Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Wednesday March 31, 2004. "Yes, your idea has been used -- probably at least twenty years before you think it possibly could have been. No, I don't have to hear what the idea is before saying that."

I see aspiring sf writers asking "Has this idea been used?". I answer with some gentler, more polite version of the above.

[There are, of course, ideas which become obsolete. "If everyone has genius-level intelligence, who's going to operate elevators?" "Doom came to mankind on New Year's Day, 2000 AD." And some really do become overused -- though "The last two people on Earth are named Adam and Eve" does get into print every now and then.]

The idea of readily available easy sex changes wasn't new when John Varley started his Eight Worlds series in the 1970s. H.L. Gold had used it in 1953 in "No Charge For Alterations." But Varley used the idea very differently than Gold had.

The equivalent fantasy-writing question seems to be "Has this legend been used?" And I don't think that matters much, either. There may be people who say "I've read a book based on the Arthurian legends, and I see no possible reason to ever read another one." But stories based on the Matter of Britain -- or "Tam Lin" or "Thomas the Rhymer" -- continue to be published, and sometimes sell well enough to be reprinted or republished.

From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
London team reports diabetes breakthrough
London Free Press - 8 hours ago
A team of London scientists is reporting a possible breakthrough in preventing Type I diabetes in individuals considered at high risk for the disease through work with genetically engineered tobacco plants. "There is no other group in the world that has ...
Scientists find cure from diabetes Pravda
'Vaccine' Prevents Type 1 Diabetes Onset in Mice Reuters
Health Day - WebMD - EurekAlert - HealthandAge.com - and 15 related

Public Release: 31-Mar-2004
Popular chewing gum eliminates bacteria that cause bad breath
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have found that Big Red -- the popular cinnamon-flavored chewing gum made by Wrigley's -- reduced bacteria in the mouth that cause bad breath.
Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company

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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Tuesday March 30, 2004 Mail: Form letter from Senator Norm Coleman, thanking me for my views on the "Don't let perverted scum like the Vice-President's daughter desecrate marriage!" Amendment and related Federal legislation.

It's dated March 9. I don't know if that's a typo for March 29, or Coleman's office took a while to mail it out.

De Profundis 375, April 2004. Newsletter of LASFS, the main Los Angeles area sf club. Minutes of club business meetings, which apparently are still more entertainment than business. Minutes of board meeting. Calendar of events at the clubhouse.

Some local sf fandoms have central clubs; LASFS is the central club for LA-area fandom. Others don't. It's a matter of local tradition, but tradition can change. Boston fandom went from fragmentation to NESFA as its central club. In the Twin Cities, Mnstf used to be the central club; now no club is central.

***Humans have much less genetic diversity than chimpanzees and bonobos do. (The cliche is that any troop of chimpanzees has more genetic diversity than our entire species. I don't know how accurate that is.)

There've been sf stories in which human and chimpanzee genes were mixed to produce better (more intelligent) chimpanzees. But perhaps adding chimpanzee genes to humans could produce better humans.
From ResourceShelf http://www.resourceshelf.com
George Mason University Speech Accent Archive
"The speech accent archive is established to uniformly exhibit a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph and are carefully recorded. The archive is constructed as a teaching tool and as a research tool. It is meant to be used by linguists as well as other people who simply wish to listen to and compare the accents of different english speakers. It allows users to compare the demographic and linguistic backgrounds of the speakers in order to determine which variables are key predictors of each accent. The speech accent archive demonstrates that accents are systematic rather than merely mistaken speech." 306 speech samples currently archived.

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Psychological Science
Study claims dogs and their owners look alike...
Long the subject of speculation, a new study says that dogs DO resemble their owners. At least this is the case with purebred canines, according to new research conducted at the University of California, San Diego, by social psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld and his UCSD colleague, Michael Roy.

"Forty-five dogs and their owners were separately photographed and judges were shown pictures of an owner, that owner's dog, and one other dog, with the task of picking out the true match. The proof of resemblance was that a majority of the purebred dogs and their owners could be identified by the 28 judges called upon to examine the photographs, with the results showing 16 matches out of the 25 purebreds. There was no evidence of resemblance between the mixed breed dogs and their owners."

"The findings do not reveal at what level the resemblance between person and pet exists. It could be a similarity of physical attributes or of personality traits. The matches seem to be based less on specific obvious characteristics-the connections were not, for example, between hairy people and hairy dogs or big people with big dogs. The data does not reveal how judges were able match dogs to their owners, but the study concludes, 'it does appear that people want a creature like themselves.'"
Google News:
For one user, AOL will say: 'You've Got A Porsche!'
ComputerWorld - 5 minutes ago
MARCH 30, 2004 (COMPUTERWORLD) - Using assets seized from a convicted spammer under tough antispam laws, America Online Inc. is holding a giveaway contest that will hand over the keys to a 2002 Porsche Boxster S convertible seized from a spammer caught ...
AOL To Give Away Spammer's Porche morons.org
Spammer's Porsche Is Prize In AOL Sweepstake ShortNews.com
The Register - I.T. Vibe - Silicon.com - Net4nowt - and 167 related

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Monday, March 29, 2004

Monday March 29, 2004 [politics] Principles. Party. Self-interest. Choose one of three. [/politics]

***Mail: Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 2004. One story I like: James Patrick Kelly, "Serpent." The rest are good, but not to my liking. I haven't yet figured out what makes the difference.

***I expect to be very busy the next couple of days, with things I'd rather not discuss here. If all goes well, I'll then have the joy of dealing with Federal bureaucracies which have been slowed down by Security Concerns. After that, Minicon
If you've forgotten what it looks like when the wheels come off an administration, you're seeing it happen before your eyes.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 29-Mar-2004
American Chemical Society 227th National Meeting
Enlisting carbon nanotubes to unmask nerve agents
Besides posing a serious environmental hazard, organophosphate-based pesticides, or OP compounds, are raw material for chemical-warfare nerve agents. Crews responding to a terrorist's nerve-agent attack have had no way to identify the compound they're dealing with until it's too late. Yuehe Lin, a PNNL chief scientist, reports the successful lab test of a disposable OP sensor he fashioned from carbon nanotubes chemically fused to enzymes borrowed from the nervous system-the same enzymes that act as catalysts in neurotransmitters.
US Department of Energy
From www.researchbuzz.org:
* Directory of Photo-Related Sites of All Things Photo ( http://www.allthingsphoto.com ).

Dundee University has launched a Scottish dictionary that incorporates both the twelve-volume Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the ten-volume Scottish National Dictionary. It's available at http://www.dsl.ac.uk/dsl/ .

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Jo Walton wrote a very good piece on time travellers in Montreal: http://www.livejournal.com/users/papersky/150837.html#cutid1. The ones she talks about are helpful (running bookstores with stock that's been hard-to-get for decades), or at least harmless (time tourists in what they think is appropriate clothing.)

But if the past can be changed, some time travellers would be making deliberate alterations. And not all of these would be useful or harmless, by our standards.

For example: Hitler first existed in the mind of a crackpot, then in his writings in which he claimed that the history everyone knew was a pack of conspiratorial lies. In the real world, European politics could never have become insane enough for a Hitler (or even a Mussolini) to achieve power.

The pseudo-historian acquired followers. And then, after his death, time travel was discovered. It was possible to go back in time, and see that history hadn't followed nearly the course his followers knew it must have followed. Obviously (to them), The Conspiracy must have altered the past as a way of continuing the cover-up.

The pseudo-historian's followers realized what must be done. They are going back through time, changing events to what they believe was their original state.

In the process, they're destroying the history which led to them. They will still exist so long as they could possibly have been born; chrono-inertia will see to that. When they return to their own time, they're going to be rather shocked for a bit. (After that, they'll realize that The Conspiracy is even more cunning than they'd realized.)

This has happened "before". Taig of Silver Mountain believed, against all evidence, that Earth had once had a moon. His followers went back to a time before the origin of life when they knew such a moon must have existed; and they "restored" it as Taig had described it. Result: when life evolved on Earth, it was very different from the life they were descended from. They disappeared.

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 29-Mar-2004
Biology of Reproduction
Soy consumption could help prevent prostate cancer and male pattern baldness
A team of scientists has discovered that a little-known molecule created in the intestine when soy is digested is a natural and powerful blocker of a potent male hormone involved in prostate cancer and male pattern baldness. In fact, the molecule, equol, completely stops in its tracks the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which normally stimulates prostate growth and causes male pattern baldness.

Public Release: 29-Mar-2004
2004 Joint Mathematics Meetings
Streamlining the 'pythagorean theorem of baseball'
Math researchers are considering simplified alternatives to the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball, devised by baseball statistician Bill James in the 1980s.

Public Release: 29-Mar-2004
2004 Joint Mathematics Meetings
Why AL batters get beaned more often
A new scientific paper supports a theory of why more American League batters get hit than their National League counterparts.

