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Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Wednesday December 31, 2003. Hogmanay.

Writing: I decided to set down what I knew of the background for "The Caterpillar on the Leaf" which wasn't already explicit in the story.

I've learned to make up background as a story goes along, rather than doing it in advance. I enjoy detailed, conscious worldbuilding; but it makes my backgrounds seem less rather than more real.

But not all the details which come up as I write go directly into the story. And some go into the story later than when I set down whatever scene prompted them. Logically, setting these down should be useful. (Whether it will be, I don't yet know.)

***Cooking: Broiled chicken leg quarters with different seasonings, mostly for eating later.

I didn't remove the skin and the attached fat. But the one I ate seemed a bit too fatty to me; looks like I'll be starting to cook chicken without the skin and fat.

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From the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com
William Safire's annual prediction quiz. Sample question: 10. Bush's domestic initiative will be (a) Social Security personal accounts; (b) community college scholarships; (c) a moon colony; (d) snowmobile restrictions in Florida parks

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php

Public Release: 30-Dec-2003
Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Bacteria discoveries could resemble Mars, other planets
A team of scientists has discovered bacteria in a hole drilled more than 4,000 feet deep in volcanic rock on the island of Hawaii near Hilo, in an environment they say could be analogous to conditions on Mars and other planets. The discovery is one of the deepest drill holes in which scientists have found living organisms encased within volcanic rock.
NASA

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From The Hindu http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/holnus/00131221511.htm

Cold wave tightens grip on N.India, toll up at 194

New Delhi, Dec 31. (PTI): North India continued to shiver under freezing cold that claimed 42 lives taking the country-wide toll this winter to 194 while dense fog continued to play havoc disrupting the road, rail and air traffic today.

Thirty-nine people succumbed to the biting cold in Uttar Pradesh and two in Madhya Pradesh while a cyclist was knocked down due to dense fog in Sonepat in Haryana.

A Lucknow report said spine chilling cold continued to sweep Uttar Pradesh claiming 39 lives taking the toll in the state 129.

Four deaths each were reported from Allahabad and Ballia, three each from Hardoi Mahoba, Mainpuri, Balrampur and Auraiya, two each from Lucknow, Aligarh, Pratapgarh, Basti, Chandauli and Jaunpur and one each from Balrampur, Badaun, Fatehpur and Kushinagar.

A Bhopal report said Madhya Pradesh continued to reel under biting cold with icy winds sweeping the state. Two fresh deaths were reported from Gwalior. While the minimum temperature hovered around six degrees Celsius in many parts of the state, thick fog enveloped some areas this morning affecting road and rail traffic.

39 more die in UP

In Uttar Pradesh continued to reel under intense cold conditions with 39 more people dying during the past 24 hours taking the toll this winter to 129.

Chilly conditions prevailing in the plains of the state with cloudy skies, for the second consecutive day today, marred the new year eve celebrations forcing people to remain indoors.

Reports reaching here said that while four deaths were reported from Ballia, three people each died of cold in Hardoi, Mahoba, Mainpuri, Balrampur and Auraiya, two each in Lucknow, Aligarh, Pratapgarh, Basti, Chandauli and Jaunpur and one each in Balrampur, Badaun, Fatehpur and Kushinagar.

Met office sources here said that Gorakhpur and Varanasi divisions experienced appreciably below normal termeratures with Varanasi recording the lowest temperature of four degrees.

Day temperature fell ten degrees below normal in the state capital which recorded the maximum temperature of 12 degrees, sources said adding that there was no no let up in the conditions expected in the next 24 hours with fog and mist likely to occur at several places in the state.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Tuesday December 30, 2003. "Researchers explore the ocean floor with rare instrument" I read this before I was fully awake, and interpreted "rare instrument" as a Stradivarus or other prized violin.

To Rainbow Foods in Uptown. I got chicken leg quarters and limes, both of which were on sale.

Near Rainbow is Bar Abilene, whose Old West/Texas atmosphere may not be entirely authentic. Sign on the door: "Please don't be bringin' your piece into our corral."

Then to Lund's for chicken livers. And for whatever else 1) appealed to me and 2) didn't contain a whole lot of salt and/or sugar. I got the chicken livers, and nothing else. (They have more fat than is really good for me. But avoiding salt and sugar is as much as I think I can stick to, for now.)

***The Bar Abilene sign brought up a couple of associated memories/thoughts:

The sign Oscar Wilde reported seeing in an American saloon: "Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best." I suspect the sign was closer to "Please don't shoot the piano player. He's doing the best he can."

Ben Jonson on one of Shakespeare's faults: 'Many times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter, as when he said in the person of Cæsar, one speaking to him: “Cæsar, thou dost me wrong.” He replied: “Cæsar did never wrong but with just cause;" and such like, which were ridiculous.'

I first encountered this in Robert Penn Warren's Paris Review interview. As I recall, Warren considered this a very good line; and he said unkind things about Ben Jonson for making Shakespeare take it out.

The line doesn't appear in any published version of "Julius Caesar". Did Shakespeare change it, or did Jonson's memory play tricks?

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From Google News http://news.google.com

USDA Bans Risky Cow Parts from Hamburger Production
Reuters - 1 hour ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - US hamburger derived from special meat trimming equipment cannot contain any central nervous system material that could spread mad cow disease, the US Agriculture Department said on Tuesday.
US Ag. Dept: new rules in wake of mad cow outbreak WIS
New steps to control BSE in US ABC Online
New York Times - Xinhua - United Press International - Forbes - and 203 related

Las Vegas, Rose Bowl, Under Tight Holiday Security
Reuters - 5 minutes ago
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With the United States on heightened terror alert, military helicopters will patrol the skies above the Las Vegas Strip on New Year's Eve and sensors for biological weapons will be sniffing the air at the ...
US to meet New Year with extra tight security CTV
New Year's Security Will Be Extra Tight ABC News
New York Times - FOX News - Voice of America - Stamford Advocate - and 355 related

From Scientific American:
Why Machines Should Fear

Once a curmudgeonly champion of "usable" design, cognitive scientist Donald A. Norman argues that future machines will need emotions to be truly dependable.
http://click.exacttarget.com/?fe8a10777063057570-fe3117727760037d771076

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One way not to do a mystery writer's bibliography:

Electric Power Substations Engineering by John D. McDonald (27 June, 2003)
Great Stories of the American West by Martin H. Greenberg, John Jakes, John D. McDonald (April, 1996)

John D. McDonald: Five Complete Travis McGee Novels by John D. McDonald, John D. MacDonald (March, 1991)

The Drowner by John D. McDonald, John D. MacDonald (January, 1991)

The Brass Cupcake by John McDonald, John D. MacDonald (January, 1988)

The Vanishing Men: Classic Police Procedurals by Martin Greenberg, John D. McDonald, Ed McBain, James Reynolds (June, 1999)

Domesday Economy: A New Approach to Anglo-Norman History by John McDonald, Graeme D. Snooks (July, 1992)

Economics of Urban Highway Congestion and Pricing (TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH, ECONOMICS AND POLICY Volume 9) by John F. McDonald, Edmond L. D'Ouville, Louie Nan Liu (01 September, 1999)

Soft Touch by John D. MacDonald, John McDonald (July, 1982)

A Purple Place for Dying by John D. MacDonald, John D. McDonald (June, 1984)

Nothing Can Go Wrong by John D. McDonald, John D. MacDonald (November, 1987)

Excavations at Nichoria in Southwest Greece: The Dark Age and Byzantine Occupation by William A. McDonald, William D.E. Coulson, John Rosser (July, 1983)

Applying Mathematics a Course in Mathematical Modeling by D.W. and Burghes, John McDonald, David N. Burghes (September, 1982)

Consolidating Active and Reserve Component Training Infrastructure (Rand Monograph Report)
by John F. Schank, John D. Winkler, Michael G. Mattock, Michael G. Shanley, James C. Crowley, Laurie L. McDonald, Rodger A. Madison (December, 1998)

Cinnamon Skin by John D. McDonald, John D. MacDonald (June, 1987)

The Lonely Silver Rain by John D. McDonald, John D. MacDonald (01 February, 1986)

Automating a Distribution Cooperative from A to Z: A Primer on Employing Technology by John D. McDonald, Southern Engineering Company, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Cooperative Research N (October, 1999)

John D. McDonald, Number 1 by John D. McDonald (October, 1982)

The Continuing Demographic Transition by G. W. Jones, John Caldwell, Rennie D'Souza, Ronald McDonald Douglas (January, 1998)

John D. McDonald, Number 2 by John D. McDonald (October, 1982)
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http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/30/nyregion/30SECU.html
With the city at a heightened state of alert, unprecedented security measures will be in place on New Year's Eve in Times Square, where revelers will have to pass through metal detectors borrowed from city schools for the night, officials said yesterday.

About 240 metal detectors, roughly twice as many as the Police Department had in place last year, will be used to screen the hundreds of thousands of people who are expected to come watch the ball drop, one official said. The police are telling those who plan to attend to leave bags and backpacks at home, and revelers will be screened as they enter a series of fenced areas in Times Square from side streets, officials said.

........

As part of the measures, low-flying planes and helicopters will be banned from the area, manhole covers will be welded shut, and garbage cans, newspaper vending machines and mailboxes will be removed from street corners, a police official said. Snipers will be posted on rooftops, heavily armed groups of officers known as Hercules Teams will patrol the area along with thousands of uniformed officers, and hundreds of plainclothes officers will mix with the crowd, officials said.

