thnidu: Box, labeled: "Contents: One infinite universe. Open other end (arrow)." Caption: It figures... From lj:lapislaz (it figures)
([personal profile] thnidu Sep. 18th, 2017 10:52 pm)
Apparently today is the birthday of the great lexicographer Samuel Johnson. When I clicked on the Google Doodle, one of the hits that came up was about another Samuel Johnson, apparently one well known in Australia: Grieving Samuel Johnson says he might as well ‘sell some f***ing socks’. It begins:

SAMUEL JOHNSON has continued his sister Connie’s crusade to find a cure for cancer by launching brightly hued fundraising socks.

Connie Johnson died after a long battle with breast cancer earlier this month.

Samuel sees the socks (which reference their nicknames Connie Cottonsocks and Sammy Seal) as an extension of The Project host Carrie Bickmore’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer initiative.

“Seeing as Carrie has the whole Beanie thing covered, we thought we’d bung out some ‘Connie Cottonsocks’ and try and cover this cancer conundrum from head to toe,” Samuel wrote on the Love Your Sister Facebook page.

“Connie doesn’t have any use for your sentiment now. If she wanted anyone to take anything from her life, it was to highlight the importance of medical research. And we all need socks right?

“In the name of my dear gone sister, I’m asking. Please buy some socks and then maybe we can share the absolute bejesus out of this post and turbocharge our push for a cure, so families need not continue to endure the baseless trauma that cancer so cruelly provides.

“I want my sister back but seeing as that’s not going to happen, I might as well sell some f***ing socks so that other families don’t have to go through this pain.

I remain, more than ever, very truly yours. Samuel Johnson Head of Cancer Vanquishment.”
Well now! That looked worth following up.

But... Here's the text I just sent them:
I've about given up on most of my charitable giving, since I'm retired and on a small income, but I want to buy some socks, especially in memory of my wife. HOWEVER... You say in small print "We only ship within Australia", and your page says "City and state are mandatory" (though the form accepts only Australian states). So if I give you as much of my address as you'll take, your page will refuse the rest. And even if I somehow succeed in ordering socks, how the heck are you going to get them to me?
You know, if you're going to ask the whole world, you really ought to allow the whole world to answer.

madfilkentist: Scribe, from Wikimedia Commons (writing)
([personal profile] madfilkentist Sep. 18th, 2017 06:17 pm)
The Nashua, New Hampshire library has a prominent "No place for hate" sign on its door and a "Banned Books Week" display inside.

There's a certain incompatibility here. It's not a library's role to decide which ideas are emotionally correct. If it isn't a place for "hate," it has to exclude materials which express that feeling. The term is intentionally slippery; people can claim anything they want about the emotional content of views they oppose, and how do you prove them wrong?

Perhaps they mean that patrons whose research goals are "hateful" have no place there. It's not the library's job to decide which kinds of study to help patrons with. Can librarians even draw conclusions from the materials people ask for? I did some web research on the AfD (a German political party whose leader has said Germans should be proud of its soldiers in WWII) earlier today. Would a Nashua librarian decide I must have a "hateful" purpose in researching the AfD and refuse to help me? Even if people really come in seeking to support bad ideas, research could be the best cure for their errors. Turning them away would only reinforce their sense of being persecuted.

Banned Books Week has long been Bland Books Week, with lists mentioning only books that no one could object to. The Nashua Library was unusually daring, with Gone with the Wind among a collection of otherwise innocuous books. There was no sign of The Anarchist's Cookbook or The Satanic Verses. If you look carefully at lists of "banned" books, what they usually mean is that someone unsuccessfully tried to get the book removed from a school library as age-inappropriate. Books that make their holder a criminal or a target of violence never are included.

Maybe that's what they mean by "No place for hate"; if possession of a book inspires hatred, the Bland Books list has no place for it.

Addendum: I was curious where and how Gone with the Wind was "banned." Several sites say that a school district in Anaheim banned it because of "the behaviors of the main character, Scarlet O’Hara, and the depiction of slaves." I don't know whether all use of the book in the schools was in fact prohibited.

However, I did find that in 2000 the Anaheim school district "removed" a biography of John Maynard Keynes partly because "it could cause harassment against students seen with it." The hooligan's veto.
thnidu: Mirrorverse bearded Mr. Spock, I FIND YOUR LACK OF LOGIC DISTURBING. lj:stevemb's variant of icon by lj:madfilkentist (logic)
([personal profile] thnidu Sep. 16th, 2017 03:27 pm)
(Ị am addressing this message to Technical Support because there is no more appropriate contact listed on your "contact us" page. Please forward it to the appropriate editorial department.)