Public Release: 29-Mar-2004
Physical Review Letters
Bizarre attractive force found in mayonnaise
Scientists at Rice University have discovered that a little-understood tensile force, which was previously thought to be an oddity found only in the types of plastics used to make bulletproof vests, occurs in everyday emulsions like mayonnaise and salad dressing. "Negative first normal stress difference" is an attractive force created in fluids under certain conditions. The research was published last month in the academic journal Physical Review Letters.
From the UK edition of Google News:
Slave descendants to sue Lloyds
BBC News - 3 hours ago
Descendants of black American slaves are to sue Lloyds of London for insuring ships used in the trade.
Lloyd's of London to be sued by d . . . Boston Herald
Slave descendants claim damages against Lloyds Reuters
This is London - Guardian - Wired News - Ekklesia - and 9 related

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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Sunday March 28, 2004 I took another bunch of books to DreamHaven, and traded them in for credit. (Except for some which they turned down.)

Ran into Denny Lien there.

On to Rainbow and Lunds for groceries.

***Writing: "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" was intended as a short story. I now think it's going to end up as a novella, or perhaps a novelette. The plot is simple enough not to take up much room: Boy meets girl, boy destroys civilization, boy loses girl. What I think will take up room is the background, particularly as reflected in the characters.
What's described here isn't only happening in Colorado. It's been happening for decades in the area where I grew up (Ulster County, NY; recently in the news because the mayor of New Paltz was performing marriages guaranteed not triggered by unplanned pregnancies.) It's probably happening in much of the US, and elsewhere.

The new pioneers of sprawl
Population growth causes culture clashes in Colorado. By Amanda Paulson

Pagliotti is prepared for the compromises of rural living. Electricity often goes out, and when a freak snowstorm hit last year, six days passed before anyone could get into or out of their driveways.

But not everyone who moves here is as ready for the inconveniences. Highways, cellphones, and Internet access have encouraged commuters and former urbanites to go after a slice of the West, but the reality doesn't always match the ideal.

John Clarke, a former commissioner of Larimer County, remembers new residents complaining that the county hadn't plowed roads that were their own responsibility, or that the mailman wouldn't drive three miles in to a house. One man complained the county graded his road only once a year. "I did a calculation - we were getting $800 a year in property taxes from the properties abutting the road, and spending $7,000 to maintain the road once a year," says Clarke. "But he wanted more."

"People say they want to move into rural areas," says Jim Reidhead, director of Larimer County's Rural Land Use Center. "What they want to do is superimpose an urban lifestyle on rural America. They get upset when they're on the way to Hewlett Packard and they're caught behind a combine. They don't like the smells, and God forbid their neighbor's out haying at 3 a.m. We have truly a clash of cultures."

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Want to see whose Presidential campaigns your neighbors donate to? Which neighborhoods in San Francisco donate most to the Republican Party? Political maps based on donations by county, zip codes by first three digits, or state?
In First for Rome, Immigrants Cast Votes
Associated Press Writer

March 28, 2004, 2:43 PM EST

ROME -- Immigrants living in Rome voted Sunday to elect city and district representatives from their own ranks in the first such election here. The vote was designed to give non-Italians a greater say in Italian affairs.

Fifty-one candidates from across the globe vied for four nonvoting seats on Rome's city council -- one each to represent Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Another 172 others were bidding for 19 nonvoting district council seats, representing each of Rome's 19 municipal neighborhoods.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 28-Mar-2004
American Chemical Society 227th National Meeting
Type of buckyball shown to cause brain damage in fish
Researchers have found that a type of buckyball — a carbon nanoparticle that shows promise for electronic, commercial and pharmaceutical uses — can cause significant brain damage in fish. The small preliminary study, the first to demonstrate that nanoparticles can cause toxic effects in an aquatic species, could point to potential risks in people exposed to the particles, they say. Their study will be described at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Anaheim on March 28.

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Saturday, March 27, 2004

Saturday 27 March 2004 Round the corner to Southwest Senior Center, where I picked up Fare for All food and ordered for next month.

I gave back a couple of things I wasn't going to use, and someone else might want: designer lettuce and breaded fishburgers.

Cookery: Ground beef, apples, and onion, with Penzeys' Singapore Seasoning (tellicherry, black pepper, lemon peel, critic acid, garlic, onion, turmeric, coriander, cumin, ginger, fenugreek, nutmeg, fennel, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves, cayenne pepper).

***Writing: I'd decided to try a free program called AZZ Cardfile. I've tried other programs recommended as simple ways to organize stuff; hadn't liked them, and I didn't expect this one to work out either.

But it does work for me. Turns out to be really good for keeping story notes -- for me. I'm not doing anything in it I couldn't do as easily in any of several other programs -- or in a text file. But for whatever reason, it works better for me than the alternatives.
From soc.genealogy.jewish, an index to places around the world; maps showing locations included for at least some: http://www.calle.com/world
Also on soc.genealogy.jewish: Someone had asked what a tradition about eating turkey had to do with genealogy. Explanatory answer from someone who'd been able to find where her ancestors were from only because of the food traditional in their family.

Occurs to me that this would quite likely be useful in tracing other genealogies, in any ethnic group which isn't completely homogeneous.
Comment I made in soc.politics: Think of Marxism as being like Protestantism -- many separate groups, each claiming to represent the true vision of Karl Marx, who died on the Cross -- oops, let's not take the analogy too far. Social Democrats, who may or may not be Marxists in their own estimations, are roughly equivalent to Unitarians.

In any case -- _nobody_ hates the Communists more than Marxists of other denominations.

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Found out about this from Oxblog http://oxblog.blogspot.com/, whose usual focus is on more conventional political discussions:

Later in 1954 the race of aliens, known as Greys, from Zeta Reticuli area in space, who had been orbiting the equator, landed at Holloman Air Force base. they stated their planet was dying and needed quarters on earth to conduct genetic experiments theat [sic] might allow their race to survive; this in exchange for certain technology. President Eisenhower met with the aliens and a formal treaty was signed. The treaty stated the aliens would not interfere in our affairs and we would not interfere in theirs. We would keep their presence on earth secret; they would furnish us with advanced technology. They could abduct humans on a limited basis for the purpose of medical examination and monitoring, with the stipulation that the humans would not be harmed, would be returned to their point of abduction, that the humans have no memory of the event. It was also agreed the alien bases would be constructed underground, beneath Indian reservations in the 4 corners area of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. Another was to be constructed in Nevada in the area known as S-4, about 7 miles south of area 51, known as 'Dreamland'. A multi-billion dollar secret fund was organized and kept by the Military Office of the White House, supposedly to build secret underground sites for the President and the staff in case of military attacks.
This spam is closer to reality:


George W. Bush Credibility Twister is an interactive, online game that exposes the facts with the click of a mouse: just how much the president, his advisers, and key agencies knew about the phony claim before it made it into Bush's State of the Union address.

Play George W. Bush Credibility Twister today to learn the facts about President Bush!


After you've played the game, sign the online petition demanding an independent, bipartisan investigation into Bush's statement and the intelligence his administration used.
March 26, 2004 Word of the Day -- Searchgunk
SEARCHGUNK: Material found in search engine results that's irrelevant to the topic for which you're searching. Not necessarily useless, bad, or the result of search engine spamming -- just not relevant to what you're actually trying to find.

Ex: "Amongst all the haycart ride and bobbing for apple searchgunk I finally found the perfect carmel apple recipe."

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Friday, March 26, 2004

Friday March 26, 2004 I hadn't seen this kind of military recruiting ad before: a homemade notice at a coin laundry, with the tear-off strips giving the recruiter's name and phone number. This suggests US Army recruits are becoming scarce in the Twin Cities.

***[politics] Till very recently, I thought George Bush would probably be re-elected; and in 2008 a Democrat would take the White House. I now think it's likely John Kerrey will win this year; and either he or another Democrat will win the Presidential race in 2008.

Among American social cycles: Every so often, drug users figure out that heroin has bad effects. They turn to a safer drug -- one which experts are saying is safer, and some experts are saying is non-addicting: cocaine. And then, farther down the road, people realize that cocaine has bad effects -- and they turn to nice, safe heroin.

There's also a liberalism/conservativism cycle.[/politics]

***The letter is familiar, the country isn't:
Mr. Jun Cheng,
North Korea.

Dear Friend,
I am Jun Cheng a manager of bills/exchange at the foreign remittance department of Hanivitbank. In my department, we discovered an abandoned sum of $44,700,000.00 (Forty Four Million, Seven Hundred Thousand United State Dollars only) in an account that belonged to one Late Mr Andrew Phillips an American,who died along with his entire family, on November 1996, in a ghastly plane crash....
Things I said elsewhere dept: 1) I need an outline NOT to follow. If I write without an outline, the first draft takes the place of that outline. I always deviate from the outline, and I need that outline to deviate from.

2) I'm mostly an organic worldbuilder. I enjoy doing structured worldbuilding; but it doesn't work well for me.