[Oh -- and leave your almanac at home.]

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Monday December 29, 2003. "Join the millions of people who are tired of the hassle with the insurance companies and doctors! We carry ALL of the well-known drugs available and most of the unknown as well."

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From http://www.researchbuzz.org
*The Online Toothpaste Museum

I love the Internet. It's so immense. It's so interesting. And sometimes, it is so minty-fresh. Thus it is with Toothpaste World, at http://www.toothpasteworld.com/ . This site contains over 1000 samples of toothpaste divided by location, brand name, and year of production....

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 29-Dec-2003
Smart materials for a next-gen vehicle
The Office of Naval Research initiated the Expeditionary Systems Material program to develop new materials to make future fighting vehicles lighter, tougher, and smarter.
Office of Naval Research

Public Release: 29-Dec-2003
Blog, Blog, Blog
The Office of Naval Research and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) are testing out the idea that weblogs can be powerful communication tools to bring together teams of people.
Office of Naval Research

Public Release: 29-Dec-2003
Journal of American Chemical Society
Navy enlists microbes to cut costs
Microbes have been exploited for thousands of years to help us make bread and alcohol, and more recently, to make antibiotics and clean up toxic spills. Now the Office of Naval Research is hoping the one-celled organisms will reduce the costs of producing a missile propellant, and in the process, lead to a new age of "bioproduction."
Office of Naval Research

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Sunday, December 28, 2003

Saturday December 27, 2003. Gerri Sullivan's Mnstf career began with a party, and ended with a party.

Note: My memories may conflict with Gerri's memories and the facts:

At a Mnstf New Year's Eve party (in ?), Gerri Sullivan and her then-husband showed up and asked if they could attend. They'd heard about the party from Emma Bull.

That's the last time I can recall Gerri acting subdued.

From there, Gerri became active in Mnstf -- then the central club in Twin Cities sf fandom. (Twin Cities fandom no longer has a central club*.) She was involved in running conventions, was on Mnstf's board of directors, etc.

Some time in the last couple of years, she decided to move. Her plans underwent some changes; but finally she'd decided on where (New England) and took the needed steps to sell Toad Hall. And she announced an open house-cooling party. (One didn't have to be on speaking terms with Gerri to attend, which is about as open as you can get.)

Toad Hall was about eight blocks from my home. The walk brought on nostalgia for a couple of businesses which had been replaced by less interesting ones. The Clown Store was replaced a while back by a temp agency. Yara Anderson and her Children of the Moon (alien porcelain dolls and marionettes http://www2.pro-ns.net/~thoryara/order.htm) were replaced by a business which records memories -- though they're apparently sold by mail order from the same address.

There were people I hadn't seen for some time. In one case, not for at least fifteen years. Most looked older than I remembered; but one looked younger. As in: I had trouble remembering that she was over Minnesota's age of consent. There were also people I see fairly often.

I ate things which were definitely outside my dietary guidelines. Many which had never tasted salty to me now tasted a bit too salty. And I got a sugar high.

Among things which had turned up in clearing out the place was an October 24, 1984 guide to personal computers from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune (now the Star-Tribune). Their price and feature comparison chart included the Apple IIE; the IBM computer had a whopping
256K of memory, as I recall.

There was a lot of "I'm not taking it with me" stuff available. I took several mugs with pictures in bright colors, a couple of books, and a couple of balloons in various shapes.

I think I left a bit before 4 AM; I gather the party ended around 4:30.

It was a good party, and a classy way to exit Twin Cities fandom.

*Some metro-area local sf fandoms have a central club -- one which anyone active in that local fandom is likely to show up at, which puts on the major local convention, etc. It's not unusual for local fans to refer to the local fandom by the central club's name -- though there are likely to be other clubs. Other local fandoms have several clubs which are roughly equal. A couple don't seem to have any clubs at all.)

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Saturday December 27, 2003. From Cpolk on LiveJournal: "....If you immerse the reader in the world by giving them its sounds, textures, and smells, by treating the setting as a character with which your characters interact rather than a backdrop that flies in and out with a couple of sentences, your reader will get into it for the experience and gain a lot of information that way."

"...by treating the setting as a character with which your characters interact" was something I needed.

Thanks to matociquala on LiveJournal for pointing the way!

From Rosemary (Rosemary Lake) on Forward Motion http://fmwriters.com

I think function, if well done, can evoke whatever sense/s the reader prefers.

For example, describing a porch railing on a coastal shack as 'made of storm-weathered driftwood clumsily tied in place with rotting sisal rope' can evoke sight (gray, bleached, straw-colored, faded) OR touch (rough wood, rough rope, cold sharp breeze) OR smell (salt breeze) OR hearing (ocean waves, wind, gulls) OR maybe muscle action (clumsy tying of rope).

[This isn't quite what I'd been calling description by function. It's not about the use or the workings of the object itself. It's about the process of making the object.

[It's something John D. McDonald used a whole lot, combined with sensory description. More on this later, when I've had the chance to go through at least one of McDonald's books.]
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More information on the history of US elections than most people are likely to want:
http://www.uselectionatlas.org/

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Saturday, December 27, 2003

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The Twelve Days After Christmas
Frederick Silver

The first day after Christmas my true love and I had a fight
And so I chopped the pear tree down and burned it just for spite
Then with a single cartridge, I shot that blasted partridge
My true love, my true love, my true love gave to me

The second day after Christmas, I pulled on the old rubber gloves
And very gently wrung the necks of both the turtle doves
My true love, my true love, my true love gave to me

The third day after Christmas, my mother caught the croup;
I had to use the three French hens to make some chicken soup
The four calling birds were a big mistake, for their language was obscene.
The five gold rings were completely fake and they turned my fingers green

The sixth day after Christmas, the six laying geese wouldn't lay,
I gave the whole darn gaggle to the A.S.P.C.A.
On the seventh day what a mess I found
All seven of the swimming swans had drowned
My true love, my true love, my true love gave to me

The eighth day after Christmas, before they could suspect,
I bundled up the eight maids a milking, nine pipers piping
Ten ladies dancing, 'leven lords a leaping,
Twelve drummers drumming and sent them back collect
I wrote my true love, "We are through, love",
and I said in so many words,

"Furthermore your Christmas gifts were for the birds!"

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From the Volokh Conspiracy
http://volokh.com/2003_12_21_volokh_archive.html#107245732518478126
Sasha Volokh, 11:48 AM]
Belated Merry Christmas, everyone: And, if you still want a carol to sing, try this one.

Rudolpho cervo erat
Nasum ruber lucensque;
Quicumque hunc videret
Hunc diceret candere.

[For more Christmas carols translated into Latin, see http://www.ku.edu/history/ftp/latin_texts/latin_carols.txt]

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Friday, December 26, 2003

Friday December 26, 2003 I'd read somewhere a complaint that Tuscan bread was made without salt. So, I googled for Tuscan bread recipes.

Tuscan bread does contain salt (though perhaps not enough for some tastes). But there turned out to be recipes for salt-free bread, and sources for it readymade, on the web.
There are also recipes for various salt-free foods.

To Steeple People thrift shop. I found a low-salt, low-calory cookbook. I also found a Good Grips flour sifter, meant for people who have problems like arthritis with their hands. It ought to be easier to handle than ordinary flour sifters.

No, I don't bake -- yet.

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From Crooked Timber http://www.crookedtimber.org
December 26, 2003
Return of the King
Posted by Kieran

Just went to see The Return of the King, which opened in Australia today. As the Nazgul were dive-bombing the crap out of everything during the battle of the Pelennor Fields, I found myself wondering whether there was a deputy assistant undersecretary from Gondor’s Defence of the Realm Department hiding under his kitchen table somewhere on the fifth level of Minas Tirith thinking, “I must have written dozens of memos about Mordor’s air superiority, but would they listen, oh noooo! Just like every other year, the whole goddamn budget was blown on horses, silver filigree and whitewash.”

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From the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/science/nature/3321491.stm
Friday, 26 December, 2003, 10:40 GMT
Balloonists set new solar target
By Carolyn Fry

Record-breaking aviators Brian Jones and Bertrand Piccard hope to harness the Sun's power to fly round the world.

The pair gained worldwide recognition in 1999 when they became the first to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon.

Now they plan to repeat the journey in a solar-powered aeroplane which will have to use batteries to fly at night.

A feasibility study has confirmed the viability of the Solar Impulse project and experts are now preparing to design the craft for launch some time in 2006.

Shaped like a glider, the plane will be black and covered in blue photovoltaic cells.

Sixty-metre wings and two tail-mounted engines will enable it to take off unassisted and carry the heavy batteries needed to store energy for night flying.

Jones and Piccard are consulting the world's best glider and yacht manufacturers to help them source state-of-the-art composite materials.

Meanwhile robotics experts at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, are assessing the idea of making the craft interactive with the pilot.

"The design incorporates a computerised body vest," explains Jones. "If there's stress on part of the wing, the pilot would feel pressure on one side of his body.

"Equally, if the pilot is stressed the plane would sense this and only feed him must-know information."....

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Thursday December 25, 2003. Fake classified ads are nothing new, but the January Fantasy & Science Fiction has what I think is a new twist. One of the ads is actually a reference to a story in that issue.

