Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Thursday October 30, 2003. To the Office Max near Lake and Nicollet, where I made copies of my First Draft zine. Then to the Lake Street post office to mail them off.

A few months ago, I would've gone to Kinko's and had them make the copies. But (unless the one in Uptown is a aberration) Kinko's figures they can save money by having fewer people behind the counter. This means it takes much longer to get something copied. And the last time I went to Kinko's, they got my order wrong.

Seen on the side of a car: -"If anyone says they hate war more than I do, they better have a knife."-
From http://eurekalert.org:
Public Release: 30-Oct-2003
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Beyond biology: Simple system yields custom-designed proteins
Michael Hecht, a Princeton professor of chemistry, has invented a technique for making protein molecules from scratch, a long-sought advance that will allow scientists to design the most basic building blocks of all living things with a variety of shapes and compositions far greater than those available in nature.
National Institutes of Health

Public Release: 30-Oct-2003
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B
Pack rat middens give unique view on evolution and climate change in past million years
Pack rat middens in Colorado's Porcupine Cave contain a 400,000-year record of vole populations going back a million years, providing UC Berkeley paleontologists with an unprecedented picture of how climate change affects mammal evolution.
National Science Foundation

Public Release: 30-Oct-2003
Scientists find evolution of life
A trio of scientists including a researcher from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has found that humans may owe the relatively mild climate in which their ancestors evolved to tiny marine organisms with shells and skeletons made out of calcium carbonate.
From the Australian edition of Google News:

'Nigerian fraudster' syndicate smashed
NEWS.com.au - 8 hours ago
IT starts with a request for $2000 and the promise of untold wealth, but for many gullible victims it ends with the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Nigerian email fraud ring busted iT News
NSW police arrest Nigerian scam e-mail suspect ZDNet.com.au
Dubbo Daily Liberal - Melbourne Herald Sun - The Age - Australian IT - and 27 related

[The headlines are misleading; this didn't involve the Nigerian Letter. Some prospects were notified that they'd won large lottery prizes; others that they'd inherited large amounts of money. Of course, there were fees which the lucky ones had to pay.]

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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Wednesday October 29, 2003. My only recreational drug these days is caffeine. I haven't been doing any intense spiritual exercises. So there's no easy explanation for what happened.

And no easy way to describe it. Starting late yesterday, I've become more aware of the world around me and of my own body. The body awareness is more immediately useful; my muscles tend to be too tense, and now I feel the tension sooner and adjust to reduce it.

Some things which I think contributed to this: Thinking about kinds of description. Discussion on the Synesthesia list.
Data entry for the Community Barter Network at Pillsbury House. Most of it went smoothly. Some didn't -- illegible signatures on forms in the space where people were supposed to print their names, missing information.

The car parts store next to Dreamhaven Books no longer has a sign saying they ban guns.

Rainbow foods has replaced its main area for books and magazines with Halloween candy. Will the printed matter return after Halloween?

Remember Theodore Sturgeon's story "And Now The News," with its information-junkie protagonist? The George Price cartoon of a man watching TV while listening to radio and reading a newspaper -- while his wife says to a neighbor "And every hour on the half hour, those damn carrier pigeons?"

Those were primitive times. Today, there's Technorati (http://www.technorati.com/). Excerpts from their main page:

You asked for more fresh information pulled piping hot from the blogosphere, we deliver. As we celebrate our 10 millionth link tracked, we're annouuncing two new ways to keep track of what's being talked about across the blogging world. Breaking News brings together the most relevant news stories from over 4000 news sources, and presents them in chronological order, with context and commentary from bloggers worldwide. Keep track of the news as well as the pundits, as soon as it happens.

If you're interested in more than news, then Hot Links is for you. We bring together all of the newest sites, articles, and blogs that are drawing attention on the Internet, updated every 15 minutes. Expect the unexpected, but be careful to not stare too long into the Internet's id, you may find your horizons expanding.

Now get the latest news along with analysis and commentary from leading webloggers, updated every quarter hour. Technorati keeps track of over 160,000 weblogs every hour, and brings together the freshest content, right as it is happening. Take me there.

I wonder how long it is till there's a direct feed into the brain?

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Wednesday October 29, 2003.

From Google News http://news.google.com
Israel trains pigs to guard settlements
Independent - 9 hours ago
Jewish settlers in the West Bank are being asked to trade in their guard dogs for pigs. The animals, considered unclean in Judaism for thousands of years, would help protect the settlements from attacks by Palestinians.
Profile: Jewish Settlement Outposts Dismantled NPR
Qorei Asked to Form New Govt Arab News
Channel News Asia - Jerusalem Post - New York Times - Jewish Telegraphic Agency - and 293 related

From the UK edition of Google news:
Halloween Film-Goers Get A Taste of Alco-Popcorn
The Scotsman - 6 hours ago
Movie-goers will soon be able to sample alco-popcorn as they watch over-18 movies. Cinema chain Odeon said today it is trialling booze-flavoured snacks at late screenings of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on ...
Out On The Pop Empire Online
Odeon to sell alco-popcorn on Halloween Ananova
Coventry News - E! Online -

German teenagers invent a currency
Six teens introduce the 'chiemgauern,' named for the mountainous
Chiemgau region, to bolster the local economy. By Mariana Schroeder

Smart-winged pterosaurs
Why did ancient flying reptiles have so much processing power in
the back of their brain? To provide highly responsive flight control,
is an answer to emerge from an innovative analysis of
pterosaur skulls.

Big Bang sounded like a deep hum
19:00 29 October 03

The Big Bang sounded more like a deep hum than a bang, according to an analysis of the radiation left over from the cataclysm.

Physicist John Cramer of the University of Washington in Seattle has created audio files of the event which can be played on a PC. "The sound is rather like a large jet plane flying 100 feet above your house in the middle of the night," he says.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Tuesday October 28, 2003. I didn't get "The Caterpillar on the Leaf" finished in time to include it in my First Draft zine. I included what I had -- along with critiques and mailing comments -- and got the zine printed out. [First Draft is a by-mail writing group in apa format.]

I wrote the following for my own use. However, I decided that other people might find it useful and might have useful comments on it.

Concentrate on what interests me, and what I think is important. Which, to a large extent, means the marketplace of behavior and symbolic interaction.

And certain kinds of change.

Give description as the viewpoint character would see it. This character may be an authorial persona, rather than a character in the story.

Use synesthesia -- not as a goshwow exoticism, but as something ordinary for the viewpoint character.

These are the kinds of description I know about, so far:

Sensory description: How things look, sound, feel, smell, taste, etc. Flaubert advised using at least three senses in each paragraph; this is probably unworkable for short paragraphs.

Different senses are important to different people. For much discussion of this, google on "learning styles." (Note: There are people who have very little sensory memory.)

Process description: This is how it works, this is what it does.

Note that "How it works" means at least two very different things. 1) When you push button A, you will see a mango on the screen. 2) It operates according to the theory of holistic mangoism, whose basic theorems are.... I would count only the first as process description.

Pattern description: This is the pattern the viewpoint character sees. Most humans have a part of the brain which specializes in recognizing faces. (I've read that some auto buffs use this area for recognizing cars.) Other kinds of pattern recognition, which aren't hardwired, vary wildly. Some people literally see mathematical processes, for example.

This is not abstract understanding of patterns; this is _seeing_ the patterns. (Or feeling, hearing, etc.)

Abstract description: Some amateur erotic fiction describes people's bodies in terms of measurements, more than describing how those bodies look and feel. Some people think that way; to them, the abstract is more real than the sensory.

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Tuesday October 28, 2003.

Pollster George Barna, a former minister who founded the research group, noted that one out of 10 born-again Christians — those who believe entry into heaven is solely based on confession of sins and faith in Jesus Christ — also believe in reincarnation, which violates Christian tenets. Nearly one in three claim it is possible to communicate with the dead, and half believe a person can earn salvation based on good deeds even without accepting Christ as the way to eternal life.

Many who describe themselves as either atheistic or agnostic also harbor contradictions in their thinking, Barna said. He said that half the atheists and agnostics surveyed believed that everyone had a soul, that heaven and hell existed and that there was life after death. One in eight atheists and agnostics believe that accepting Jesus Christ as savior probably makes life after death possible.

Therefore, labels — be they "born again" or "atheist" — might not give as much insight into a person's beliefs as one might assume, he said.
Thanks to sclerotic_rings http://www.livejournal.com/users/sclerotic_rings

Public Release: 28-Oct-2003
American Journal of Psychiatry
Could you suffer from psychosis? The nose knows
Your nose could provide the first reliable diagnostic tool for predicting a person's likelihood of developing psychosis, new research has found.
University of Melbourne

Public Release: 28-Oct-2003
Ecological Applications
Wolves are rebalancing yellowstone ecosystem
The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park is helping to save cottonwood trees that were well on their way to extinction, and in the process rebalancing a whole stream ecosystem for the first time in 70 years.
National Park Service Research Center

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Monday, October 27, 2003

Monday October 27, 2003. I got more written than I'd expected, though not as much as I'd hoped. Almost 1600 words added to this draft of "The Caterpillar on the Leaf."