So, in my current story part of the background is that the experts on faster-than-light travel aren't physicists or engineers but paleontologists. Which is something I had no idea of when I began the story. And which changes a number of things.
[Discussion of organic writing on Forward Motion http://fmwriters.com]
Proposed Constitutional Amendment:
No law passed by Congress or any state, nor this Constitution nor that of any state, nor any local law, nor any commonlaw practice, nor any international treaty, nor any conditions of surrender to hostile powers from another world, nor any direct edicts of the Supreme Almighty Being, shall be interpreted to abridge, amend, or remove the right of any citizen, person, or object in these United States or throughout the world from ownership of glowing fish.
Illinois: Springfield -- The state House approved legislation to help people who use guns in self-defense despite local bans on weapons. The measure says people charged with local gun violations can argue in court that their actions were justified by self-defense. It would apply only to local gun charges.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 26-Mar-2004
American Journal of Medicine
Drug companies are top health care lobbyists
Pharmaceutical companies spend more money lobbying Congress than other health care organizations, according to a new study in the April 1, 2004 issue of the American Journal of Medicine. Meanwhile, lobbying by physicians lagged behind, suggesting a decline in their political influence. The investigators found that health care lobbying expenditures totaled $237 million in the year 2000. This was more than the lobbying expenditures of every other industry, including agriculture, communications, and defense.
Soya-powered planes promise greener air travel
A fuel that blends soya oil and traditional jet fuel could slash consumption of fossil fuel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions

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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Thursday March 25, 2004. Walked to Steeple People thrift store and the Wedge Coop: a bit over 16 blocks.

Steeple People had the first two volumes of _The Fleet_ -- a shared-world military sf anthology edited by David Drake and Bill Fawcett. Human space has been attacked by nasty barbarians; it turns out that these barbarians are probably cat's-paws for Nasty Civilized Aliens, though the mystery isn't solved this early in the series. (I don't know if it's solved later; or if it seems solved, and then it turns out that those guys are also dupes; or if someone wakes up and realizes it had all been a dream.)

I dislike that cliche, and I hope someone writes a good parody of it.

Swam back home -- not exactly, but it was raining hard for a while. The bus strike is definitely a nuisance.

***Writing: "Well Met" now has an ending which I find satisfactory. Whether the story as a whole works, I won't know till I finish it.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 25-Mar-2004
Molecular Biology and Evolution
NIST-led research de-mystifies origins of 'junk' DNA
A statistical analysis of "junk" DNA from a wide variety of biological kingdoms shows that it was added late in the evolution of life -- after modern-sized genes formed. This resolves a debate about whether "introns" -- sections of DNA with unknown function plopped into genes -- were present in ancient life forms or appeared for the first time after bacteria and higher organisms split into separate evolutionary paths billions of years ago.

Public Release: 25-Mar-2004
Environment and Planning B
NASA uses a 'SLEUTH' to predict urban land use
According to NASA-funded researchers, developed land in the greater Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area is projected to increase 80 percent by 2030. Scientists used a computer-based decision support model loaded with NASA and commercial satellite images to simulate three policies affecting land use.
NASA, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Sahara refugees form a progressive society
Literacy and democracy are thriving in an unlikely place. By John Thorne

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Wednesday March 24, 2004. It feels as if I haven't gotten anything done today -- but I know I've gotten more accomplished than on some days when I felt as if I'd done a lot.

Part of this is irrational; for example, the feeling that I should have been able to write a novel today. Part, I think, is because I need to make some changes in my life.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Tuesday March 23, 2004. Speculations Reading by Jason D. Wittman at DreamHaven Books. He's had two paid publications so far; but one was to Scifiction, currently the highest paying short spec-fic market. And I gather he's submitting regularly.

I missed the first story. The second was a ghost story titled "Nine Rooms".

***Writing: There's an oldish joke about a man marooned on a desert island with six women. It's decided that he will spend one day with each woman, with Sunday off. At first, it's a dream come true; but after a while, he starts looking forward to Sunday.

And then, one day, another ship sinks; and one survivor reaches the desert island.

"Thank God!" our hero says. "You don't know how glad I am to see another man!"

The newcomer says "So am I, darling."

"Well, there go my Sundays."

One character in "Well Met..." will get what he always dreamed of, and more.

I've pared the story down farther, so there should be room for this.
* Aura - Ambient Sound of Virgin Wood
for Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP
The program shows its icon near system watches and plays real godlike
sounds of virgin wood (LT)

Whoever translated this from Russian didn't realize that "forest" and "wood" aren't exact synonyms. I don't know what "godlike" is intended to mean. Spiritual, perhaps.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 23-Mar-2004
There be dragons: New deep-sea predator species discovered
Dr. Tracey Sutton, a fish ecologist at the HARBOR BRANCH Oceanographic Institution in Ft. Pierce, Fla., has discovered a new species in a bizarre and elusive family of deep-sea predatory fish known collectively as dragonfish. The find, reported in the current issue of the journal Copeia, is the first new dragonfish species discovered in more than a decade.
Office of Ocean Exploration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The full press release has photos of an impressively ugly creature with many sharp teeth.

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Monday, March 22, 2004

Monday 22 March 2004. Took a bunch of books to DreamHaven, and traded them in for credit.

Uncle Hugo's, the other sf bookstore in Minneapolis, is probably more generous with credit. But DreamHaven is within easy (in decent weather) walking distance. With the bus strike likely to continue for a while, this is an important consideration.

***Writing: A conversation and a half farther ahead on "Well Met...."
From tomorrow's Christian Science Monitor:
Embrace the inner Genghis
A new biography argues that the Mongol ruler was a great entrepreneur
and social reformer. By Gregory M. Lamb

Surprisingly, women choose funeral studies
Women now make up more than half of students at mortuary colleges. By
Lisa Leigh Connors
From Google News:
Restricting calories increases life span, researchers say
KESQ - 1 hour ago
(Washington-AP) -- It may never be too late to extend life through sensible eating. A study out of UC Riverside shows a strict, low-calorie diet increased the life span of aged mice by more than 40 percent.
Researchers say restricting calories increases life span KFVS
Middle-aged diet may extend life BBC News
Yahoo News - Betterhumans - Atlanta Journal Constitution - San Diego Union Tribune - and 65 related

From the BBC story: "Proponents of the theory of Caloric restriction (CR) claim that a diet which keeps the number of calories to a bare minimum while ensuring the required amount of nutrition is taken on board lengthens life."

From what I've read, "bare minimum" means low enough that people who try it are likely to feel hungry all the time.

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 22-Mar-2004
American Sociological Review
Exposure to homeless people increases sympathetic public attitudes
Most people living in cities have seen or been approached by homeless people asking for food or money, leading many city governments to pass laws restricting or prohibiting panhandling. A Penn State-led study, however, has found that exposure to homeless people, even when vicarious or indirect, actually improves public attitudes toward homelessness.

Public Release: 22-Mar-2004
National Bureau of Economic Research
Presidential election campaign platforms impact the stock market
Each fluctuation in public opinion about candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore during the 2000 presidential election led to corresponding changes in equity prices of firms aligned with the two candidates, according to a new study by a Brown University economist Brian G. Knight. Bush's ultimate victory in the election resulted in a $100-billion shift in value from Gore-favored to Bush-favored firms.

Public Release: 22-Mar-2004
Current Biology
'His is lighter than mine'
When a subject lifts a heavy box, and sees someone else lifting an object, the subject thinks the other person's box is lighter than it really is. It seems therefore that performing an action influences our perception of an observed action. This is the central finding of a paper published in today's edition of the journal 'Current Biology' from a research team led by Dr Antonia Hamilton of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London (UCL).
From Crescat Sententia http://www.crescatsententia.org/
Where are you?
Amanda Butler at 09:02 AM

Paul Goyette at locussolus is trying to create a Chicago blog map by el stop http://www.locussolus.com/chicago/ along the lines of the DC Metro blog map http://www.reenhead.com/map/metroblogmap.html. The south side is currently underrepresented, if anyone would like to help him out by emailing him his (or her, or their, if it's a group blog) blog's relevant info.

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Sunday, March 21, 2004

Sunday March 21, 2004. Email of comment (eoc) to Oxblog http://oxblog.blogspot.com/: On subjects I know about, USA TODAY is more likely than the New York Times to get it right. As a newspaper of record in the sense that it's likely to quote the original sources, I find the Times useful.

An example of the Times getting things wrong: A few years ago, they ran an article about how the New York City dialect was disappearing. Every linguist quoted in the article said, plainly and clearly, that the New York Metropolitan Dialect was _changing_. Not disappearing, changing.

I don't know if the reporter(s) got things wrong, or if they were right until an editor "corrected" the article.
Chris Bertram on Crooked Timber:
Dan Dennett has an example somewhere where he imagines that someone discovers the score of a hitherto lost Bach cantata. But by an unfortunate co-incidence, the first few notes are identical to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” thus preventing us from ever having the experience eighteenth-century Leipzigers had of the music. Pauline and I have an interest in Art Nouveau, and, surfing ebay to see what there was for sale, she stumbled on an exquisite brooch designed by Charles Horner of Chester in 1895 or 6. From the description:
The brooch is decorated with a flyfot symbol. In Western traditions, the flyfots arms each represent one of the four elements, and the extention symbolizes that element in motion; thus representing life and movement. It was also used by the Maya, Navajo, Jains and Buddhists. In Scandinavia mythology it represents Thor’s hammer.

