Comment: Books and Reads

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Here are some comments which people sent in about Books and Reads

My (Larry's) replies appear like this.
Michael Kearney 2007 Sep 04 Crazy College Trivia Teams

Hey Larry, Michael Kearney here, from the Silly Hat Brigade. Those college quizbowlers aren't just college-age, you know. There are certain events that let anybody in, regardless of affiliation. Most of them are all pop culture tournaments, which are a hell of a lot of fun, and ot nearly as competitive. I'm pretty sure Stanford runs several of them each year. Go get a team together and try one out!

Michael K, from the officially second best TRASH(pop-culture quizbowl) team in the nation.

Some things you want to read about but you don't want to participate in. Into Thin Air springs to mind. I wrote back saying that I didn't know enough about TV/Movies to appreciate a pop culture contest, and he said:

Heh. Actually, LOLcats, peanut butter jelly time, star wars kid, all sorts of internet memes pop up all the time at these tournaments.

You'd be surprised at how much you find that you know, and how much stuff that you thought only YOU had ever heard of.

They always like spectators, too.

Some quick internet research suggests that they don't want spectators enough to post clear announcements about where/when those spectators should go. But maybe that's because there weren't any such contests coming up right at the moment. Anyhow.

My Mom 2007 Aug 12

Interesting timing: While you were writing about labor leaders young people never heard of, I was at a memorial for a woman who used to be in my literature class. Norman Leonard, her lawyer husband, defended Harry Bridges. Marjorie was also a lawyer and helped in the defense of labor leaders and later draft resisters during the Vietnam war. There was a fellow from the ILWU who came to the memorial and said that it would not be fitting if that union did not pay respects to all the Leonards did although the younger members didn't realize how much they owed to them.

A group of left-thinking friends walk at Fort Point and talk together still, but their numbers are dwindling. You can check out the sfgate obit Marjorie Leonard. (7/28) And concerning your book review, she was born in Brooklyn. Two other gals who were there and raised in N.Y. tell me that anyone going to college then had to take elocution lessons to lose the Brooklyn accent. Some of the "Fort Point Gang" of walkers were veterans of the Spanish Civil War Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

Jerry enjoyed your puzzle

[Anon] 2007 Aug 08 misreading

I think it was the word gasket that had me misread hoover for hover. Why would they call it gasket?

Form follows function. But sometimes name follows form.

Rebecca Murphy 2007 Aug 02 I'd like to buy an ad on

I'm interested in placing an ad on your site, specifically this page: The ad would be for website which offers a variety of person finding options, such as background checks, and locater services. It's a nice site, and offers a nice service.

I know that's not what your site is about, persay, but I truly like your site and would love to have a link from it.

I don't have huge budget, but I'd be happy to pay you what I can for the ad.

Please get back to me and let me know if this might be possible.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks so much,
Becky Murphy

I didn't follow up.

Michael Naylor 2007 Mar 08 Mysterious Envelope

Hi Larry, poking around on the web and found your "mysterious envelope" comment. I, too, have received several letters from the same guy in India -- photocopies of him squaring the circle and proving pi is some quantity with square root of 14 involved, I believe. No letter, just these weird proofs that don't make sense.

I got the first of these during a very dark period in my life, and it totally made my day. The weirdos have found me! Joy!


Mike Naylor

(PS: just put up a weird website myself: fwiw.)

Watch out for that last link, it's not quite "safe for work".

Nathan Tenny 2006 Jul 21 3.1464466

I'm assuming that the "true value of pi" story is serious, not some sort of highly oblique allusion to Ramanujan or something. I may be wrong.

The proofs that
(1) pi is transcendental and
(b) all transcendental numbers are noneuclidean,
while ironclad, aren't particularly easy. The Wikipedia entry on "Proof of impossibility" gives page numbers in Hardy & Wright's number-theory textbook---I had a course out of that book when I was a junior, but I screwed off pretty badly in that class, so I don't know if I should have understood that part or not. I doubt if the proof can be framed in terms that make it accessible to the typical squaring-the-circle kook.

