Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Sunday February 29, 2004. Yesterday morning, I realized that "The Red Flag" goes to the tune of "Hernando's Hideaway". At the moving party, I mentioned this to Nate Bucklin. Nate said he didn't know "The Red Flag". I told him it's the same tune as "Tannenbaum". (Also "Maryland, My Maryland" and several other songs.) [Inadvertantly omitted from my previous entry.]

It was Nate who informed me that "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" goes to the tune of "Blowing in the Wind". We've traded such vital knowledge back and forth over the years.

Slight digression: There's a Twin Cities Morris group called Vorpal Sword. They'd been reciting "Jabberwocky". On the web, I'd come across the information that "Jabberwocky" goes to the tune of "Greensleeves". I passed this on to a member of Vorpal Sword.

***Writing: I woke up knowing what I needed to do next on "Well Met..." -- eliminate one second-rank character, and make some changes to the viewpoint character.

I did not get to work on that right away. Which is a good thing, because I changed the decision.

I'm trying to focus the story on what the viewpoint character considers important. What he does not consider important includes: interstellar intrigue, faster-than-light travel (recently invented, making interstellar intrigue practical for the first time), world and Solar System politics, the evolution of languages descended from English, and a whole lot of history which took place after our time.

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Saturday, February 28, 2004

Saturday February 28, 2004. Spring is coming. It was warm enough that for most of the day I didn't need a sweater. And the spring garage sales were beginning to bloom.

Around the corner to the Southwest Senior Center, where I paid for next month's FARE For All food, and picked up this month's.

To Steeple People thrift store. Their clothing bag sale had gotten down to $1 a bag.

The day's main event was Nate and Louie Bucklin's moving party. There were fewer people than I remember older Mnstf moving parties having; but there were enough to get most of the stuff moved. (At least, I think so. I left before the end, but several other people were newly-arrived.)

There were a few people who said they weren't in good enough physical shape to help with the move -- till some problem was solved, or possibly permanently.

***One more character in "Well Met..." has come alive. Till now, she's been rather like Magnan in Keith Laumer's Retief stories. Magnan was sometimes Retief's pointy-haired boss, sometimes his Tonto/Watson, sometimes an enemy -- but always constructed of blemished cardboard.

Laumer was a good enough storyteller to compensate for that. I'm not.
My response to a question in a writing forum:

Take what you can use, and leave the rest:

Just because something has been overused, that doesn't mean it can't be used again in a good -- and salable -- story.

Often in fantasy, the religion isn't _exactly_ Christianity. But yes, it's a cliche.

Naomi Kritzer is one writer who's done something fresh with this. There's the stern New Religion whose inquisitors try to stamp out all traces of the Old Religion; and the Good Guys are adherents of the Old Religion. However -- turns out that the Old Religion is Catholicism (though it's undergone some changes, I think) and the New Religion is descended from our-day Wicca.

(I would like to see something in which the Old Religion is Marxism.)

There's a simple (though not easy) way to make such a story better than most others of its kind -- know what you're writing about. For example, know what Catholicism was like in the time you're writing about -- from good historians, if not directly from what was written back then.
In contrast to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's public memo to Lockyer requesting a lawsuit, Pataki argued that the state health department, rather than his office, made the decision to lobby Spitzer for a crackdown. (The NYT quotes sources refuting Pataki's claim.)
Supergee on LiveJournal (aka Arthur Hlavaty:
Samuel R. Delany tells us that one of the essential things science fiction does is to literalize metaphors (her world exploded). Here [http://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001415.html] is a horror flick idea from Kieran Healy based on "The Constitution is a living document."
From Moe Lane at Obsidianwings:
Well, it's official...

...blogging has become a part of the mainstream. Why do I say that? Easy: because somebody's written a book telling us how to get rich from this hobby....

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Friday, February 27, 2004

Friday February 27, 2004. Hoax: Yesterday, I got a couple of old Scientific Americans from Steeple People's free-magazine box. The April 2001 issue had a good non-fact article; a profile of an artist whose medium is bacterial DNA. (In live bacteria, of course.) The article was realistic till it reached the listing of the artist's previous work. The part about broadcasting vaginal contractions to the stars was a bit much for my ability to suspend disbelief.

***Cookery: Black beans, turkey wing, carrots, onion, a bit of cabbage. Tasted good. The beans colored everything, though. If you're bothered by eating black turkey and gray-orange carrots, I suggest using some other kind of beans.

Later, I reheated what was left in the pot and added spaghetti.

The spaghetti package, which I hadn't looked closely at before, included a couple of oddities. Item: "Since 1999." Most businesses which give their founding dates are at least a bit older than that. Item: a recipe for Spaghetti Hotdish -- which would sound odd in "casserole" territory. (The spaghetti was made in Minnesota.)

***Writing: I trimmed several minor characters and some plot complications from "Well Met...". And I made the romance element less romantic. I also added some stuff. It ended up about 300 words shorter than yesterday.

It will remain short only if I can leave the implied background unexplained. To make up an example: If I can get by with just mentioning elephants in the woodwork as a fact of life, I can keep things short. Explaining the future course of elephant evolution greatly increase the word count, without contributing to the story. And if it turns out that most readers will need to be told what elephants and wood are....
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 27-Feb-2004
GSA Bulletin
Ice sheets caused massive sea level change during late Cretaceous
Scientists using cores drilled from the New Jersey coastal plain have found that ice sheets likely caused massive sea level change during the Late Cretaceous Period -an interval previously thought to be ice-free. The scientists, who will publish their results in the March-April issue of the Geological Society of America (GSA) Bulletin, assert that either ice sheets grew and decayed in that greenhouse world or our understanding of sea level mechanisms is fundamentally flawed.
National Science Foundation

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News from the county where I grew up:
NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (Reuters) - The battle over gay marriage in the United States spread on Friday to a small New York town whose mayor began marrying same-sex couples in the first such ceremonies in the state....

From the Kingston Daily Freeman:
The state Health Department says New York's Domestic Relations Law does not allow the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples and that New York courts have recognized only marriages between men and women as valid.

"A municipal clerk who issues a marriage license outside these guidelines, and any person who solemnizes such a marriage, would be violating state law and subject to the penalties in law," the department said in a prepared statement late Thursday.

From a reader letter to the Daily Freeman: "Naturally speaking, if I want to keep the wheel on my car in place, I do not secure it by engaging a bolt with a bolt, or a nut with a nut. It requires engaging a bolt with a nut to keep it secure and in place."

It seems my understanding of how long intercourse ought to last is deficient.

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From http://www.politics1.com:

GAY MARRIAGE BAN AMENDMENT FAILS IN GEORGIA. In a very surprising move, the Georgia House of Representatives narrowly rejected a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Thursday. The measure had been expected to pass and appear on the ballot this November. Instead, the House voted 117-50 in favor of the marriage ban -- but that total was three votes short of the 120 votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Legislators are expected to seek reconsideration and a second vote Monday, as 13 members -- 12 Dems and 1 GOP -- did not vote (8 were present but refused to vote and 5 had excused absences). "I'm going to use my powers of persuasion and just reason with them," said State Director Sadie Fields of the Christian Coalition. The most vocal opposition came from the black and urban members of the House, who compared the struggle for black civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s to the current national debate over gay rights. "What we're saying [by this amendment] is that we're going to legally, constitutionally discriminate against this segment of the population," complained State Rep. Bob Holmes (D). Rural white Democrats largely joined with the Republicans in voting to support the amendment. Only one Republican voted against the gay marriage ban amendment. The Georgia Senate has already approved the amendment.
Posted by Ron Gunzburger - 02.27.04 | COMMENTS

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Thursday February 26, 2004. My first Haitian "Nigerian Letter".

***Writing: Before my first cup of tea, I got one scene, a big chunk of one relationship, and a couple hundred words ahead on "Well Met...." That's after deletions.

Later: Now up to slightly over two thousand words. Which means that to keep it at five thousand words (six thousand at most), I'll have to trim what I have. At the current stage (part rolling outline, part rolling first draft), there's almost no description.