In your American Heritage Dictionary, 4th edition (open in front of me) and still in the 5th edition (, the marginal illustration for "paraboloid" shows a diagram of a circular paraboloid with the caption


The equation for a circular paraboloid is:
x²/a² + y²/b² = z


(The caption has the fractions in vertical format with horizontal lines, which I can't reproduce here, but the equation is mathematically unchanged.)

That is the general equation of an elliptical paraboloid, of which the circular paraboloid is a special case. To quote from Stack Exchange


[T]he equation of an elliptical paraboloid is given by

z/c = (x/a)² + (y/b)²

If a=b, then this elliptical paraboloid is also a circular paraboloid.


The divisor c is irrelevant here, so we can write

z = (x/a)² + (y/b)²

In other words, the equation of a circular paraboloid is

z = (x/a)² + (y/a)²

or in your arrangement

x²/a² + y²/a² = z

or more simply

(x²+y²)/a² = z


It pretty much kills any real social media time, especially longer-form stuff like DW. I could probably do more if I turned the computer on at night but I really try never to do that when I'm on a project. There's no reason to.

Maybe things will even out a little. I'd made a commitment to myself to write here regularly, and I haven't quite been able to do it for the past few weeks.

On the bright side, Baltimore is a nice town so far. I'm sure there are parts that aren't nice, but that's true of every city, isn't it?
thnidu: Tom Baker's Dr. Who, as an anthropomorphic hamster, in front of the Tardis. ©C.T.D'Alessio (Dr. Whomster)
([personal profile] thnidu Sep. 15th, 2017 09:33 am)
I wanted synonyms for "hemorrhoids". One of them was "piles", which is the one I was looking for, the one my grandmother used and I didn't understand.   The first 20 also included 
– none of which have anything to do with hemorrhoids but which are all clearly synonyms for the common colloquial meaning of "piles".  

Synonymy is not transitive.  

madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
([personal profile] madfilkentist Sep. 15th, 2017 06:31 am)
Yesterday I was reading a rather skillfully done propaganda piece. It got me to thinking about basic techniques for creating monsters — not in the Frankenstein sense, but in the Maple Street sense.

First, you need a group or category of people doing something bad. It helps if they've actually done something bad on a measurable scale, but it's not strictly required. It's enough if they could do something bad. What's important is that you can get your target audience to think of them as "the other."

Next, you need a larger group to equate with the actually bad group. The method can vary. It can be people who look like them, people who share some of their ideas, or people who are defending their rights. If all else fails, outright smears will work. This lets you inflate the threat so people see enemies everywhere.

To insure best results, you need to invoke causes and symbols that people will rally around. Patriotic causes invoked with false analogies will often serve the purpose.

Do all this, and you can accuse lots of people of being members of the seriously bad group. Best of all, anyone who questions your reasoning is automatically part of the baddies.

Keep this pattern in mind. You'll see it in lots of places, promoting lots of different campaigns.

(Argh! When did "disable auto-formatting" become the default on Dreamwidth?)
madfilkentist: The Catmobile at Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society (Catmobile)
([personal profile] madfilkentist Sep. 13th, 2017 12:20 pm)
The population of the kitten room was down a bit this week, with some cats adopted and not a lot of new ones. Bongo is coming down more than he used to, instead of always finding the highest places to sit. He was very hungry, and I had to bring out seconds of canned food for the free-roaming cats.

Hawkgirl, Sagittarius, Sansa, and Baratheon have been adopted. Salinger was still there, hissing at us. Placido and Domingo continue to make chaos of their cage and are very shy of people. Orchard and Belladonna are eating very little.

A sample copy of the 2018 MRFRS calendar was out for viewing, and Carl is on the January page! The caption says "World's hungriest cat."
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
([personal profile] madfilkentist Sep. 13th, 2017 07:03 am)
I've made a start on my book project on song transformations. Yesterday I borrowed a book on Parody in the Middle Ages from the UNH library. At the same time, I got a UNH library card, which cost me only $48 for a year's borrowing privileges. Nice deal. The book is mostly about prose parodies in Latin, but it should provide a few clues.