I wrote back to say that, as far as I know, the Reddy book is legit, albeit wrong; not an allusion to Ramanujan. I didn't make Reddy up. Nathan wrote back:
I think these guys usually try to flood anyone they see as an authority. Underwood Dudley's _Mathematical Cranks_ is supposed to be a pretty interesting examination of the genus; I've never read it. You might take your contact with one as a sign that it's time to read it. Or not.

My Mom 2006 Feb 21 Krakatoa

This was very successful at putting us to sleep. A review on his latest book complains about his digressions about his geology trek to some icy place--Greenland? Over many listenings I learned a fair amount about what happened with the volcano and about the Dutch and trade in general. But I imagine sitting and reading the book would have been a far less pleasant experience.

Note to self: Don't read his book about the SF earthquake.

Linda Hosken 2005 Sep 14 Joan Didion

She is a very bright woman whose books vary a lot. She also writes about water in the west. We saw her once at City Arts and Lectures but she was sick that night and should have been in bed.

About the Chess Queen. I think it was a situation where the book review was perhaps better than the book. She is also a good talker. I think I heard someone interview her and got the ideas more efficiently than she might have presented them in her book. Maybe it would have been better shorter?

Linda H

Historically, most royalty would have been better if it had been shorter. By about a head, I'm thinking.

'Lene 2005 Apr 17 What's the Matter with Kansas

Your book review doesn't make WTMWK sound as clever and labor-history-filled as someone made it sound on the radio.

One book in the political theory category that I think is scary-brilliant is George Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant," which I'm only about 20 pages into, but which I'm still boggled by. I've heard him speak: he's a very clever linguist, and presents ideas very well. I'm stumbling over some very basic stuff that is key to understanding how the right wing co opts language, such as right wing, born again Christian-capitalist ideology insisting that god hates poor people, so we need to give tax breaks to the rich people that god loves, and hoard things, and use violence because god says so, etc. It explains A LOT, along with some of the other summaries he's made of capitalist-evangelical thinking, but it's still out of whack with anything I'd think of as reality, or even the stuff I learned in religious school.

I'm not spending my time trying to live my life based on principles outlined in a bronze age book in which everyone had thousands of kids, even virgins (well, okay, she had one), detailed instructions on whether or not to execute animal victims of human molestation, etc., so my reality is different from the the general evangelical one anyway. But still.

who smells suspiciously like photo chemicals again

The next time I'm at the library, I must remember to think of Don't Think of an Elephant.

Paul Du Bois 2002 Nov 16 ???

Engineering is cool! I found this on hot sticks. I think it comes from the instruction manual for an accelerator.


6. Hot sticks, ground sticks, soft ground sticks; can't I just use a hot stick for everything a still be safe?

Each of the different "sticks" has a very specific purpose. Hot sticks are used to remotely manipulate items that you have de-energized but have not performed LOTO on. The important aspect of using a hot stick is that YOU never come in contact with the equipment. If you need to physically touch the equipment a ground stick connecting the equipment directly to ground will discharge any residual energy after you have performed LOTO. If there is the potential for the equipment to contain a large amount of stored energy (like the Linac modulator capacitor banks) you will need to discharge the energy very carefully to prevent sparks and arcing. In this situation you need to use a soft ground stick. A soft ground stick has a resistor in the ground line. This limits the current flow to ground to prevent excessive discharge. The problem with a soft ground stick is that it takes a while to fully discharge the stored energy based on the size of the resistor and the capacitance or inductance of the equipment ( remember the L C R time constant?). For this reason we don't usually use soft ground sticks. Experts familiar with the equipment and the soft ground stick in use will take care of those situations.

7. After securing an enclosure and putting the keys back in the key tree the electrical safey system would not whoop. The safey techs came in and reset the interlocked rad detectors and everything worked fine. We didn't have rad trip, and rad trips shouldn't hold off the ESS. What happened?

Remember the "A" Loop? One of the inputs to the A Loop is the Safety System ground fault detection circuit. Sometimes, after work has been performed on parts of the safety system, the ground fault detection circuit might indicate a trip. The reset button for the interlocked rad detectors is really the master reset for the safety system. The Safety guys simply reset the ground fault trip. The A Loop is now good, and the ESS is automatically reset and starts whooping. Anytime there is a trip on the safety system ground fault detection system the safety guys should be notified.