From here on, I don't really know what happens. I know what the protagonist ends up learning.

Most of the planning I did on the story was waste motion. Next time, I'll try starting with the opening situation and a rough idea of the ending.

We’re only human after all.
Posted by Maria [Farrell]

Last Friday night, I went along with a friend to a cello recital in the Marais, an arty area of Paris. We missed the right door three times in the dark, but finally found our way upstairs, through an ordinary old apartment building complete with post boxes, lights on a timer, little old ladies and exhortations to keep the door shut, to the last remaining temple in Europe of Comte’s humanist religion, the Chapel of Humanity....

From the UK edition of Google News:
Brain's Faggots maker calls in receiver
Independent - 4 hours ago
The maker of Mr Brain's Faggots and owner of Sara Lee UK, Hibernia Food, has called in receivers, it emerged yesterday.
2000 Hibernia jobs threatened The Times (UK)
Administration threatens 2000 Hibernia jobs Guardian
4ni.co.uk - BBC News - Ananova - Middlesbrough Evening Gazette - and 14 related

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Sunday October 26, 2003. Twice a year, the time change fogs my brain. I have no idea why it affects me this much.

The newsgroup soc.history.what-if is devoted to alternate history. Today, one post was a bit more alternate than intended: It included the myth that only natural born US citizens can become President.

No natural born citizen was eligible till 1822, if I've figured correctly. All Presidents till then were eligible under the other provision -- they were citizens at the time the Constitution was adopted.

Writing: Got the story as far as only minor changes (replacing a character with her mother, changing wording here and there) are needed. By my estimate, only twenty percent of what's left is likely to be in this draft.

Americans Stake Claims in a Baja Land Rush
Slowly but surely, acre by acre, Mexico's Baja Peninsula is becoming an American colony.

From http://news.google.com:
Court's ban on crucifix in school divides Italians
MSNBC - 25 minutes ago
Acting on a complaint from Adel Smith, a Muslim activist who did not want his two children to see crucifixes at their primary school, a court in the central city of L'Aquila said on Saturday the symbols had to go.
Should crosses be banned from classrooms? BBC News
Italian judge rules crucifix be removed from classrooms ABC Online
Philippines Daily News - and 5 related

Holocaust link halts Berlin memorial
The Scotsman - 5 minutes ago
WORK on Berlin's Holocaust memorial has been halted after it emerged that a company involved in the construction manufactured the gas used in the death camps.
Nazi gas link halts Holocaust memorial Telegraph.co.uk
Work on German Holocaust Memorial Stopped over Degussa Participation Deutsche Welle
Newsday - CNN Europe - Voice of America - Canada.com - and 40 related

From the UK edition of Google News:
Stephen King: Credit junkies must be weaned off habit or we face crash landing
Independent - 2 hours ago

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Saturday, October 25, 2003

Saturday October 25, 2003. I picked up FARE For All food at the Southwest Senior Center. At $15.50, the Regular pack was a good bargain. It included several things I like but usually consider too pricey. And only one I plain didn't want (iceberg lettuce salad makings shredded and in a plastic bag), plus one "okay, but not high on my list" item (chicken breast).

Writing: I started a major revision of "The Caterpillar on the Leaf." Instead of revising within the file, I'm revising from copy. (That is, typing a new file from a print-out.) This considerably reduces temptation to leave something as it was.
From Google News http://news.google.com

Communist Party calls Madam Chiang a patriot
Straits Times - 55 minutes ago
BEIJING - China's ruling communist inner circle has sent condolences to Madam Chiang Kai-shek's family, praising her as a patriot and a 'figure of influence' in modern China, official media said yesterday.
Madame Chiang Kai-shek Dies; Chinese Chief's Powerful Widow Washington Post
Death of Madame Chiang Kai-shek stirs memories San Francisco Chronicle
National Post - Guardian - The Times (UK) - Toronto Star - and 463 related
Subject: fx-claims: FX claim 'ChMoon' open for trading
Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 00:17:00 -0600
From: FX
Reply-To: info@ideosphere.com
To: fx-claims@tick.javien.com

Claim 'ChMoon' has been approved by its judge and has passed
the mandatory waiting period. It is now open for trading.

Short Description:
Chinese Moon Landing by 2020

URL: http://www.ideosphere.com/fx-bin/Claim?claim=ChMoon

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Saturday October 25, 2003. The BALLAD-L list got a question about possible British ancestors of "They Gotta Quit Kicking My Dog Around" (aka "Hound Dog").

Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 11:26:35 -0700
From: Sadie Damascus
Subject: Re: British Hound Dog?

"Johnny rose on a May mornin'
Ca'ed for water tae wash his hands,
Says' When e'er I gae doon tae the toon,
They've been kickin' ma dogs around....
They've been kickin' ma dogs around...."

Just kidding.

Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2003 14:19:30 -0500
From: Steve Gardham
Subject: Re: British Hound Dog?

Okay but verse 2 scans better....

Ye'll busk, ye'll busk my noble dogs,
Ye'll busk and make them boun,
They're the cleverest hounds in all the North,
So stop kicking ma dogs aroun'.

For those who don't know the original:

Ev'ry time I come to town
The boys keep kickin. my dawg aroun'
Makes no difference if he is a houn'
They gotta quit kickin' my dawg aroun'

Me an' Lem Briggs an' old Bill Brown
Took a load of corn to town
My old Jim dawg, ornery old cuss
He just naturally follored us.

As we drive past Johnson's store
A passel of yaps come out the door
Jim he scooted behind a box
With all them fellers a-throwin' rocks

They tied a can to old Jim's tail
An' run him past the county jail
That just naturally made us sore
Lem, he cussed, and Bill, he swore.

Me an' Lem Briggs an' old Bill Brown
Lost no time in a-gitten down
We wiped them fellers on the ground
For kickin' my old dawg, Jim, around.

Jim seen his duty there an' then
He lit into them gentlemen
He shore mussed up the courthouse square
With rags an' meat an' hide an' hair.

Repeat verse 1

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Friday, October 24, 2003

Friday October 24, 2003. There's a puppet show based on Thomas the Rhymer, put on by Barebones Productions, in Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. I didn't quite catch the schedule on radio, and the online info I found was "more info coming".

In this version, Thomas is a weather forecaster before he goes to Elfland.

In the discussion on radio, it was mentioned that Thomas is kidnapped by the Queen of Elfland. To me, that interpretation is a bit odd. Every version of the ballad I've seen has him going voluntarily.

On description by pattern:

'Subject: Re: [FD] feedback wanted
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2003 18:13:00 -0400
From: Michael Wolff

'Dan Goodman had written:

'Yesterday I wrote: "Description by pattern: The two writers who come first to my mind are William Blake and Ayn Rand. I'll need to do a fair amount of thinking before I can explain this."

'Please do. Other than the fact that both people were carbon-based life-forms who wrote, I can't find too much to connect them.'

They both had their own ideologies, and weren't shy about giving their opinions.

'Can you especially give me an example of a pattern in Rand's work?'

Not yet. I will say that to me, her characters seem to be patterns of thought which happen to be wearing bodies.

'"Imagine a character who, when he looks at plants, sees sequences of Fibonacci numbers. (Best explanation I've found: Fibonacci numbers and the golden section in nature; seeds, flowers, petals, pine cones, fruit and vegetables. ... Fibonacci Numbers and Nature....
www.mcs.surrey.ac.uk/Personal/R.Knott/Fibonacci/fibnat.html ) Showing the reader what such a character sees is another example of description by pattern. [And I now know that some people use Fibonacci numbers to forecast the stock market.]"

'So the author is providing the reader with an empathic experience? Allowing the reader to identify intimately with the thought process that the particular character is using?'

No. That's what the character _sees_. And it's frustrating not to be able to explain in detail.

However, elsewhere I'll be citing a couple of characters who I think are this way to some extent. From the writings of one Michael Wolff....

Doggie Census of New York Puts Breeds to ZIP Codes
Maybe you can't judge a book by its cover, but it sure looks as if you can judge New Yorkers by their dogs.

Di another day
by Brendan O'Neill

You don't have to be part of the anti-Diana brigade - one of those old-style brown-nosing monarchists - to know that she was a few diamonds short of a tiara in the months before her death by car crash in Paris in August 1997.

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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Thursday October 23, 2003. "She drank, but Trollope didn't know it."

I had no intention of using an unreliable narrator. But there was the nagging question "If he's so sensible, how did he get into this situation?"

So, things didn't happen quite the way he remembers them. And there's a hole in his memory....

And among his memories is one of watching a steamboat race on the Los Angeles River, which is usually not a navigable stream.

I don't think the headache I had today was tied in with this. I expect to have fewer tension headaches in future, partly thanks to the dog collar I bought at Steeple People Thrift Store.