Did you know what a flyfot is? No, neither did I.
Posted on March 21, 2004 06:27 PM UTC

The real name of this symbol (apart from the one we all know) is fylfot.
Posted by Rod · March 21, 2004 06:33 PM

[Hint: Adolf Hitler used this symbol.]

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Google News, UK edition:
Did Register staffer mastermind 'call-girl weblog' conspiracy?
The Register - 2 hours ago
The Register's very own San Francisco reporter Andrew Orlowski has become the latest and surely the most unlikely name to be associated with the London-based anonymous call-girl weblogger 'Belle De Jour'.
Who is the real Belle de Jour, the internet's best-read whore? Independent
'Belle' Bust New York Post
Manchester Evening News - The Statesman

The Register story here http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/36410.html
Notorious weblog here http://belledejour-uk.blogspot.com/
For those who want to confess authorship http://www.iambelledejour.com/

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Saturday, March 20, 2004

Saturday March 20, 2004. Email from a stranger: "The guy I'm deeply in love with is with another girl. I love him so much I would die for him. I can't stand watching him with her. I want to get him back so bad I would even get down on my knees and beg him. He doesn't talk to me anymore since he's been with her. Can you please help me get him back. Please!!!!!!!"

My guess: The sucker is supposed to suggest himself as a replacement for the lost boyfriend, and somewhere along the way will be asked to send money.
I'd asked for a ride to Mnstf on the Natter list. Joel Rosenberg had offered me a ride if I came down to Once Upon a Crime; he had errands to run in that area. (He wasn't going to the meeting himself.)

What was happening at Once Upon a Crime: "MYSTERY WRITE OF SPRING: Once Upon a Crime hosts its second annual gathering of Minnesota mystery writers, with 25 authors appearing in groups of six or seven."

Joel was in the last group.

Among the other writers was Margaret Frazer, whose mystery series is set in Medieval (1400's) England. I asked her if there was anything about that era which she had to softpedal because readers wouldn't believe it. (The odds of a historical-fiction writer saying "No, of course not" to that are about equal to the odds of the Democratic Party nominating Richard Nixon for President later this year.)

I learned some interesting things about that period of English history. I already knew it was during the enlightened Renaissance rather than the benighted Middle Ages that witch-hunting was common. According to my memory of what Ms. Frazer said, it was also a time when London's streets were far cleaner than they would be in the Renaissance; and when judicial torture was used only in rare circumstances.

Note 1: In recent books, she has author's notes in which she discusses her research, including results that might surprise some readers. Note 2: Margaret Frazer was originally a collaboration, but succumbed to Single Personality Disorder. (The former other half writes as Mary Monica Pulver and Monica Ferris.)

There was a bit of unplanned excitement; loud noises nearby which I thought were _probably_ a car backfiring. I wasn't the only one who thought it just might be gunfire; a couple of people rather more familiar than I am with gunfire weren't sure either. It was indeed a car backfiring.

Joel dropped me off at Dean Gahlon and Laura Krentz's for the Mnstf meeting.

I enjoyed the meeting. (Except for learning that someone I'd thought was level-headed had done something stupid and annoying. Happens too often in sf fandom, and I long ago stopped being shocked by it.)

A couple of new faces at the meeting: Rachel Kronick (recently returned to the US from Taiwan) and Irene Raun's grandson A.J.

Scott Raun gave me a ride home.

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Found out about this from Crooked Timber; it also showed up on UK Google News:
Blunkett aide in row over race
Kevin Maguire
Saturday March 20, 2004
The Guardian

David Blunkett faced embarrassing questions last night after it emerged that the home secretary's special adviser on race believed the law should not stop white employers discriminating against black job applicants.

Matt Cavanagh argued that it should be left to firms to decide who they wanted to hire, acknowledging it might make good business sense for a company to employ only white staff if it believed its customers were racists.
From the India edition of Google News:
Muslim Veil Could Cut Cancer Risk, Doctor Says
Yahoo News - Mar 19, 2004
RIYADH (Reuters) - Veiled women are protecting more than their modesty -- they are also less prone to nose and throat cancers because their veils screen out viruses, a Canadian doctor was quoted Friday as saying.
News in brief Telegraph.co.uk
Hijab May Prevent Nose Cancer Arab News
Gulf Daily News - Daily Times - Houston Chronicle - Reuters - and 14 related

Note: The Canadian doctor works in Saudi Arabia.
spam subject: Red Hearing News Alert Vol 2

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Friday, March 19, 2004

Friday March 19, 2004. Today was "Do things I should have done earlier" day. One of which I can't really do until the bus strike is over; but I have a better idea of how to start.

***On a writing forum, there was a discussion of organic fiction writing -- that is, going ahead without an outline, but with some mental images of what happens at various points in the story. One participant had thought there was something wrong with her, because she _should_ be able to write better with a detailed outline. Another had found it unsettling to realize she was that kind of writer, because the rest of her life is meticulously organized.

What I said, not in the same words: There are more than two kinds of writers. Every edition of the Mystery Writers of America Handbook I've seen has included essays by writers who can't continue if they know whodunnit, or have more than the vaguest idea of what happens next in the story.

And then there are writers who need an outline or a "zero draft" to deviate from. (And yes, this includes at least one who supports herself by writing fiction.) I seem to be in this category.

Meanwhile: I'm on what I think is the real first draft of "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love." And there's actually something that hasn't changed: a plot summary of the ballad "The Two Sisters".

***Said elsewhere earlier, about politics: One version of the Pareto Rule is 1) Eighty percent of a business's profits come from twenty percent of the customers. 2) Eighty percent of the problems come from twenty percent of the customers. 3) It's not nearly the same twenty percent.

Businesses tend to pay attention to the problem twenty percent, rather than the profitable twenty percent. Politicians are a bit different; they choose between paying attention to the ten percent who see any compromise with the other party or with reality as treason, or the ten percent who just might be kept from going over to the other side.

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Friday March 19, 2004. David Strom president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, has been explaining that the Twin Cities metro area doesn't need public transit. Today's Minneapolis Star Tribune has a human-interest story on him, about him having sharply different views than his parents.

'Steven Strom said he asked David when he was recovering from one of his treatments whether he didn't think everybody ought to have as good a health program as that provided by his employers.

'The son's response: "It made me more sensitive to people's problems. But I don't see that a vast social welfare state and compassion are equivalent. One of the reasons that I'm an ardent advocate for capitalism is that the U.S. has the best health care in the world."'

Which doesn't explain why male life expectancy in the US is lower than in Canada or in Western Europe. (It is slightly higher than in Cuba.)

On LiveJournal, Papersky has suggested that the US medical system is not only less than optimal, but inferior to the Canadian and British systems. Last I saw, there were 79 comments on this; most from Americans. One (count them, one) American defended the US system.
Belated catchup -- mail from Wednesday: A subscription offer from Playboy, with pictures of scantily-clad adult female humans.

I don't find Playboy's pictures interesting. I might find their models interesting in person, or photographed differently. But their idea of what looks sexy isn't mine.

The last time I read Playboy, I had a moment of nostalgia. Among the jokes was one I remembered from junior high. (If the line "I wanna get weighed" rings a bell, you've heard the same joke.) I thought it was a dumb joke then.
Here's a better joke. From Ted at Crooked Timber http://www.crookedtimber.org:
"When Jim Treacher linked to the homepage of the imaginary horror writer Garth Marenghi, he found a real gem. Garth Marenghi is wonderfully done narcissistic hack, the page is hilarious...."
I consider it funny in small doses, and worth a look.
Public Release: 16-Mar-2004
Top medical and scientific societies commit to providing free access to research
Representatives from 48 of the nation's leading not-for-profit medical/scientific societies and publishers announce their commitment to providing free access and wide dissemination of published research findings. Their commitment is conveyed today by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and others during a news conference in Washington at which they released the document entitled, "Washington DC Principles for Free Access to Science."

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From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 19-Mar-2004
Quarterly Review of Biology
Evolution's twist
When our human ancestors started eating meat, evolution served up a healthy bonus – the development of genes that offset high cholesterol and chronic diseases associated with a meat-rich diet, according to a new USC study. Those ancestors also started living longer than ever before – an unexpected evolutionary twist. The research by two USC professors appears in the Quarterly Review of Biology.