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From Ionas on LiveJournal:
'Diana Wynne Jones came up with the funny "Tough Guide to Fantasyland"; this
Grimoire hit me amidships with its wit.'
http://www.bondwine.com/tourguide/index.htm

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Google News has a computer which associates related news stories. Sometimes, it doesn't quite work:

Florida law lets high schoolers graduate early
Honolulu Advertiser - 17 hours ago
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. Of all the ways attempted to free up space in Florida's crowded classrooms, this one could be a dream come true for high schoolers in a hurry: a diploma without a senior year.
Rush Limbaugh case a real waste of time Arizona Republic
Florida Judge Orders Limbaugh Medical Records Unsealed New York Times
ABC News - Reuters - CNN - Wired News - and 478 related

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From http://www.mozillazine.org
Wednesday December 24th, 2003
GPSWeb Extension for Mozilla Firebird Opens Possibilities for Location-Specific Web Services

Davide wrote in to tell us about GPSWeb 0.1.2, an add-on for Mozilla Firebird that adds a User-Location header to every HTTP request containing the user's current position as determined by the Global Positioning System. Sites can then use this data to provide location-specific services, such as supplying directions to the nearest restaurant. The extension requires the user to have some GPS hardware connected to their computer (Davide tested GPSWeb with the Garmin E-Trex) and the GPSd Java daemon, which parses the data supplied by the GPS unit, to be running.

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From the UK edition of Google News:
Satellite tracking panic alarms on the cards for NHS staff
The Times, UK (subscription) - Dec 24, 2003
THE Government plans to issue all NHS staff with panic buttons personal alarms that would locate their precise position anywhere in the country and allow them to call emergency assistance.
"Panic button" for health staff goes on trial Reuters
Panic buttons for NHS staff BBC News
Glasgow Evening Times - The Scotsman - Reading Chronicle - and 25 related

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Drag Queen Eatery Sues Zagat for Rating
By SAMUEL MAULL
Associated Press Writer
December 24, 2003, 8:06 AM EST

NEW YORK -- The owners of Lucky Cheng's, a cabaret-restaurant with cross-dressing male waiters and entertainers, have filed a $10 million lawsuit accusing the Zagat Survey of libel for giving the restaurant a low rating for its food.

The suit said Lucky Cheng's has lost about $30,000 a week since Oct. 14, 2003, when the 2004 Zagat guide was published with the low food rating -- 9 out of a possible 30....
http://www.nynewsday.com/entertainment/dining/sns-ap-restaurant-survey-sued,0,225959.story?coll=nyc-topheadlines-left

[I'd say their chances of winning are slightly higher than the odds that Ralph Nader will be the Republican candidate for President.]

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Thursday, December 25, 2003

Wednesday December 24, 2003. To Pillsbury House, where I did Community Barter Network data entry. It's the last to be done this year.

Off the low-sodium part of my diet with a can of Diet Dr Pepper. It tasted salty, which means I've eliminated enough salt from my diet that I noticed it. And I'm not likely to drink it again.

After that, I stopped in at Uncle Hugo's. In the doorway to Uncle Edgar's (their sister store*), I noticed _The Church of Dead Girls_ by Stephen Dobyns on top of a pile of books.
I browsed through it, wondering whether it was as kinky as the title suggested.

The book is kinkier than the title suggests.

(*I know "sister store" is a bit odd here. But no odder than, say, "fraternal insurance for women.")

Someone stopped by my home to give me a plate of Christmas cookies. There went the low sugar part of my diet.

***In rec.arts.sf.composition, someone had asked what the Welsh for rabbit was. Which inspired me to ask what the Welsh for Welsh Rabbit was.

It's "caws pobi," which translates as "roasted cheese."

I googled for English-language websites which had that phrase. Found out there used to be a Celtic band called Caws Pobi. That's uncommon -- usually, it's a rock band which turns out to have the same name as whatever I look up.

I also found out that a lot of sites said "Welsh Rarebit". And some went into a good deal of speculation about the origin of the phrase. Why is it so hard for some people to believe that it really _is_ "rabbit"? That this is the same kind of phrase as "Dutch courage" or "Oklahoma credit card"?

Googling for "Welsh Rabbit" set to English-only brings up 3,690 sites. (There's a German rock band of that name, which throws the statistics off a bit.) With any language, it's 3,870. "Welsh Rarebit" -- English-only 8,090; any language, 13,300. (No bands in the first page of listings.)

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Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Wednesday December 24, 2003.

http://thelookingglass.blogspot.com/ Friday, December 12, 2003

The 3500 year old blogger is hanging it up.
[http://3500years.blogspot.com/2003_12_01_3500years_archive.html#107095099292354172]

I should explain. One of the odder corners of the blogsphere over the past several months has been the blog of someone claiming to be at least 3500 years old. She has no particular explanation for her longevity -- she apparently woke up with no memories at about that time after massive head trauma, and has been carrying on ever since as one might perhaps expect from Gwendolyn Ingolfsson if someone dumped her in the bronze age with total amnesia.

As one might naturally presume, we're dealing with an unreliable narrator -- as she admits even taken on her own terms: An early story described her dispatching of someone in the Civil War south who she called Clayton Williams (who was, among other things, a casual rapist of female slaves) -- a killing which she described at first as an act of vengeance, but in her sign-off she describes it instead as one of a long series of killings for sport, "because it felt good", the victim this time "chosen because it offered me the cover of a somewhat moral act".

Not a pleasant character, but an interesting character study if you have the time to go through it all...

If you prefer an openly-fictional web journal, see http://www.livejournal.com/users/godkin/ (Thanks to Redbird on LiveJournal for the link.)
"This journal is a work of interactive fiction about the travails of a griffin military commander, and is updated 2-5 days a week on weekdays. Your vote will help direct the story. If you'd like to catch up with the story so far, check the Godkindred website, linked above. If you enjoy the story, please feel free to become a Godkin patron."

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php

Public Release: 24-Dec-2003
New England Journal of Medicine
UT Southwestern researchers discover first effective treatment for exercise disorder
People with McArdle's disease – a condition marked by low tolerance for exercise and high risk of activity-related muscle injury – can dramatically improve their exercise tolerance by consuming a soft drink or equivalent before physical activity, investigators at the UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have discovered.
Danish National Research Foundation, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Veterans Affairs Merit Review


Public Release: 24-Dec-2003
Cell
'Mad cow' mechanism may be integral to storing memory
Scientists have discovered a new process for how memories might be stored, a finding that could help explain one of the least-understood activities of the brain. What's more, the key player in this process is a protein that acts just like a prion – a class of proteins that includes the deadly agents involved in neurodegenerative conditions such as mad cow disease.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

[A plague of memories, anyone?]

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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Tuesday December 23, 2003. Idea: Water bars, serving bottled water and nothing else.

I had one egg for breakfast, down from three; plus a corn tortilla. Afternoon snacks: corn tortilla, unsalted matzo, one small piece of cheese, one "energy bar" which isn't quite as bad as most. Supper: souped chicken and souped carrots.

It wouldn't be low-fat eating, even without the "energy bar". The egg carton says one egg gives me 71% of the cholesterol I need, and I cooked the chicken with the skin on. It's not low carb. And it's probably not low sodium -- the chicken and egg didn't get added salt in cooking or at the table, but I suspect either of them has more sodium than I really need. But it's lower than the way I'd been eating.

And I think a crash diet would crash. I would probably develop a craving for sugared anchovies, or something equally disastrous. (Sugared anchovies are a Swedish dish.)
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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 23-Dec-2003
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Armies of fighting fungi protect chocolate trees
Biologists have discovered a new and intricate ecological relationship between cacao trees and the ubiquitous fungi that inhabit them, in which the trees are protected by armies of "good" fungi against their "evil" counterparts.
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, American Cocoa Research Institute, World Cocoa Foundation, M&M/Mars Division of Masterfoods, Andrew Mellon Foundation, National Science Foundation
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From the UK edition of Google News:
Bookies Cut Odds on Life on Mars
The Scotsman - 2 hours ago
The odds were cut by Ladbrokes from 33-1 to 25-1 after a number of bets were placed as the British probe neared its Christmas Day landing.
UK: British Space Scientists Hope To Hear That 'Beagle Has Landed' Radio Free Europe
Mike's a man on a mission Belfast Telegraph
Washington Post - New York Times - Toronto Star - ABC News - and 185 related
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From the Canada edition of Google News:
BC church shut in same-sex fight
Canada.com - 12 hours ago
An Anglican church defying its bishop by refusing to support same-sex unions has been "terminated" only days before Christmas.
Diocese shuts down church over discipline, same-sex issues Canada's Anglican Journal
BC bishop closes church that rejects same-sex unions CBC News
CTV - Ananova - Newsday - KRON4.com - and 58 related

email Dan Goodman
All comments assumed to be for publication, unless I'm told otherwise.
Monday December 22, 2003. Today's medical appointment included something new. The nurse explained that they were checking for domestic violence and asked if I felt safe in my home.

I explained that I live alone.

Blood pressure okay, blood sugar okay. If I'm careful, they'll stay that way.

The skin rash on my feet (and above my left ankle) is fading. What caused them isn't going away; veins which aren't operating properly. Among other things, I'm to take an aspirin a day to reduce blood clotting.

***DreamHaven had some old sf prozines for a quarter each, including a Galaxy from 1953. That was the year I started reading the prozines.