Later again: It shows troubling signs of turning into a romance. I've done trimming to alleviate that.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 26-Feb-2004
Conservation Biology
New map predicts where wolves will attack
Scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society and other groups have developed a high-tech map that predicts where wolves will prey on livestock, which in turn may allow wildlife managers and ranchers to prevent attacks in the first place.
From the UK edition of Google News:
NI dentists 'extract Irish patients'
BBC News - 1 hour ago
The rising cost of living in the Republic of Ireland has led to a growing number of people travelling to Northern Ireland for cheaper dental treatment, BBC News Online reports.
Irish government papers found in N Irish waste tip EU Business
Secret Papers Found on Illegal Dump Scotland on Sunday
Belfast Telegraph (subscription) - Ireland Online - and 14 related

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Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Wednesday February 25, 2004. Sick today. But I managed to do some work on what I'd been calling the "Juliet Shoots Romeo" story. ("Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" is turning into something else.)
A member of one online forum said she'd always thought that writers would be open-minded, polite, and willing to listen to other political views. In cyberspace, no one could hear me giggle.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 25-Feb-2004
Journal of Neuroscience
Adolescent brains show reduced reward anticipation
Adolescents show less activity than adults in brain regions that motivate behavior to obtain rewards, according to results from the first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study to examine real-time adolescent response to incentives. The study also shows that adolescents and adults exhibit similar brain responses to having obtained rewards. Researchers in the Laboratory of Clinical Studies of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), one of the National Institutes of Health,
NIH/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
For Jack Vance fans: Chun the Unavoidable has a blog at http://chun.typepad.com/

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Tuesday February 24, 2004. An obituary for Sam Konkin (individual-anarchist organizer and
sf fan), who died yesterday, is here:

writing-related: More done on the "Juliet shoots Romeo" story. Now for the next stage.

On LiveJournal, http://www.livejournal.com/users/kate_nepveu/ said "papersky talked about spear-points in writing, as a way of thinking about plot and story structure."

As Jo Walton, Papersky has written three very good books. (Of which I like one: _Tooth and Claw_.) And on rec.arts.sf.composition, she's said useful things about writing. So I went over and had a look.

And "spear-points" turned out to be just what I needed to think about, just when I needed to think about it.

And what, I wonder, is the opposite of a spearpoint? Example: the scene in Ira Levin's _Son of Rosemary_ in which Rosemary wakes up and realizes it had all been a dream.

***On rec.arts.sf.composition, I had asked "Do you know of any conferences _specifically for speculative fiction writers_?"

To which someone responds that there will be one in Fall 2005; specific details aren't ready to announce.

I'd been talking about Clarion-equivalents (intense six-weeks writing workshops) focusing on other aspects of writing than what Clarion is about. For example, workshops in researching for fiction; with resulting fiction judged on how well the writers had done that.

Someone commented that this is the role of writing conferences. Maybe; I think workshops would do the job better. But it will be interesting to see what this writing conference accomplishes.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 24-Feb-2004
American Journal of Public Health
Smoking in movies returns to 1950s levels
Today's movie actors are lighting up as much as their 1950s counterparts, according to researchers who say cigarettes made a dramatic return to the silver screen in the past decade.
NIH/National Cancer Institute, American Legacy Foundation
[I wonder why. Nostalgia?]

Public Release: 24-Feb-2004
Ecology Letters
Coexistence of identical competitors: an old doctrine challenged
An illustrious ecological principle states that no two identical species may coexist: eventually all but one will drift to extinction. In Ecology Letters, March, Zhang et al report on recently modelled data on fig-pollinating wasps that contradicts the old theory. Built upon the evolutionary local mate competition theory, they show how this mechanism leads to demographic advantage to uncommon species helping identical competitors coexist.
[Note: The full press release doesn't say anything more than this summary.]

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Monday, February 23, 2004

Monday February 23, 2004. Someone from the sheriff's office knocked on the building door, looking for another tenant. (The man with him might have been from another law enforcement agency; they were dressed differently enough to suggest they followed different dress codes.)

I don't know what it was about.

***Writing: With the "Juliet shoots Romeo" story, I've been trying to look at each major character from the viewpoints of all major characters. (This will not be in the visible story, which has a single viewpoint; it's for my own use.)

I've also been trying to treat the story environment as a major character. (Taken from LiveJournal discussion. I may be taking it more literally than http://www.livejournal.com/users/cpolk/ and others intended; though not as literally as George R. Stewart did in _Storm_, _Fire_, and _The Years of the City_.)

It occurred to me that logically I should be looking at major characters from the environment's viewpoint. I'm trying it.
"In the meantime, a group of dangerously crazed noble and brave volunteers have put into motion plans for a limited membership Sandman convention,to be called FIDDLER'S GREEN,to happen in Minneapolis, probably toward the end of November 2004,with all profits to the CBLDF[Comic Book Legal Defense Fund]." Neil Gaiman
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 23-Feb-2004
American Journal of Transplantation
U of M researchers a step further in Type 1 diabetes treatment
Researchers at the University of Minnesota's Diabetes Institute for Immunology and Transplantation (DIIT) and the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Diabetes Center have achieved insulin independence in four of six patients with long-term Type 1 diabetes using one infusion of insulin-producing "islet" cells from a single donor pancreas.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

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Subject: Story opening
From: "Leslie Harder"
Date: Sat, 10 Jan 2004 09:07:43 -0500

"I've just realized that I now see sounds as three-dimensional shapes. I
don't know when this started"

Edited to "I now see sounds as three-dimensional shapes. I don't know when
this started," you now have a DYNAMITE opening for a story.

[I hadn't realized this. And now I'll have to think about that. Thanks!]

Thanks for your blog. I read it all the time.

[And thank you!]


2004-02-23 06:54
"The list of nominees ended up being almost half as long as the list of eligible voters."

Not particularly surprising. There's always, in my memory, been a lot of nominees, and the number of people who are eligible to vote in MnStf Board elections keeps dropping, as time goes by. I'm among the people both nominated for the Board, and ineligible to vote.

But, by and large, turnover on the Board is very low, and seems primarily driven by Board members not wanting to stay on, rather than dissatisfaction among the (few) voters. My guess is that this year will be no different than most in that.

2004-02-23 16:39
On eligibility to vote dropping: I wonder what the statistics would show. And how well this would match attendance at clubs elsewhere. (I'm told that LASFS attendance is about half of what it was at its peak.)

And I wonder how other groups in Twin Cities fandom(s) are doing.

2004-02-18 07:14
'Ten years from now, Britney Spears will be in the "I didn't know she was still in show business" category.'

I thought she was there now. Especially when I read yesterday that she wants to be the next Bond girl and they're trying to find an actor who can convincingly play Bond but won't look old enough to be her grandfather.

If she's being considered for that role, and she's in the papers, she isn't there yet.

2004-02-18 08:30
I have to admit that I have a disturbing fascination for the WB series The Surreal Life, and I fervently await the day that Britney is hurting so badly for television cameras in her life that she spends a week in that house. With luck, her housemates will be Robert Tilton, Jonathan Frakes, and Bruce Sterling.

I don't have tv, and I haven't been lucky enough to see that show. When I read about such tv shows, I keep thinking "Come on -- this is too dumb even for television!"

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Sunday February 22, 2004. If you've been in a Minneapolis supermarket lately, this isn't news. I suspect that's true for any city in the US or Canada. Which shows how easy it can be to get news before the news media do.
From Google News:
Low-carb foods gain shelf space
Indianapolis Star - 9 hours ago
'Nickel and diming' across the Internet
New technologies may spur the online equivalent of the dollar store. By
Gregory M. Lamb

A not so simple path
Sending tech jobs overseas hasn't been as easy as some firms believed.
By Stacy A. Teicher

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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Saturday February 21, 2004 (continued) Mnstf meeting at Dean Gahlon and Laura Krentz's.

This was the second (and last) nominations meeting. The list of nominees ended up being almost half as long as the list of eligible voters. (The nominations meetings are sometimes the only ones of the year at which the Mnstf business meeting has actual business.)

Announcements included: The Board is soliciting Minicon bids for next year.

There will be a convention (in November?) focusing on Neil Gaiman's Sandman series.

Food report: Very good beef stew/soup.

A discussion of Photoshop turned to the possibilities of changing photos to make them non-Earthly. When I moved the discussion that way, what I had in mind was Earthtype planets with different sunlight, different gravity, etc.

When I got home (thanks for Dave Wilford for the ride), I downloaded a freeware graphics program. I downloaded another the next day. I don't know if I'll do anything with them; I need practice before I begin experimenting.

What I had in mind: Buildings on worlds with gravity relatively close to Earth's, constructed differently to take account of gravity five percent or more higher or lower than Earth's. Non-Earthly animals which have evolved under different gravity.

Somewhere beyond would be videos of, for example, waterfalls reshaped (how much difference in gravity would be needed for the flowing water to look different?) and speed-changed. I don't think I'm likely to reach that level.