Yesterday evening I found the Holy Grail — with my GPS! It's a restaurant in Epping, New Hampshire, where the Seacoast Libertarian Party held the first of what hopefully will be a tradition of monthly dinners. It's a church converted into an Irish restaurant. We sat in what might have been the organ loft.
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
([personal profile] madfilkentist Sep. 12th, 2017 06:32 am)
What happens when you quit and no one notices? The NEFilk combined con project is truly dead.
madfilkentist: Bat drawing with text "Fledermaus Freundlich" (FledermausFreundlich)
([personal profile] madfilkentist Sep. 10th, 2017 05:45 pm)
Today the lady who has organized several short hikes in the Kingston area invited people to one in the town forest, across the street from my house. I was the only one who showed up, but we went in anyway. In the course of the discussion, it turned out her parents were from Wernigerode, where FilkContinental will be held in a few weeks! Her family coat of arms can be found in the Liebfrauenkirche. We sang a bit of "Brüderchen, komm tanz mit mir" from "Hansel and Gretel" but didn't run into any witches in the woods.
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
([personal profile] madfilkentist Sep. 9th, 2017 08:16 am)

Equifax supposedly set up a website for people to check on whether they've been affected by its data breach. At least they've convinced CNN that it's a legitimate site. If you can get through to it, it apparently wants six digits of your Social Security number. Here's what it looks like on my browser:

Insecure connection warning for

It gets worse. Here's the whois information for the site:

   Registry Domain ID: 2156034374_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN
   Registrar WHOIS Server:
   Registrar URL:
   Updated Date: 2017-08-25T15:08:31Z
   Creation Date: 2017-08-22T22:07:28Z
   Registry Expiry Date: 2019-08-22T22:07:28Z
   Registrar: MarkMonitor Inc.
   Registrar IANA ID: 292
   Registrar Abuse Contact Email:
   Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.2083895740
   Domain Status: clientDeleteProhibited
   Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited
   Domain Status: clientUpdateProhibited
   DNSSEC: unsigned
   URL of the ICANN Whois Inaccuracy Complaint Form:
>>> Last update of whois database: 2017-09-09T12:15:37Z <<<

Whois records are supposed to have contact information. There's none. Is it in fact a phishing site? That's still not clear.

Three Equifax executives sold off a large amount of stock, after the breach was discovered but before anyone told them about it. They were just prescient.

A New Hampshire politician said in full seriousness that Clinton should be executed for her Internet sloppiness. I thought that was seriously excessive, but in this case I wonder (not in full seriousness, Equifax lawyers!).

"I never realized they were right until they blocked traffic and made me late for work!" You can count the number of people who have said that on the feathers of both hands.

Yesterday I heard on the radio news that a few dozen people blocked traffic in Cambridge to protest the termination of DACA. I approve of the cause, but why did these people think they'd win anyone to their cause that way?

Of course, they weren't thinking of persuasion but of publicity. They did make the radio news, and I probably wouldn't have heard about the protest otherwise. But the point of protest is to promote a cause, not to get the activists egoboo. Blocking traffic isn't in the same category with beating people up, but it doesn't win over people who are on the fence, much less change the minds of DACA opponents.

A while back, there was a series of protests, blocking traffic and shopping mall entrances, by Black Lives Matter activists. Today unsupported claims of violence by BLM activists are rife in Trumpist circles. Mobbing shopping malls helped to make those claims plausible in many people's eyes.

The protesters who take their grievances out on random people in the street or mall call it "civil disobedience." It's not. Civil disobedience is the refusal to obey an unjust law. The protesters don't think laws against blocking traffic are unjust; they just think they should be allowed to block traffic because they're different.

Getting noticed for a cause is difficult, but that doesn't mean that anything that gets attention is automatically good. When the message people hear is "We're punishing you because of something somebody else did," which side are they going to flock to? Punish them enough and they might even elect a lying, crooked, jerk president rather than support the protesters' side.
miriam_e: from my drawing MoonGirl (Default)
([personal profile] miriam_e Sep. 9th, 2017 06:30 am)
Is anybody else confused by the abbreviations "am" and "pm" when applied to 12 o'clock midday and 12 o'clock midnight? It seems to me not only arbitrary and confusing, but actually wrong.

The abbreviation "pm" is for post (after) meridiem (midday), so when speaking of twelve noon or midday is actually incorrect to call it 12pm, because it isn't after noon yet; it is noon. For this reason I prefer to call it 12 noon, or 12 midday, or just noon or midday.

A similar problem occurs at midnight. It is easy to see why 11pm is still referred to as after noon (post meridiem) because it is better described as after the previous noon rather than before the next noon because it is closer to one than the other, even though it is in reality both. Likewise it makes sense that 1am is referred to as before noon because it is closer to the next noon. But midnight is closer to neither the previous nor the next. It is equally am and pm. For this reason I prefer to call it 12 midnight, or just midnight.

Apparently, in an attempt to avoid confusing people, travel times around the world commonly use 12:01pm or 12:01am or 11:59am or 11:59pm instead of messing with the ambiguous 12:00 times.