I bought several issues of Asimov's. One had David Brin's short story _The Postman_. I like it better than most of the stuff added in the novel version.

Some writers need to have limits imposed on them. A maximum story length, at least; but sometimes the editor needs to go through and murder the writer's darlings for him.

Brin tends to add too many: ideas, subplots, lectures on the background, sermons, alien species, and a few other things.

I also got a copy of _The Best of Leigh Brackett_, which for some reason had been shelved with movie and tv related books. The stories included are hokey (though not pokey); but they're fun to read. She was doing something right.

***Made chicken soup, with one whole chicken plus carrots, onion, and some seasoning.

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Monday, December 22, 2003

Monday December 22, 2003.

________________________________
Recording your life -- all of it.
http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/001370.html

__________________________________
Warheads Roasting on an Open Fire

By Al Kamen
Monday, December 22, 2003; Page A23

This is the time of year when agencies come up with their own versions of Christmas carols, substituting in-house themes for traditional lyrics....
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A20045-2003Dec21?language=printer

_____________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php

Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
BMC Geriatrics
Don't worry. You're not old – just ill
"It's all just part of getting old" may not be enough to explain the health problems that elderly people suffer, according to two Dutch researchers, writing in BMC Geriatrics this week. They think that the infirmities associated with old age are symptoms of diseases contracted during life.

Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
Mars mission scientist will live a 25-hour day
Cornell astronomer Steven Squyres is preparing to live on Mars time--an approximate 25-hour day-- for the duration of the two-rover mission, expected to be at least four months starting Jan. 3.
NASA

Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Candy canes, sugarplums or licorice for Christmas? Only one might stop cancer
A novel molecule extracted from licorice root has the ability to stop some cancers dead in their tracks, according to a collaborative research study conducted at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Mohamed Rafi, of Rutgers' Cook College, discovered the new molecule, ß-hydroxy-DHP (BHP), in common dietary supplements made from licorice root.

________________________________
Recording your life -- all of it.
http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/001370.html

__________________________________
_Warheads Roasting on an Open Fire

By Al Kamen
Monday, December 22, 2003; Page A23

This is the time of year when agencies come up with their own versions of Christmas carols, substituting in-house themes for traditional lyrics....
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A20045-2003Dec21?language=printer

_____________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php

Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
BMC Geriatrics
Don't worry. You're not old – just ill
"It's all just part of getting old" may not be enough to explain the health problems that elderly people suffer, according to two Dutch researchers, writing in BMC Geriatrics this week. They think that the infirmities associated with old age are symptoms of diseases contracted during life.
___________________________________
Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
Mars mission scientist will live a 25-hour day
Cornell astronomer Steven Squyres is preparing to live on Mars time--an approximate 25-hour day-- for the duration of the two-rover mission, expected to be at least four months starting Jan. 3.
NASA

Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Candy canes, sugarplums or licorice for Christmas? Only one might stop cancer
A novel molecule extracted from licorice root has the ability to stop some cancers dead in their tracks, according to a collaborative research study conducted at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Mohamed Rafi, of Rutgers' Cook College, discovered the new molecule, ß-hydroxy-DHP (BHP), in common dietary supplements made from licorice root.

________________________________
Recording your life -- all of it.
http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/001370.html

__________________________________
_Warheads Roasting on an Open Fire

By Al Kamen
Monday, December 22, 2003; Page A23

This is the time of year when agencies come up with their own versions of Christmas carols, substituting in-house themes for traditional lyrics....
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A20045-2003Dec21?language=printer

_____________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php

Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
BMC Geriatrics
Don't worry. You're not old – just ill
"It's all just part of getting old" may not be enough to explain the health problems that elderly people suffer, according to two Dutch researchers, writing in BMC Geriatrics this week. They think that the infirmities associated with old age are symptoms of diseases contracted during life.
_________________________________________________________________
Recording your life -- all of it.
http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/001370.html

__________________________________
_Warheads Roasting on an Open Fire

By Al Kamen
Monday, December 22, 2003; Page A23

This is the time of year when agencies come up with their own versions of Christmas carols, substituting in-house themes for traditional lyrics....
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A20045-2003Dec21?language=printer

_____________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php

Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
BMC Geriatrics
Don't worry. You're not old – just ill
"It's all just part of getting old" may not be enough to explain the health problems that elderly people suffer, according to two Dutch researchers, writing in BMC Geriatrics this week. They think that the infirmities associated with old age are symptoms of diseases contracted during life.
___________________________________
Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
Mars mission scientist will live a 25-hour day
Cornell astronomer Steven Squyres is preparing to live on Mars time--an approximate 25-hour day-- for the duration of the two-rover mission, expected to be at least four months starting Jan. 3.
NASA

Public Release: 22-Dec-2003
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Candy canes, sugarplums or licorice for Christmas? Only one might stop cancer
A novel molecule extracted from licorice root has the ability to stop some cancers dead in their tracks, according to a collaborative research study conducted at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Mohamed Rafi, of Rutgers' Cook College, discovered the new molecule, ß-hydroxy-DHP (BHP), in common dietary supplements made from licorice root.

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All comments assumed to be for publication, unless I'm told otherwise.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Sunday December 21, 2003. To Rainbow Foods in Uptown. Whole chicken 49 cents a pound -- buy now, worry about cooking it tomorrow. Fresh stringbeans 99 cents a pound.

On to Lunds, which is upscale. They had chicken liver at 88 cents a pound, lowest price I've seen lately. (They also had chicken liver at $1.29 a pound.) Turkey wings 49 cents a pound. I got both.

***Thought: Outsourcing jobs to alternate universes.

***Writing: I rethought the idea of a futurological coffeehouse. Future Imperfect is now also a bookstore. The regulars are now talking to each other much more than I'd originally thought.

And the plot I'd associated with the idea has gone out the window. As of now, I have no idea what will replace it. Probably containing the same assumption -- that people and organizations don't want accurate forecasts nearly as much as they want forecasts which show that they're right.

Which is not the same as wanting upbeat forecasts. Some people want to be told that society is going to collapse, the Soviet Union (or whatever the current equivalent might be) is going to rule the world and enslave us, the stock market will crash so badly that "penny stocks" will be the same thing as "blue chip stocks".

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Sunday December 21, 2003.

From the UK edition of Google News:
Leak reveals honours snubs
BBC News - 1 hour ago
A secret list of 300 top figures who have refused knighthoods, CBEs and other awards has been revealed.
Secret list of celebrities who snubbed royal honours leaked Ananova
Top People Who Refused Honours are Named The Scotsman
NEWS.com.au - The Times, UK (subscription) - The Australian - icWales - and 28 related

The BBC report is at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3338583.stm . As of 11:29 AM, this hasn't shown up in any other edition of Google News.

________________________________________________
Sunday December 21, 2003.

From the Canadian edition of Google News. The magazine is the Canadian edition of Time.

First gay couple to receive a legal marriage licence Canadian Newsmaker of the Year
Canada.com - 2 hours ago
The magazine has chosen Michael Leshner and Michael Stark -- the first gay couple to receive a legal marriage licence in Ontario.
Magazine names gay couple top newsmakers CBC News
A kiss by two Michaels changed the meaning of marriage in Canada in 2003 Edmonton Sun
and 8 related

________________________________________
Mexico City Confronts Breathalyzer's Use
By MORGAN LEE
Associated Press Writer
December 21, 2003, 12:40 PM EST

The fuss has political potential too. Mexico's main opposition party offers free legal assistance to drivers appealing an arrest.

"It's very authoritarian from our point of view," said city lawmaker Manuel Jimenez, leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party's faction at City Hall. "Our constitution prevents someone from being detained without reason and humiliated ... in front of their children, family or co-workers."

[This is the party which owned Mexico for most of the 20th Century.]
_____________________________________________________________
FOR THIS year's Feedback competition, readers were invited to invent a new
scientific word that we need and define it in an appropriately pompous way.
Monotonologue and Terarist are particularly inspired

http://www.newscientist.com/opinion/opfeedback.jsp?id=ns242699#21

Coyotus Interruptus A momentary suspension of the law of gravity, usually accompanied by the sudden realisation of impending gravitational acceleration. The term is derived from the name of its discoverer, Wile E. Coyote (Carnivorous vulgaris), who often observed the phenomenon when, in pursuit of Road Runner (Accelerati incredibilis), he was propelled at high velocity from a precipice of sedimentary rock by an apparatus of his own contrivance or by a commercial product, such as Fleet-Foot Jet-Propelled Tennis Shoes (ACME, Inc).

Jacqueline Jaeger Houtman, Madison, Wisconsin, US

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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Thursday December 20, 2003. I woke up feeling much better. My minimal plan for the day had been going to the Wedge for a bus pass and unsalted, unsugared peanut butter. I decided to also go across the street to Steeple People thrift shop, and also go to the Rainbow supermarket in uptown.

Got the first two done. Decided to go home, put stuff away, and then make another trip to Rainbow.

I didn't go to Rainbow. Instead, I went back to sleep.

________________________________________
http://www.flaneur.org.uk/html/food.html
The World's Worst Food site.

__________________________________
From http://www.worldchanging.com:
Antster
The Tech Bloom – Collaborative and Emergent Technologies

Ants are fascinating creatures (except when they're invading one's kitchen, in which case they are simply pests to be dealt with harshly). Individually pretty non-intelligent, the nests nonetheless display behavioral sophistication, usually associated with pheromone patterns. Complex behavior resulting from individually simple actions... could there be a lesson for software programmers?