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Saturday 21 February, 2004. Last night, electricity went out again for a while. I'm not sure whether it was the power lines, or someone plugging in a device which overloaded the circuit my living space is on.

To the Time Dollar Store at Pillsbury House, to buy things I needed.

The Time Dollar Store is part of the Community Barter Network. Doing an hour's work for another CBN member or for Pillsbury House and a couple of other nonprofits earns one time dollar. This can then be spent on services from another CBN member, or at the Time Dollar Store.

I'm not sure whether there's any relationship to Josiah Warren's Time Dollars and Time Dollar Store (Josiah Warren, _Equitable Commerce_). Warren was 19th-century American individualist anarchist; I find him and his works much more interesting than Ayn Rand and her works.
Mail: Fred Lerner, Lofgeornost #74; FAPAzine/personalzine. One section inspired me to an immediate letter of comment:

On Robert Blake's _Disraeli_: I decided to see whether "Montem" (which puzzled me as much as it did you) was findable on the web. And indeed, http://www.onelook.com easily came up with the answer:

Quick definitions (Montem)

# (n.) A custom, formerly practiced by the scholars at Eton school, England, of going every third year, on Whittuesday, to a hillock near the Bath road, and exacting money from all passers-by, to support at the university the senior scholar of the school.

(This definition is from the 1913 Webster's Dictionary and may be outdated.)

I suspect that many Brits are as unfamiliar with the term as we were.

Reading the Times of India on the Web, I've had similar problems. A jawan is a soldier; I now have that straight. I've come to understand "saffronization". But I still have to look up "crore" -- I remember it's a large number, but not just how large.
Mail: Uncle Hugo's sf bookstore/Uncle Edgar's Mystery Bookstore newsletter. Includes the story of the burglar caught in the chimney, and some unkind comments about the news media's comprehension of it.

(To be continued -- Mnstf meeting report)

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Friday, February 20, 2004

Friday February 20, 2004. Last night, the power went off for a bit over an hour. I've gotten used to losing electricity every now and then, though it happens more often in summer.

But I'm starting to think electric service would be greatly improved if a government took it over. And I don't consider government as efficient as, say, the average member of the Libertarian Party does.

My sixty-first birthday.

I went with Pat Craft to the Sparks Festival of electronic music and art, at the University of Minnesota's new art center. It's Thursday through Sunday; we just went to the Friday evening portion.

First, the gallery opening; interactive music and other sounds, and a drawing machine.

Then, performances which combined electronic music and art with (among other elements) dancers, molten steel, Minneapolis traffic, bagpipes, and poetry.

It was interesting and involving. It's not something I would want as a steady diet.
Thanks to http://www.livejournal.com/users/bentleywg/:
Explore the wide variety of science fiction inventions here at Technovelgy.com - over 600 are available on-site. Use the alphabetic List to see them all, or see the category of science fiction invention that interests you. See inventions by your favorite science fiction writer or your favorite science fiction book.
Thanks to rec.food.cooking thread Online Odorama...!!!:
The internet comes to its senses

You can already chat, email, download music and watch videos through the internet, but imagine being able to smell fresh seaside air from the heart of the city, or savour the smell of your favourite restaurant's cuisine while booking a table. It is now possible with the arrival of Britain’s first 'ScentMail' facility.

Cable company Telewest Broadband is currently testing new technology that brings a third sense to the internet, allowing you to send and receive any number of weird and wonderful aromas whilst surfing the net.

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One Republican official favors gay marriage. So does the mayor of Salt Lake City, not usually considered a bastion of leading-edge liberalism:

Mayors in Salt Lake City and Plattsburgh, N.Y., also have expressed support for same-sex marriage....In Salt Lake City, Mayor Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson (D), who is an honorary board member of the pro-gay-marriage group Freedom to Marry, said San Francisco's efforts would allow more people to see the benefits of allowing gays to marry.

Plattsburgh Mayor Daniel Stewart, who is gay, said he recognizes that his support for same-sex marriage puts him at odds with many of his fellow Republicans. "But, as a gay man, I have to fight for equality," he told the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh.

Via Google News from the Washington Post -- which waives registration if you go in from Google News, but requires it if you go there directly.
It now requires a bit of digging to find it on Google News; but papers in Salt Lake City and Plattsburgh have fuller local stories, and don't require registration.
For the Salt Lake City story without registration, see
For the Plattsburgh NY story without registration, see

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Thursday, February 19, 2004

Thursday February 19, 2004 A warm day -- which meant freezing rain and puddles. I've lived in the Twin Cities longer than anywhere else; I still don't really like the climate.

But it's like the climate I grew up in (Ulster County NY). And in the Los Angeles area (previous area I lived in), I noticed that many residents were bothered by winter weather as much as people who live in places where it snows regularly.

***Writing: About a thousand words on "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love". Folk buffs may recognize that title as a line from Child ballad #243, "The House Carpenter" -- aka "James Harris" or "The Demon Lover".

I had qualms about that title giving away too much. Then I remembered how many readers of Pamela Dean's _Tam Lyn_ were surprised by the story's events. And Pamela stuck a lot closer to her ballad than I'm doing with mine.

So I kept the title. And named a character James Harris.
From the Chicago Sun-Times via http://www.livejournal.com/users/matociquala/
Daley on gay marriage: 'no problem'
February 19, 2004
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Mayor Daley said Wednesday he would have "no problem" with County Clerk David Orr issuing marriage licenses to gay couples -- and Orr said he's open to a San Francisco-style protest if a consensus can be built.

From the Salt Lake Tribune (the Salt Lake City paper not owned by the LDS Church):
Mullen: Utah's petty little stand can't stop gay-marriage avalanche
Holly Mullen
Tribune Columnist
Nate Bucklin directed me to this article on Advanced Cluttering. The information isn't complete. For one thing, they discuss only Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-related hoarding. Other medical problems which go with cluttering include depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Video game to help flood planners
A special SimCity-like game has been devised to help plan for Britain's future flood defences.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Wednesday February 18, 2004. To Pillsbury House. The Community Barter Network is now on the web, and an announcement needed to be mailed out. I also did a bit of the usual data entry.

CBN had been on the web at one time, as a group of forums on the TC Freenet's server. This time it's on the Pillsbury United Communities server.

***Writing: I'm trying something new (for me) with the "Juliet shoots Romeo" story. 1) I'm starting by working out a description of the viewpoint character; 2) I'm describing him by how he sees other people and the world around him.

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From Crooked Timber:
Don't Be Afraid
Posted by Kieran

“Barbara Chamberlain, 79, also of Milwaukee, backed Edwards for the same reason,” the Associated Press reports from Wisconsin, “‘I have hope for him beating you-know-who,’ she said.”

Oh come, Barbara, you’ll just have stop living in fear and come out and say it — “Voldemort.” Now, doesn’t that make you feel better?
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php

Public Release: 18-Feb-2004
Sustainable Careers: New Options for a New Workforce
Same-sex couples plan differently for retirement
Same-sex couples plan differently for retirement than married couples, with lesbians planning significantly less than other groups of men and women, according to Cornell University researchers in one of the first studies of the retirement plans of gay and lesbian couples. (Sustainable Careers Forum, New York, Feb. 20)
Cornell Careers Institute

Public Release: 18-Feb-2004
BMC Medical Genetics
What are your odds of surviving into your hundreds?
A genetic factor that protects you against heart disease during middle age could reduce the odds that you'll celebrate your hundredth birthday. Research published in BMC Medical Genetics shows that a genetic trait, which is rarely found in centenarians, is associated with lower cholesterol levels.

Public Release: 18-Feb-2004
Sandia's miniSAR offers great promise for reconnaissance and precision-guided weapons
Within a year the National Nuclear Security Administration's Sandia National Laboratories will be flying the smallest synthetic aperture radar (SAR) ever to be used for reconnaissance on near-model-airplane-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and eventually on precision-guided weapons and space applications.

Public Release: 18-Feb-2004
Environmental Health Perspectives
Exposure to low-level magnetic fields causes DNA damage in rat brain cells, researchers find
Prolonged exposure to low-level magnetic fields, similar to those emitted by such common household devices as blow dryers, electric blankets and razors, can damage brain cell DNA, according to researchers in the University of Washington's Department of Bioengineering. The scientists further found that the damage from brief exposures appears to build up over time.

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Tuesday February 17, 2004. Temperatures got above freezing. I've heard a number of loud birds, and seen a few of them.

