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Letters to the Editor, February 1999

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 And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication.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 February 1999.

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From: Josh Alley
Date: 2/26/99
Subj: Creationism, an American Disease

Hello. My name is Josh Alley, and I recently took a look at your webpage on “Creationism: The American Disease.”

I have two questions that I would be interested in discussing via email, if you would be so kind as to reply. I would like to see an explanation of:

1. How natural selection, combined with mutation, can be a creative process.

2. How you can claim that “Creation” is a position of faith and “Evolution” is one of fact. Your philosophy of science will be brought to bear on this issue.

Thanks for your consideration. I look forward to hearing your reply.

I’m sorry but I am not interested in conducting a private email conversation on these topics; it is all too likely to be an unprofitable use of my time and these are, after all, questions that have been discussed at great length in books, journals, and the internet.

To be honest, your questions and your phrasing suggests strongly that you have very little actual knowledge of the subject of evolution and that your thoughts on the matter are taken from creationist literature. I may do you an injustice here but such has been my experience. If you have not done so, may I suggest that you look at Chris Colby’s Introduction to Evolutionary Biology. There is a link to it on my origins page. The URL is:

I will, however, answer your two questions very briefly:

1. I assume that you mean to ask “How can new features and major modifications evolve?” One way is exaptation; a feature which is useful for one purpose turns out to be useful for quite another purpose. A good example of this occurs in the evolution of flight in insects. The original wing buds were useful for thermal regulation; when they reached a certain size they became useful for generating aerodynamic lift. Another way is duplication and differentiation. For example the homeobox genes are the master body plan genes for animals. There has been a fair amount of duplication both of major groups and of individual gene sequences. The duplicate copies can change independently to direct the development of distinct differentiated tissues.

Rather more generally, natural selection is conservative in its operation. That is, the reproductively fit are those organisms that are well suited to the current environment. The catch is that environments are never fixed; they alter over time. As a result the criteria for fitness change over time whence organisms have to evolve over time to track the changing environment.

The above is a simplified answer; life is complicated and the evolution of life is complicated.

2. By creationism I assume you mean young Earth creationism, i.e., Biblical literalism. Science assumes that the world is not radically inconsistent. Biblical literalism requires a radical inconsistency between the evidences of the past and the purported actual past. It is difficult to go much beyond this without appealing to the wealth of geological and biological data and that is beyond the scope of this letter or of the time I wish to invest in it.

As a general note, it is my experience that when creationists appeal to the philosophy of science they almost always are not actually familiar with the philosophy of science, that their appeal is to a simplified and superficial understanding of Popper’s falsifiability criterion.

Finally, may I suggest that instead of conducting email debates that you read a couple of good text books. For that matter, you might consider reading Darwin’s Origin of Species. It is 150 years out of date but many of the arguments and discussion are still relevant; moreover he was a very good writer.

PS: You might look at my Changing views of the history of the Earth page to get a sense of how thoroughly obsolete creationism is.

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From: Dustin Atwood
Date: 2/24/99
Subj: United States Marine Corps

I have been going over your site to see what was what; a fellow worker gave me a few links to your site and I was giving it a check-ride to see if it contained enough material to link it to my own. That’s how I happened upon your Marine page. Have you considered joining the Band of Brothers web ring (or any web ring for that matter)? I ask you this because I have seen a lot of Marine pages while surfing the BOB ring and a lot of them are very good, but there are times when you run across a page that is really squared away and has a message. Your Marine page is a prime example of the fact that you don’t need Java and animation, .wav files and all kinds of other bells and whistles to deliver a clear, honest representation of what the Marine Corps is all about.

“Squared away” – now there’s a phrase you don’t see too often these days, or too much of it either. Thank you for the kind words. I am a firm believer in web design on the cheap. Keep it clean and simple and pay attention to the content.
I don’t know if you are familiar with web rings, or whether you have already looked into joining one. I will tell you that it doesn’t cost a red cent, and takes a grand total of about 15 minutes to get locked on. The reason I am telling you this is simple: I think your page is honest, straightforward and to the point, humorous and definately something other Marines would like to see. My page happens to be linked to the ring, but I didn’t know anything about it until I went to another site that was already hooked up and looked into it. It has given my site a lot of exposure, I have found pages relating to my own unit and have spent hours in some cases just hopping from one Jarhead site to the next.