But of course.

MUTE [http://mute-net.sourceforge.net/] is a new open source file sharing application, running on Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. It combines heavy encryption with ant-derived packet handling to allow file-swapping which cannot be tracked via conventional means. It's still rough around the edges (to be generous), but is an interesting reaction to the RIAA crackdown on music sharing....

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Friday, December 19, 2003

Friday December 19, 2003. Thinking over the idea of a futurology coffeehouse. The most important thing it would provide would be the opportunity for face-to-face discussion. It
would also provide reading material, Wi-Fi, and computers for use by those who didn't carry their own with them.

Some of the customers would be doing it for fun. Others would be serious. And there would be some overlap.

***I felt better today, but I still slept a lot.

_____________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 19-Dec-2003
Astrophysical Journal
The colour of the young universe
A team of astronomers has determined the colour of the young Universe. While the Universe is now kind of beige, it was much bluer in the distant past, when it was only 2,500 million years old. This is the outcome of an extensive and thorough analysis of more than 300 galaxies. The main goal of this advanced study was to understand how the stellar content of the Universe was assembled and has changed over time.

Contact: Gregory Rudnick
grudnick@mpa-garching.mpg.de
49-893-000-02246
European Southern Observatory (ESO)


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Thursday, December 18, 2003

Thursday December 18, 2003.

From Linkmachinego: http://www.timemachinego.com/linkmachinego/
December 10, 2003
[blogger] Jerry Pournelle claims he created 'The Original Blog': 'I can make some claim to this being The Original Blog and Daybook. I certainly started keeping a day book well before most, and long before the term 'blog' or Web Log was invented. I note that a Google Search on Blog doesn't show me, at least not in the first 10 or so pages, but then I long insisted I don't "blog" because I find the word ugly. But I have a fair amount of traffic and a quality readership, so I can hardly complain.' http://www.jerrypournelle.com/#blog

(update) How Jerry Pournelle Got Kicked Off The ARPANET -- bit of 'Net pre-history ... [thanks Phil]


*:login pourne
That account has been temporarily turned off.
Reason:
Think of it as evolution in action.
http://groups.google.co.uk/groups?selm=6ad9ar%24o3d%241%40nntp.ucs.ubc.ca&oe=UTF-8&output=gplain

From the UK edition of Google News:
Pulp Fiction Is M-Way Boon
The Scotsman - 45 minutes ago
Motorists heading along Britain's first toll motorway tonight could be forgiven for thinking the road to true love is never smooth after it emerged that about 2,500,000 Mills and Boon books were used in its construction.
Mills and Boon helps M6 toll road to stay intact Ananova
M6 Toll built with pulped fiction BBC News
Telegraph.co.uk - and 5 related
[Mills and Boon is the Brit equivalent of Harlequin]


From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php

Public Release: 18-Dec-2003
Journal of Women's Health
Men do not cause yeast infections in women
Women may blame their husbands or boyfriends for headaches, tears and stress. But they can't be blamed for those nasty recurrent yeast infections, contrary to popular belief. A new study finds that the presence of yeast in male sex partners do not make women more prone to recurrent yeast infections. Certain sexual activities, however, were linked to increased risk of recurrent yeast infections in women, according to the study.
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Wednesday December 17, 2003. I woke up with a sore throat, and otherwise feeling sick. Slept most of the day.

__________
From Tuesday's USA TODAY: "Livingston -- The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has changed its web site to drop details on the final meals of convicted killers. Critics say information on last meals for executed killers was demeaning."

Are these food critics? Or does Texas have critics who review executions?

From Newsday's AP feed: " Cincinnati Cops Get Stun Guns After Death"

Wouldn't they do more good while the cops were still alive? Or perhaps vampire detective novels are more realistic than I realize.

_____________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php, which has links to the full press releases:

Public Release: 16-Dec-2003
Nano Letters
To see the message, just add noise
Paradoxical as it seems, a team of University of Southern California researchers has built a signal detector that only works when noise is added.
National Science Foundation

Public Release: 17-Dec-2003
UB, military collaborate on design, testing of first drug to prevent noise-induced hearing loss
Six hundred Marines at Camp Pendleton in California will undergo two weeks of war games in the coming months armed with a new weapon: a drug designed to protect their hearing from the destructive decibels of battle, thanks to researchers at the University at Buffalo's Center for Hearing and Deafness.

Public Release: 17-Dec-2003
Growing human organs on the farm
The controversial idea of having a bank of your own tissue growing live in an animal to use as a factory for repairing any damaged organ, may be closer than you think. American researchers hope their part-human, part-sheep chimeras they are creating will one day yield genetically compatible tissue to the patient's own for repairing or transplanting organs.

Public Release: 17-Dec-2003
Researchers develop nanoscale fibers that are thinner than the wavelengths of light they carry
Researchers have developed a process to create wires only 50 nanometers (billionths of a meter) thick. Made from silica, the same mineral found in quartz, the wires carry light in an unusual way. Because the wires are thinner than the wavelengths of light they transport, the material serves as a guide around which light waves flow.

___________________________________________
http://physicsweb.org/article/world/16/10/7
Utopia theory
Feature: October 2003

From theories of pedestrian movement and traffic flow to voting processes, economic markets and war, researchers are striving towards a physics of society

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Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Tuesday December 16, 2003. I woke up feeling very good. It wore off a bit as the day advanced.

***Writing: I did a bit of revision on "The Caterpillar on The Leaf" and _A Choice of Ruins_. Then I printed out what I had. From here, I intend to rewrite from copy; that is, rewrite from what I've printed out rather than make changes in the files.

***Eleanor Arnason reading at DreamHaven Books. She read "Big Ugly Mama and the ZK," which appeared in the September 2003 Asimov's.

***Cookery: I broiled boneless chicken breast and a cut-up whole fryer, with the idea of using most of it for later meals. I used various spice mixtures on different pieces.

There was a liver and a gizzard; this chicken seems to have been heartless. I fried the liver, put the gizzard with the rest of the chicken.

The fryer parts came out well. The chicken breast was a bit too dry.

No sodium beyond what the chicken already had. Since I left the skin on the fryer parts, it probably had more fat than I should be consuming. That's one dietary change I'm not willing to make unless I really, really, really have to. (And since I'm losing weight, I don't think I need to make it. Not yet, anyway.)

Table condiment: lime juice. Excellent replacement for the soy sauce I used to use.

________________________________________________
From Crooked Timber http://www.crookedtimber.org:
Eyesores
Posted by Kieran

Architects like to think of their work as social theory made real. Conversely, paging through the examples in James Howard Kunstler’s Eyesore of the Month [http://www.kunstler.com/eyesore.html] is like reading a stack of freshman essays on Smith and Marx written by students who didn’t do any reading and were too drunk to come to lectures.

Incidentally, I had no idea that the Dark Tower of Barad-Dur — eye of Sauron and all — is now located in Nashville. [http://www.kunstler.com/eyesore_200210.html]

_____________________________________________________
From the UK edition of Google News:
The Free PC Makes a Comeback
PC World - 7 hours ago
A UK marketing company is bringing back the concept of the "free" PC. Metronomy Desktop Marketing will distribute a PC manufactured by IBM to users willing to watch a given amount of advertising while online, according to its Web site.
Free PCs available after the ads Digit Magazine
The return of the 'free' PC The Register
The Scotsman - and 7 related
http://www.metronomy.com/

______________________________________________________
The next century of flight: inventing the Jetsons' car
In 2103, spaceship in every garage? By Mark Sappenfield
http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1217/p01s03-usgn.html

'....The ideas range from the intriguing to the obvious, the far-fetched to the almost certain. Yet among many physicists and futurists, there is a growing sense that the ultimate arbiters of how far flight will progress this century will not be governments or scientists. Everyday Americans, they say, will determine the shape of science with their pocketbooks.

'"The changes are going to come because of economic impetus," says Dr. Feron, an engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

'That has not always been the case. To the contrary, the great advances of 20th-century aeronautics have been shaped by war and the threat of war - leading the federal government to dump billions of dollars into research and design. World War I advanced the world from cloth biplanes to steel-hulled aircraft. Jets emerged from World War II. And the entire American space program resulted from the Cold War....'

'Everyday Americans' is incorrect. It's become common for consumer products to be pioneered by other countries rather than by the US.

The mass-market flying car which will replace groundcars in every garage has been just around the corner since at least the 1930s.

_____________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 16-Dec-2003
The common cold as cancer fighter? SLU prof's lifetime work moving into clinical trials
Can the common cold ever be a good thing? It is if you've figured out a way to genetically engineer the virus so that it fights and kills cancerous cells - while leaving healthy cells intact.

Public Release: 15-Dec-2003
Biological Psychiatry
Shyness can be deadly
How you react to stress influences how easily you resist or succumb to disease, including viruses like HIV, discovered UCLA AIDS Institute scientists. Reported in the Dec.15 edition of Biological Psychiatry, the new findings identify the immune mechanism that makes shy people more susceptible to infection than outgoing people.