***Predictions: Four years from now, the idea that Republicans have a permanent lock on the Federal Government will seem absurd.

Ten years from now, Britney Spears will be in the "I didn't know she was still in show business" category.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

From the UK edition of Google News:
University to replace Christian prayers
The Times, UK (subscription) - 14 hours ago
EDINBURGH University plans to ban Christian prayers at graduation ceremonies and replace them with a period of reflection to avoid offending atheists and members of other faiths and to protect itself from possible legal action.
University drops graduation prayer Telegraph.co.uk
Religious Leaders Condemn Varsity Ban on Prayers The Scotsman
ic Ayrshire.co.uk - Scotland on Sunday - and 6 related
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 17-Feb-2004
Traditional Inuit ice treks guided from space
Each Arctic spring the waters at the ice edge become rich with life, and for thousands of years the Inuit of northern Canada have been going there for fishing and game. Today's Inuit have space-age tools assisting them with these traditional activities: satellites that precisely map ice type and extent.
European Space Agency
From Crooked Timber http://crookedtimber.org:
Political theory and molecular biology
Posted by John Quiggin

While we're on the subject of anniversaries, I just got an invitation to a conference on the 300th anniversary of the death of John Locke (Southern Hemisphere readers can email j.jones@griffith.edu.au, there are also events at Yale and Oxford.

I was first introduced to Locke through his demolition of Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarchia in which the divine right of kings is derived from the supposed natural rights of fathers, beginning with Adam. Locke has great fun with this, pointing out that if Filmer is right, there is a single rightful monarch for the entire planet, namely the man most directly descended from Adam under the rules of primogeniture - by implication, all existing monarchs (except perhaps one) are usurpers who can justly be overthrown.

I was very disappointed then, to discover that Locke's own analysis of property rights was no better than Filmer's theory of divine right; in fact worse. Rights to property are supposed to be obtained by the first productive user and then passed on by inheritance. So, if we could locate the Garden of Eden, where Adam delved, his lineal descendent, if not king of the world, would be the rightful owner of Eden. To determine a rightful allocation of property, we would need to repeat the same exercise for every hectare on the planet. The Domesday Book wouldn't even get you started on this task.

That was thirty years ago or so, and science has advanced a lot since then, to the point where we can award victory to (a modified version of) Filmer. By careful analysis of DNA, we can now postulate a mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam from whom we are all descended (of course, there's no reason to suppose the two were contemporaneous). Suppose, following the practice of various hereditary monarchies, we identify the rightful heir of Y-chromosomal Adam as the man with the smallest number of accumulated mutations (defects from the point of view of a strongly hereditary principle). In principle, this man could be identified uniquely. In practice, I imagine it would be possible to identify the ethnic group to which this man belongs, probably somewhere in Africa, and crown some prominent member of that group. A feminist version, with descent on matriarchal lines, is equally reasonable and, on the current state of scientific knowledge, a litte more practical.

Of course, for those of us who don't buy patriarchal/matriarchal arguments in the first place, this isn't at all compelling. But I don't find Locke's theory of property any more compelling and, unlike Filmer, his theory is no closer to implementability than it was 300 years ago.

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Monday, February 16, 2004

Monday February 16, 2004 Before I went to sleep last night, I unexpectedly got farther ahead on the Excessory story.

A few days ago, I set up a file for thinking "out loud" about various writing projects. Before, I'd tried this for individual projects; for whatever reason, one file for all of them is turning out to be more useful.

***Lunds had turkey liver. It's something I like, but usually can't find. I fried it, added a squirt of lime juice, and ate well.

***List-owner headache: Someone tried to sign the Decluttr list up as a member of a list for gay parents. Some list members have gotten upset about this.

***Revised an article on synesthesia, directed at sf writers. It needs another draft.

The subject is something sf writers tend to get wrong. Not as wrong as the once-common mistake of confusing schizophrenia with multiple personality, but wrong enough to be irritating.

Got a bit down on what I intend to be a nice, simple story. I tend to put too many ideas into fiction; I want to learn how to focus on one big idea per story.
In San Francisco, an influx of women in top posts
The city may become a proving ground for how male-dominated institutions adapt.
By Mark Sappenfield

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 16-Feb-2004
2004 AAAS Annual Meeting
Athletics, genetic enhancement and ethics
Combining genetic manipulation and weight training in rats yields leg muscles that are bigger and stronger than the muscles of rats exposed to just one of these two muscle-building techniques, according to a new study. These findings will frame a discussion at the 2004 AAAS (Triple-A-S) Annual Meeting on potential uses of genetic enhancement in competitive sports, from the perspective of athletic organizations, athletes, scientists, and ethicists.

Public Release: 15-Feb-2004
Journal of Neuroscience
Optically recording millisecond brain nerve impulses
Combining the bright laser light used in multiphoton microscopy with specially developed dyes and a phenomenon called second-harmonic generation, biophysicists at Cornell University and Université de Rennes, France, have made the highest-resolution images ever of millisecond-by-millisecond signaling through nerve cells.
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, National Institutes of Health, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

From Crooked Timber http://crookedtimber.org:
The latest issue of the American Journal of Sociology [subscription required] has a number of interesting articles, but given the, ahem, cosmopolitan nature of the crew here at CT, a paper by Alderson and Beckfield on Power and Position in the City World System [also pdf] caught my eye. They examine power relations between three and a half thousand cities in a network analysis, operationalizing ties with a measure of HQ and branch locations of the world’s 500 largest corporations. The authors develop a blockmodel to identify clusters of regularly equivalent cities
[http://faculty.ucr.edu/~hanneman/SOC157/TEXT/C9StructuralEquivalence.html#block]. Roughly, members of regular equivalence sets have similar relations to members of other equivalent sets, so equivalent cities stand in the same relations to other groups of cities.

As you might expect, the core of the city world system is the block made up of London, New York, Paris and Tokyo, and these four cities are much more powerful than any of the others. But outside this core group, the analysis suggests some patterns that aren’t visible in from less formal approaches. Outside the “L-N-P-T” block, there are six other “Primary” blocks:1 Amsterdam, Basel, Atlanta, Caracas, Cologne and … Bristol. Chris will be delighted.

1 These are “cliques whose members are involved in high levels of relations with outsiders. More specifically, they are blocks with greater than expected ingroup preference (their cliquishness), but also greater than expected outdegree and indegree.”

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Sunday February 15, 2004 Phishy email claiming to be from eBay, offering the opportunity to correct $15.00 deducted from my account. Since I'm not quite an eBay user, this was a no-brainer.

I cooked brown rice. It does taste better than white rice, and it's supposed to be better for me. It's a bit more expensive. (Except at the Wedge co-op; they have non-organic brown rice, and now seem to have only organic white rice.) Main drawback is the much longer cooking time.

And then I went back to sleep for a few hours. Not a very productive day.

I did get some suggestions for naming an Elfland sorority, responding to my post on rec.arts.sf.composition. One looks promising -- use of ogham letters instead of Greek letters. (Germanic runes were also suggested, but for some reason they don't appeal to me.)

There are college sororities and fraternities with non-Greek names. For example, the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus (the ag school campus) has the Farmhouse fraternity and the Clovia sorority. (However, the Clovia chapter is "Beta of Clovia".)

I did get a bit ahead on the "Elfland letter" story.

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Sunday, February 15, 2004

From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 15-Feb-2004
Mice cloned from olfactory cells
Researchers have successfully cloned a mouse using mature olfactory neurons as the genetic donor. The scientists credit the idea for the experiments to Woody Allen whose classic comedy, Sleeper, depicted scientists who try to clone a dead dictator from his nose.

Contact: Jim Keeley
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
From the UK edition of Google News:
Children to study atheism at school
Guardian - 6 hours ago
Children will be taught about atheism during religious education classes under official plans being drawn up to reflect the decline in churchgoing in Britain.
Schools to add atheism to religion classes Reuters
Any questions? Telegraph.co.uk
It's Nonsensical Sunday!

Got this idea from the reactions to what I thought was a perfectly natural comment:

"You'll find that vampires are usually the reason behind why the Catholic Church does things."

- so I thought that I'd open up the floor to others. Statements must be:

1) Something said by you, or heard in your presence;
2) Amusingly nonsensical out of context; and
3) Not be overtly or covertly political.

Have at it.

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 15-Feb-2004
2004 AAAS Annual Meeting
Adults and children develop gestures that mimic language
The ability to develop a form of communication that becomes an actual language is apparently innate, new University of Chicago research on the use of gestures among deaf children and experiments with adults shows.