Public Release: 19-Mar-2004
Scientists calculate how high heels can go
As Sex and the City's Carrie finally wanders off the UK's television screens, physicists at the Institute of Physics (London, UK) have devised a formula that high-heel fans can use to work out just how high they can go. Based on your shoe size, the formula tells you the maximum height of heel you can wear without toppling over or suffering agonies. It's h = Q.(12+3s /8)
From the UK edition of Google News:
Scientists' anti-cancer recipes
BBC News - 10 hours ago
A special website carrying anti-cancer recipes has been created by scientists at a Scottish university in a bid to cut cancer risks among teenagers.
Cancer-fighting food in database The Scotsman
How chocolate can ward off cancer The Herald
Glasgow Daily Record - and 5 related
From the India edition of Google News:
India News > BJP ban call on Nehru's book slammed
New Kerala - 4 hours ago
A call from a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to ban former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's celebrated classic "Discovery of India" has sparked widespread outrage.
India News: BJP ban call on Nehru's book slammed Kerala next
Indian poll row over Nehru book BBC News
Times of India - NDTV.com - and 7 related

A bit of explanation from the BBC story: "Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state of Maharashtra say the history book demeans the 17th century warrior Shivaji.

"Many observers believe the row is based more on current politics than history."

The BJP is a Hindu nationalist party dedicated to disproving the myth that polytheists are more tolerant than monotheists.
In the newsgroup soc.history.what-if, discussion
of J. N. Stroyer's _The Children's War_
The premise (Hitler victorious) is one of the standards; but according to Jack Linthicum, a secret Jew is in line to become Fuhrer.

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Thursday, March 18, 2004

Thursday March 18, 2004. The Stumpers list is primarily for librarians faced with questions they can't answer from their own resources. Here's one: "Hi. Can someone please help me with this reference question? "How fast would a skull the size of Delaware have to travel to stay in geosynchronous orbit directly above time square?"

I passed this on to the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.science, where it drew some useful replies. Passed those replies back to Stumpers.

I think this beats my old favorite: Where can I buy clothes for my plaster geese?

***"She had a shape like a mating pretzel...." From a story in _Shell Scott's Seven Slaughters_, by Richard S. Prather. It was in the free box at Steeple People thrift store. They don't write them like that any more.

From Steeple People, across the street to the Wedge.

As I passed the Wedge's service counter, Donna asked how I was doing.

"Fine," I answered. "The bus strike has been good for my health."

From the Wedge to Lunds supermarket in Uptown, then home again. About 39 blocks walked.
From the UK edition of Google News:
Britain to fend off India, China in science
Times of India - 7 hours ago
LONDON: Britain will increase funding for science to be the world's most attractive location for hi-tech business and to fend off the growing challenge from India and China.
Alarmed UK tries to save tech jobs Economic Times
Brown pledges extra support for science research The Times, UK (subscription)
Guardian - Telegraph.co.uk - Financial Times - The Register - and 24 related
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php:
Public Release: 18-Mar-2004
Geological Society of America Bulletin
Glacial records depict ice age climate in synch worldwide
An answer to the long-standing riddle of whether the Earth's ice ages occurred simultaneously in both the Southern and Northern hemispheres is emerging from the glacial deposits found in the high desert east of the Andes.

Public Release: 18-Mar-2004
Prototype system developed by Wright State computer engineer allows blind to 'see'
Researchers at Wright State University have developed a prototype device to help blind individuals "see." Nikolaos Bourbakis, Ph.D., Ohio Board of Regents Distinguished Professor of Information Technology at Wright State's College of Engineering and Computer Science is the principal investigator.
National Science Foundation

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Wednesday March 17, 2004. St. Patrick's Day. Customarily, MetroTransit (the main Twin Cities bus system) provides free rides on this day. With the bus strike on, this won't happen.

There are no talks scheduled on ending the strike.

The governor could take steps to end the strike. He hasn't, and he's not likely to. Too much of the support he thinks he needs comes from people who are flat-out anti-bus.

One version of the Pareto Principle: Eighty percent of a business's profits come from twenty percent of the customers. Eighty percent of the problems come from a different twenty percent of the customers.

Businesses tend to put their efforts where the problems are, rather than where the profits are. So do politicians, a bit more selectively -- but not more wisely.

A politician will see a choice between pleasing the ten percent of potential supporters most likely to desert him if he demonstrates ideological impurity or an insufficient level of prejudice against certain groups, or pleasing the ten percent who are most likely to desert him if he obliges the purists.

Governor Tim Pawlenty tries to do both. On this particular issue, he's pandering to the purists.

I walked to Pillsbury House, which is usually a bus ride for me.

I expected to do data entry for the Community Barter Network. However, the information is being transferred from the old program to Excel (spreadsheet program). So I did things which should make the transition easier, and did some filing.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 17-Mar-2004
The dating game goes wireless
You're sitting in a bar when your cellphone alerts you that there's an unmissable love match in your vicinity. Is this the future of romance? The idea of wireless dating is a simple one. Would-be daters subscribe to a service which stores their personal profile. When there are enough similarities between two people, and they happen to be within metres of each other, the service tells their two cellphones to exchange crucial details and photos.
[New Scientist]
Paedophilia expert jailed
A man who advised the police how to protect children from paedophiles is jailed for seven years for abusing young girls.

Africa adopts new self-help plan
Thursday, the Pan-African Parliament will be inaugurated in Ethiopia.
By Abraham McLaughlin

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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Tuesday March 16, 2004. One of the more exciting things today was doing laundry. I spent much of the day throwing stuff away.

***Writing: I threw stuff away. Trimmed one major and two minor characters and a murder attempt from "Well Met...."
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 16-Mar-2004
Public Library of Science Biology
'Male-killer' bacterium's genome is deciphered
Wolbachia, a parasitic "endosymbiont" species in arthropods, are transmitted through females, and to increase the chances of being passed on from one generation to the next, the bacterium has developed a number of strategies to rid the population of males, or even to convert them to females. Scott O'Neill, Jonathan Eisen, and colleagues have sequenced the complete genome of one strain of Wolbachia pipientis, gaining new insight into the biology and evolution of Wolbachia-host interactions.

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Monday, March 15, 2004

Monday March 15, 2004 Refdesk.com's site of the day was Money Magazine's best places to live: http://money.cnn.com/best/bplive/. According to that site, my best place is Newark, New Jersey. From my memories of Newark, this is not accurate.

***The bus strike continues. I got a ride to an appointment in St. Paul from another Community Barter Network participant.

Now, I could have: walked from 36th St. South between Bryant and Colfax to the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus. Caught one of the intercampus buses, gotten off at the stop nearest to where I needed to go, walked. Reversed the process to get home. But this was much more convenient.

David Strom, head of the Taxpayers League, says this in today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

'First of all, just as with welfare reform, we should be looking for ways to help the "transit-dependent" become less so. Just as the welfare system kept millions of Americans dependent upon the government for their livelihood, today's bus system does little to help transit users become less dependent upon subsidized, government-run transportation.'

An intelligent libertarian might point out that cars run on government roads, and their manufacturers have been known to take government subsidies. I do not expect anyone connected with the Minnesota Libertarian Party to mention this.

Nor do I expect any member of that party to suggest allowing competition among private bus companies (no government-mandated monopoly on any route); or legalizing jitneys; or a free market in taxi service (no minimum legal fares, no limit on the number of licenses).

'We need to find a way to help low-income workers become less dependent upon government-run transportation, opening up to them the thousands of jobs available around the Twin Cities. Who among the working poor wouldn't rather have a car than depend upon the government to provide their transportation?'

Me, when I was working.

***Writing: Where did the chain of one-night-stand cooperatives come from? I thought I was just slogging through a slight revision of the first draft, and had no intention of adding any new background ideas. And then this turned up.

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Sunday, March 14, 2004

Sunday March 14, 2005 The Weisman museum (the one which looks like it's made from tin cans, on the U of MN campus) has an exhibit on genetics and art. I went there with Pat Craft.

Among interesting and otherwise good stuff: Daniel Lee's photographic-looking portraits from the court which decides where in the traditional Chinese afterworld the newly-dead go. It includes the judge, several members of the jury, and two court guards, each a mix of human with some other species. I particularly liked the two female jurors shown: the cat spirit and the snake spirit.

Larry Miller's certificate for copyrighting your genetic code; versions in several languages. Apparently, it's now online; I'll have to search for it.

Larry Miller's contract for a female clone of him (no bidders for the job as yet).

Laboratory equipment for extracting "soul music" (several genres) from the brain.

Interesting but stupid: the Critical Art Ensemble's "resist capitalism by holding on to your own genes!" campaign. This group uses "workers" and "lower class" as exact synonyms.
They also appear to believe in everything Charles Fort wrote about.

Among the permanent exhibits, we saw something which I remember seeing at the Walker Museum: Pedicard Apartments. It's a replica of a now-gone apartment building in Spokane.
If you lean against an apartment door, you hear some fragment of the tenants' life: a sports broadcast, snatches of conversation, a dog barking, a woman crying.
Climate risk to UK apple orchards
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

The landscape of much of the southern UK will be altered for ever by climate change, a gardening expert believes.

Dr Simon Thornton-Wood of the Royal Horticultural Society told BBC News Online orchards would vanish, and some fruit varieties would no longer thrive.