Public Release: 16-Dec-2003
International Organization
Treaty violations in wartime predictable
A review of more than 200 treaties from between 1816 and 1944 yields clues for determining when a country is likely to break an alliance during wartime.
National Science Foundation, Florida State University, Rice University

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Monday December 15, 2003. I had asked on rec.arts.sf.composition: "How would you react to this?

"The character has clear memories of watching steamboat races on the Los Angeles River."

William Taylor (medievalbk@aol.com) found a virtual LA River steamboat race on the web: http://www.steamboats.com/2002steamboatrace.html

The actual Los Angeles River usually doesn't have enough water in it to float a steamboat.

***DreamHaven has Jo Walton's _Tooth and Claw_ -- a Trollope novel in which the characters are dragons. The bits I skimmed are good, and made me want to read more. (My reaction to her previous novels was "Good, but not for me.")

______________________________________________________
Human players are invited to challenge Minority Game players

In the past few months we (Fribourg University econophysics group) have been testing an online interactive Minority Game that can be played around the globe via the World Wide Web. A human player is pitted against a few dozen adaptive MG players whose information capacity is very bounded, with an adjustable range---hence various levels of difficulty.

The screen resembles that of a real trader: the human player sees a price history and tries to bet on the next move. In all the levels we have chosen the MG players such that some predictability is built in, but very noisy, resembling the real quasi-efficient financial markets.

We know our MG players' bounded rationality but we don't know yours, including ourselves. The fact is that after a short training time, different people can achieve different scores with some consistency. If you think you can outsmart these mechanical MG players, please give it a try as the chances are good. But especially try to get high scores compared to other human challengers!
http://www.unifr.ch/econophysics/minority/game/

_____________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 15-Dec-2003
Nature Biotechnology
Researchers uncover pathway that could lead to plant generation of human-like protein
Researchers at Arizona State University report a major advance in the use of plants to generate human-type proteins. The discovery could lead to an effective means of producing proteins that are medically important and do so with a method that is less expensive than current techniques.

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Sunday, December 14, 2003

Sunday December 14, 2003. Writing: First draft done! "The Caterpillar on the Leaf" will get a bit more done before I workshop it, but I don't expect the story to change.

___________________________________
From: Matthias (xeno_mls@yahoo.com)
Subject: AH: Hidden President Finally Captured
Newsgroups: soc.history.what-if
Date: 2003-12-14 15:03:07 PST

There was dancing in the streets throughout Baghdad, capital of the United Arab Republic, as word spread of the capture of U.S. President George Bush. Bush, who had been hiding in the southern province of Texas for the last eight months, fled the Federal District soon after the first waves of UAR and People's Liberation Army troops landed on the shores of New England. Significant UAR forces also entered by way of the UAR-allied Republic of Michigan.

Over the last eight months, the entire Arab world has been anxiously looking forward to the outcome of this war, which the UAR had declared on the US and its allies after the US launched a campaign of 'liberation' to restore the satanic state of Israel which had nearly been purged since its defeat in its wars of aggression during the 1960's.

In the Capitol Building, the occupational forces of the UAR and its Chinese allies are preparing to receive the formal surrender of the remnants of the American Congress, Cabinet, and Supreme Court.

UAR President Saddam Hussein had this to say: "At last, one of the last plagues of humanity is being washed away. Today the Americans are being truly shamed today, this their Capitulation Day ... Let us hope that the tyranny of American Islamic Tyranny will soon enough vanish from the face of the Earth. Let us praise Jehovah for this great day!"

email Dan Goodman
All comments assumed to be for publication, unless I'm told otherwise.
Sunday December 14, 2003. A former Iraqi official has been located. Proper retirement arrangements are under discussion.

__________
I went with Pat Craft to Marshall Field's (formerly Dayton's) for their Christmas display. This year's display was based on Roald Dahl's _Charlie and the Chocolate Factory_.

Oddly enough, there was a lot of Dahl-related merchandise on sale.

I liked the display. I don't like the story it's based on, which I consider meanspirited.

We had coffee and tea in the Skyroom, which these days is a miniature food court. I believe it was once a tearoom. I'm certain it used to be rather more elegant.

Elsewhere on that floor was a historical exhibit about the history of Marshall Field's, Dayton's, and Hudson's. It had a lot to say about the virtues of the department stores and their owners over the centuries. (Only a century and a fraction, but who's counting?)

Tidbits I found interesting: The Skyroom and the Oak Grill (now the store's upscale restaurant) began as places for ladies shopping in Dayton's. Then businessmen unexpectedly started using them.

Frango candy used to be Franco, till Spanish politics made that name controversial.

__________________________________
From the UK edition of Google News:
Rule Britannia
The Sun - 10 minutes ago
TONY Blair's bid to surrender Britain's power to the EU has been thwarted in a major victory for The Sun.
Straw sees EU impasse lasting six months Reuters
Straw doubts new accord reached under Irish EU presidency Daily Times
BBC News - The Scotsman - Forbes - EU Business - and 15 related

____________
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/health/3313959.stm
Brain sees shadow as part of body
Our brains respond to our shadows as if they were another part of the body, according to a study

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/uk_news/scotland/3312021.stm
Friday, 12 December, 2003, 06:45 GMT
Clan hope in organ donor search
Scottish patients could draw on ancient clan blood-ties in order to find organ donors, according to research.

Oxford University scientists have suggested they may be able to draw on their namesakes to find a life-saving genetic match.

The human genetics study looked at using the international network of clans to help find suitable donors.

It found that clan members were more closely related to one another than previously thought.

DNA tests found that 20% of MacDonalds worldwide were directly descended from their 12th century clan founder.

The chances of finding tissue matches are higher among close family members.

Researchers now hope the global network of clans could be used to recruit donors to transplant registers.

_______________
Via Bentleywg on LiveJournal:
Short on vaccine? How to find the super-spreaders so they can get immunized
Vaccinate thy neighbor, by Kim Krieger. Physical Review Focus, December 9, 2003.
http://focus.aps.org/story/v12/st23

A new strategy for vaccination with limited resources suggests that the "super-spreaders" of a disease can be reached without knowing who they are in advance. ... Random immunization is almost useless because, for many viruses, more than 95% of the population must be vaccinated to prevent the disease's spread. ... Reuven Cohen of Bar-Ilan University in Israel and his colleagues propose a simple modification of random vaccination that is more effective, according to their computer simulations. The idea is to randomly choose, say, 20% of the individuals and ask them to name one acquaintance; then vaccinate those acquaintances. Potential super-spreaders have such a large number of acquaintances that they are very likely to be named at least once, the researchers found. On the other hand, the super-spreaders are so few in number that the random 20% of individuals is unlikely to include many of them. [The full Focus article] [Physical Review Letters article (subscription only)] (via Boing Boing)

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Saturday December 13, 2003. Around the corner to Southwest Senior Center. I ordered FARE for All food for next month, and picked up this month's. A good selection, mostly. I did give back a package of jumbo corn dogs, for someone else to get extra. Something about it shrieked "Too much salt! Too much sugar!"

***Main event today: Beginning of a new Clutterers Anonymous meeting. (Second Saturday, noon, Anodyne coffeehouse.) I brought materials left over from a now-defunct meeting in St. Louis Park, and a now-defunct meeting in Minneapolis.

There were four of us. Three of the four people who'd declared their intention of coming showed up; and so did one other person.

It went well. And it's good to have a CLA meeting again. (There's one in Roseville on the first, third, and fifth Saturdays at ten am, which is too early for me at that distance. One Sundays at the Como Park Pavilion, which is a rather long walk from the nearest bus stop.)


***I shopped at KMart for the first time in years (the one where the 2900 block of Nicollet Avenue ought to be). Bad decision.

They've gone upscale with some of their merchandise. They've gone downscale in the way they operate -- narrowed aisles to crowd more stuff in, someone at the exit checking receipts. The two don't mix well, and they don't seem to be doing either particularly well.

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Saturday, December 13, 2003

Saturday December 13, 2003. Writing: Around March, I decided I wasn't getting anywhere with the novel I'd been working on. I let it sit while I worked on other stuff.

At this year's Readings From Rivendell (see December 6), Dave Lenander asked about the thing I'd read in 2002. I explained that it had gotten stalled.

Very late Friday night, I logged into Forward Motion (http://fmwriters.com) In the main main community forum, there was a thread about the best way to handle story files. Among other differences, some people kept separate files for each chapter of a novel while others used one big file.

I had _A Choice of Ruins_ in separate files by chapter. Past the first couple of chapters, they were more outline than first draft.

I decided to gather them all into one file. I made a few changes, added notes for some others.

I realized how much more easily I write now than I did in March.

I've recently figured out the outlining method which works best for me. (So far.) It's not the method I used for _A Choice of Ruins_.

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Friday December 12, 2003. On Description 1

If there is a viewpoint character, description should show what that character would notice. A farmer who looks at a field of grain will see a particular grain -- not generic "grain". A professional soldier will see possible hiding places; a forester will notice kinds of trees.

In first person, the viewpoint character is telling the story. (Or, with multiple viewpoint, a portion of the story.) "I saw a frog in an obviously-fake uniform."
In tight third person, the viewpoint character is the one whose eyes the writer and reader look through. "He saw a frog in an obviously-fake uniform." In second person, the viewpoint character is the character the reader is supposed to be. "You see a frog in an obviously-fake uniform." (For some reason, second person tends to go together with present tense rather than past tense.)