Kieran Healy on http://www.crookedtimber.org
Patrick Belton at OxBlog disapproves[1] of the “Pope Death Watch” but can’t resist linking to the betting on JPII’s successor[2], together with an analysis of the contenders[3]. The main candidates are an Italian, a Cuban and a Nigerian, which sounds like the beginning of a pretty bad joke, the punchline to which is left as an exercise for the reader. I want the Nigerian to win, mainly because of the expanded possibilities for spam:


Dear Sir, I pray this important message meets you in peace, may blessings of God be upon you and your family and grant you the wisdom to understand my situation and how much I really need your assistance. Before I start let me introduce myself, my name is FRANCIS ARINZE, Cardinal of the most holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, former President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and prefect of divine worship and discipline of sacraments. I have recently been elected Pontiff of the Universal Church by the conclave of cardinals, which you may have seen on the news…

1. http://www.oxblog.blogspot.com/2003_10_19_oxblog_archive.html#106686610985015692
2. http://www.online-betting-guide.co.uk/Next-Pope.htm
3. http://www.stratfor.com/corporate/static_index.neo

Email: A first for me -- spam ad disguised as a chain letter.

Paper mail: Penzey's Spices catalog.
Tapestry Folkdance schedule for November and December.
Public Release: 23-Oct-2003
Pedro Duque's diary from space
I am writing these notes in the Soyuz with a cheap ballpoint pen. Why is that important? As it happens, I've been working in space programmes for seventeen years, eleven of these as an astronaut, and I've always believed, because that is what I've always been told, that normal ballpoint pens don't work in space.

Contact: Franco Bonacina
European Space Agency

Public Release: 23-Oct-2003
Energy & Fuels
Amber waves of grain on a mission to Mars
Scientists have developed a fully sustainable disposal system to deal with waste on long-range space flights using a simple byproduct of wheat, moving the space program one step closer to a manned mission to Mars. Wheat grass, an inedible part of the wheat plant that would normally be trash, can be used to reclaim pollutants produced from burning waste on a spaceship.

Contact: Allison Byrum
American Chemical Society

Public Release: 23-Oct-2003
CIB-CTBUH International Conference on Tall Buildings
Developing elevators that function during fires
In the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. fire experts are beginning to advocate the use of elevators in high-rise buildings throughout a fire, both to carry firefighters to the site of the blaze and as a secondary method (after stairwells) for evacuating building occupants. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has joined others to study ways to build "protected" elevators.

Contact: John Blair
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Wednesday October 22, 2003. I woke up much earlier than I had been lately, without trying to.

Yesterday I wrote: "Description by pattern: The two writers who come first to my mind are William Blake and Ayn Rand. I'll need to do a fair amount of thinking before I can explain this."

An easier example: Arnold Toynbee, who looked at history and saw historical cycles. (See the condensed version of _A Study of History_.) More recently, Neil Howe and William Strauss have explained American history in terms of four-generation cycles (http://wwww.fourthturning.com). [These aren't the only historians who see such patterns. But Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel isn't easy to read, and Carroll Quigley was a bit of a flake.]

Imagine a character who, when he looks at plants, sees sequences of Fibonacci numbers. (Best explanation I've found: Fibonacci numbers and the golden section in nature; seeds, flowers, petals, pine cones, fruit and vegetables. ... Fibonacci Numbers and Nature....
www.mcs.surrey.ac.uk/Personal/R.Knott/Fibonacci/fibnat.html ) Showing the reader what such a character sees is another example of description by pattern. [And I now know that some people use Fibonacci numbers to forecast the stock market.]

Some synesthetes literally see patterns. They see numbers lined up along the number row; they see days, weeks, and years in patterns which they can easily grasp. I gather that this can be quite useful.

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Wednesday October 22, 2003. From the UK edition of Google News:

Pupils took Viagra in lunch break
BBC News - 7 hours ago
Six schoolboys have been treated in hospital after taking Viagra pills during break-time at a Berkshire school, education chiefs have revealed.
Six British schoolboys hospitalised after taking anti-impotence drug Yahoo News
Schoolboys Took Viagra in Lunch - Break' The Scotsman
Reading Evening Post - Sky News - NEWS.com.au - ABC Online - and 16 related

Problems getting erections are not common in boys aged 12-13.

The nature of human altruism

The content listing below is accessible only through a subscription.
India's mission to the Moon is worthwhile

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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Tuesday October 21, 2003. I got a bit of writing done -- and a lot of notes about writing. Which included categories of description:

Sensory description: http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/Dimension/hd06-1.html Alexei Panshin, _Heinlein in Dimension_:

"A goodly portion of what makes style is bound up in the devices a writer chooses to make his work vivid. For instance, Poul Anderson says of a policy that he follows: "A useful device -- I think it was first enunciated by Flaubert -- is to invoke at least three senses in every scene, remembering that we have much more than five senses." In the opening scene of Anderson's Hugo-winning novelette, "No Truce With Kings," there are the following bits of sensual data: shouts, stamping boots, the thump of fists on tables, clashing cups, shadows, stirring banners, winking light, wind and rain outside, a loosened collar, singing, a chill feeling, a dark passageway, and clattering footsteps -- all of these and others in a matter of six hundred words or so. They tie you to what is happening. This is not a bad policy, but neither is it an easy one to follow, mainly because no matter what a writer may determine to set down, what he actually puts on paper is not completely controlled by his conscious mind. This policy is also, as Anderson says, not the only solution to the problem of making writing real and vivid.

"Theodore Sturgeon has a good sense of the nuances of speech and of shades of meaning. He draws delicate portraits. This, I think, is the key to his work: he draws word portraits. His writing, even to his similes and metaphors, is visually oriented. He has the artist's eye and it marks his work as something different than Vance's, or Bradbury's, or Anderson's:

"The idiot lived in a black and gray world, punctuated by the white lightning of hunger and the flickering of fear. His clothes were old and many-windowed. Here peeped a shinbone, sharp as a cold chisel, and there in the torn coat were ribs like the fingers of a fist. He was tall and flat. His eyes were calm and his face was dead."

Description by function: http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/Dimension/hd06-1.html Alexei Panshin, _Heinlein in Dimension_:

"Since his continuing interest is in process -- how things both physical and social work -- Heinlein doesn't tell what things look like, he tells what they do. For an example, in Beyond This Horizon, Heinlein has one of his characters introduce a Colt .45 automatic. Physically, it is "novel," "odd," "uncouth," and has a stud on its side which when pressed lets a long, flat container slide out. That's it. That's all you get. If you had never seen a .45 automatic, you would be no better off for Heinlein's description of it. You might mistake it for a gum machine (novel, odd, uncouth; has a stud on its side which when pressed lets a long, flat container -- your gum -- slide out). On the other hand, in dialogue Heinlein lets us know more about it and he demonstrates how it works very nicely. You still don't know what the damned thing looks like, but you know very well what it does."

When I first read that, I was sure Heinlein had indeed given a sensory description. I checked, and Panshin was right.

Description by pattern: The two writers who come first to my mind are William Blake and Ayn Rand. I'll need to do a fair amount of thinking before I can explain this.

(guns> (politics> Letter of comment:

Good morning Dan,

At your URL
you wrote
Yesterday, Joel Rosenberg said on the Natter list that the Wedge Co-op had taken down their "No guns here" sign. They had. I asked about it.

Unfortunately, no, they haven't.


Go in Faith
Rev. J. Jesmer, DM
Universal Ministries
July 31st, 2003 A.D.

They did. Then they put it back up. As nearly as I can work out from what I've been told:
The managers originally put up the sign because they interpreted the new gun law as requiring they do so if they wanted to stop any customer or intruder from being obnoxious with a handgun. They were persuaded that it wasn't necessary for that purpose, so they took it down.

They put it up again to make a statement.

I'm cynical enough to consider this proof that the now-current gun law is fulfilling the purpose which many Republican legislators had in mind -- offending urban liberals and leftists.

(/guns> (/politics>
The Wedge co-op's annual meeting is worth attending for the food; a fine array of organically correct eats and drinks.

There were several matters the meeting would have voted on, if there'd been a quorum. There wasn't a high enough percentage of the 10,000 members present, so they were passed by consent. (Someone mentioned that many co-ops used to have 15 as a quorum, no matter how large their membership became. The Wedge changed their bylaws a while ago, to avoid having a small, determined group take over. After that did happen to a co-op in Arizona, a bunch of other co-ops made similar changes.)

The ballot count was announced. There weren't enough ballots to meet _that_ quorum. Which under the bylaws meant that the two people who'd been elected to two-year terms would only serve for one year.

Some discussion of how more members might be induced to vote. I had an idea, but I suppressed it: next year, add to the ballot the question of whether or not the Wedge should state support of the President and his policies.

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Monday, October 20, 2003

Monday October 20, 2003. Writing mistake: I've put too much conscious worldbuilding into "The Caterpillar on the Leaf".

Grump -- earlier today, I'd been in an online discussion of worldbuilding. And I'd explained that some writers do best at worldbuilding when they don't do it consciously.
(The example I used was Ursula K. Le Guin.) I'd even said that this seems to be true of me.