Paul finds the coolest stuff. I think that these hot stick users could handle angry vipers if they had to.

Margaret Sondey 2000 Sep 22 Shipyard Diary of a Woman Welder

Glad to hear you found her [Augusta H. Clawson's] book!

I actually found the author before she died on 13 May 1997 at her home outside Washington, D.C. A fabulous lady, she welcomed me to stay with her while I researched my dissertation (uncompleted) on a history of welding equipment manufacturers in the United States. I was able to put her in touch with some of the historians in Washington, D.C., and that is how her welding mask came to be in a permanent collection there. A Vassar graduate, she was a delight to know.

I asked Ms. Sondey if she had any good anecdotes from the history of welding equipment manufacturers. She replied:

More than you would ever believe!! I had tons of fun doing research in Washington, DC, as I had to get stuff "de-classified" (fifty years later!) just in order to see it! Most of that stuff was personal correspondence between James F. Lincoln and various naval people. Welding, you see, was used to speed ship production (a la Kaiser) and so was viewed as a real important technology of the time. GE and Westinghouse were the two big corporations involved in welding, but Lincoln Electric was the upstart "single" focus corporation headed by a charismatic man that really helped make welding history. The whole history is fascinating.... the best anecdote comes, actually, from W.W.I when welding was first investigated as a ship building technology. This is one of those wonderful apocryphal stories: J. F. Lincoln was arguing for use of welding in ship construction and the naval powers-that-be argued that they could kick apart any welded piece with their feet. J.F. responded in no uncertain terms that they would have *(&^&*( hurting feet if they even tried! But it took until the next war for welding to become an accepted technology for ship fabrication.

Augusta's role was important as a "spy" because few men were left on the homefront and ships were desperately needed. Women kept being trained as welders, but were then leaving. This was a HUGE problem as ships were DESPERATELY needed. So they recruited her as an undercover "spy" to go into the shipyards and detail what she thought the problems were and why women were leaving. The book is actually a compilation of her reports which were never intended for publication. But, as a well-educated Vassar graduate -- and a woman with a superb sense of humor -- they were so well-written and so persuasive that they fit into another needed commodity -- war-time publications to inspire the home front!

Most of the people within the welding industry were wonderful characters --- and I had the opportunity to meet some of them before they died in the 1980s. Others I only know through their papers -- and some only through what others have written. T. B. Jefferson, Comfort Adams, Niels Miller, E. A. Hobart all have their places in welding history along with C. K. Rickel, and lesser known figures.

I would LOVE to get Augusta's book republished, as few copies exist. A few years ago (ooh... probably ten when I think about it), the Library of Congress had only one copy, as did the Ohio State University. I have one personal copy that I bought off the internet, but since it was only issued in very acidic paper editions, I would love to get an academic press to reprint it before it literally falls to pieces.

Hope this gives you a bit more background,


[Withheld (KL00)] 2000 Jan 28 FAve Reads

Your fave reads are quite an eclectic (hope the spelling is right) mix, quite masculine. Don't mean to genderize, but, my tastes are more emotional, more toward aethetics. Yep, more gal stuff. May be nauseating to some folks, but that's how we relax. The deepest thing I've ever read that combined beauty and emotion are those metaphysical poems by George Herbert, an Elizabethan scholar. But I'll look into your fave reads, and try to expand the mind. Thanks for being so open.

I've often thought of myself as having masculine reading habits. By that, I mean that while I'm reading I tend to scratch myself, grow whiskers, and chuckle over my ongoing oppression of women.

Bill Shunn 2000 Jan 05 "Terror on Flight 789" lives!

Just wanted to assure you that "Terror on Flight 789" still lives!

My Fave Reads '96 page had reported it 'defunct'.
You can find it here:

The old URL for that site was a casualty of a broken relationship. 'Nuff said.

In addition, myagent is shopping the new book-length version of the story (tentatively titled "The Accidental Terrorist") around to various publishers as we speak. I'm always looking for interested folks who might like to offer feedback on portions of the manuscript.

Keep up the good work.

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