Some forms of third person don't focus on any character in the story. But if the "author" is a historical romance writer of the 25th century, and he's writing about the simpler, gentler times of the 23rd century, he's the viewpoint character. Even with viewpoint characters inside the story, the "author" can be another viewpoint character.

Description should also show what you want the reader to notice; what the reader needs to know; and what the reader wants to know. If the viewpoint character takes it for granted that women have webbed feet and taxis are driven by cats, this can be a problem. One solution is to show what's normal (though strange to us) by having the viewpoint character encounter something unusual. A woman with hooves, for example; or a taxi driven by a snake.

If the supposed author is writing historical fiction, he can simply explain to the reader that women used to have webbed feet instead of hooves, and that snakes were discriminated against.

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Friday, December 12, 2003

Friday December 12, 2003
________________________________________________
From Crooked Timber http://www.crookedtimber.org
December 12, 2003
Sociology of Cultures
Posted by Kieran

Via Alan Schussman [http://www.schussman.com/archives/000473.html#00047] (it’s great when your RAs have blogs) comes an interesting review [http://books.guardian.co.uk/lrb/articles/0,6109,1097580,00.htm] by Steven Shapin of Camembert: A National Myth by Pierre Boisard. The book shows how there’s rather more — and rather less — to the famous cheese than meets the eye and nose. Unlikely though it may seem, Camembert’s development mirrors the evolution of the French state.

***My comment: For more on "ancient" traditions, see The Invention of Tradition, edited by
Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, Cambridge University Press. Danny Yee has a good review at http://dannyreviews.com/h/The_Invention_of_Tradition.html

__________________________________________
From 2blowhards http://www.2blowhards.com/
A short but heartfelt tribute to the cultureblogosphere's best linker, Plep (here*), who, day after day, makes amazing finds. What could be a more worthwhile and helpful way to use the Web? An essential site for culture fans, and one that doesn't get nearly the praise it deserves.

* http://www.nutcote.demon.co.uk/nutlog.html

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Friday December 12, 2003. From alt.callahans:

alt.fan.heinlein,alt.books.sf.robert-heinlein,alt.callahans
Subject: New Heinlein novel sold to TOR
From: Spider Robinson
Reply-To: spiderweb@shaw.ca
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 2003 15:50:45 GMT

Brethren and sistren,

today (11 December) Patrick LoBrutto of TOR Books won the auction for publishing rights to "Robert A. Heinlein's VARIABLE STAR by Spider Robinson," the new novel I will write based on Robert's extensive 1955 outline and notes. Please pass the word....
_________________________________________
http://www.penguinwarehouse.com/index.php
Thanks For Waddling In

Welcome to the most respected, domesticated penguin dealer on the Internet! Relax and take a look around our site where you can find information on our company, our products, and what goes into the care of a penguin. Penguin Warehouse, Inc. sells certified purebred penguins, useful penguin books, and many other items to make you and your new pet happy.


A Penguin For All Seasons

Penguins make wonderful birthday and holiday gifts all year long. Now and throughout the Christmas season get a discount on all purchased penguin accessories when a penguin purchased! Catch a penguin while their [sic] hot! This deal won't last long.

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Thursday, December 11, 2003

Thursday December 11, 2003. Went back home. Another tenant opened the front door, allowed me to use his phone, and gave me the landlord's phone number.

The landlord was on his way to a medical appointment. I arranged to come by later and pick up the new keys.

He lives near the Wedge. After a while I went to the Wedge, got a couple of things to eat.

Walking to the landlord's place, I noticed that Arise! bookstore no longer had a "no guns" sign. Maybe I wasn't the only person who'd considered that incompatible with their support of armed rebellions. (For example, they support Northern Irish groups which think the IRA has sold out.)

I got the keys, went home, and didn't expect to do much of anything.

To my surprise, I did get some writing done. Largely, I think, because I'd realized I had a character who would find it natural to say a line which has been in the back of my mind for a while: "The wicked witch of the Westmerland hath thee in thrall."
_______________________________
http://slate.msn.com/id/2092371
Wall Street Journal says fake Christmas trees—or "faux" trees, as the high-end sellers call them—are going upscale. The faux models now account for 70 percent of the trees found in U.S. homes, and some even come with a small bag of loose needles one can spread on the floor to enhance the effect. After testing out a tree handcrafted from goose feathers, the WSJ gives the Kmart Martha Stewart Everyday 7-and-a-half-foot Mount Rainier tree the thumbs down. Its "too-perfect triangular shape and aggressively green color" are a little disconcerting, says the author. In other words, Martha's creation looks far too real not to be a fake.

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Thursday December 11, 2003. Pretty women scramble men's ability to assess the future
Men lose the ability to think rationally when they see beautiful
women, suggests new research
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994469

Humans and computers compete in virtual creature game
The online game lets contestants create and race virtual beasts - it
can also compare different artificial intelligence approaches
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994456
_______________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php

Public Release: 11-Dec-2003
Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism
Scientists discover connection between obesity and diabetes
Scientists with the Eleanor Roosevelt Institute at the University of Denver have made a revolutionary discovery that for the first time establishes a biochemical connection between obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. This study was published in this month's Journal of Endocrinology.

Public Release: 11-Dec-2003
Molecular Psychiatry
Reading ability and ADHD affected by same genes
Twin and family studies suggest that dyslexia, and ADHD may co-occur because of common genetic underpinnings. In a genome-wide scan of ADHD, UCLA researchers identified regions, on chromosomes 2p, 16p, 10q, and 17q, that show support for risk genes underlying reading ability. Three of the regions have been previously identified as locations of gene(s) in ADHD (10q, 16p, 17q) and one region had been identified as a location for gene(s) in dyslexia (2p).

Public Release: 11-Dec-2003
Molecular Psychiatry
Avoid bad memories: Targeting genes and drugs
Aversive experiences are memorized more forcefully than pleasant ones, inducing behavioral adaptation but may also lead to behavioral impairments. A collaborative German-Israeli team discovered that emotional stress induces a change in the expression of the acetylcholinesterase gene that intensifies the efficacy of changing the neuronal cells communication and strengthens the establishment of fear memories. The researchers succeeded to suppress these effects by using a synthetic, gene-based "antisense" drug that retrieves normal gene expression.

Public Release: 10-Dec-2003
Ecology Letters
Symbiotic fungi promote invasion into diverse plant communities (Rudgers et al.)
The biodiversity of a community can affect its functional properties, including productiveness or ability to resist invasion by exotic species. Many grass species host fungi in their leaves rendering them more resistant to herbivory, drought, and competition. In Ecology Letters, January, Rudgers et al. investigate whether these endophytic fungi can modify how diverse communities resist invasion.

Public Release: 10-Dec-2003
Icarus
Planet-formation model indicates Earthlike planets might be common
New modeling of planet formation near a sun finds that each of 44 simulations produced one to four Earthlike planets, including 11 so-called "habitable" planets about the same distance from their stars as Earth is from our sun.
NASA Astrobiology Institute, NASA Planetary Atmospheres Program, Intel Corporation

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Wednesday December 10, 2003. The most exciting thing I did today: lose my keys. Which were the replacements for the ones I lost last week.

Before that: Picked up skin cream prescription at HealthPartners.

Went to Pillsbury House, and did data entry for the Community Barter Network.

Went to DreamHaven Books.

And then I got home, discovered I didn't have my keys. Knocked on the front door of my building, hoping someone would hear. They didn't.

Didn't have my landlord's phone number with me, and he's not in the phonebook.

I went to Kyle's -- the corner convenience store run by Chinese, as distinguished from the one run by Ethiopians. Used the phone to make a couple of phone calls.

Denny Lien and Terry Garey were home, and agreed to take me in for the night.

________________________________
http://www.oregonlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/metro_south_news/1070716032178490.xml?oregonian?sn
Schools act to keep pacifier fad off campus

Concerned about the association with Ecstasy, administrators at Milwaukie and Rex Putnam high schools ban the items

12/08/03
TOM QUINN

The list of items considered contraband at some area schools got a little longer this fall when guns, knives and gang colors were joined by that little savior of parents everywhere: the pacifier.

Since the start of the school year, officials at Milwaukie High School have confiscated a handful of binkies, labeling them drug paraphernalia because of the association with Ecstasy. Users of the illegal drug sometimes describe an impulse to suck or grind their teeth, which the pacifier soothes.

Rex Putnam High School officials also have told students that pacifiers aren't welcome on campus, while school resource officers at Clackamas and Molalla high schools report several incidents this year of pacifiers adorning backpacks or hanging from students' necks.

A pacifier was found in the hallway of Canby High School last week, but Principal Bill Westphal said he's yet to see a student wearing one.
_____________________________________________
http://nytimes.com/2003/12/10/business/media/10shop.html
Brand Names Are Paying the Price for a Change in Shopping Trends
By TRACIE ROZHON
In a change from years past when brand names were considered important, consumers seem to be searching for presents by category more than by specific brand name.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Tuesday December 9, 2003. "Cannot diagnose diabetes, labs are good. We should recheck fasting blood sugar every four months for awhile." Letter from HealthPartners

Which is a relief, to put it mildly. My first impulse was to rush out and buy some pastries, but I got over that.

***Writing: I'm going to rewrite "The Caterpillar on the Leaf" from copy. That is: I got what I have so far, and the outline beyond that, printed out. I'll retype that, rather than reworking the old file. Deadline: next Tuesday, 12:30 pm.