Time to follow Raymond Chandler's advice, and bring in a man with a gun. More specifically, bring him in where my protagonist now has a peaceful walk homeward.

Public Release: 20-Oct-2003
Journal of American Chemical Society
Self-assembled nanocells function as non-volatile memory
Chemists under the direction of Rice University's Jim Tour have demonstrated that disordered assemblies of gold nanowires and conductive organic molecules can function as non-volatile memory. A prototype device, dubbed a NanoCell, is believed to be the first working microelectronic device to use self-assembled organic molecules. In contrast with present-day DRAM, which has to be refreshed every thousandth of a second, NanoCells have been shown to hold memory states for more than a week.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Office of Naval Research, Molecular Electronics Corp.

Public Release: 20-Oct-2003
Journal of Homosexuality
Gay, lesbian couples can teach heterosexuals how to improve relationships
Married heterosexual couples can learn a great deal from gay and lesbian couples, far more than the stereotypical images presented by the television show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," according to the first published observational studies of homosexual relationships.
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health

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Sunday October 19, 2003. I met Marie at the Caribou coffeehouse at Fifth and Washington.
We tentatively agreed to start a Clutterers Anonymous meeting in Minneapolis in December.

There've been meetings in Minneapolis, but the two currently active in the Twin Cities are in the St. Paul area.

I stayed longer than Marie did. Bad decision -- people were leaving the football game (Vikings vs. Denver Broncos) and Washington Avenue was jammed very badly by Twin Cities standards. (It was slightly worse than the George Washington Bridge at rush hour, assuming NYC metro area traffic hasn't greatly changed since the 1960s.)

I noted with approval that many of the female Vikings fans on foot looked as if they might play sports themselves, rather than being couchette potatoes. Not a majority; but I think it was a much higher percentage than it would have been ten/twenty years ago.

Public Release: 19-Oct-2003
American Psychologist
Renorming IQ tests due to Flynn effect may have unintended consequences
The steady rising of IQ scores over the last century (Flynn effect) causes IQ tests norms to become obsolete over time, so the tests are "renormed" (made harder) every 15-20 years. But this may have unintended consequences, particularly in the area of special education placements.

Public Release: 19-Oct-2003
Journal of Micromechanics and microengineering
Let water power your cell phone?
A team of researchers in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Alberta (U of A) has discovered a new way of generating electricity from flowing water. It may soon be possible to never have to charge up a cellular phone again instead, the phone could be fitted with a battery that uses pressurized water.

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Sunday, October 19, 2003

Saturday October 18, 2003. The Mnstf meeting was a bit unusual. For one thing, it was held in a day care center. (Marian Turner's home; also hosted by Michael Kauper and Erica Stark.)

For another: While it's usual for the host to provide refreshments, this level is above the usual (quoted from an announcement:)

Menu outline:

Grass-fed beef burgers, wheat buns, lettuce, baked potatoes (small red), plus the usual chips, 3-bean salsa, 3 bean salad, popcorn, nuts, pop, hot tea, cookies, crackers,etc.

We will have a grill going and a coffee maker. Bring your own meat if you want something besides burgers; also, your own alcohol. If you have a surplus of garden tomatoes, to share, they would be welcome.

There was also some orange cocoa, and various other interesting foods.

It was up against a small local convention, CONsume/Relaxacon (devoted to food), which resulted in a relatively small attendance.

I brought some books and magazines to sell for Mnstf's benefit. I put an empty pill bottle on top, and an index card telling people to pay what they thought was right. Total: $1.25.

I'd rate it high on company, discussion, and food. And if one has small children, this location is as child-friendly and child-proof as a Mnstf meeting gets.

"What poets do you have on your shelves?" This question has been going around LiveJournal recently. So far, everyone has interpreted it as "What poets' books are on your shelves"?
I'm snarky enough to prefer the literal meaning.

October 18, 2003
Memo to Post's Editorial Page: It Isn't Over Until It's Over

In the parallel world of journalism where Dewey defeated Truman, the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the seventh game of the American League Championship Series.

At least that's the way the editorial page of The New York Post called the game — in the last 200,000 copies of the paper that rolled off the presses early yesterday.

"Looks like the Curse of the Bambino boomeranged this year," the editors wrote in the newspaper's late city edition, which represented about a quarter of its press run yesterday. "Despite holding a 3-2 lead in games over the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees couldn't get the job done at home; their season ended last night."

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Friday, October 17, 2003

Friday, October 17 2003. Waking thought: Running the universe must be painful. Does God have a safeword?

Warning: The Wedge co-op grocery had That Sign up again.

Recap: They'd put up a sign saying guns were banned, because someone(s) had the idea that under the new gun law they otherwise wouldn't be able to call the cops on anyone who was being obnoxious with a gun. Then someone(s) got convinced that this was inaccurate, and the sign came down.

And now it's up again. I don't much care one way or the other, but it looks like there's been at least one mistaken decision.

Other political stuff: Minnesota's state government will work to make Canadian prescription drugs available to all Minnesotans. The sparkplug for this is Governor Tim Pawlenty, who I voted against. Pawlenty is Republican; but on this issue he seems more prepared to defy the Republican administration than most Democratic elected officials are on any issue. (My opinion? I suspect that in a free market, US drug prices would go down and Canadian prices would go up. And I think this is at least a small step toward such a market.)

Minneapolis mayor R. T. Rybek wants to help the Twins get a new baseball stadium in Minneapolis -- with government help on financing. I voted for Rybek, but I heartily disagree on this issue. I don't want the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, or the State of Minnesota giving a new stadium any kind of backing. No tax money, no backing bonds, nothing which would reduce the team's financial burden and increase any government's.

And yes, I'm willing to see the Twins move to another metro area. I'm also willing to see both major leagues go out of business.

Would I feel differently if I were a baseball fan? I think I would feel the same way, but more strongly.

My body decided that sleep took precedence over any late-afternoon or evening plans.

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Thursday October 16, 2003

Call For Abstracts
The Undead and Philosophy
Richard Greene & K. Silem Mohammad, Editors

Abstracts are sought for a collection of philosophical essays on the theme of the undead. The editors are currently in discussion with Open Court Press (The publisher of The Simpsons and Philosophy, The Matrix and Philosophy, and the forthcoming The Sopranos and Philosophy, etc.) regarding the inclusion of this collection in a new book series dealing with philosophy and various cultural topics. We are seeking abstracts, but anyone who has already written an unpublished paper on this topic may submit it in its entirety. Potential contributors may want to examine other volumes in the Open Court series.

Contributors are welcome to submit abstracts on any topic of philosophical interest that pertains to the theme of the undead. We define "the undead" as that class of corporeal beings who at some point were living creatures, have died, and have come back such that they are not presently "at rest." This would include supernatural beings such as zombies, vampires, mummies, and other reanimated corpses. The editors are especially interested in receiving submissions that engage the following perspectives: philosophy of mind; the metaphysics of death; political and social philosophy; ontology and other topics in metaphysics; ethics and bioethics; aesthetics; cultural theory and globalization studies; race and gender; epistemology; philosophy of religion; phenomenology and existentialism. Possible topics might include, but are not limited to, the following: zombie-based critiques of functionalist theories of mind; historical treatments of the undead in philosophy; the films of George Romero, Danny Boyle, and Joss Whedon; the novels of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Bruce Campbell, and Poppy Z. Brite; critical writing by Julia Kristeva, Jalal Toufic, and Slavoj Zizek.

From The Volokh Conspiracy (http://www.volokh.com):
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Eugene Volokh, 7:44 PM]
"Bet now on the next pope": The last thing I'd want to bet on, even if I were a gambling man, but I pass it along for those who might be interested . . . . Thanks to reader John Griffin for the pointer.


Public Release: 16-Oct-2003
Genes & Development
Genetic basis for gender differences in the liver
Scientists at the University of Michigan Medical School have identified two genes responsible for an important, yet often overlooked difference between the sexes -- the liver. The report is published in the November 1 issue of Genes & Development.

Public Release: 16-Oct-2003
Device will give infantry soldiers bird's eye view of battlefield
Georgia Tech Research Institute engineers are developing a novel way for infantry units to see past obstacles on the battlefield. Called the "reconnaissance round," it would let soldiers use small artillery weapons almost like a periscope. They could fire skyward a device that transmits images of nearby terrain back to a laptop computer, which is standard equipment now among infantry units.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Wednesday October 15, 2003. Weather forecast from Hawaii:
Summary of Key Meteorological Variables
Summit temperatures will be near 6.5 C today, 2 C tonight, and 1.5 C tomorrow morning. Precipitable water is expected to be in the 2 to 2.5 mm range. Summit winds will be from the east-northeast at 20 to 30 mph for today, 15 to 25 mph this evening, and 10 to 20 mph tomorrow morning. Shear will be near 85 to 95 mph.

6.5C is 43.7F. The forecast is for the summit of Mauna Kea, about 14,000 feet above sea level.