But as they move northwards, he thinks, peaches and other fruit from southern Europe may move in and replace them.

He says he also expects "significant" drops in yields of several summer fruit like pears, cherries and blackcurrants.

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Saturday, March 13, 2004

Saturday March 13, 2004 The Clutterers Anonymous meeting was small enough to make unanimous decisions. Couple of people sick, one couldn't make it for some other reason.

In April, the second Saturday is Easter weekend. One person is likely to be with family; three (including me) at Minicon. Tentative decision: an informal meeting at the Minicon hotel.

And the May meeting will be at Pillsbury House -- where it might pick up some other people.

***Mnstf meeting at Richard Tatge and Sharon Kahn's. It was the annual voting meeting for board of directors. (The board appoints all other officers. I would prefer that some of those officers were elected, but that's not likely to change.)

As usual, there was a choice for number of board members: 3, 5, 7, or 9. As usual, I voted for all of these but 5 (I forget in what order of preference). As usual, 5 won.

Mnstf meeting at Richard Tatge and Sharon Kahn's.

Three current board members were reelected. Two were defeated by newcomers. This does not usually happen. {Correction from lsanderson on LiveJournal: "Three current board members were defeated. Kevin [Austin], Laura Jean [Fish] and Larry [Sanderson]."}

***Browsed: _Reinventing Comics_, by comics wonk Scott McCloud. Got rather annoyed when I realized he was writing as if the only comics being printed these days are in comic books or books. Comic strips are still being published; and some of them include stuff which McCloud says is almost never in print-published comics.
Valdis Krebs (http://www.orgnet.com) has discovered that 1) people who buy left-of-center political books don't buy right-of-center political books; 2) people who buy right-of-center political books don't buy left-of-center political books. Oddly enough, I'm not surprised at this. But his charts and research methods are worth a look.

I suspect that people who read political blogs are more likely to read blogs on both sides. Not because they're more fair-minded, but because political blogs tend to include "Here's what They are saying" links.

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Friday, March 12, 2004

Friday March 12, 2004. City Pages says the bus strike is part of a conservative plot to get rid of buses and the Metropolitan Council, run from the Governor's office. (City Pages is the Twin Cities Extruded Alternative Journalism Product weekly.)

I doubt it. H. L. Mencken said that if FDR thought there was a sizeable cannibal vote, he would begin fattening up a missionary. Tim Pawlenty wouldn't do that -- until after he thought he'd found a way to avoid losing vegetarian votes by it.

It is true that in Minnesota, "Cars good, public transit bad!" is a kneejerk conservative position.

At any rate, I'm walking to places where I would ordinarily bus. At least it's good for my health.

Today I walked to Steeple People Thrift store. Along the way, I saw a warning poster: in a certain art gallery, a designer would be dressing models for a private showing. People who find partial female nudity distressing were advised to avoid that area from 6-8 pm, both Friday and Saturday.

Today, everything which had been put on Steeple People's electrical and kitchen shelves before the beginning of the year was being put in the free boxes. I decided not to take the combination scanner and fax device; I did get some useful things. Plus free magazines with interesting articles -- which I will dispose of after reading. And I did spend 50 cents.

Across the street to the Wedge co-op grocery. And then home.

Lawn sign: Talking House. Turn your car radio to 1680 AM.

***Writing: Now that I know the shape of the story, writing it is less fun.
Senator Lott Says He Will Back Drug Imports
Supporters of legislation to allow imports of low-cost prescription drugs gained a significant convert on Thursday.

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Thursday March 11, 2004 Someone on soc.genealogy.jewish may be related to me. I suspect the connection is already known.

Today's temperatures dropped about 20 degrees from yesterday's.
From Google News:
Susan Lindauer's Work Record
The Weekly Standard (subscription) - 45 minutes ago
ONE SUSAN LINDAUER was arrested today on charges that she acted as a spy for the Iraqi Intelligence service, and accepted $10,000 for the information she gathered. See the full story here.
Former aide to DeFazio and Wyden arrested on spy charges Salem Statesman Journal
Md. Woman Accused of Acting as Iraqi Agent Washington Post
CNN - CBS News - Wired News - Katu.com - and 55 related

My first reaction: Ten thousand dollars? Not worth the risk!
Should 14-year-olds vote? OK, how about a quarter of a vote?
California legislators propose letting teens vote. By Daniel B. Wood
From soc.history.what-if (devoted to alternate history), an off-topic posting about a site which "proves" that all history before 1200 AD was faked:

If you're a chess player: yes, it's _that_ Garry Kasparov.

This is more ambitious than the work of Heribert Illig, who merely "proved" that 297 years of European history were forged.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Wednesday March 10, 2004 Writing and unwriting: I've already put more work into "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" than selling it would repay me for. And selling it isn't exactly a sure thing.

For me, reaching a certain level of competence at writing fiction has some of the same attractions as solving a New York Times crossword puzzle. But I'm nowhere near the stage of knowing that "reed instrument" with five letters is almost certainly "oboe".

The story events so far would've been fine, spread over several chapters. However, "Well Met..." is a short story. I've worked out how to prune some things, simplify others, move events offstage. At least, I think I've got that worked out.

If there's too much for a short story, why not write it as a novel? The odds are that if I made it a novel, there would be enough story events for a seven-book trilogy.
From Google News http://news.google.com
Cups of coffee can ward off diabetes . . .
The Times, UK (subscription) - 16 hours ago
A major study involving more than 14,000 people in Finland, which has the highest rate of coffee consumption in the world, has revealed that those who drink most have the lowest incidence of adult-onset or type 2 ...
Drinking coffee may stave off diabetes Heart Center Online
Scientists say it's so: Joe can prevent diabetes Chicago Sun Times
Sydney Morning Herald - ShortNews.com - Glasgow Evening Times - Henderson Gleaner - and 95 related

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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Tuesday March 9, 2004 While I can walk to Uptown, I usually bus. Thanks to the bus strike, I walked.

Hennepin Avenue, from 36th Street to Lake Street. Next to each other are a store specializing in children's shoes (Shoe Zoo) and one specializing in children's glasses (The Glass Menagerie).

HealthPartners Uptown Clinic pharmacy in Calhoun Square for allergy meds. A restaurant in Calhoun Square has flavored-vodka martinis. When did martinis stop needing gin and vermouth?

To Penzeys Spices, for Florida Seasoned Pepper. The seasoning includes solid citric acid (aka sour salt), lemon peel, orange peel, garlic, and onion. These make a good substitute for salt (at least, for me).

To Lunds, where I bought turkey wings, eggs, and kosher-for-Passover matzohs (made without salt). Matzoh imported from Israel was cheaper than US-made, so that's what I bought.

Back home via Lake Street, with a stop at DreamHaven. Then up along Bryant Avenue.

On the way, I realized that the University of Minnesota intercampus buses were probably still running. Which would make it possible to travel between one part of Minneapolis and one part of St. Paul. And getting to the Minneapolis campus was doable, if tedious.

During the last bus strike, the #52 buses to the U still ran; they were operated by a private bus company. Unfortunately, those buses are now operated by Metro Transit.

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Mail: "We've added Wasabi to our product mix for this catalog. We needed it for the Irish sushi on page 20." Bill Penzey, Spring 2004 Penzys Spices catalog.
Topix.net will give local news for any zipcode in the US. For Accord, NY it gives the following best-seller list:
1. Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
2. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them
3. Living to Tell the Tale by Edith Grossman
4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
5. Dude, Where's My Country? by Michael Moore
Source: Amazon.com

Probably not the most accurate list possible; small sample, only one bookseller reporting. Still, it's interesting that two of the five books are left-liberal polemics. That area was fairly conservative when I was growing up there in the 1950s.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 9-Mar-2004
Mayo Clinic Proceedings
Doctor's statement in Mayo Clinic Proceedings reveals dark side of low-carb diets
In its current issue, the Mayo Clinic Proceedings has published a letter explaining that the reason low-carb dieters often lose weight and sometimes show improvements in their cholesterol, blood sugars, and blood pressures is because they are, in essence, sickened by the diet.
From Google News:
CIA director disputes Cheney assertions on Iraq
Knight-Ridder Washington Bureau - 2 hours ago
WASHINGTON - CIA Director George Tenet on Tuesday rejected recent assertions by Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraq cooperated with the al-Qaida terrorist network and that the administration had proof of an illicit Iraqi biological ...
Some Iraqi analysis 'wildly inconsistent,' Tenet admits International Herald Tribune
CIA Director Sees 'Low' Chance for Iraq Civil War Reuters
Washington Post - FOX News - Voice of America - Independent - and 97 related

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Monday, March 08, 2004

Monday March 8, 2004 Snowing at the "Don't drive if you can avoid it" level this morning. I'd intended to go outside for the first time in several days, but I wasn't dedicated enough.

I did get outside late in the afternoon.

***Writing: There are people who have trouble understanding the difference between "This is what a character confidently says is true" and "This is true". (They include at least one very good sf/fantasy writer.) Such people may have trouble reading "Well Met...". I've now first-drafted the part where the protagonist explains why X can't possibly happen and the part where he finds out that X has already happened.