Just an FYI to see how you feel about it, and if nothing else, great job on that page and Semper Fi, Mac.

In truth I didn’t know about the BOB ring. I’ve followed your suggestion and signed up for it. The graphics are on my page now. In due course they will do whatever it is that they do and it will be fully hooked up.

At this point I’m not worrying too much about exposure. It turns out that my Darwin Awards page and my humor page generate a lot of hits (at least a lot for a personal site). I expect, though, that there are people out there that would like to read my page. The BOB ring looks like a good thing. I will probably follow your example and bounce around the ring reading pages.

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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 2/24/99
Subj: Wall Drug sign in Amsterdam

It’s a cute hack (I’d heard of the sign but never seen a photo), but it’s not very accurate; a great-circle program I built a long from Bowditch’s formulae says the non-stop distance is 4498 miles. Distances which the poster is more likely to have been able to find in tables in an atlas are 4858 via Chicago, 5098 via NYC, and 5111 via both. I wonder what the source was for the sign’s number…. (Go ahead. Tell me you’re the one who put the sign up.)

I haven’t the slightest idea where the number came from. I expect that the distance would be a combination of road miles as the car drives and sea miles as the ship sails. Given that roads meander a bit and that ships don’t sail great-circle routes that might account for it. OTOH it might be somebody’s guess. I would put my money on the latter.

… continued on next rock …

The last time I looked, ships sailed most deep-ocean routes on rhumb lines — chords (of a great-circle course) short enough that the net distance is barely greater without the fuss of a continually changing heading.
it might be somebody’s guess. I would put my money on the latter.
Wouldn’t surprise me (most hacks don’t have to be precise), although allowing for road meandering and for getting around Cape Cod and the British Isles would also come closer to that number.
Driving route 90 to South Dakota from Boston isn’t exactly straight. The mileage is 1700 miles from Boston to Highmore.
I heard about that sign shortly after getting back from Amsterdam; do you know whether it was new in the 90’s or just something our otherwise very knowledgeable tour guide missed?
My understanding is that it is fairly old. Tell you what. The next time you are in Wall, South Dakota, drop in at the drugstore and ask. They probably know. 🙂
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 2/22/99
sidebar to “Hi Richard Harter!”

In Spider Robinson’s story “Half an Oaf”, one character thinks about another “He literally couldn’t find his ass with both hands”; since this is farce, it’s because his lower half, while still effectively attached, was left in the future by a defective time machine. Robinson is close to 50; the story is ~15 years old, so it’s unlikely to be findable online. Robinson could have gotten the expression from anywhere — he has enough affection for the written word that his daughter could stay up as late as she wanted to finish what she was reading.

I seem to recall that it was a common expression back in SD when I was growing up. I place no great faith in my memory in this regard though.

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From: Ray Heatwole
Date: 2/24/99
A Texas Chili Contests

Hi, I have shared your chili story with all 67 on my ICQ listing. Love it. Wonderful sense of humor, keep up the good work. gage/F/PA/married 48 years/retired college professor/living with the Lord seventy years

Glad you liked it – I thought it was a hoot, myself. It isn’t mine originally, of course – a friend passed it on. I have a number of sources; I just pick out the stories that tickle my funny bone.

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Date: 2/21/99
Subj: wwwwwwwwwwhwhwweeheehwwewhhwwhhhheeeererrre issssssssssss hheeeeeee?

WWWWWWWWWwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwhhhhhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeerreeeeeeeeeeeee iiiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssssssss TTTTtthhhooooooooooooooooooooonmmmmmmmmmmmmaaaasssssssssss,,, hhhhhheeeeeeeeeeooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwweesssssss mmmmeeeeeeeeee aaaaaaSssssllllllllliiiicccccccceeeeeeee ooooooffffffffffff ttttthhhhhheeeeeeee pppppppplllaaaaaannnnnneeeeetttttttt Eeeeeeaaaarrrtttttthhhhh wwwwwwiiiiittttttthhhhhhh nnnnnnoooooooooo wwwwwwwwwwwwoooolllllllllllleeennnnnnn sssssssoooooocccccccckkkkkkkkssssss!!!!!!! IIIIIIIIIIIIIiii ooooooorrrrrdddddeeerrrrrrreeddd iiiiiitttttttttt sssssseeevvvvveeeeeeeen yyyyyyeaaaaarrrrrrrrrsss aaaggggggggoooooooooo. YYyyooouuuuuuu sssssaaiiiiiiiiiidddddd fffiiiiivveeeee yyyyeeeeeeaaarrrsssss aaaaaaanndddddd iiiittttssss ffffrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeee. Nnoooooooo mmmmmmooooreeeeeeee rotten ppppllllllllaaaaaaaaannnnnnettttttssss. The crowd is going crazy, the crowd is going wild! Ohh Billy! DAD! IIIIIIIII wwwwwwwwaaaaaaaannnntt mmyyyyyyyy pppplaaaannnneeeeeet sssslliiicceeeeee. IIII mmmmmmmmmm bbbbbbbbbbbaaacccccck HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHÉ

There seems to be a problem with delivery service.
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From: Don Wilson
Date: 2/16/99
Subj: Waiting for Godot in various modes

Hello. You and I may be on the same wavelength. I’m not at all sure that I’m a Human Being, either. That’s why I call myself, “lifeform”.

We share a common interest in Samuel Beckett, it appears. My interest appears to be a bit more comprehensive than yours.

I have a page called, “The Samuel Beckett On-Line Resources and Links Page”. It consists mostly of links to other people’s pages.

A couple of days ago I discovered your Beckett page. Although I’ve been perusing search engines results for months, this was the first time I ever saw a link to you. It was in German, no less. Here: It read, “Warten auf Godot auf verschiedene Weise”. Alta Vista translated that as, “Waiting for Godot in a different way”. That’s for sure.

I now have a link to you on my Beckett page. I also included one of the many pictures of you, one that I thought really reflected your essence. Hope you like my choice.

You seem to be a Renaissance man, into all kinds of things. Me, I’m just a rather misanthropic computer nerd (programmer), semi-retired. I’m two years older than you. Single, never been married. No children, needless to say.

That’s it. I went to college in Iowa. Listened to WNAX, Yankton, on the radio. I thought Yankton was a funny name.

I suspect your interest in Beckett is more profound than mine. After having looked at your web page I am certain that it is. Beckett was part of my zeitgeist; up through the seventies everybody did Beckett which is to say that serious college drama departments and community theaters would do Beckett plays, usually Godot and/or Endgame, every so often. I have the impression that this is no longer quite the case. I think that is a matter of changing times; we live in a different world from the world of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. In essential respects that world is as distant and alien as the middle ages or the Roman empire.

I do like your choice of photographs; it is one of more flattering pictures.

I suppose I am a renaissance man of sorts although I do not think that any one can truly be such. There is a line in the music for the Lion King which goes “There is more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than ever can be done” which says it nicely. The ideal of the Renaissance man, a man who was a master of all of the important arts and learning, was one for a culturally much simpler world, the Renaissance in fact. The world is too rich; one cannot even be a comprehensive dilettante. Even in the earlier part of this century one could read the one hundred great books as specified by some pretentious dweeb and flatter oneself into believing that one was a well educated man who had grasped the essentials of culture. Today such claims wear exceedingly thin.

I remember WNAX well. Yankton, by the way, is named after the Yankton Sioux. The Sioux, having had their lands and their tribal names taken away from them, are returning the favor by taking our money in their casinos.