From the full press release:
Psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow's work with adults and children also shows which features of language seem to come more easily, and are therefore resilient, such as using order to convey who does what to whom. Her research also shows which characteristics are more difficult to develop, particularly without linguistic input. She has found that youngsters inventing their own sign language do not form verb tenses, for instance.

For the experiment, the researchers showed the adults a videotape of objects moving in space, for example, a donut-like object moving from an ashtray. The adults were asked to describe the action first using gestures alone and later talking about what they saw.

When they used only gestures, the adults formulated their sentences in the same way: making gestures that represented the stationary object (ashtray), moving object (donut) and action (moving). The order is different from the typical order of an English sentence (the stationary object moves out of the ashtray). In order to determine if that organization reflects something more fundamental about how the mind works, the team then had the adults arrange pictures of the short narrative in two ways: once while talking to a researcher and again while working alone. People who talked about the movement of the donut-shaped object from ashtray to table frequently put the pictures in an order that reflected the spoken English. However, people who organized the pictures without telling someone what they were doing put them in the same order as those who had used gesture only in the earlier experiment: stationary object, moving object and movement.

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Saturday, February 14, 2004

Saturday February 14, 2004. Why did ads for lawyers in Santa Barbara and San Diego show up online alongside a news story on Minnesota drunk-driving legislation?

***Clutterers Anonymous meeting. The format has been changed since the last time I ran a CLA meeting. ["CA" was already taken, by Cocaine Anonymous.] The South Minneapolis group will probably end up with a meeting format which includes some of the older elements.

And will definitely be moving, probably in April.

***To Steeple People Thrift Store -- where I acquired only a few more things.

The American Dialect Society has been discussing terms for those things you fry in, and whether some people use different words for the electric ones. I decided to see what Steeple People's volunteers had put on the labels.

Fry pan: 1. Skillet: 3, in two different handwritings. Blank: 1.

**Writing: "Elfland Letter" story -- eliminated one character, combining her role with another. Added one character. Decided what the viewpoint character is getting out of nabbing larcenous elves.

Asked on rec.arts.sf.composition for suggested names for an Elfland college sorority.

"Sleeping heroes" story -- I got a bit farther ahead, added a clue that something is at least slightly unusual.

I'm using different methods to write these stories. I suspect I'll end up managing to combine those two methods, and perhaps a few others.
From History News Network http://www.hnn.us/
German publisher decides not to issue a highly anticipated novel by Thor Kunkel based on original research into one of the Third Reich's best-kept secrets - a series of pornographic films shot by the Nazis in the woods around Hamburg; publisher says he canceled the book at the last minute over esthetic differences with the author.
[I love the last sentence below.]
Treason : Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism
Ann Coulter has written yet another well-researched, accurate, and unrefutable account of today's and the past's liberals. Ann Coulter is very willing to engange[sic] the reader in an accurate debate regarding how liberals have acted in past administrations, from FDR to the Bush administration's war against terror. What is quite surprising is that this book is considered controversial....
HPOL is a searchable multimedia database documenting and delivering authoritative audio relevant to American history and politics....

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Friday February 13, 2004 The day started well. Before my first cup of tea, I got 200 words ahead on the "Elfland Letter" story. (And one character seems to be coming alive.)
Later, I got a bit farther ahead on the "sleeping heroes" story.

And then something went wrong. Not terminally; I'd intended to get laundry done in the morning, and I did get it started a bit after 7 PM.

One of the two books I'd brought to read was Jacques Barzun's _Simple and Direct_. I found myself disliking it. Barzun has useful things to say about writing clearly in English, yes. But he's too prescriptive for my taste.

Yes, "man" means "human" rather than "male human" (sort of). But the meaning has slid too far in that direction to be corrected. Restoring that meaning is about as practical as replacing "Mrs." and "Miss" with "Mistress" -- of which they could be considered corruptions.

And why is singular "they" less acceptable than singular "you"?

I left that book behind.
Experts: Dogs Likely Originated in Asia
AP Science Writer

February 13, 2004, 7:40 PM EST

SEATTLE "We think there was a series of domestication events in East Asia," said Norine E. Noonan, a dog researcher at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. "It happened a lot longer ago than anybody once thought -- at least 100,000 years ago."
Pretentious? Moi? department:
Here is a note from Bernardo Bertolucci :

The Dreamers has provided me with the opportunity to
celebrate and pay homage not only to the spirit of youth
of the student revolution of May 1968, but also the golden
era of Hollywood and the French directors of the nouvelle vague.

Many of my films have been described as "epics" - The Dreamers however I see as being far more of a chamber piece. Everything starts on one particular day in Paris, and that's when our "heroes" meet. Isabelle and Theo's parents have gone on holiday for a month so they lock themselves in their apartment with Matthew, their new American friend. And they have this very intense relationship, a real initiation in those few days. They stay locked in the house, and when they leave they are grown-ups, they've become adults.

Read the rest of Mr. Bertolucci's note by clicking:

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Friday, February 13, 2004

From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 13-Feb-2004
2004 AAAS Annual Meeting
PNNL envisions smart energy approach projected to save billions
The United States will have to invest $450 billion in conventional electric infrastructure just to meet expected growth in demand in the next 20 years, say researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This doesn't address grid instabilities and inefficiencies, security vulnerabilities and costly mortgages on large assets sized to meet just a few hundred hours of peak usage. The answer, asserts PNNL, is a complete transformation of the electricity system through use of information technology.
US Department of Energy

Public Release: 13-Feb-2004
Stressed at work? How taking a coffee break might make things worse
Trying to reduce feelings of stress by taking a coffee break might actually increase them - particularly in men, working alone, who believe it should help them perform faster - according to new research sponsored by the ESRC.
Economic and Social Research Council

Public Release: 13-Feb-2004
UCL study establishes common biological ground for maternal and romantic love in humans
A new study of young mothers by researchers at University College London (UCL) has shown that romantic and maternal love activate many of the same specific regions of the brain, and lead to a suppression of neural activity associated with critical social assessment of other people and negative emotions.

Public Release: 13-Feb-2004
2004 AAAS Annual Meeting
Babies tune into others' intentions early in the first year
Research at the University of Chicago shows that the basic human capacity of interpreting a person's behavior in terms of the person's goals or intentions begins to emerge early in the first year of life.
Via the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Climax schools ban T-shirts with town's centennial slogan
It may be the town's slogan, but it doesn't meet the approval of the superintendent who has placed a school ban on the centennial T-shirts that read: "Climax -- More than just a feeling."
(Associated Press, 02/13/2004 09:32 AM EST)

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Thursday, February 12, 2004

Thursday February 12, 2004 I made some phone calls I ought to have made earlier.

***Writing: Progress on the "Elfland Letter" story. I've now worked out why the protagonist does something dumb and then something smart. They're both done toward the same goal.

I don't yet know what the viewpoint character's motives are. Then again, neither does he.

For the "Somebody killed her husband and she wants to know who to thank" story, I asked a gun-related question and got some useful answers. And found out I knew a bit less about handguns than I'd thought I did.

And I found this website: http://www.motionpicturearmourer.com/q&a.htm

Among the questions answered: 6. How important is Advising the Police of our Film Shoot?
I would've thought that was a no-brainer, but apparently there are people who need expert advice on this.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 12-Feb-2004
Cognitive Brain Research
UCI study reveals why some people may be 'born to smoke'
Why are some people hopelessly addicted to cigarettes, while others seemingly can quit at will? A UC Irvine College of Medicine study reveals for the first time the underlying brain mechanisms that link personality traits to nicotine addiction.
National Institutes of Health, UCI Transdisciplinary Tobacco Research Use Center
The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices
Among their entries: Safe Sex

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AOL to Move Message Board Moderators
By Associated Press
February 12, 2004, 11:07 AM EST

OKLAHOMA CITY -- About 100 workers who moderate AOL's message boards and screen for objectionable online content will be laid off by the end of March, AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said.

The jobs of the Community Action Team will be moved to other America Online call centers, and possibly overseas, Graham said Wednesday.


Oklahoma City workers previously had been told that because of the sensitive nature of their jobs, they were not at risk for transfer to international centers.

The workers expressed concern that international employees would not understand some of the American slang expressions or cultural references they are trained to screen for in AOL chat rooms.

