

Your granddaddy was a wise man.

Still, it seems like times are best and life is sweeter when you are struggling for the nickels and dimes. I guess it’s the commradery and teamwork. It could be the rose colored glasses I look at the past with though. It ain’t all tea and crumpets now either. But it seemes worthwhile, and I always seem to find a reason to smile. It ain’t about the money. I want a clean floor and and an hour of quiet! Just get the kids to stop killing each other and go to sleep! There’s a pot o’gold! God help me I took in another kid too. I must be crazy. What was it Murphy said? “Nothing is so bad that it can’t get worse.” Mrs. Murphy added “Nor so good as it can’t get better man of mine.”

At this point in life I don’t worry about which times are best – the ones I have now are the only ones I’ve got so I make do with them.

So what’s the point of this letter? Aw hell. I was supposed to have a point? Darn. Give me a minute. 42 is taken, isn’t it?

Point? The site doesn’t have a point; why should your letter have one?

OK, I found one. I was poking around your site while I wrote this. Oh, did the clear and decisive manner of my writing give me away already? Anyway, I stumbled across The Far Right’s New Bill Of Rights while looking at the “award winning letters. Letters to the Editor, August 1998 ” Why don’t you add State Representative Mitchell Kaye’s Bill of No Rights somewhere in there. I attached a copy here for you. I actually got to met Elvis, at Graceland, when I was twelve or so. My cousin and I had run away, from a mile or so away, and we figured Elvis would give us a job. We narrowly escaped a visit to the woodshed as it turned out. That was a different time. Maybe I’ll go into that next time.

I’ve seen it. Maybe I will add it.

Now, having dispensed with “the point”, exactly what brand of scotch do you recommend for visiting your site? I tried Bailey’s once or twice before, but Bailey’s makes me want to turn off the PC, grab a book, and relax up front. Which, by the way, may not be a bad thing. I tried Pinch, but I wound up watching the financial news (shudder). I tried Cutter Sark, but I kept wanting to watch the Regatta on ESPN. I switched to vodka on a later visit, but the last thing I remember before the monitor went dark was downloading Celebrity Death-match from MTV. I don’t even want to tell you about the Flame war I started in alt.bears after drinking tequila. Well, I do, but it was really sick and depraved, and better suited for an Eddie Murphy show than your site, I think. Weirdoes can be so sensitive. …said the Cherokee-Welch-Irish-Cajun-computer geek. People who live in glass houses…

I don’t have any recommendations on Scotch. A purist would recommend one of those glen-something varieties. Glenlivet is the only one that I can think of but IIRC it’s just for tourists. To tell the truth I hardly drink anymore. I used to throw fabulous parties but I haven’t done so for a dozen years or more. I just checked the liquor cabinet to see if there was any good Scotch – nada, just a bottle of J&B.; However I turned up a bottle of 1955 Doisy Vedrines Sauterne which is surprisingly drinkable. Thank you.

Where do those saying come from Richard? What kind of idiot is going to live in a glass house? His daughters must be a darn sight homelier than mine are! I know he doesn’t live in Hurricane alley.

I was not surprised to find you are a dinosaur nut. Haven’t we all been at some point? I enjoyed surfing your links, but it was the asteroid stuff that got my attention. Have you ever been to this site? Comet Phaethon’s Ride This guy did his homework.

Nope, I will have to check it out.

Well, I enjoyed passing the time with your virtual alter-ego. Time for bed here in Bayou land, in fact it way past bedtime, but I have a house full of young girls and the decibel level has been too high to even think about sleep until just now.
Take care.

Warmest Regards,
Doug Riddle

No guts, no glory. No brain, same story.

Please visit my Website at:

Good hearing from you again. I checked your website; my browser (Netscape 3.0) complained about the javascript.
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From: Paul
Date: 08/21/98
Subj: Poker dilemma


I am a successful 30 year old entrepeneur. I have 2 equally successful friends. We all LOVE to play poker. On the road to our current level of success, we began to notice a lessening in our exitement because our normal stake levels no longer had any sting to it. So we have started playing for higher stakes. The problem is that none of our old pals can afford to play with us, and we are bored with playing 3 player games. Do you have any ideas how we can find decent poker players to hook up with? We live in San Diego and are comfortable sitting at the table with 1000 to 5000 dollars in any one sitting.


It sounds to me as though your circle of poker friends is too small. What you need is a nucleus of about a dozen players who are comfortable with your stakes. You find them by playing in other games. Don’t worry about the stakes unless they are chicken-feed. Your object is to become simpatico with several people who know where the games are and can help you get into them. Once you are in other games as a regular or a semi-regular it is fairly easy to recognize the players who might like your game. It’s just another business – you need contacts, that’s all. At those stakes, though, you want to be very careful about who you get into the game.

One piece of advice which may not be needed; keep very good records on how much money people win and lose. In a high stakes game that I was in we only used chips and people could only buy from the banker. A good thing to do is to have a buy in much higher than players are likely to lose (have some $1000 chips), settling at the end of the session. I don’t suppose you really want to fund professional poker players.

I hope this of help.

… continued …

Thanks for responding so quickly. You have nailed the situation exactly. We have a very small circle of players. What you have not addressed is – How do we actually find games to get into? I know we will have no problems creating a solid group once we are exposed to an active scene….but finding the initial contacts is proving difficult. Fewer people than i thought actually play poker, and then even fewer can afford to lose more than 200 dollars in a night. Dont misunderstand my mission, we are not attempting to find suckers to make money off of…nor are we idiot marks for any pro. We simply love to play poker, and want to meet others who have similar interests.

Here are some thoughts. You are in the same position as the poker pro who has just come to town only you are already there. So what does he do? He talks to people, strikes up acquaintance friendships, and mentions poker to them, letting the word out that he is looking for games. The big thing is to make some connections – once you have connections they lead to other connections. The object is to get into games. They don’t have to be big games; it is the making of contacts that is important.

So who do you talk to? People who are likely to have money or know people who have money. Some people – your doctor, your dentist, the guy who handles your insurance, building contractors, all people you know. If you are a member of a country club that’s a happy hunting ground. I don’t know what kind of business you are in but you must know people with money. (I appreciate that you might know surprisingly few – entrepeneurs are too busy to hang out with people who have money.) The pitch is soft and light.

Another thing you want to do is to revive your low level game and get your old gang back together. The thing is, it will be a lot easier to recruit people into that game if it is well established. Once you get new people into that game you get their contacts as a bonus; what is more some of those people will be interested in playing in a bigger game.

You know the old saw about how you can make a star salesman out of a gorilla if you can teach his to ask for the order. The same thing applies here; you want to find poker players – you ask.

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