In the queue beyond that: "Some humans and some aliens have more in common than other members of their own species" isn't a new idea. L. Sprague De Camp used it in "A Thing of Custom" in 1957. And it's been well-used since. But I think I have a new twist on it.

The one past that: "Military exploration starship loses crew to attractive free society of planet they land on" probably goes back to Eric Frank Russell's "Late Night Final" (Astounding, December 1948); it's better known from EFR's "....And Then There Were None" (Astounding, June 1951; probably easiest to find these days as part of the novel _The Great Explosion_.)

"Summer Camp Specializes in 'accidental' deaths of kids whose parents want to get rid of them" is the basis of Julian F. Thompson's _The Grounding of Group 6_."

I think I see a way to combine those two.
_________________
From Google News:
Democratic Rivals Dismiss Dean's Chances
Washington Post - 10 minutes ago
"We're not going to have a coronation," said Sen. John Edwards (NC). He was joined by the others in the nine-person field in declaring that the voters in the upcoming primaries and caucuses, and not party elders or constituency groups, will determine the ...
Gore's early endorsement drowns out voters' voices USA Today
Dean's Role Is Redefined by Gore's Endorsement New York Times
San Francisco Chronicle - Arizona Republic - WIS - MSNBC - and 1081 related

From the Washington Post story:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50619-2003Dec9.html
When Koppel asked Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.) a question about what Dean has done right and why he has become the front-runner in the polls for the nomination, Kerry responded, "If I were an impolite person, I'd tell you where you can take your polls."

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), who was Gore's 2000 running mate and who suffered the most bitter rejection by the endorsement of Dean, told the audience that, "in some unexpected way, my chances have increased today."

He said the campaign was now a referendum on the future of the party, and said Dean and Gore are on "the wrong side" of the divide within the party.

Other Democratic candidates spent their day responding to Gore's surprise decision and in preparation for Tuesday night's forum. Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, trying to steal a little attention from Dean and Gore, told an audience that he had not ruled out offering the vice presidency to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

A spokesman for Clinton said again she intends to serve out her full term, which ends in 2006. Barely a week ago, Clark said he would consider New York Attorney General Elliot L. Spitzer for the vice presidency.

__________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:

Public Release: 9-Dec-2003
Pediatrics
Bullying in schools pervasive, UCLA study finds
More than one in five 12-year-olds are repeatedly either bullies, victims or both, and bullies are often popular and viewed by classmates as the "coolest" in their classes, according to new UCLA study.

Public Release: 9-Dec-2003
Tests measure compatibility of DVD disks and drives
Initial tests conducted by NIST researchers in collaboration with the DVD Association and the Optical Storage Technology Association show that compatibility between recordable DVDs and DVD drives is only 85 percent. This means that if a recording is made on 10 different brands of DVDs, the odds are that at least one will not work.
National Institute of Standards and Technology

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Monday December 8, 2003. My long-distance phone provider is BigZoo (http://www.bigzoo.com)
At 2.9 cents a minute for calls in the contiguous 48 states (plus a small monthly charge), it's as cheap as I'm likely to find.

But I do need to add more money to my account balance every now and then. The deadline was Tuesday. I renewed today.

***Then I called HealthPartners Audiology. My hearing aid had come with a cleaning instrument, which I recently lost. They had replacements. I could get one at the Como clinic.

I asked what the things were called.

"Cleaning instrument."

It turned out to be free, which was nice.

***From there, I went to the Rainbow supermarket in Uptown. Looked at frozen vegetables. For some reason, they didn't seem to have green beans. I bought Sugar Snap (tm) Peas instead.

I also bought: Smucker's sugar-free strawberry jam. One can each of unsalted black beans and aduki beans. Hamburger and eggs; probably more fat in either than is really good for me.

***Stopped at DreamHaven Books. They had the rediscovered Heinlein novel _For Us the Living_. I skimmed a bit of it. Decided it wasn't worth reading except to see what Heinlein had been like when he wrote it.

***USA Today had a story about governments using eBay and other computer auction sites to sell stuff. And I stumbled across http://shopgoodwill.com. Sponsored by Goodwill of Orange County; they don't say what state, but since their office hours are given in Pacific Time, probably the Orange County in California.

____________________________________________________
From the Ballad-L list: Robert Burns's feelthy songs can be found at
http://www.immortalia.com/html/books_OCRed/merry_muses/index.html
______________________________________________________
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 8-Dec-2003
Trail of black holes and neutron stars points to ancient collision
A NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory image of the elliptical galaxy NGC 4261 has revealed a trail of black holes and neutron stars stretching more than fifty thousand light years across space. This spectacular structure is thought to represent the aftermath of the destruction of a smaller galaxy that was pulled apart by gravitational tidal forces as it fell into NGC 4261.
_____________________________________
Poles' 22-hour commute pays off - illegally - in EU
Poland's obscure little Siemiatycze is closely tied to the EU economy.
By Deborah Steinborn
http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1209/p09s01-woeu.html
_____________________________________
Seattle OK Elvis Impersonator Cabbies
Under the new law, any driver choosing to wear a costume must pick a "readily identifiable and generally well-known public figure, personality or fictional character."

Outfits can't include masks, can't depict police officers or firefighters, and can't be skimpy. They also have to be approved by the cab association for which the driver works, and drivers have to post photos of themselves inside their cabs in and out of costume.

The legislation will take effect unless Mayor Greg Nickels vetoes it; his spokeswoman was not immediately able to say what he planned to do.
http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-elvis-taxi,0,459215.story?coll=sns-ap-nationworld-headlines

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Monday, December 08, 2003

From the American Dialect Society mailing list:

Subject: Re: "at" at the end of a where phrase
From: Scott Sadowsky
Date: Mon, 8 Dec 2003 01:06:03 -0500
To: ADS-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU

On 12/7/2003 10:41 PM, Geoffrey S. Nathan wrote the following:

>>I will probably regret this comment, since it is somewhat out of the
>>mainstream, but I am increasingly convinced that the association of
>>'correct' grammar with those in 'power' is itself an item of faith by
>>those of a progressive social bent.

I'll let the English-based linguists who hang out here address the specific
cases you cite. For my part, let me give you some evidence from the
Spanish-speaking world.

Ask any Chilean about how they speak Spanish, and they'll go off on a
tirade about how horribly they and their countrymen speak the
language. And these rants are inclusive -- their criticism is also
self-criticism. Ask them where "good" Spanish is spoken and they'll tell
you Peru and, in second place, Colombia. If you ask them specifically
about how Argentinians speak the language, you'll probably be told that
they speak it pretty well, but that they're not exactly models to be
imitated (national rivalries play a strong part in this judgement).

Ask Bolivians where "good" Spanish is spoken and the answer will almost
certainly be Peru. Lima, to be specific. Central Americans will cite
either Mexico (Mexico City) or Colombia (especially Bogota if they're
familiar with the different dialects) as being where "good" Spanish is spoken.

Argentinians from Buenos Aires are quite content with their own use of
Spanish, having gone so far as to create a Lunfardo language academy,
Lunfardo being the underclass and lower-class sociolect immortalized in
thousands of tango lyrics. But ask provincial Argentinians about how they
speak and they'll tell you the residents of Buenos Aires are the folks who
really know how to speak right.

I've also been told, anecdotally, that Venezuelans will tend to admit
--teeth-grittingly, due to national rivalries-- that Colombians speak
Spanish better than they do, especially the residents of Bogota.

So, what's behind this? What's the pattern here? Why do Lima, Bogota,
Mexico City and --to a much lesser degree-- Buenos Aires keep popping up as
bastions of "good" Spanish?

Pull out your pre-1810 historical maps you'll see that these cities were
the capitals of the viceroyalties the Spanish established in their colonies
in the Americas. They were the centers of civil, judicial, religious and
economic power, as well being the centers of education.

And two centuries after they were abolished, they continue to be the
centers of "good" Spanish in the mind of the vast majority of
speakers. (Spain itself, by the way, is virtually never cited as such a
place, most likely due to its role as the villain in this story).

Buenos Aires' status as a place where "pretty good" --but not "good"--
Spanish is spoken can be explained by the fact that the viceroyalty of
which it was the capital was the last one of the four to be established.

Argentina is a fascinating case in this regard. A whole series of
linguistic changes occurred in the century after Buenos Aires was made
capital of a viceroyalty, as the lower classes increasingly imitated the
middle classes who were following lead of the local ruling class which was
busy imitating the Spanish elite. To cite just one example, there was a
strong and very well-documented lambdacist tendency (a low prestige
feature) in Argentinian Spanish that is now utterly extinct.

So no, there is really no faith at play here at all.

>>In my experience the strongest defenders of 'correct' grammar are
>>primarily school teachers and print journalists, hardly those who
>>constitute bastions of political and social power.

Ah, but they are defending their privileged positions as gatekeepers to
nothing less than "correct English". It is a piddling bit of turf they
have to defend, but it's all they have, and as you've noted they are very
fierce in their defense of it. After all, it's about the only power
they've got.

BTW, in the debate that's arisen on this matter there's a very strong
tendency to interpret "power" as being only the very top level of power,
and that's just not the case. A McDonald's shift manager only has slightly
more power than a homeless person, but if you're a line cook on his shift
his power is considerable -- he could ruin your life for a couple months by
firing you and making you unable to pay the bills.

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