To Pillsbury House, where I did data entry for the Community Barter Network. No major problems; just minor problems with information which should already have been on the system, forms with categories which didn't quite match the ones on the software...

Weblogger Meetup at the Urban Bean Coffeehouse. I wondered what my 1960's self would have thought of the place. When did coffeehouses start opening at 6:30 am?

There were ten other people, all but one of them male.

Weblogger Meetup at the Urban Bean coffeehouse. Ten other people, including one woman. At least half the people were familiar with software the rest weren't, which made for some esoteric discussion.

At one end of a spectrum, I use Blogger and LiveJournal; at the other end, at least one attendee writes his own software.

Public Release: 15-Oct-2003
Language more foul in Elizabethan street theatre than 21st century TV, reveals historian
New research from the University of Warwick reveals that the language of public name-calling, or 'street theatre', in early modern England was full of foul sexual insults that are more lewd than today's broadcast media- and that women were the main offenders. The research tracks the history of poor women from the 1500s-1700s to reveal that gossipmongering and heated public exchanges were weapons used to wield power and influence in a male dominated society.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Tuesday October 14, 2003. Waking-up idea: Internet cafes specializing in futurology, as some now do in gaming.

I'm not sure yet what they would provide. Graphic software and mathematical software, perhaps. An index of relevant sites: Ones where you can bet on or invest in the future (either with real money or play money), ones with useful information.

Exercise: I got off a bus ten blocks too soon, and walked those ten blocks. I believe Minneapolis blocks are ten to the mile; which means I walked a mile more than I otherwise would have.

I've started being more conscientious about doing small exercises.

Writing: Today, I took the zeroth/first draft of "The Caterpillar on the Lear" as far as it's going. From here, I'll rewrite from printouts of that draft and of notes.

And then I find out how much unexplained background I can get away with.

From Daniel Davies, http://www.crookedtimber.org
Monte and Blackjack
Posted by Daniel

Here’s my contribution to the “M-Type versus C-Type” debate. Basically, just as it’s a useful analytical distinction to make that all UK Prime Ministers are either bookies or vicars, it’s always worth remembering that all economic policy debates of interest can be usefully analogised either to blackjack or to three-card monte.

Continue reading "Monte and Blackjack" ...

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Monday, October 13, 2003

Monday October 13, 2003. Nose still stuffed, but I'm feeling a lot better.

I was startled to find myself wondering how long Rush Limbaugh will stay off drugs before relapsing. Why was I so sure he would relapse?

Two reasons. Minor: His track record. He's gone into treatment before, and it didn't take. Major: His public persona is incompatible with getting clean and staying clean. Even if his real personality is very different -- he makes his living being contemptuous of people who disagree with him and people who succumb to temptation (including drugs). That's got to interfere with his staying clean.

I say it's a choice between keeping his job, or staying clean.

Thoughts on seldom-used spaceports: Let's say a starport is used only every five years or so. If it's on an inhabited planet, chances are good that it will get used for other things in between ships. Sometimes, there will be delays in clearing out a fair or swapmeet or whatever in time. And there aren't going to be fulltime port personnel, unless they're kept in coldsleep till needed.

Make it every twenty or thirty years, and there are _real_ problems.

Thanks to Kieran Healy on http://www.crookedtimber.org:
# NEW Philosophy and The Onion. Now soliciting proposals for projected philosophical anthology on any aspect of The Onion, America's leading satirical newspaper. Brief, informal proposals are welcome at this stage. Submit to Graham Harman at toolbeing@yahoo.com (deadline for initial proposals is October 31, 2003)
# NEW The Undead and Philosophy (external link with more info) Abstracts are sought for a collection of philosophical essays on the theme of the undead. We are seeking abstracts, but anyone who has already written an unpublished paper on this topic may submit it in its entirety. Richard Greene & K. Silem Mohammad, Editors. (Submission deadline: December 15, 2003)

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Sunday October 12, 2003. I slept most of the day.

I finished reading _Low Port_. If you like Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's own writing, you'll probably like the stories they've anthologized. I liked most, but: A couple were in dialect thick enough that I found them hard to read. Some didn't need the port setting.

Aside from that: On Usenet, explained to someone that 1) I consider "Look how the UN is trying to take away our rights!" quotes inauthentic unless proven accurate; 2) I don't believe "facts" from either side of the gun-control issue unless proven accurate -- google on "John Lott" and on "Michael Bellesiles" to see why.

Synesthesia website new URL: http://home.comcast.net/~sean.day/Synesthesia.htm It includes information on the Synesthesia mailing list.

Vanity movie-making:

Date: Sun, 12 Oct 2003 18:25:36 -0700
From: "Michael Zanna"
Subject: Would you like to be in our movie?

How would like to be in a REAL motion picture? In the credits that is! ! You can become a real, accredited motion picture producer by merely giving a small donation.

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$100 - $499
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In helping production companies finance their films, you not only get your to see your name on the big screen:

1. Weekly updates which keep you posted on the progress of the film to which your donation has gone.

2. VIP seats and treatment at the priemere [sic] of that film.

3. If requested, a copy of the script and story boards of the film -- any feedback you have being welcomed!

4. Producers and above will literally be given full contact with the cast and crew!

Choose the film you want to be in from a list, CLICK HERE.
Or CLICK HERE to put your name in the credits immediately!
Thank you for looking this over! See you on the big screen!

From a webbed USA Today story on Rush Limbaugh:

Hefty doses of hydrocodone can cause severe hearing loss, focusing suspicion on the sudden deafness Limbaugh experienced two years ago. Hearing was partially restored by an electronic ear implant.

Ads associated with the story:

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David Aaronovitch
Sunday October 12, 2003
The Observer

Oliver Letwin, I realised last week, is only partly a likeable, intelligent British politician. The rest of his time he spends as a moon-pilot for the Rantissian Galaxy.


It's here that we discover Mr Letwin circling Planet Tharg in a crystal bucket. http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/comment/0,9236,1061284,00.html

When did John Major move Down Under?

Paul Harris in Washington
Sunday October 12, 2003
The Observer

He may have disappeared from British politics, but John Major is alive and well and ruling Australia. Or at least the White House seems to think so.

In a spectacular gaffe that has caused red faces in Washington and outrage in Canberra, a briefing note for US reporters who will be accompanying President George W. Bush on a visit Down Under later this month contains some truly undiplomatic comments.

The potted history, helpfully included in the notes, reveals that in 1996 '... a Liberal/National Party coalition came to power under Prime Minister John Major'.

That will be a surprise for Britain's cricket-loving former PM - and will be particularly disturbing news for the Australian leader, John Howard, whose vital support for Bush over Iraq appears to have made little impression in Washington's corridors of power. He is already in trouble for recalling Australia's parliament - at a cost of A$2m (£830,000) - to hear Bush deliver a speech. But now it appears that the White House does not even know who he is.

Howard said he was unperturbed by the mistake. 'There's a long history of them getting the names of Australian Prime Ministers wrong, and this is not the first mob to have done it,' he told a local television station.

But that was not all that was bizarre about the notes. White House reporters will surely have been relieved to learn that Canberra's tap water is drinkable. However, they have been warned of the reputation of Australia's capital city for being a bit, well, boring.

'Some journalists have talked about dropping off here - probably before they knew it was Canberra and not Sydney,' the briefing note says, before adding: 'Not much is happening besides government in Canberra.' That last comment has prompted Canberra tourism officials to write a furious letter to the US embassy.

However, all is not lost for hungry hacks, desperate to try out Australia's finest restaurants. Ignoring Canberra's plethora of international eateries, the journalists are instead guided to the Hog's Breath Cafe, a fast-food chain. There, they are assured, the meal of choice is the Dog's Breath corn dog.

Finally, to add injury to insult, culturally minded reporters are told that they can shop for 'uniquely Australian trinkets, from koala bears to boomerangs'. That will shock wildlife conservationists: buying koala bears is illegal in Australia, where they are a protected species.

October 12, 2003
To Whom May I Direct Your Free Call?

Mr. Zennstrom and Mr. Friis have reunited with the same team of Estonian programmers who wrote the code for Kazaa and have created a way to allow people to make high-quality phone calls over the Internet without having to pay a penny.

...unlike other VoIP offerings, Skype's software and audio connections are based entirely on the same peer-to-peer infrastructure that powers Kazaa. For example, if two users want to call each other, the call can be routed directly between their computers instead of having to pass through central servers. Peer-to-peer routing also frees the company from having to buy and maintain much equipment, because its system relies entirely on the computers of individual users.

Caution: Before downloading Skype, google on "kazaa" and "spyware".

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Saturday, October 11, 2003

Saturday October 11, 2003. A good day, even though I spent much of it coughing and sneezing.

No politician managed to annoy me.

I now know where "The Caterpillar on the Leaf" is going, and how it will get there. About time, considering how long I've been working on it. I've figured out how to keep the background in the background.