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From: KBoyle
Date: 2/19/99
Subj: could have been bottom 1%

keep up the good work, laughter truely is the best medicine

Thank you. Humor R’ Us and all that.
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From: Bob Richmond ([email protected])
Date: 2/20/99
Hi Richard Harter!

I chanced to access your site through the page Kult of the Hamstur, which I found in a most roundabout way –

It suddenly occurred to me that I had never heard anybody else but me use the expression “He can’t find his ass with both hands”, which I distinctly recall reading in a book by Daniel Mannix (a now forgotten history popularizer) around 1962. I did an Alta Vista search for it and found your page, with a few other attestations of this curious phrase.

Not forgotten by me. He is one of my favorite minor authors. He is the author of Step Right Up, a fictionalized account of his years in the carnival freak show, Not Like Us, a book about famous freaks, and The Hellfire Club, of which our very own Ben Franklin was a distinguished member.
This site has some nice animated GIF’s of hamsters, which I thought you might like to add to, or link to, your Hamstur page.
Er, they certainly do have a lot of dancing hamsters, don’t they.
Unfortunately seems to be currently out of whack, and I couldn’t access any more of your site than your home page. I’ll try again later.
I hope you tried again. There is much there that is something or the other.
… continued on next rock …

I didn’t know ANYBODY remembered Daniel Mannix. He used to write a lot for the long defunct “TRUE – the Man’s Magazine” which I thought was one of the most underrated periodical publications of all time – I remember getting my father a subscription for Christmas around 1956. – Mannix in _The Hellfire Club_ said something like “The king [probably George III] couldn’t find his ass with both hands.” – And of course what he wrote about the world of carnies was unexcelled – though I remember other writers in and around the world of SF who wrote about the carnival scene.

I also had a subscription to TRUE. There were quite a number of good magazines in those days that ran a wide variety of interesting articles and fiction. People read magazines in those days. Most of the magazines of those days are gone; the survivors tend to have mutated into something awful. Today Redbook is a mirror image of Cosmopoliton. In those days it ran things like the Nero Wolfe novels.

I don’t know why the magazines died; I have the impression that it was a combination of television sucking away both readers and advertising dollars and general changes in the economics of printing and distribution. It is a pity though. The pulps and the slicks were a major market for general short fiction.

I have a hunch you might know a friend of mine – about our age – who has been involved in the world of fandom for half a century. Do you know Steve Kallis, and do you know where he is – I found him a few years ago and lost track of him after he moved to Florida.
I know him but I haven’t seen him for donkey’s years. IIRC he was one of the DEC people in the palmy days of DEC. The entire social network of DEC people has broken up pretty badly – they’ve scattered to the winds.
I read a good bit of your Web site after the server got to functioning again. I read your account of Piltdown Man. I had no idea how many big names are at least circumstantially implicated in the scam.
It was, after all, apparently a very important find. For a good while Piltdown Man was the “missing link”. What is more, the big names, the English intellectuals, were a fairly close knit community; they were clubby.
Hey, buddy, watch who you’re calling an intellectual! I’m a graduate of Harvard College (1959) and my daughter is going there in the fall, and my claims to being a pseudo-intellectual are quite as good as yours! An intellectual, as anyone of our generation ought to know, is somebody who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger.
I had forgotten that. You’re right, of course.
I’m really glad I found your Web site. Sometime in the next few months I’m going to give a talk to my Macintosh users group on the subject of personal Web sites, and yours will definitely be on a short list of sites I’m going to talk about – particularly because a rather high proportion of our group is older people (older than you and me!) – If I could make a recommendation for your site – it’s big enough to need a search engine.
Well my web site is certainly a sterling example of something. I’m never quite sure what. I suppose one can think of it as a hobby that got out of hand. I hadn’t quite thought of it in terms of older people; there is something neat about the idea of older people capturing the significant events and themes of their lives in web sites.