As for the term "noon". That's a weird one. In the past it meant the ninth hour (nona hora) beginning around dawn, or our 6am, so that the ninth hour would have been our 3pm. So how did that eventually become midday? I don't know. Ancient Roman timekeeping is seriously muddled, and I haven't bothered to untangle it yet. One thing I do like about it though, is that the length of an hour changed according to the season and the location, so that at Rome an hour in summer would be about 75 minutes and in winter about 45 minutes. That makes wonderful good sense to me. Screw this stupid daylight saving time and the constantly shifting rising and setting times of the sun. On the other hand, one of my biggest complaints against daylight saving time is that it makes international meetings via the internet incredibly difficult, and constantly shifting hour lengths would seriously mess with that too.

I expect that sometime in the future we might end up with something like Star Trek's stardate which would resolve all synchrony problems, while completely removing all local relevance. We've already had an attempt at that with UTC, which is basically Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) without silly daylight saving. Incidentally, although UTC is often referred to as Universal Time Code, apparently it stands for the French: temps universel coordonné, which doesn't really make sense as it would be then TUC. It seems actually to stand for Universal Time Coordinated, which is an awful name, clearly chosen by a committee. Being locked to Greenwich in England gets up some people's noses. Admittedly much of the early work recorded in books was conducted at the observatory in Greenwich. But there were a lot of much earlier, very accurate astronomical calculations in India, so Greenwich wasn't the first. Perhaps the invention of the first reliable, portable, mechanical clock by Englishman John Harrison decided things. I don't know.

Once thing is certain: time is a mess. I won't even get started on other aspects of it, such as the 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week (making calculations of every second day messy), 28 or 29 or 30 or 31 days in a month (WTF!!!), 52 weeks in a year, and 364 or 365 days in a year. Naming the months mixes everything up still further, with September (sept=7) being the 9th month, October (oct=8) being the 10th month, November (novem=9) being the 11th month and December (dec=10) being the 12th month. (FFS!!) And then to top all this off, adding the recent and completely unnecessary insanity of daylight saving into that wreckage just completely screws everything even further.
madfilkentist: Photo of Carl (Default)
([personal profile] madfilkentist Sep. 6th, 2017 10:59 pm)
I just read that Shiva Ayaddurai, whom I mentioned in an earlier post, just lost a lawsuit where he tried to intimidate his critics. He claims to have "invented email" and sued Techdirt for calling him a liar on that count.

This doesn't justify the way he was treated in Boston or make him a "Nazi," but it certainly casts doubt on his commitment to free speech.

Did he invent email? This article looks like a pretty good analysis of his claim, and it rejects it.
madfilkentist: The Catmobile at Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society (Catmobile)
([personal profile] madfilkentist Sep. 6th, 2017 01:59 pm)
As I was driving to the cat shelter, a deer ran across the road, close to the place where the practice house fire I'd previously mentioned was. There was no danger of my hitting it, but it certainly got me wide awake!

Ginger Spice and Posh Spice Some of the kittens have been adopted. Aquarius is gone, leaving Sagittarius alone. Barry Allen and Hawkgirl aren't there; they're off somewhere fighting dog supervillains. Sansa and Baratheon are both healthy. Two new kittens are Ginger Spice and Posh Spice (picture). They're rather shy but can be petted. We had a couple of cage compartments to clean and disinfect, so some of the cats must have gone very recently.

Bongo is still there. He's one of my favorites, and I wish someone would adopt him. Someone who likes big kitties.

It was raining hard on the way home, and the combination of rain and fog killed the visibility, but I made it home without any real problems.
filkerdave: (h2g2)
([personal profile] filkerdave Sep. 6th, 2017 12:00 pm)

This is kind of cool. I decided that it's high time I read some of John Le Carré's books. I've been meaing too for several years, since the film of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" came out a few years back. I started with "Call for the Dead" and then "A Murder of Quality" and now I'm reading through "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold"

About a quarter of the way into the book is this bit: "He was as ready to drink tea at Fortnum’s as beer at the Prospect of Whitby"

This made me smile because The Prospect of Whitby is a real pub in London, and I was there a few times when I was living in London. It's right along the Thames in Wapping (maybe a mile and half east of the Tower of London for those who want a better landmark). There's a long pewter-covered bar inside and really tasty food and beer inside. Since you're right on the river there are great views.

Just a little unexpected moment that brightened my day.
filkerdave: (spiders!)
([personal profile] filkerdave Sep. 6th, 2017 09:16 am)

Well, not really dreambits other than I had someone invade my dreams last night that I haven't spoken to in *years*, just out of the blue. There's no reason I can think of for this to have happened. Usually I can find some trigger to drams in what's going on during the day or in my life. But this? Nope.

Color me confused.