And I think I know how to speed up the process considerably for the next story.
I've started reading _Low Port_, the anthology edited by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. It's space opera, dealing with the less savory spaceport inhabitants.

So far, none of the stories has grabbed me -- though one might have, if the writer had started with the last paragraph.
From the UK edition of Google News:

Yes, I was shocked by Kill Bill, admits censor - but only by Uma's feet
Telegraph.co.uk - 4 hours ago
It's full of blood and violence but something rather more innocent has upset the national film censor in Quentin Tarantino's latest epic: the sight of Uma Thurman's feet.
He who fights monsters becomes a monster himself. And if you gaze too long into the abyss, the abyss will gaze into you. -- Frederich Nietzsche

Bill O'Reilly (TV opinionator on Fox News) is opposed to fanaticism on both left and right. His intended audience is common-sensical Americans. In an interview in the October 8th issue of Time, he states this clearly. And he also says:

What we're taught is that if you're not with this, you're evil, and both sides use this. It's a demonizing tactic, it's cheap and easy, and it's a way to gather votes in an emotional way. It's Huey Long. It's Adolf Hitler. It's Joseph Stalin.

Elsewhere in the interview: Q: Do you regret pushing the lawsuit against Al Franken?
A: Not at all. This man is being run by some very powerful forces in this country, and we needed to confront it. I was ambushed at a book convention. He got up in front of a national audience and called me a liar for 20 minutes. President Andrew Jackson would have put a bullet between his eyes. Franken's job is to do exactly what Donald Segretti did for Nixon -- dig up dirt on people. He is not a satirist; he is not a comedian....

Recap: The lawsuit, brought by Fox News, was over alleged trademark violations. (Not over defamation, either libel or slander.) In my opinion, the document filed by Fox's lawyers was funnier than anything Al Franken has written.

Some people take a while to catch on:

Kashmir has become a headache, says PM
BANGKOK: The Jammu and Kashmir issue has become a ''headache'' and it should have been settled at the time of Partition, says Vajpayee.

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Friday October 10, 2003. Desk Drawer (deskdrawer@topica.com) is a mailing list for writing exercises. I hadn't been keeping up with the exercises; this week, I got back on track.

With slightly odd results. My piece had a demon named Fluffy, and the information that demons taste like chicken. Neither of those was thought out before I wrote it down.

I can blame the Kirkus Review for indirectly inspiring Fluffy as a demon's name. Their review of Jo Walton's _Tooth and Claw_ (which I gather has dragons living like Anthony Trollope's human characters) said that it could/should have been more like _Watership Down_. (That is, the alternate-world version of _Watership Down_ which the reporter had read.)

Something rare: I saw television. My favorite coin laundry (Rainbow, on Hennepin near 26th) has a widescreen tv.
A movement to recall California's new governor is underway, as I predicted:

This site was started on the night of October 7th, 2003, perhaps the most shameful day in California history. It is intended to serve as a hub for the fledgling but already existent and rapidly growing movement to Recall Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Thanks to http://www.livejournal.com/users/blackfyr for the information.

Oct. 10, 2003, 5:26PM
Suit threats over Princeton CD paper dropped
Reuters News Service

LOS ANGELES - A software company, citing academic freedom, has backed away from a threat to sue a Princeton student who published details on how to thwart its CD copy-protection technology.

[snip, snip]

Jacobs, whose company counts the Chinese government as a minority investor, argued the dispute came down to a misunderstanding over the intent of his software.

"The problem was that he declared this an unrepairable flaw and that was the part that really hurt us," he said. "He was reviewing a drama when we were writing a comedy."
I emailed the Houston Chronicle's reader representative to ask what the Chinese government having a minority stake in the company had to do with the story.

Fox News is "Fair and Balanced" -- Uh, sure. From Google News:
Hasta la Vista, 'Grey' Davis
FOX News - 3 hours ago
Hey, get this...The citizenry of California held an intervention for their fiscally drunk state on Tuesday and threw blandleader Grey'Davis out on his perpetually-cocked-in-the-direction-of-special-interests ear.

You can find the full press releases at http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 10-Oct-2003
Ecology Letters
Bright autumn colouration in trees - a warning signal to insects?
There is considerable variation both in the timing and magnitude of autumn colour change. In the forthcoming issue of Ecology Letters, Hagen, Jakobsen and Folstad present the first empirical test of Hamilton and Brown's autumn signalling hypothesis. Their results are consistent with the idea that bright autumn colouration is a warning signal directed towards insects in search of favourable hosts for their progeny.

Public Release: 10-Oct-2003
Journal of Biogeography
Vanished super-ocean or expanding Earth?
Matching geological outlines and hundreds of trans-Pacific disjunctions of identical or closely related, poor-dispersing taxa, both fossil and extant, imply a close, terrestrial connection between the western Americas and East Asia/Australia/New Zealand during the Mesozoic. Such geological and biogeographic evidence is inconsistent with the plate tectonic hypothesis of a pre-Pacific super-ocean, Panthalassa. Instead, it supports a view that all oceans were closed and the Earth's radius was smaller pre-Jurassic.

Public Release: 10-Oct-2003
Health Psychology
New Penn study shows genes may influence smoking cessation
Smokers with a specific combination of two genetic variants may be more likely to remain abstinent and less prone to relapse when trying to quit smoking, a study by researchers from the Tobacco Use Research Center of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine indicates.

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Friday, October 10, 2003

Thursday October 9, 2003. When I woke up, I felt very good. That ought to have helped me get done what I needed to do. Unfortunately, I also felt too relaxed to get going.

However, I realized something about writing. With "The Caterpillar on the Leaf," I need to keep the narrator from becoming too strange. And I need to keep the background and other characters from being too strange _in his perception_.

This freed me to do some rewriting.

Also today, I figured out one reason why I have problems with visual description. I tend to see patterns, rather than details.

From the Kirkus Review on Jo Walton's new novel _Tooth and Claw_, in which the characters apparently are dragons:

"A more skilled writer could have taken this setup and made a Watership Down-style exercise out of it, pulling readers inexorably into the lives of creatures they normally wouldn't much care about."

_Watership Down_ with dragons instead of rabbits might be difficult to pull off.


Wormtongue and Wendy.
He's wanted for treason. She loves someone who won't grow up. Can they work as a team?

It just struck me that if all your information about America came from political blogs, you’d think the country was composed mainly of libertarians together with a bloc of right-wing populist-imperialists and a few liberals here and there. But if all your information about California came from political blogs, you’d think the state’s politics must be a model of thoughtful right- and left-leaning commentary, marked by a care for civility, a tendency to moderation and a close attention to detail.
Kieran Healy, http://www.crookedtimber.org

Public Release: 9-Oct-2003
NASA research team successfully flies first laser-powered aircraft
Since the dawn of powered flight, all aircraft have had to carry onboard fuel to stay aloft. But a team of researchers from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., and the University of Alabama in Huntsville is trying to change that. The team has developed and demonstrated the first-ever small-scale aircraft that flies solely from power delivered by an invisible, ground-based laser.

Punishing acronym alert:

The vision of this new research project is to develop Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer Human Interactions (TAI-CHI). It will explore how physical objects such as walls, windows and table tops, can in effect become giant 3D touch screens, acting as an interface between any computer and its user.

The whole project is based on the principle that interacting with any physical object produces acoustic waves both within the object and on its surface. By visualising and characterising such acoustic patterns and how they react when touched or moved, a new medium for communication with computers and the cyber-world can be developed.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Wednesday October 8, 2003. To me, grocery shopping is interesting. Not the mechanics of choosing and finding food; but there's usually something interesting to observe.

I hadn't gone to the shopping center near Lake and Minnehaha for a while. The Cub supermarket now has bilingual aisle signs. From one direction, the signs are in English. From the other, they're in Spanish. (Not the most correct Spanish; I don't think "farina de Hotcakes" is the most proper translation of "pancake flour".)

They now have a lot of Mexican sodas.

They also have the East African bread called injera. It's gray, looks like a sponge, and looking at it doesn't make me hungry.

At the Rainbow supermarket, the rack of free publications included one from Lyndon LaRouche urging readers to vote "No" on California's gubernatorial election.


Discussion on soc.history.what-if: the alternate world in which Ayn Rand married H. P. Lovecraft.

Something for Scooby-Do and/or Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans:

scooby noun a marijuana joint.

Name of an institution: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Looks like a merger between a Jewish institution and a Lutheran one. And it's connected with Harvard University, once devoted to a form of Protestantism rather different from Lutheranism.


BUSH-CHENEY BLOGGERS. Expect the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign to take a page out of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s political playbook and attempt to create a pro-Bush phenomenon on the Web. Democratic strategists expect Bush’s top political advisor Karl Rove to do just that. In fact, Bush’s campaign began reaching out to “bloggers,” people who swap political opinions and gossip on the Web, over the summer, by giving them access to regular news feeds from the campaign. However, political technophiles are curious to see whether Bush advisers are really ready to risk losing control of their tightly scripted message, which often happens when politics becomes entwined with the Internet.