I also killed a possible romance before it flowered.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 8-Mar-2004
Evidence suggests that the brain can switch to ‘automatic pilot’ during learning
New studies suggest that humans might prefer to switch their brains to automatic pilot whenever possible to conserve their cogitating resources.
From the UK edition of Google News:
IRA 'Involved in Port Crime,' Says Ahern
The Scotsman - 3 hours ago
Irish Premier Bertie Ahern tonight backed his Justice Minister's claim that the IRA is involved in criminal activity at Dublin Port.
McDowell launches further broadside at Sinn Fein 4ni.co.uk
Irish Minister in War of Words with Sinn Fein Reuters
Belfast Telegraph (subscription) - Politics.ie - BBC News - U.TV - and 29 related
From the Resource Shelf http://www.resourceshelf.com:
No More Beta: Topix.Net Officially Launches
A web-based news aggregator that we've mentioned on ResourceShelf several times, Topix.Net, moves out of Beta today. It's absolutely worthy of your attention.

You can keyword search the Topix database (over 4000 sources, a great deal of content that's difficult to quickly access elsewhere) but the real power comes via easy to use "pre-built" pages that aggregate news and other information onto over 150,000 topical pages (company names, industry names, etc.). This total also includes a local news and info page for every Zip Code.

An interview with the CEO included this:
"[W]e wanted to explore emerging AI techniques for classifying and extracting structured data from the web. The goal for Topix.net is to make a web page about everything -- every person, place, and thing in the world -- constantly machine-summarized from the Internet. Since the web can be a messy place, surfing a well-constructed encyclopedia based on live content from the web would be a win for users.

"Rather than starting with a full web crawl, which has 4 billion+ pages, we started with news, which has 4,000 sources, and is very dynamic and high quality content. We don't cover everything in the world yet, but we do have every place in the US, every sports team, music artist, movie personality, health condition, public company, business vertical, and many other topics."

Last Friday, ResourceShelf had this:
Findory: A New "Adaptive" News Resource
Just learned about this new resource from Findory, a company based in Seattle. I haven't decided just how useful it is for my needs but I still think it's worth a click because personalization is a popular topic these days. If you register (no personal info needed), this news database will learn your interests based on the content of news articles you select. Then, articles based on this info will be placed on personalized subject (Top Stories, Sports, Technology, etc.) pages. You can also search the database without having to register.

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From Crooked Timber:
Dad's Nuke
Posted by Henry

Building from Belle’s post [http://examinedlife.typepad.com/johnbelle/2004/03/if_wishes_were_.html] on end-state anarcho-libertarianism, a question for the floor. Everyone’s favorite libertarian SF author, Vernor Vinge, makes the case for private ownership of nuclear weapons as an important bulwark of liberty in his short story, “The Ungoverned” (it can be found in his recent Collected Stories). If you’re a serious anarcho-libertarian, do you agree that individuals should be able to have their very own nukes? If you disagree, on what grounds do you justify your disagreement? Discuss.
Posted on March 7, 2004 08:20 PM UTC
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 8-Mar-2004
Biology behind homosexuality in sheep, study confirms
Researchers in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine have confirmed that a male sheep's preference for same-sex partners has biological underpinnings.

From Crooked Timber:
....For instance, conservatives in general might claim the whole tradition of western classical music for themselves, while quietly ignoring the fact that, throughout history, your common or garden conservative can reliably be found bemoaning the appalling quality of serious music since the year n — 75, for all values of n. Those on the left, meanwhile, will have to work hard to distance themselves from the output of the troops of the Folk Song Army. Perhaps we should be asking which are the best explicitly political songs. A related question is which country has the best National Anthem. France edges it, I think, over South Africa (too long) and the United States (too hard to sing). God Save the Queen is clearly the worst, a judgment made compelling both by the anthem’s non-existent musical merits and the fact that English fans would rather sing a spiritual written about an exhausted, enslaved people longing for the sweet release of death [Swing Low, Sweet Chariot].
Posted on March 8, 2004 09:50 AM UTC
[Followed by over 30 comments, some interesting]

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Sunday, March 07, 2004

Sunday March 7, 2004 While the bus strike lasts, I can walk to some places I usually bus to. But not to everywhere

There used to be about 20 people in the Community Barter network offering transportation. The latest directory lists only three. One is in the Mountain States while a family member has an operation; her calls are forwarded there. One works during the day, which rules out daytime appointments. The third wasn't home when I called.

Some predictions say the strike could last for two months.

Depends partly on how inconvenienced the general public is. The signs there aren't good. People who usually drive have it easier without buses clogging traffic. Car owners who usually take the bus to work find enough parking in Downtown Minneapolis, though perhaps not everywhere in the Twin Cities. (To me, this suggests there are too many parking garages downtown.) And bus commuters who live in suburbs which have opted out of Metro Transit still have their express buses to downtown.

And partly on how inconvenienced businesses are. I don't know how that's been working out, or is likely to work out. (Yes, it's been discussed in the newspapers; but what I've seen is mostly anecdotal evidence.)

I think I'll suggest to my council member that Minneapolis opt out of Metro Transit and run its own bus system.

***I got a bit more written on "Well Met....". Of two new things, one will need a bit of change and the other will either be taken out or be drastically changed.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 7-Mar-2004
Baker's yeast rises from genome duplication
In work that may lead to better understanding of genetic diseases, researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard show that baker's yeast was created hundreds of millions of years ago when its ancestor temporarily became a kind of super-organism with twice the usual number of chromosomes and an increased potential to evolve.

SF reference: James Blish, _Titan's Daughter_.
From Google News:
Seattle mayor to recognize gay marriages
MLive.com - 30 minutes ago
SEATTLE (AP) Seattle's mayor said Sunday the city will begin recognizing the marriages of gay employees who tie the knot elsewhere, although it will not conduct its own same-sex weddings.
Seattle to recognize marriages of gay city workers Seattle Post Intelligencer
BREAKING NEWS: Seattle to recognize marriages of gay city workers kgw.com (subscription)
Seattle Times - KING5.com (subscription) - and 36 related

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer story:
Nickels supports gay marriage, but because counties - not cities - issue marriage licenses in Washington state, he has said he lacks the legal authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses like mayors in San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., have done.

For New Paltz, he's got it a bit wrong. The mayor is performing marriages without licenses, which the county won't issue to same-sex couples. (New Paltz is different from the county average. If you dislike liberalism and bohemianism, it is not the part of Ulster County to move to.)

The ads associated with the story on the Seattle Post Intelligencer website suggest that the computer which picks them is susceptible to stereotypes:

Ads by Google What's This?
Pangea: 100% vegan shop • www.veganstore.com
Huge selection & excellent quality- Shoes, belts, foods, & much more
ShopNatural • www.shopnatural.com
Over 5,000 natural and organic products delivered to your home.
EatRaw - Living Foods • www.eatraw.com
Raw, Vegetarian, Live Foods & Info Crackers, Cookies, Olives, Books

I prefer my food to be dead when I eat it. On the other hand, Info Crackers sound interesting.

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"There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." W. Somerset Maugham.

Elmore Leonard's rules on writing are being discussed in several people's LiveJournals. Here's what I have to say:

"Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle By ELMORE LEONARD"
"These are rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story."

If invisibility is what he's after, he's a failure. What Elmore Leonard chooses to show, and how he chooses to show it, make him visible to me. (Or make an authorial persona visible to me.) Not only is Leonard visible to me in his fiction; he's more visible than John D. McDonald is in the Travis McGee novels, with their detailed description.

"1. Never open a book with weather.

"If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people."

I would say "If it doesn't advance the story, leave it out -- wherever it is in the novel. If it advances the story, keep it in."

And: Sometimes the weather is the protagonist, as in George R. Stewart's _Storm_.

"2. Avoid prologues."

Agreed in most cases.

"3. Never use a verb other than ''said'' to carry dialogue."

Unless it's needed. Example: "We must all be very quiet," he screamed.

"4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb 'said'"

Exception "We're going to die slowly and painfully," he said happily.

"5. Keep your exclamation points under control."

"6. Never use the words 'suddenly' or 'all hell broke loose.'"

"7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.

"Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won't be able to stop."

I would add other reasons: a) You don't know what your own dialect sounds like to the reader, or to a trained listener.

b) Unless you've been trained, you don't know what other dialects sound like. To begin with, they may include sounds which you literally can't hear; r-sounds where your dialect doesn't have them, for example. Or vowel distinctions; if "Aaron" and "Erin" sound the same to you, you'll have trouble hearing the difference in another dialect.

"8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters."

Unless it advances the story. Or it's in character for the narrator -- viewpoint character in first person, implied narrator in third person or second person. Or it's needed to show how a particular character sees that other person.

Oh -- or unless that's what the readers want.

"9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things."

See above.

"10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."

Ah, but which parts are those? I happily read what some other people skip, and vice versa.