Some one of these days I will get a search engine up; I’ve picked up a couple of promising CGI scripts. Now all I have to do is go through the process of making sure that they work and that my ISP will honor them. It’s not hard, it’s just a pain. If I had had the foresight I would have built in a search engine from the very beginning. As it is, I don’t feel like going through everything and adding links to the search engine. I suppose what I should do is go back and standardize the layout. The odds against that happening are high.

… continued on next rock …

Personal Web sites, and the search engines that index them, allow you to write things there would have been no point in writing before. Like my history of my father’s World War II unit. There would have been no way to get that out to anyone who wanted it, until the Web came along. I’ve had several inquiries about nearby WWII general hospitals, though as yet (in less than two months) none about the 242nd GH itself – but give it time. – There’s a book in this topic – so far I haven’t seen much published on the subject, and I think it would make a marketable book.

This is true. One of the neat things is that specialized knowledge has become much more accessible and recordable. From what I read, the web is rapidly replacing libraries and journals as the primary research source for students. I can see where it might also do the same for many writers.

At present there is a real problem with quality control and with evanescence. It occurs to me that something that will happen in the future (it may be happening now) is the emergence of sites that mirror, certify, and version control sites of interest.

Magazines are alive and well, but the interesting ones serve very small niches. What changed the old magazines was the rather sudden public loss of interest in magazine fiction. I don’t know why that happened. I think the Web is going to change magazines a great deal – it’s sure been hell on the big computer magazines – like BYTE just died. I think porn magazines have lost a lot of circulation to the enormous marketing success of porn on the Web (there’s another book – how to run a pornographic Web site!)
One thing that happened in the 50’s is that the pulp magazine distribution system collapsed. One company handled most of the distribution of pulp magazines. As it happened, it owned a lot of land which was carried on the books at acquisition price. A corporate raider noticed this, acquired the company, sold off the assets for a large profit, and shut down the company. The pulp fiction magazines disappeared. Digest sized magazines and the slicks survived; they went through different distribution channels. They have eroded pretty steadily since then, though, leaving a small number of niche survivors.

It is notable that full length genre fiction has done quite well but in the paperback novel format. It may be that TV has been the popular alternative to the short story.

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From: John H. Jr. Boulet
Date: 2/18/99
Subj: Naval History – Wooden Ships and Iron Men


The tale about the mission of the frigate USS Constitution capturing all that booze in 1779 is just that – a “Tale”.

The USS Constitution was not even constructed until 1797, and did not put to sea until the following year (1798).

(We knew that all along, but to be sure do you have any good stories about B-52’s when they were first used in combat – in the Korean War?)

A good tale is not compromised by mere lack of factuality.
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From: John Peterson
Date: 2/15/99
Subj: your piltdown page

Excellent job! Very thorough! I am a social studies teacher in Rutland, Vermont and I teach a course in anthropology. I will be adding a link from my anthro page to your page and will be encouraging my students to visit your page. Thank you for providing this great resource. John Peterson

Thanks for the kind words. There are a few things that I still want to do with the page, the major thing being some tables of chemical analysis of the bones. One of the nice things about the internet is that if you do try to put together a resource page people will chip in and help you. Although I did most of the writing quite a number of people were very helpful in constructing the page.
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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 2/16/99
literary discussion

Althought it maddens me when some authors leave out details, I think Suford’s

the act of turning the material into character and plot involves deciding what the meaning of it is (or what you will use the material to mean this time).
is either unreasonable or irrelevant. I don’t argue that I don’t want to know details; I still want to know precisely where Neil Gaiman thought the Cuckoo (in A GAME OF YOU) came from — but it is valid to say the author hasn’t decided everything. A short story in particular is a fragment, and a jolt; making did-she-or-didn’t-she the center of the story would be needlessly repetitive (Frank Stockton(?) did it once too often, IMHO, and everything since is uncalled-for), but here it’s a useful reminder that the characters aren’t just what we see in this story. (Which can be a story in itself; see ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD.)
Frank Stockton it is – The Lady and the Tiger IIRC. A work of fiction is always an illusion; even in a complex novel we are only given scenes which stand for whole lives and for unseen events.