I predict they aren't. (I also predict that Alaska will have snow this December.)

Successful American politicians -- candidates, their staffs, and party functionaries -- usually try to do what worked last time. (Unsuccessful ones try to do what _should_ have worked last time.) The problem is, a lot can change in the two years between House elections. And more can happen in the four years between Presidential elections, or the six years of a Senator's term.

Among the things that can change is how widely various technologies are used. In 1944, television didn't have much impact on the Presidential election. In 1960, it did.

One thing that has stayed constant over the decades is that publicity using new technologies could be scripted. Not always; reporters do tend to ask the wrong questions, for example -- but usually. Another thing that has remained constant is that when lower level volunteers take orders, campaigns usually work better.

The Internet doesn't work that way. An eleven-year-old can set up a political blog; and if she's good enough at analyzing political developments and expressing her views on them, she might rise to the top. A middle-aged political scientist can also set up a political blog, and have a chance to reach the top.

Neither of them is likely to become owner of a commercial tv channel or a daily newspaper.
(I suspect the average eleven-year-old girl could do a better job of running either than the adults now in charge, but that's another matter.)

So far, only Howard Dean's campaign has adapted to the Internet by letting the volunteers run free. If I'm right, the next few Presidential elections will see a change in that.

And UK politics is also going to be changed by the Internet.

Science news:

Public Release: 8-Oct-2003
A new study in the Oct. 9 issue of the journal Nature describes three distinct stages in the life of a memory, and helps explain how memories endure -- or are forgotten -- including the role that sleep plays in safeguarding memories.

Public Release: 8-Oct-2003
Scientists at the University of Chicago have demonstrated that sleeping has an important and previously unrecognized impact on improving people's ability to learn language. Researchers find that ability of students to retain knowledge about words is improved by sleep, even when the students seemed to forget some of what they learned during the day before the next night's sleep.

Nature 425, 612 - 614 (09 October 2003); doi:10.1038/nature01971
Ultraviolet vision in a bat
Most mammals, with the exception of primates, have dichromatic vision and correspondingly limited colour perception. Ultraviolet vision was discovered in mammals only a decade ago, and in the few rodents and marsupials where it has been found, ultraviolet light is detected by an independent photoreceptor. Bats orient primarily by echolocation, but they also use vision. Here we show that a phyllostomid flower bat, Glossophaga soricina, is colour-blind but sensitive to ultraviolet light down to a wavelength of 310 nm. Behavioural experiments revealed a spectral-sensitivity function with maxima at 510 nm (green) and above 365 nm (ultraviolet). A test for colour vision was negative. Chromatic adaptation had the same threshold-elevating effects on ultraviolet and visible test lights, indicating that the same photoreceptor is responsible for both response peaks (ultraviolet and green). Thus, excitation of the -band of the visual pigment is the most likely cause of ultraviolet sensitivity. This is a mechanism for ultraviolet vision that has not previously been demonstrated in intact mammalian visual systems.

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Tuesday October 7, 2003. To Pillsbury House, to work on Community Barter Network data. A whole lot of data entry, to begin with: Pillsbury House volunteer applications and CBN applications, Time Dollars earned by volunteering and by helping other CBN members.

Since it was the end of the quarter, the paper forms needed to be filed. And hours, etc. had to be added up.

In twenty years at most, this will seem horribly oldfashioned. People will fill out electronic forms rather than paper ones, which will reduce the error rate. And the program will be able to automatically total the information I had to add up. (That's almost certainly doable today -- but not with this program.)

After which I relaxed for a while before the Recognition Dinner for PH volunteers and CBN members.

The food was Chinese, probably not completely authentic. It started off with egg rolls (chicken and vegetarian), teriyaki chicken, and fruit. Later came rice (choice of brown or white) and stir fry (chicken and vegetable or vegetarian).

I got a certificate of appreciation, a sweatshirt, and a combination calculator/calendar, with instructions in Chinese and English.

Footnotey stuff:

Pillsbury House began early last century as a settlement house, helping immigrants from Europe. Today, many of its clients are native-born. It still serves immigrants; these days, they're likely to come from East Africa or Latin America.

Yes, there's a connection to Pillsbury Flour -- the Pillsbury family.

The Community Barter Network barters Time Dollars. An hour's work nets one Time Dollar, which can be used for services from another CBN member or spent in the Time Dollar Store. There are similar barter networks elsewhere in the US and in several other countries.

I'm not sure if there's a connection with Josiah Warren's Time Dollars, which worked a bit differently. Josiah Warren was a nineteenth-century individualist anarchist. I recommend his book Equitable Commerce; your local statist library should be able to get it for you.

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Tuesday October 7, 2003 From the UK edition of Google News:

Sheriffs idea in Tory police plans
BBC News -
American-style directly elected sheriffs could set the blueprint for policing in their area under a shake-up proposed by the Tories.
Tories Call In The Sheriffs Sky News
Tories: Sheriffs to head local police icWales
ePolitix - and 16 related

From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php where you can link to the full scientific press releases:

Public Release: 7-Oct-2003
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Imagining movement of affected limbs aids stroke rehabilitation
Imagining movement of arms and legs that have been weakened from stroke may facilitate functional recovery of affected limbs, a Northwestern University study has found.

I'm dubious about these:

Public Release: 7-Oct-2003
Scientific Conference on Forgiving
Forgiveness linked to spinal cord injury rehab
Study shows that forgivness helps in medical rehabilitation of spinal cord injury patients. Forgiveness was found to improve health in those patients. Patients who were more forgiving of themselves and of others reported more satisfaction with their lives. They rated their own health status higher and were also more likely to perform healthy behaviors.
John Templeton, Fetzer

Contact: Vicki Robb
Campaign for Forgiveness

Public Release: 7-Oct-2003
Scientific Conference on Forgiving
Study shows that forgiveness can be taught
By using certain forgiving methods, people can be taught how to forgive. Four projects involving actual cases of unresolved hurt were tested to measure their effectiveness in forgiving. The studies found that forgiveness increases mental and physical health and vitality. In study one, the largest study to date measuring the effects of forgiving, people experienced decreases in hurt feelings, stress, and physical symptoms of stress and increased willingness to forgive in the future.
John Templeton, Fetzer

Contact: Vicki Robb
Campaign for Forgiveness

Public Release: 7-Oct-2003
Scientific Conference on Forgiving
Duke study links forgiveness to less back pain, depression
A new study from Duke University Medical Center demonstrates that among people who have chronic back pain, those who have forgiven others experience lower levels of pain and less associated psychological problems like anger and depression than those who have not forgiven.

Contact: Vicki Robb
Campaign for Forgiveness

Public Release: 7-Oct-2003
Scientific Conference on Forgiving
Forgiveness a factor in blood pressure
Forgiveness is linked to low blood pressure and, first study connecting forgiveness and health to survey racially and socio-economically diverse individuals shows that, for low socio-economic status Blacks, forgiveness is linked to low blood pressure and low levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
John Templeton, Fetzer

Contact: Vicki Robb
Campaign for Forgiveness

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Monday, October 06, 2003

Monday October 6, 2003 The godmice are back. In the background of "The Caterpillar on the Leaf," that is. I've now figured out why they're needed.

The major characters' self-definitions include ability to predict the future accurately. Animals different from anything on Earth, interacting with humans, are going to have enough influence on the human society to throw off predictions.

George Price cartoon: Man watching tv while listening to the radio and reading a newspaper. His wife is telling a neighbor "And every hour on the half hour, those damn carrier pigeons!"

Some information junkies on the web seem at least as dedicated.

"All Consuming is a website that watches weblogs for books that they're talking about, and displays the most popular ones on an hourly basis."

"The core function of Weblogs.Com is a list of weblogs that have changed in the last three hours. This information is also available in XML."

"This is Sarah Chauncey's Futuristic Book Club page. It is an automated weblog generated by All Consuming that watches what people are saying about the books that Sarah is reading. Whenever someone (pretty much anywhere on the web... not just at All Consuming) mentions a book that Sarah is reading, this page gets updated with a URL and an excerpt (if we can find one)."

What else are people checking this frequently on the web?

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Sunday September 5, 2003. A good day, starting with seeing that one of my two corner stores was back in operation. A bus had crashed into Sam's Foods in -- May, I think. (Note: the owner is Ethiopian. Kyle's Market, kittycorner from Sam's, is owned by a Chinese couple.)

I went to the University of Minnesota Arboretum with Pat Craft. Visiting the Arboretum always makes me think about taking up gardening; something which doesn't tempt me at other times.

Slight delay -- there was a book sale at the Arboretum, and today was bag sale day.

The insect statues were gone, but they'd been replaced by live insects. There were more ladybugs than I'd ever seen at one time. A smaller (but uncomfortably large) number of bees. And a few butterflies; they looked like monarchs to me, but I'm not a butterfly watcher.

It was a warm day, but there'd already been the first frost of the season. Some plants looked like straw, or like vegetables left much too long in the refrigerator. Others were doing quite well. There were differences within one species and even one variety, probably due mostly to microclimate.