"...I'll bet you don't skip dialogue."

Logically, this leads to writing book-length fiction entirely in dialog. I've started such books; I haven't finished them: Virginia Woolf, _The Waves_. Leonard Wibberly's _One in Four_ may not count: it's one long speech; two characters play pingpong with different segments of the speech.

"My most important rule is one that sums up the 10."

"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it."

Probably useful in most cases. But not if it's _supposed_ to sound like writing. Some viewpoint characters and implied narrators do sound that way. Others don't when they speak, but do when they write.

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Saturday, March 06, 2004

Saturday March 6, 2004 My subconscious is better than my conscious mind at linear, abstract thinking. My conscious mind is the part which thinks in webs of associations.

This morning, when I was fully awake, I'd made four writing decisions about "Well Met...." And before breakfast, I'd partially implemented all four.

I had breakfast after 3 pm, which makes it less impressive. (And I should not wait that long for my first meal. I should at least eat a carrot or some other snack.)

Weighed myself. I've lost about 20-25 pounds. About 45 pounds to go.

***Unconscious and conscious minds: On rec.arts.sf.composition, there's a divide between 1) people who say they write better while in altered (nonchemically) states of mind and 2) at least one who says he's always fully conscious while writing -- or while driving, etc. and that his conscious mind _is_ him. That if he's not conscious, he isn't there.

I remember seeing things that way. It contributed greatly to my insomnia.

***Must-read story: Bruce McAllister, "The Seventh Daughter" in the April Fantasy & Science Fiction. McAllister does more in three and a half pages than most fantasy writers do at book length. He turns familiar ingredients into something new; and he does that well.

A few other stories in this issue are interesting, but don't work for me:

James L. Cambias: "The Ocean of the Blind" shows an encounter with nonhumans from both human and nonhuman perspectives. If he'd left out the humans, I would probably have liked it better. Or if he'd made the humans more different from people of our time, perhaps.

Ray Vukcevich: "Gas" combines old (1929 or earlier) sf notions with an interesting new idea. I disliked the happy ending, for much the same reasons which keep me from rereading
Heinlein's _Glory Road_.

David Gerrold: "Dancer in the Dark" is an ambitious story, of a kind I haven't seen from him before. I felt I needed explanation of how the situation (humans literally siding with either darkness or light) came about.
From Google News:
RNC tells TV stations not to run anti-Bush ads
CNN - 1 hour ago
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Republican National Committee is warning television stations across the country not to run ads from the MoveOn.org Voter Fund that criticize President Bush, charging that the left-leaning political group is paying for them with ...
GOP's voter drive to keep on truckin' Seattle Times
GOP asks TV stations to pull ads AZ Central.com
San Francisco Chronicle - The Age - GOPUSA - Boston.com - and 26 related

From the CNN story:
Vogel insisted that the RNC's problem with the ads stemmed from their funding, not their content.

"I write not because of the misleading allegations contained in the advertisement, which will be answered in due time, but because running this advertisement breaks the law," Vogel's letter said.

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Friday March 5, 2004 Progress! The zero draft of "Well Met, Well Met, My Old True Love" is finished. And I've started on the first draft.

It isn't the story I thought it was going to be.

***The bus strike is more inconvenient to me than the one in 1995. Then, the #52 buses to the University of Minnesota were operated by a private company. I could use them for some trips; and could travel between Minneapolis and St. Paul on the inter-campus buses.

There are other buses still running; some suburbs have opted out of Metro Transit, and run their own bus systems. But none of them are convenient to me.

Discussion on rec.music.folk of __ Nights Drunk (aka....) included this:

As I came home one Monday night, a little before my time,
Leaning on the lamp post, somebody else's bike I find.
"Whose bike is this, whose bike is that, whoever's can it be?"
"It's only a brand new sewing machine my mother sent to me."

Well it's miles, like, I've travelled,
From Oldham down to Shaw,
But a ten speed racing sewing machine I never saw before.

Oldham and Shaw are a mile or so apart, by the way.
Moe Lane at Obsidian Wings http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/ (the blog which supports your cat's right to bear arms) pointed me at this. The NYTimes website has dropped Ted Rall's cartoons. On his blog is a Dignified Victim Statement which ends thus:

A reminder: I don't stand to earn a penny if the Times runs my cartoons again. They weren't paying me for them anyway. And I have never complained about being dropped before. This is solely about freedom of expression, and the Times' unique intersection of cowardice and laziness. The Times cartoon section has been censored, Soviet-style: even my archives, the last five years of cartoons that they specifically approved of, have been excised by the Stalinists at Times Digital.

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Friday, March 05, 2004

From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 5-Mar-2004
'Chatting' in Iraq
A "coalition chat line" now being used at several U.S. and allied sites around Iraq enables commanders and operators who speak different languages to communicate rapidly and reliably, using the "instant messaging" practices familiar to millions of teenagers.
Office of Naval Research

Public Release: 5-Mar-2004
Hybrids on the high seas
As hybrid electric cars become more commonplace on America's highways, the Navy is working to bring hybrid electric ships to the high seas. The Office of Naval Research is developing innovative propulsion systems based on new fuel-cell technology for efficient generation of electrical power--and greater design flexibility--for future ships.
Office of Naval Research

Public Release: 5-Mar-2004
A world ruled by fungi
The catastrophe that extinguished the dinosaurs and other animal species, 65 million years ago also brought dramatic changes to the vegetation. In a study presented in latest issue of the journal Science, the paleontologists Vivi Vajda from the University of Lund, Sweden and Stephen McLoughlin from the Queensland University of Technology, Australia have described what happened to the vegetation month by month. They depict a world in darkness where the fungi had taken over.
From Google News:
SCO Confronting Its Creation
Los Angeles Times (subscription) - 10 hours ago
Darl McBride, chief executive of SCO Group Inc., says he sometimes carries a gun because his enemies are out to kill him. He checks into hotels under assumed names. An armed bodyguard protected him when he gave a speech last month at Harvard Law School.
MS Word File Reveals Changes to SCO's Plans Slashdot
SCO Collides With Cars And Drivers Washington Post
Silicon.com - Motley Fool - ZDNet.com - NewsFactor Network - and 259 related

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Thursday, March 04, 2004

Thursday March 4, 2004. The bus strike began on schedule. And I remembered the time I read a poster in Italian before remembering I didn't read Italian.

The Bologna bus drivers were on strike. The poster gave management's side of the dispute.
They had been reasonable; the union had been unreasonable. Not quite as easy to translate from context as "Puff, der zauber drache," but easy enough.

"Today's Drink Reccommendation: A venti coffee in a grande cup.
Reminds Me Of: A foggy morning in London, walking around, seeing the Eiffel Tower."
--The coffee of the day reccomendation, written by "Lizzie", who is either Starbucks' most subversive or least intelligent employee.
From EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/pubnews.php
Public Release: 4-Mar-2004
New evidence suggests early oceans bereft of oxygen for eons
As two rovers scour Mars for signs of water and the precursors of life, geochemists have uncovered evidence that Earth's ancient oceans were much different from today's. The research, published in this week's issue of the journal Science, cites new data that shows that Earth's life-giving oceans contained less oxygen than today's and could have been nearly devoid of oxygen for a billion years longer than previously thought.
National Science Foundation

Public Release: 4-Mar-2004
Researchers discover 1.2 million new genes in Sargasso Sea microbes
Department of Energy funded researchers at the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA) have sequenced microbes in the Sargasso Sea and have discovered at least 1,800 new species and more than 1.2 million new genes. IBEA researchers' discoveries include 782 new rhodopsin-like photoreceptor genes (only a few dozen have been characterized in microorganisms to date).
US Department of Energy

Public Release: 4-Mar-2004
'T-ray' devices with perfect imaging abilities move a step closer
A team of American and British scientists has demonstrated an artificially made material that can provide a magnetic response to Terahertz frequency radiation, bringing the realisation and development of novel 'T-ray' devices a step closer.

From the full press release:
Terahertz frequencies sit in a largely unexplored region of the electromagnetic spectrum between infra-red and microwaves, known as far infra-red radiation. The frequency of a terahertz is 1 trillion cycles per second and Terahertz radiation has a wavelength between 0.1 and 1 millimetre. It is thought to be safe, as it is non-ionising and does not have DNA-damaging effects.

The authors from the University of California Los Angeles, University of California San Diego and Imperial College London, are collectively looking to build materials that respond magnetically to THz, infra-red, and visible radiation as there is an almost total absence of naturally occurring materials with magnetic responses to these frequencies.

Their quest to build such artificial materials, or metamaterials, is motivated by their desire to explore a strange and intriguing property, named 'negative refractive index', which is found only in this new class of materials.

Conventional optical devices are limited in resolution by the wavelength of radiation employed (eg light or X-rays), but in a series of papers building on forgotten work by Russian physicist Victor Veselago from 1968, Professor Pendry in 2000* predicted the existence of devices capable of focusing features smaller than the wavelength of light.

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