Be that as it may an author never decides *everything*. There are always things in the background that are not thought about although authors often create or think about unused background. As an ordinary thing, though, an author will have (or should have) thought out everything that is essential to the plot. This is by no means always true. C.S. Forrester was in the middle of the third book of the first Hornblower trilogy when, all of a sudden, he realized that he hadn’t the slightest idea how Hornblower was going to escape from captivity. Fortunately it began to snow….

Sometimes, however, the author really doesn’t know. The unexplained and the unknown are an integral part of the story. This is something that can be readily abused. In the present case Joe not knowing and not knowing is a main point of the story – not because it is a “Did she or didn’t she” story but because not asking is part of their relationship.

I do wonder about your

When she asks him to come to the house she is offering affection in the only way that she knows how to do it.
; it’s very easy to see this as a common misunderstanding of the typical causes/economics of prostitution.
Even so. However given her background it is pretty reasonable.
Given that the story is Joe’s viewpoint, it’s not unfair that we not know something that he is content to leave unknown. (You touch this aslant; it’s worth squaring off to.)
I think you are right. As I often do I plotted out the story and wrote it; it is only after writing it that one realizes what is really important in the story.
I’m not convinced you read the scene with her father correctly; for one thing, house bouncers (from the little I’ve read) vary widely in what they’re told to prevent, from not-her-choice down to rape-is-not-paying. From a different angle, it’s possible Joyce was brutalized/case-hardened/businesslike enough that she gave in, and gradually concluded that if all she was to her male biological parent was a slot machine, he wasn’t her father, and the opinions that drove her out didn’t matter. (Spider Robinson takes this route in MINDKILLER, but I’m never sure how much real knowledge is behind his successor-to-Sturgeon mantle.) I suspect she would not have been as fragile when she met Joe if she had outfaced her father.
Um, no, I disagree. The bit about whores talking about what they would do if their father showed up is real. For many whores the relationship with their father is a big deal. However the key to what happens isn’t Joyce; it is her father’s reaction. Given the kind of man that he was he would run. As to Joyce being fragile I don’t see her that way but that is another matter.
Suford’s view is highly mechanistic. It reminds me of an old reported conversation that went roughly
A: I start writing, and when I can hear the characters talking the story’s done.
B: I can’t begin/ writing until I can hear the characters!
(A is sometimes quoted as Heinlein.)
Suford’s view reminds me of the formulas pounded out in writing classes. There’s nothing wrong with the formulas per se; however the key to writing is actually writing.
This is all much easier in music because music doesn’t have/ to be explainable (or even diagramable, although it usually is). But there are similarities between composition arguments and your dialog — especially when Suford asks “What do you want the reader to feel?” The question is how much you dissect the feeling before trying to put it down in a way others can experience, in fiction or in music.
In truth I don’t worry too much about what I want the reader to feel – I react to what I feel. If a line, a paragraph, or a scene has impact that I can feel then I know I’m doing something right. There are mechanics surrounding the impact but the impact has to be there. To be honest, I’m still learning – I just don’t know what it is that I’m learning.
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From: Solomon Eutavick
Date: 2/10/99
Subj: sonnets

hey richard….great page….well the sonnet part…you are a very good writer…could u tell me about yourself?like skool that sorta stuff…i think your sonnet on death which you said might seem silly but is for effect…i really liked the power of the lines…you followed your rhyme scheme very well…as well as the syllables in the lines…i enjoyed the couplet it was moving…pls respond…thanks guy

Thank you. I like sonnets and I like writing sonnets but they take a bit of work to write – at least to write a good sonnet. If you haven’t found it you might look at my autobiography page. It has the bare statistics of my life and a bunch of little essays and sea stories.
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From: Richard Caruana ([email protected])
Date: 2/9/99
Subj: Religion and Philosophy

Hi my name is Richard Caruana
I was interested to find that you have an article on fossilization.
Well I shall read it now and get back to you.
I also noticed a section on Religion and Philosophy
I guess you are seeking something
I shall not presume what it is …. maybe the truth
I can’t say exactly what that is but if I share some of my journey
with you then theosophy and the laws of nirvana and laws of karma
may have something interesting for you.
A starting point is theosophy.