"My job was to protect kids," said one worker. "They're sending our jobs overseas, where their rules are not the same. If they don't understand our culture, how can they keep the kids safe? I understand the corporate need to save money, but they're missing the moral point."

Graham said AOL provides extensive training to all of its customer service representatives.

"We stand by the ability of anyone in the member services organization who has gone through the same kind of training that everybody else goes through in order to deal with these specific and sometimes sensitive issues," he said.
F.C.C. Begins Rewriting Rules on Delivery of the Internet

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 — The Federal Communications Commission began writing new rules today that officials and industry experts said would profoundly alter both the way the Internet is delivered and used in homes and businesses.

In one set of proceedings, the commission began writing regulations to enable computer users to gain access to the Internet through electric power lines. Consumers will be able to plug their modems directly into the wall sockets just as they do with any garden variety appliance. Officials said the new rules, which are to be completed in the coming months, would enable utilities to offer an alternative to the cable and phone companies and provide an enormous possible benefit to rural communities that are served by the power grid but not by broadband providers.

In a second set of proceedings, commissioners began considering what rules ought to apply to companies offering Internet space and software to enable computer users to send and receive telephone calls.

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Wednesday February 11, 2004 To Pillsbury House, where I did data entry for the Community Barter Network. Found out CBN will be getting back on the web soon.

Bought corn tortillas at a small grocery inside Mercado Centro. They're fresher than the supermarket ones (which are imported from Oregon), and at that grocery they're cheaper.

Worked on the "Elfland Prisoner" story, which is turning out to be humorous. (I hope it will also turn out to be funny.)
Politics: Every so often, a high percentage of drug users realize that heroin does bad stuff to them. They turn to a safer drug -- cocaine.

Farther on, such people realize that cocaine does bad stuff to them. They turn to a nice, safe drug -- heroin.

In US politics, there's a liberal/conservative cycle.

I expect Bush to win reelection -- unless he makes too many mistakes, or mistakes he's made in the past catch up with him. If he does win, there will be Experts proclaiming that the GOP will be the majority party forever.

2006: Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

2008: Democratic Presidential candidate wins.
Olympia - Nearly 60% of Washington's tax base is exempt because of loopholes. The state gives more than 500 different tax breaks on items as diverse as bull semen, human body parts and country club dues. Lawmakers are considering whether to extend high-tech tax breaks worth $100 million a year as well as tax breaks for aluminum smelters and health clubs.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

From Write Hemisphere http://www.write-hemisphere.com:
Abyss & Apex staffing change
Leah Bobet wrote in to report:

This is to inform everyone that, effective immediately, Kathryn Allen and myself have issued joint resignations from Abyss & Apex and will no longer be on staff there. Any queries for information, etc., should be directed to the publisher, Carol Burrell, at editor[AT]klio.net .

We'd like to thank you all for your wonderful submissions, your time and effort, and for the support we saw while at Abyss & Apex.

UPDATE: Carol Burrell, publisher of Abyss & Apex, has added more information to the earlier announcement:

We've decided to going a different direction with Abyss & Apex for the new year-- a different sort of focus, a different sort of look. Please have a look the guidelines page beginning next week for information on who has come aboard as new staff as of this month, and for updated payment rates.

[Will the resigners surface at some other web publication? What is the new direction? Will the new payment rates be higher or lower? Is Godzilla going on the Atkins diet? Stay tuned for the answers.]

From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 11-Feb-2004
Remote Sensing of Environment
Cities built on fertile lands
While cities provide vital habitat for human beings to thrive, it appears U.S. cities have been built on the most fertile soils, lessening contributions of these lands to Earth's food web and human agriculture, according to a study by NASA researchers and others. Though cities account for just 3 percent of continental U.S. land area, the food and fiber that could be grown there rivals current production on all U.S. agricultural lands, which cover 29 percent of the country.

Public Release: 10-Feb-2004
UN Convention on Biological Diversity, COP7
Money talks: Concern for biodiversity pressed on boardrooms by new breed of fund managers
A new breed of fund managers looking to pressure businesses to improve social, environmental and ethical performance, a phenomenon started in 1999, now wield more than $640 billion in clout in the UK alone – more than 12% of all managed investments in that nation, according to experts at a United Nations forum.
Green explosives: Collateral damage
Even munitions that are never used in anger can have a long term impact on the environment, and the military is anxious to minimize
the risks. In this free news feature, Jim Giles talks to the chemists who are developing 'green' explosives.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Tuesday February 10, 2004 Oops! I forwarded a Nigerian Letter to the proper authorities. And then I realized this one purported to be from Mars.

***A plot idea I'm not likely to use: Plato is given the opportunity to go back in history and institute his Republic before any other formal government is set up. He agrees. The Neanderthalers aren't quite what he expected, but....
Indian Police Kill Two at Student Exam
By Associated Press

PATNA, India -- Police shot and killed two men Tuesday while trying to stop relatives from helping students cheat during a school examination in eastern India, police said....

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 10-Feb-2004
Woodpeckers: There's a fungus among us
A new study in the journal Condor by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Arkansas State University suggests that a woodpecker's beak is a virtual petri dish of fungal spores that play a key role in the decay of dead trees, or "snags."

Public Release: 10-Feb-2004
Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Comets spread Earth-life around galaxy, say scientists
If comets hitting the Earth could cause ecological disasters, including extinctions of species and climate change, they could also disperse Earth-life to the most distant parts of the Galaxy. The "splash-back" from a large comet impact could throw material containing micro-organisms out of the planet's atmosphere, suggest scientists from Cardiff University Centre for Astrobiology.
[One is Chandra Wickramasinghe, who's been saying such things for years.]

Public Release: 10-Feb-2004
'Heavy metal' snow on blazing Venus is lead sulfide
Lead sulfide -- also known by its mineral name, galena -- is a naturally occurring mineral found in Missouri, other parts of the world, and now. . .other parts of the solar system . That's because recent thermodynamic calculations by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis provide plausible evidence that "heavy metal snow," which blankets the surface of upper altitude Venusian rocks, is composed of both lead and bismuth sulfides.

From the UK edition of Google News:
Three Wise Men may have been... women
Reuters - 9 hours ago
LONDON (Reuters) - The Three Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem bearing gifts for the baby Jesus may not have been all that wise -- or even men.
Church of England Questions Wisdom, Gender of Biblical 'Wise Men' Voice of America
Three Wise Men might have been women, church rules Independent
Yahoo News - The Times, UK (subscription) - WLOX - The Age - and 54 related

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Monday, February 09, 2004

Monday February 9, 2004 Once there was a freeware browser named Phoenix. The owners of another software program called Phoenix were unhappy and had the law on their side. As an interim measure, the developers said its name was Mozilla Phoenix. They changed names, to Firebird. "Firebird" also turned out to be already taken. As an interim measure, the developers said its name was Mozilla Firebird.

The newest version was due out today. I went to download it, and discovered it is now called Firefox. Or Mozilla Firefox, according to personal preference. This time, the Mozilla folks are sure they're free to use the new name.

***Writing: Juliet shoots Romeo. Starting from farther back -- a story came to life when my backbrain came up with an economic detail from medieval history. Somewhat later, I know the beginning and the end and I know who the major characters are. I now need to find out what comes between beginning and end, and know more about two of the three major characters.

***Food: I've heard and read people saying "It's a very complicated recipe -- you have to cook it a long time" and "It's a very easy recipe -- it only takes a few minutes to cook."
Neither of those makes sense to me.

Today I made something I consider simple: soup with turkey parts, cabbage, carrot, and onion. Simmered it for about an hour, and it came out fine.

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
To see a "Sol by Sol" (Martian for "Day by Day") journal from USGS astrogeologists, go to http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/Gallery/PhotoGalleries/MER-MissionActivities.

The USGS Geographic Names Information System at http://geonames.usgs.gov/index.html, the searchable database from which such information can be derived (use the "Query GNIS" feature), is a very serious function that contains information about almost 2 million physical and cultural geographic features in the United States and its territories. The federally recognized name of each feature described in the database is identified, and references are made to a feature's location by state, county and geographic coordinates.

Public Release: 9-Feb-2004
A common cleanser is cheaper and faster way to separate DNA for genetic analysis
By identifying a 30-year-old mistaken assumption, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center scientists have found that substituting a simple bleach solution for more complex tools makes a DNA separation technique called electrophoresis five times faster and less costly.
The Fairest Vote of All
By Partha Dasgupta and Eric Maskin
All voting systems have drawbacks. But by taking into account how voters rank candidates, one system gives the truest reflection of the electorate's views
That much can be found on Scientific American's website; the full article will be in the March issue, and to read it on their website you need to be a subscriber. However, it's probably basically the same as this working paper on Dasgupta's website:

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Sunday, February 08, 2004

Sunday February 8, 2004 Today was an emotional roller coaster. One reason for the downswing: I junked a writing project. One reason for the upswing: I got another started again.