Some trees had autumn leaves, others were still green.

We walked around the various gardens, then had a snack from the cafe at an outside table.

And then we drove on the 3 1/2 (?) mile drive.

Public Release: 5-Oct-2003
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes
Scientist find more efficient way to 'unlearn' fear
Behavior therapists may have a better way to help anxious patients, thanks to insights from a UCLA study of different ways to get mice past their fears. Rodents have long been used to study learning by association. Neuroscientists compared different ways of exposing mice to a stimulus that they had learned to fear, and found that "massing" the feared stimulus -– delivering it in concentrated bursts, not pacing it with longer pauses in between -- was surprisingly efficient at helping to erase its impact.

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Sunday, October 05, 2003

The American Dialect Society list (ADS-L) had this:
Date: Sat, 4 Oct 2003 13:51:20 +0100
Subject: Not over till the fat lady sings ... in Texas?

A subscriber has sent me a note which sounds like one of the more inventive bits of folk etymological invention that have come my way recently. But might there just be a smidgen of truth in it?

He claims the expression comes from the Texas legislature, in which at one time (he quotes a time around WW2) an opera singer performed at the end of each legislative session. Whenever a legislator or lobbyist suffered a defeat, he would say, "It ain’t over until the Fat Lady sings!", by which he would declare that his project wasn't finally defeated until the session was adjourned.
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Saturday, October 04, 2003

Saturday October 4, 2003. Incarnation Catholic Church has one of the better rummage sales in South Minneapolis. I got some things I needed at reasonable prices. Also things I could use (but could have managed without) at reasonable-to-low prices. And things I might be able to use at very low prices.

And then I went home and slept for several hours. And was never quite awake for the rest of the day.
Could this have gotten published in a 1950's sf magazine?

From http://news.google.com
Concert Suicide Postponed Due to Web Attack
iconoFan - 10 minutes ago
. Update 7:03 PM PST: The planned onstage suicide that has been stirring up controversy has been postponed because of a web attack against the server that was supposed to webcast the event.
Rock concert suicide postponed NEWS.com.au
Web Attack Postpones Suicide Rock Show ABC News
WFIE-TV - The Age - Miami Herald - KVIA - and 158 related

From Charlie Stross's web journal:

Thu, 2 Oct 2003

Extreme Ironing

Someone please tell me this is a joke. Please?


From http://extremeinorning.com
Extreme Ironing - the book

Extreme Ironing - the book - has arrived. Well, almost. It's been written by the sport's founder, Steam, and features 96 photos of the most extreme calibre. Extreme Ironing will be published by New Holland Publishers on 1st of October.

Included in the action-packed hardback is a complete guide to the world's fastest growing white-goods extreme sport. The book features tips on getting started; a guide to equipment and clothing; a description of the different styles of extreme ironing; and an overview of worldwide developments.

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So long as LiveJournal is getting all these quizzes, I'll add one more.

1) What is the greatest science fiction novel of all time? Not merely of this planet and its history up till now -- of ALL time (and all space).

2) True or false: Damon Runyon was born in Manhattan.

3) Which verse of "The Wearing of the Green" is most relevant to discussion of gun control?

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Friday October 3, 2003. Rummage Sale at Joyce Church. I got two solar-powered calculators, one small enough to easily fit in a pocket (or, less easily, into a billfold).

Limbaugh bypasses controversies on radio show (Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 10/4/03)

Joke explanation for non-Americans: Rush Limbaugh has built his reputation on controversy.

This has been going around LiveJournal:

Artist Profile ArtWork by Jirapat Tasanasomboon

ESTABLISHED Thai contemporary artist, Jirapat Tasanasomboon blends POP ART with local and ASIAN themes.

The artist uses a POP ART style to his subjects, often featuring well-known superheroes such as Batman, Superman and Spiderman as well as science fiction movies. His heroes are depicted in a distinctive Thai setting and are often seen interacting with more traditional Thai heroes and mythical figures, most of whom are characters in the Ramakien tales which stem from the Indian epic Ramayana.
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It's Not Strange From the Inside

How old were you when you found out that other people's thinking was different from yours?Not the content, but the _way_ they thought?

Some people think in words, others in pictures. Some, like Albert Einstein, think in kinesthetic sensations.

I think in a combination of tactile, kinesthetic, and other body sensations. If I need to remember how a word is spelled, I write it out. I can "write" it in the air with a finger; I don't need to look at what I've written down. I can remember how it felt to move through many of the places where I've lived; I don't remember very well what they looked like.

There are complications, the main one being synesthesia -- sensory cross-overs, of which the best-known is seeing sounds. This particular synesthesia is one I either learned or became aware of when I was about 18. At some later point, I either learned or became aware of feeling sound more than seeing it. What I see is shape and texture, more easily "translated" into feeling than color is.

As with many other things, what people _do_ with synesthesia varies greatly. Some are very good at mental arithmetic because they see numbers in an orderly line. Others don't make any such use of their ability to see numbers.

Two sparks have set this off. 1) In First Draft (a writing workshop in apa format), one member talked about thinking in pictures. 2) A LiveJournal discussion of something else digressed a bit into this:

2003-09-27 18:27
I "see" [a story] as a five-dimensional tactile sculpture. I won't say it's the _right_ way for me, since I haven't yet had professional sales; but it seems to be working better than other things I've tried. For at least some people, being able to "visualize" with one or more senses makes things easier to grasp and to remember.

2003-09-27 19:22
....see, that's exactly how things are to me. All things, not just writing. But writing, most of all. A giant, tactile sculpture in my head, reducible in words only on a scale equal to itself.

It's nice to know it's not just me.

2003-09-29 16:03
I'm envious; I've only recently managed to think like that in a structured way.

And how does your mind work?

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Thursday, October 02, 2003

Thursday October 2, 2003. Completely over my very bad cold, or whatever it was.

This began as part of a several-LiveJournals discussion of Anne Rice's views on editing. I think a discussion of this can stand on its own.

2003-09-27 18:27
"This sense of the whole five-dimensional object is very fragile. It's hard to hold it in one's head."

How _do_ you hold it in your head?

I "see" it as a five-dimensional tactile sculpture. I won't say it's the _right_ way for me, since I haven't yet had professional sales; but it seems to be working better than other things I've tried. For at least some people, being able to "visualize" with one or more senses makes things easier to grasp and to remember.

2003-09-27 19:22
I'm sorry, I'm a random visitor and you don't know me from a hole in the ground (though I assure you I am not, in fact, a hole in the ground), but I've never heard anyone else talk about it that way before.

Because, see, that's exactly how things are to me. All things, not just writing. But writing, most of all. A giant, tactile sculpture in my head, reducible in words only on a scale equal to itself.

It's nice to know it's not just me.

2003-09-29 16:03
I'm envious; I've only recently managed to think like that in a structured way.

For a fair amount of information about different ways people think, google on "learning styles" or "styles of learning".

I think this side discussion ought to be moved elsewhere. Your journal or mine?
Some helpful hints for beginning writers.

Q Has this idea been used?
A Yes -- twenty to forty years before you think it possibly could have been. Don't let that stop you from writing your story; remember that "boy meets girl" has been used more than once. But don't use the idea only in a surprise ending.

However, if it's on an editor's "Argghh -- not again!!" list, you probably shouldn't submit to that editor.

Q Is it possible to sell a fantasy novel which does/doesn't have [elves/dwarves/trolls/rutabagas] in it?
A Yes. Go to the nearest good general bookstore, and see what's on their shelves. If they carry Locus magazine, buy a copy and read the lists of forthcoming books and books sold.

Q How long should an sf/fantasy novel be?
A Some published novels should've been cut down to 5,000 words. Oh -- you mean how long a novel you intend to submit should be. http://ralan.com has summaries of each publisher's requirements and links to publishers' websites. See what the publishers say about length.

Q My story has almost no magic in it. Can I submit it as fantasy?
A Ellen Kushner's _Swordspoint_ has no magic in it, and was published and sold as fantasy.

Q How do I tell whether my novel is fantasy or science fiction?
A If it has spaceships in it, it's science fiction no matter how much magic it contains. (By current standards. In the 1950's/1960's, starship and sorcery fiction was called "science fantasy". Five years from now, it could be different again.)

Q How much does it cost to get permission to quote from a song?
A Sometimes nothing at all. Sometimes a whole lot -- you can't afford The Rolling Stones.

Public Release: 2-Oct-2003
American Sociological Association
Increased religiosity in countries affects attitudes toward sexual morality, study shows
When a nation's overall levels of religious belief and attendance are high, its citizens voice greater disapproval of divorce, homosexuality, abortion and prostitution –- issues involving sexual morality. But religiosity is less likely to spur such disapproval for cheating on taxes or accepting bribes in public office, says two Penn State researchers.

Oil and gas will run out too fast for doomsday global warming scenarios to materialise, according to a controversial new analysis

Early female-dominated societies lost their power to men when they started herding cattle, a new study demonstrates

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