Perhaps you had better check my pages on religion and philosophy first. You might find them disconcerting. In any event I thank you for your kind concern; I hope that you find what you are looking for.
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From: Bane Reider
Date: 2/9/99
Subj: Snappy comebacks

Hey..great site! Have you got any comebacks for pregnant women? ie “Gosh, you’re as big as a house!” Or “Are you sure you’re not due for three more months?” or from ‘helpful’ ushers at theaters “Please don’t go into labor here!” I have one for the women that ask “Are you sure you’re not having twins?” “Twins? I wish! There’s triplets in there!” People who come up and rub my belly, or ask what I’m eating, or offer advice….I need good comebacks! Know any?

I can’t think of any good ones but I’ll put the word out and see what I can find. To be honest, it’s not a problem I’ve ever had to deal with. Any way, I’m glad you like the site.
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From: Liz
Date: 2/7/99
Subj: Idiot Savants

Hi, I was wondering if you could answer a few questions that I have on savants. Thanks!

I probably can’t help you if your interest is serious in depth. A lot of what I know is from material that I read a long time ago although Pinker’s How The Mind Works has some stuff that is relevant. Any way, ask away and I’ll let you know if I can answer your questions.
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From: Katherine Ferguson
Date: 2/7/99
Subj: Antonia Forest

On this web page you list Antonia Forest’s “Merrick” series as Young Adult Fantasy. I thought you might like ot know that I disagree 😉

(I would refer you to my Antonia Forest web site at except at the moment it doesn’t mention the relevant info).

Ten of her books form a series about the *Marlow* family. Patrick Merrick appears in some of these. I would only classify one of these (Peter’s Room, 1961, Faber) as Fantasy, the others are boarding school stories or set in the school holidays. In Peter’s Room the Marlows and Patrick spend most of the Christmas holidays making up stories based on the Bronte’s Gondal — that very brief description does not do justice to the book, but lets you know (if you haven’t read it) how it coudl tie in with Fantasy.

Interesting list though, makes me wonder why people chose those particular books, I’ll have to try reading them all sometime!

Hope this helps, any queries let me know,

Thanks for the information. I’ve read about half of the books on the list and none of the Antonia Forest books. I will change the page to list Peter’s Room only for her. The list reflects the choices of a number of people who mentioned their favorites. A thorough list would have many more. The category is very amorphous – where does one draw the line between children’s books and young adult fantasy. For example John Bellairs has written a number of books which sit between children’s fantasy and young adult fantasy.

I did take a look at your web page which I like although it is clear that you have more that you want to do with it. I may well see if I can find some of the Antonia Forest books.

… continued on next rock

What I particularly noticed was the suggestion of the DWJ title “Howl’s Moving Castle”. It’s one of my faves but I’d have expected something like “Fire & Hemlock” (another favourite) on a YA list. Another case of how to define children’s vs YA, combined with personal preferences as you said. Also I wouldn’t have included Cresswell’s Bagthorpes.

I will rely on your judgement here since I haven’t read either DWJ or the Bagthorpes.
Glad you thought the website is OK – I’m far from happy with it at the moment, so little is completed. I’m better at summarising other people’s ideas than doing my own litcrit and am relying on fellow members of a mailing list for material. Huge backlog of archived email, growing every day, and me “scribbling in a corner” trying to compile it into vaguely logical pages.
It takes a while to get a dedicated web site beaten into shape. One of the pages in my clutter that I put a fair bit of work into is a page dedicated to the Piltdown Man hoax. It went through a lot of revisions before it was completed and I got a lot of help and suggestions. Once a reference page is completed, though, it just sits there and the world beat a mouse trap to your door, mangling metaphors on the way.
I’d be interested to know what you would make of “Peter’s Room”, but her books can be hard to find, so don’t hold your breath 😉
We shall see. Boston does have a first rate collection of used book stores.
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From: Dave Kifer
Date: 1/30/99
Subj: Saw your website…

…got pointed at your “kitty litter cake” and worked backwards to your index, then out again to your “Sea stories”. As an “old salt” myself (Paris Island ’66, Vietnam ’68, civilian again in ’69) I enjoyed your tales of the Old Corps. They sounded much like my new (now Old) Corps. Semper Fi!