From Google News (US):
Jewish settlers choose beauty queen
Yahoo News - 2 hours ago
ARIEL, West Bank (Reuters) - Jewish settlers have crowned their first beauty queen, a raven-haired girl of 15, in the hope of softening their militant image.
Sharon Draws a Line in the Hills Washington Post
Israel redraws West Bank barrier Reuters
CBC News - Telegraph.co.uk - San Francisco Chronicle - Toronto Star - and 538 related

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From Saturday's St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Houston's readers know what they're getting, because her books fall squarely into a genre as clearly defined as thrillers or mysteries or romance novels or science fiction. Readers don't have a name for the genre, but the book industry does: She writes "cozies."

'Cozies' are kinder, gentler murder mysteries
Wall Street Journal

My estimation of the Wall Street Journal's accuracy has dropped. 1) Cozies are a subgenre of mystery, not a full-fledged genre. 2) Fans do call them cozies, though not all readers may know the term.

Crisis magazine, a publication that examines politics and culture from a Roman Catholic viewpoint, published an article last fall that puts a magnifying glass to "The Da Vinci Code" history, examining the novel's big assertions and small historical details.

An sf fan gets mentioned:
Find the article, written by Sandra Miesel, at www.crisismagazine.com/september2003/feature1.htm.

Decoding 'The Da Vinci Code'
Book popularizes Jesus' marriage myth
From the India edition of Google News:
Britain to lure Indian film-makers
Times of India - 14 hours ago
LONDON : Britain plans to lure some of the Bollywood business to the country as its Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt is backing a scheme to raise 34 million pounds to set up a production base for Indian films made in Europe, specifically in ...
Now, Leicester plans a B'wood clone Economic Times
Now, from Bollywood to 'Leicester' wood Hindustan Times
The Times, UK (subscription) - and 5 related

Rudraksh is sci-fi Ramayana
Times of India - Feb 6, 2004
MUMBAI: Bollywood is about to release its second foray into the world of sci-fi thrillers, which this time goes back thousands of years to delve into the realms of Hindu mythology.
` Rudraksh ` : Modern - day ` Ramayana Sify
Press meet of Rudraksh IndiaFM
and 4 related
Neoliberalism is rapidly becoming the socialism of the 21st century, and as proof, I offer you John Gillingham's voluminous history of the European Union, European Integration 1950-2003: Superstate or New Market Economy. It recasts the entire history of Europe, and of EU institutions in particular, as the combat of a courageous vanguard of free-market activists against duplicitous unions, socialist political establishments, and entrenched, government-supported bureaucrats and monopolists. If Friedrich Hayek is the Karl Marx of this grand fairy-tale, the hero of the revolution - Gillingham's Lenin if you will - is Margaret Thatcher. And when the revolution is repudiated - a process already well underway - I predict that Gillingham will be one of its academic Trotskyists, forever complaining about how compromises and betrayals prevented Europe and the world from fulfilling the historically inevitable mission of an entrepreneurial revolution. Just as socialist revolutionaries used to complain about how the workers are always willing to accept such bourgeois blandishments as job security, regular raises, long vacations and home and automobile ownership over the proletarian revolution, I foresee for Gillingham a future of bitching about how the people never could understand that good returns in the financial markets were more important than whether or not they had paycheques that could pay their bills.

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Saturday February 7, 2004 On Lawrence Watt-Evans's sff.net newsgroup, he's been talking about a recent trip to Europe:

"'It's a little-known fact that in Barcelona they're building a Giant Space Ark to carry a chosen few to safety on the New Earth.'

"And this Alien Spaceship landed in Barcelona in 1991, but shh! Don't tell anyone. It's a secret."
I went to the Mnstf meeting at Scott and Irene Raun's.

It was the first of two meetings for nominations to the board of directors. (Other club officials are appointed by the board.) The current board members were nominated, and about the same number of people not currently on the board.

Discussions included: Crossover fan fiction, sparked by a piece of Addams Family/Harry Potter fanfic. This drifted to crossover tv shows.

Criminals with extra fingers (including one who left a glove at the scene of the crime).

A discussion of the Austin Lounge Lizards led to their song "Rasputin's HMO" being played.
It's to the tune of "The Arkansaw Traveler," and it's a bit stranger than the title would suggest.

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Friday, February 06, 2004

Recently, there's been much discussion of free trade. Here's part of what Frederic Bastiat had to say on the topic:

A PETITION From the Manufacturers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns, sticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting.
To the Honourable Members of the Chamber of Deputies.


We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays!), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us.

We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds -- in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.

Be good enough, honourable deputies, to take our request seriously, and do not reject it without at least hearing the reasons that we have to advance in its support.

First, if you shut off as much as possible all access to natural light, and thereby create a need for artificial light, what industry in France will not ultimately be encouraged?

If France consumes more tallow, there will have to be more cattle and sheep, and, consequently, we shall see an increase in cleared fields, meat, wool, leather, and especially manure, the basis of all agricultural wealth.

If France consumes more oil, we shall see an expansion in the cultivation of the poppy, the olive, and rapeseed. These rich yet soil-exhausting plants will come at just the right time to enable us to put to profitable use the increased fertility that the breeding of cattle will impart to the land.

Our moors will be covered with resinous trees. Numerous swarms of bees will gather from our mountains the perfumed treasures that today waste their fragrance, like the flowers from which they emanate. Thus, there is not one branch of agriculture that would not undergo a great expansion.

The same holds true of shipping. Thousands of vessels will engage in whaling, and in a short time we shall have a fleet capable of upholding the honour of France and of gratifying the patriotic aspirations of the undersigned petitioners, chandlers, etc.

But what shall we say of the specialities of Parisian manufacture? Henceforth you will behold gilding, bronze, and crystal in candlesticks, in lamps, in chandeliers, in candelabra sparkling in spacious emporia compared with which those of today are but stalls.

There is no needy resin-collector on the heights of his sand dunes, no poor miner in the depths of his black pit, who will not receive higher wages and enjoy increased prosperity.

It needs but a little reflection, gentlemen, to be convinced that there is perhaps not one Frenchman, from the wealthy stockholder of the Anzin Company to the humblest vendor of matches, whose condition would not be improved by the success of our petition.

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Friday February 6, 2004. Writing: Four hundred words written, which is 400 more than I'd expected.
Would this subject line make you want to read the email and buy the product? Stronger than garlic in a milkshake! b guhxd

This one sounds more interesting. However, the story it suggests has been done numerous times: Real Estate learn from the Pros nymphomania
Labour expels RMT over links to far left
By Barrie Clement, Labour Editor

07 February 2004

One of Labour's founding organisations will be thrown out of the party at noon today, creating one of the most serious splits in the movement since the establishment of the breakaway Social Democratic Party.

The ejection of the 55,000-strong RMT rail union was inevitable after its leadership defied Labour's high command by confirming its decision to allow branches to affiliate to other parties.

An emergency meeting in Glasgow yesterday voted by an overwhelming 42-8 to ignore the threat of expulsion from Labour and decided to allow the whole of its Scottish region to link up with the Trotskyist Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

Lee Hoffman once told me about a version of "The Ball of Kerrimuir" detailing the merging and splitting of Trotskyite/Trotskyist factions. Today, a quick google gave me enough information on such things to make my head hurt.

One useful piece of information: The Minnesota Historical Society has an archive of Bill Brust's personal papers. (Bill Brust was the father of sf writer Steve Brust.)

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Thursday, February 05, 2004

Thursday February 5, 2004. My first Presidential election was in 1964. I had reservations about Lyndon Johnson; but I knew that, unlike Barry Goldwater, he wouldn't widen the war in Vietnam. So I voted for him. And he expanded the war in Vietnam.

In 2000, I almost voted for Al Gore. But then came the people preaching that, unlike George W. Bush, Gore wouldn't do x, y, or z if elected. And that it was the duty of all liberals and leftists to vote for Gore, rather than wasting our votes on Ralph Nader.

I remembered that first Presidential election. I remembered Clinton and Gore explaining that the Democratic Party needed to move to the center, and should ignore Democrats like me. And I voted for Nader.