Good to hear from you. Has it occurred to you that if you had stayed in you would be retired out now on 30. I suspect that the Corps really doesn’t change that much. Then again, having women marines as regulars must change something! It wasn’t until late in my enlistment that I learned that BAM was not an official title. (BAM = Broad Assed Marine.)

… continued on next rock

Oh, yeah, I think about that every once in awhile. But the odds were high that had I stayed in, I would have visited a particular SE Asia country several more times, and there wasn’t anything I left there the first time I wanted to go back after. and I realized that while it had been good for me, I didn’t really like the military lifestyle.

I think that’s common enough – most people don’t go career. The experience of being in the military is good for people but it’s sort of like being vaccinated. The shots fix you up but you wouldn’t want to be vaccinated every day.

I never thought about it before but if I had stayed in I would have been a senior NCO with a high tech MOS during Nam and would have probably pulled more than one tour there.

I had a DI at Parris Island who made it a project to point out that Women Marines did NOT have any other name we could call them. So, of course, we still called them BAMs, as long as he wasn’t around. But that change, enlisting Women Marines, came during WWII, didn’t it?
The use of the term BAM may have changed when men and women started pulling advanced training together. The Marine Corps at least had the sense to not put them together during boot camp. I think you’re right about WWII being the dividing line. I have the impression that the WAC’s go back a lot further but that they didn’t have women in the other branches until WWII.
There are a lot of other websites out there with the “eagle, globe, and anchor” displayed on them somewhere. Occasionally I go out looking.
I hadn’t thought of that – it’s an obvious thing to look for.
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From: L.W. Clark
Date: 1/28/99
Subj: Wow!

Thank you [email protected]. There is some really funny stuff on your page and I want to thank you for going to all this trouble for us nuts. We just received the link to your site tonight and have thoroughly enjoyed what we’ve read.

Thank you, kindly. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s sort of like topsy. It just growed.
I have a request, however. Months ago I received a site in which was the funniest cartoon and I’ve lost it in this cybermaze I call my PC. If you have the cartoon which shows the “backside” of Mt. Rushmore with the text reading something like, honey, I’d have to say we’re somewhere on the backside of Mt. Rushmore, could you please forward it to this one. I would appreciate it. Even if you don’t, I still appreciate your jokes and stories and the time and effort apparently put into your web site.
Gracias. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the cartoon. It must have been after my time – I was the villain in summerstock melodrama in the Black Hills in the 60’s.
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From: Sean
Date: 2/1/99
Subj: darwin question

caught you friend.

ive been reading this GREAT stuff for days and tonight to my surprise, theres more great stuff. thank you for filling my days with laughter.

You caught me indeed. I slipped in the February stuff on the evening of Jan 31. There will be more – I add stuff as the month goes by. Anyway, I’m pleased that you like it.
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From: Erica
Date: 2/2/99
Subj: Friendly Comments

I thoroughly enjoyed the E-Mail concerning “If Women Ruled The World!” What a very special article!!

I’m glad that you liked it. It was one of those things that circulate but it was a cut above the ordinary.
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From: Denise Rohed-Trout
Date: 2/2/99
Subj: Darwin Lives

I work in a retail environment: Need I say more? Every other person that comes through the door is a genetic defect! The gene pool in THIS neighborhood definitely needs a good dose of chlorine! Thanks for the laughs!

Just think. One of the people in my pages may have once been a customer of yours. With luck some of the ones you have today will make it here tomorrow.
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This page was last updated February 26, 1999.
It was reformatted and moved December 15, 2004

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