This year, I expect to have a Democratic nominee I can vote for. But I'd still like to have Nader as a fallback choice. (Most third parties have LESS integrity than the major parties, and tend to pick candidates to fit.)

Party. Principles. Pick one of two.

****Writing: In Medieval times, it was Roman Catholic doctrine that alleged witches weren't Satanic and had no real powers. When that benighted period ended and the more-rational Renaissance began, the Roman Catholic Church began hunting witches. So did Protestant denominations.

The last couple of days, I've been writing down background about a similar transition several hundred years in the future. It's not a Future History; it's a bunch of assumptions which I find believable and congenial. There's no detailed chronology, no street maps.

On the other hand: There's a very good freeware calendar program called Calendar Magic. Today, a new version of it came out; and of course I had to test it.

So I now have: a calendar for 2650 AD/CE. A list of western Christian holidays for that year. Two lists of Orthodox Christian holidays; some Orthodox bodies still hold on to the Julian calendar. A list of Jewish holidays which fall within that year. A list of Islamic holidays. A list of generally observed US holidays -- which, I was interested to see, include Canada Day. (This will be pared down, since I don't expect all these holidays to be still observed centuries in the future.) A list of holidays observed more or less worldwide.

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

Public Release: 5-Feb-2004
Lots of low-fat food is better than small portions of high-fat food
Dutch research has shown that a diet of low-fat products is better than smaller portions of normal high-fat food for preventing diabetes in obese people. Mice put on a low-fat diet were more sensitive to insulin than mice that received the same amount of energy in the form of high-fat food.
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

Public Release: 5-Feb-2004
Patients are less satisfied with better company doctor
Dutch researcher Karen Nieuwenhuijsen found that the more company doctors comply with the guidelines, the less satisfied patients who visit them due to psychological complaints are with the treatment they receive. She therefore concludes that involving patients in the development and adaptation of such guidelines could make these more useful.
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

Public Release: 5-Feb-2004
UCF research could help e-mailers find valentine, impress employees
Professor Michael Rabby of UCF's Nicholson School of Communication and graduate student Amanda Coho want to find out what messages and phrases are most likely to make people believe that someone who is e-mailing them is, among other things, trustworthy, eager to help others and willing to admit to making mistakes.

Public Release: 4-Feb-2004
Book challenges media influence on trial verdicts
Despite the growing news media fascination with murder and other high-profile trials, a new study has found that pre-trial publicity, and ongoing trial coverage, has little or no influence on the final verdict.

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Wednesday February 4, 2004. To Pillsbury House, to do data entry for the Community Barter Network.

To Uncle Hugo's, where I was given the books I'd bought a few days earlier. I'd wondered where I'd lost them....

Food shopping. A Latino grocery in Mercado Central for corn tortillas; fresher and cheaper than supermarket ones. Rainbow: I bought lime juice, which has replaced soy sauce as my standard condiment. They had chicken leg quarters at 69 cents a pound; but I decided I didn't want to cope with over five pounds of it. Lunds: Bought a turkey leg.
From the New Zealand Herald; pointer from NZ edition of Google News:
Murray Ball is best known for his Footrot Flats strip:

Cartoonist in running for book award


Gisborne cartoonist Murray Ball is among the nominees for the junior fiction section of the New Zealand Post book awards for children and young adults.

The nominees are:

Junior fiction (for creative writing where the text is the heart of the book, suitable for primary or intermediate-level students).... Fred The (Quite) Brave Mouse, by Murray Ball (Scholastic New Zealand).
From the India edition of Google News:
Haque, Khosla world's topmost venture capitalists
Rediff - 15 hours ago
Promod Haque, the New Delhi-born managing partner of Norwest Venture Partners, has been ranked as the topmost venture capitalist in the world, according to the Forbes Midas List. Haque was in the second spot last year.
Margalit makes the Forbes list Ha'aretz
2 Indians top Forbes's Midas list Economic Times

Nipplegate delays Oscar telecast
The Age - 2 hours ago
A flap over the exposure of Janet Jackson's breast hit the Oscars today when ABC television announced it would delay the live broadcast of this year's ceremony to avoid similar antics.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

A bunch of scientific press release summaries from EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
where you'll find links to the full texts.

Public Release: 4-Feb-2004
2003 IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Conference Proceedings
MIT student dances with robots
MIT graduate student Sommer Gentry is investigating the complex haptic, or touch-based, communication behind the often-improvised moves in swing dancing. Her experiments have already shown that pure haptic communication--without visual cues--is sufficient for two humans, or a human and a robot, to move in coordination. The paper describing the results of Gentry's human-robot experiments won the Best Student Paper Award at the 2003 IEEE Systems, Man, and Cybernetics Conference.
US Department of Energy

Public Release: 4-Feb-2004
Instant switching keeps calls secret
Want to contact someone but don't want to leave numerous messages in voice mail, email, instant messenger and pager? A new system by IBM, called Mercury, will check someone's location and activity for you from GPS receivers and by monitoring software. It will then decide where to send your incoming message depending on where the person you are trying to reach is.
New Scientist

Public Release: 4-Feb-2004
Do we perceive using 'mindsight'?
Our visual system can produce a strong feeling that something has changed, even if we cannot say what it was that has been altered. The Canadian psychologist who discovered it has dubbed the phenomena "mindsight", and says the effect could explain a lot of the belief in a sixth sense.
New Scientist

Public Release: 4-Feb-2004
Gene therapy technique could aid islet transplants for diabetes, says Pittsburgh study
Treating pancreatic islet cells with a growth factor can dramatically reduce the number of these cells needed for transplants to reverse Type 1 diabetes, according to a study by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers. In the animal model study, researchers also found that the triple-drug immunosuppression therapy currently used after human islet cell transplants is harmful to transplanted rat pancreatic islets and can actually induce diabetes in rats.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

Public Release: 4-Feb-2004
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Making new muscle: Researchers in Rome produce a mouse that can regenerate its tissues
Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University of Rome "La Sapienza" have found a way to restore some of the "regenerative" ability of tissues, which happens naturally in animals at the embryonic stage of development, but is lost shortly after birth. The scientists' work, published this week in PNAS, gives new insight into how stem cells can be mobilized across the body, and how they take on specialized functions in tissue.

Public Release: 4-Feb-2004
The physics of films, butterflies, banknotes and rainbows
The physics of the Incredible Hulk, how butterflies are helping produce forgery-proof banknotes and how rainbows really work are all in February's Physics World magazine. This special issue of Physics World looks at the role of light in nature in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the publication of Isaac Newton's Opticks.

Public Release: 4-Feb-2004
Gene transfer allows mammals to produce heart-healthy fats
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have found that tissues from mice transgenic for a gene usually found in the c.elegans roundworm contain omega-3 fatty acids, consumption of which has been shown to protect against heart disease. Mammalian tissue usually does not contain omega-3s, and these findings could lead to development of omega-3-rich meat, milk and eggs.
NIH/National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, American Institute for Cancer Research

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Tuesday January 3, 2004. What might Earth be like a thousand or more years from now? I did some thinking. Here follows some of what I came up with:

Longhorn cattle, wild and domestic. The knowledge to breed or gene-engineered polled and shorthorn cattle is easily available, but it's not much used. People now prefer cattle which can defend themselves against predators.

Wolves, coyotes, and feral dogs have bred into a mixture which looks and acts wolfish. Domestic dogs include a number which resemble one or another current breed; most have been re-bred/gene-engineered. Some have enchanced intelligence. And some of these have gone feral.

Wild monkeys; in the north and upland South, mostly gene-engineered species. Their ancestors were working animals and pets gone feral.

Feral apes. Quite possibly with higher intelligence than chimpanzees and bonobos.

Climate: there was warming, followed by a little ice age. Temperature is now back at about current levels.

Cities stayed alive, though with lower population, thanks to urban agriculture -- and cheap power sources which allowed growing food under artificial light.

From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 3-Feb-2004
BMC Plant Biology
Scientists develop plant that produces potential anti-carcinogen
A Purdue University researcher has successfully engineered plants that may not only lead to the production of anti-carcinogenic nutritional supplements, but also may be used to remove excess selenium from agricultural fields.
NIH/National Cancer Institute
Newsgroups: rec.music.folk
Subject: win $9 dollars
From: "Sam Green"
Date: Wed, 04 Feb 2004 05:23:58 GMT

Win nine dollars free no catch
just send me 12 dollars
and I will send you back $9
no linit to how many times
this is a paid ad for no one
kind regards,

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