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The Wikipedian Superheroes

You might have thought the part in yesterday's item about people checking Cobra Commander's Wikipedia entry for fairness and balance was a simple throwaway line, a hyperbolic example invented so we could gently mock people who feel the compulsion to relive their childhoods.

You'd be right.

But as a guy who spent his 30th birthday inflicting "Transformers" on his friends, I felt guilty about this betrayal of my comrades in arms. So I checked the talk page for Cobra Commander. (The talk page is where Wikipedians discuss an article's content, suggesting changes.) This is the dialogue found at the bottom:

Wikipedian #1: "I'd like to suggest a different picture. The one currently in use shows an all 'bad-A' Cobra Commander. But this does not portray his true persona. He is a bafoon and perhaps a picture from the 'Real American Hero' tv series would better portray his true character."

Wikipedian #2: "While I certainly agree the picture can (and should be) more cooler and dynamic, I'd disagree on him being a 'bufoon'. The guy is scary-pants in all his incarnations."

At the top of the page, there's a brief discussion of whether Cobra Commander is gay. (Probably not, though he is a snappy dresser.) In the middle there is a long talk about whether his comic book or television incarnation should be considered the source of knowledge about his origins. The whole conversation is marked by an utter lack of irony, as if these quibbles about a cartoon series that had its heyday from 1985 to 1987 were vital

And if you think this is a rare phenomenon, check out the talk page for Optimus Prime, heroic leader of the Autobots:

Wikipedian #3: "I'm actually finding it difficult not to write in openly positive terms. I've always had an enormous amount of admiration for Prime as a character, I'll admit."

Wikipedian #4: "Some might suggest you should find a sense of perspective. Listen carefully: 'This is a toy robot you're talking about.'"

Such entries exist throughout the more than 2 million articles, a vast mine of human pathos. The discussion pages are where the Wiki-sausage gets made, a place where nobody laughs at you, at least not very much, for carrying on a 1,245-word debate over whether Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, should be called "da Gama" or just "Gama" on second reference.

It's funny, but any journalist will tell you this transparency is a wonderful thing. Wikipedia gets a lot of complaints, and everybody who uses the site has seen a vandalized page once in a while, or an eye-rollingly incoherent article you'd be unlikely to find in one of the old-fashioned encyclopedias. But on the whole, it works well. Perhaps we should take a moment to admire the volunteer army of folks who are making the sum of human endeavor -- whether it's about Serpentor or the space race -- available to billions of people just because they genuinely care. They are the real American heroes.

-- Nelson Hernandez

By Editor  |  May 22, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
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Next: The Outback


You nailed it, Nelson: these are truly the American heroes!

Morning, all. Cool in the Carolinas, I'll not wear shorts on the walk this morning.

Posted by: slyness | May 22, 2008 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Nelson, when people behave in this way we call it a gift economy.

Presents for each other!

Hey, the coffee and scones are on me this morning: cranberry and blueberry. You choose.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 22, 2008 7:25 AM | Report abuse

But where's the discussion of the Micronauts?

Posted by: ComicsGeekTim | May 22, 2008 7:38 AM | Report abuse

When I first heard about Wiki I thought it was a pretty nutty idea. But, after a while, I learned that it is pretty reliable source of first-cut information. I think this is due to pride of ownership.

The Wiki concept ensures that contributors feel protective of it. When bad information is out there, it drives the Wiki folks crazy because such information reflects badly upon them personally.

Some call this "buy in." It's the same reason, by the way, that can make some of the people here, especially those who use two first initials that rhyme with "far bee" go just a little insane from time to time. When you feel you are a part of something larger than yourself, you want to take care of it.

And, not incidentally, the people involved.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 22, 2008 7:41 AM | Report abuse

*slurp munch slurp slurp munch*

Fanks, CP... *daintily dabbing corner of mouth wif napkin*


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 22, 2008 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Blueberry scones, like totally rule. They are tasty an have them antioxident thingies in them.

Besides, "blueberry" is ridiculously fun to say.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 22, 2008 7:45 AM | Report abuse

I'd crawl on my hands and knees all the way to College Park to partake of some coffee and scones (both flavors, if you please) from the College Bakian

Posted by: Don from I-270 | May 22, 2008 8:09 AM | Report abuse

One of my favorite things about summer is the availability of less expensive, better tasting blueberries. After countless wet or semi-wet weekends, we are finally promised a very good one. I am more than a bit excited about this. We can finish planting the garden and put down the screens on the windows. I am counting the hours 'til 5 pm on Friday.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | May 22, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

RD, see the scone in the pastry case over there? 'Tis for Mudge. A fairy friend made it and it has anti-oxidants of a very bracing sort. Make sure no one else swipe it.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 22, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

RD, see the scone in the pastry case over there? 'Tis for Mudge. A fairy friend made it and it has anti-oxidants of a very bracing sort. Make sure no one else swipes it.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 22, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Don! Make sure that Scotty sends you the code to the fax machine. We've been faxing three-d objects for two years now.

Posted by: College Bakian | May 22, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

*sweeping the crumbs outta da fax* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 22, 2008 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Oooh, scones, my favorite! Plain will be fine, but I'll take whatever is left. Not the special one for Mudge, not THIS morning, absolutely! But I'll be happy with whatever is left over, Scotty. Just fax my way. Thanks!

Food is definitely the subject of my day. After visiting a good friend who had her second knee replacement yesterday (Yay! It's over with!) and taking her son to lunch, I'm to help take comestibles to the family of a Sunday School member who died in tragic circumstances earlier in the week. My contribution is the pasta/meat/cheese casserole that everybody likes.

Posted by: slyness | May 22, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, you're in my thoughts. Truly, a difficult week. :-(

If you come up with a simultaneous need for good gin and a fine cheesesteak, the Dining Car on Frankford Avenue near the Academy Road Exit of 95 comes to mind (off the exit, go left at the light, it's a few blocks up on the right). They might have butter cake too.

Nelson, great kit, as usual.

I agree that the folks at Wikipedia are heroes, not least because we choose our desired topics. Having an undesired topic shoved in your face, well, I'd call that anti-heroic.

Posted by: dbG | May 22, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

George Will is a @#$%^&^%$%^& jerk! I know this is not news to anyone who has ever read his writing, but I felt it had to be said today in particular.

My name is kurosawaguy. I'm an eco-nut, and I approved this message.

Posted by: K:LOTD | May 22, 2008 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Kurosawaguy. Don't let Will get your blood pressure up. He's not worth it. He should stick to baseball. That's the only time he's at the top of his game. I'm an eco nut, also, and proud of it!


Posted by: Aroc | May 22, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

Nelson brings up an interesting point here, and puts me in mind to discuss the ideas of collective intelligence (or sometimes not-so-much), and how Wiki is an interesting manifestation of that within the context of current human communications mechanisms.

The idea of collective consciousness (human and otherwise) goes back thousands of years, presumably from observations of insect hives, and has popped up in literature and religious texts ever since.

The idea of collective intelligence was a favorite of early late 19th and early 20th centry thinkers and writers such as HG Wells and William Olaf Stapelton, and probably had a philisophical effect on the socialist and communist movements of the early/middle 20th century as well. Transcendence as part of a greater whole is appealing, isn't it?

The Internet in general and Wiki in particular allow all of us to connect and participate with and benefit from others all over the world, no matter what our backgrounds and locations, and no matter what our interests (nothing is too obscure or insignificant, really). The medium is an equalizer and also allows Bad Information
to enter conversations as well, which I think is a good thing, in that it brings unusual ideas into the light for discussion and critique (and debunking).

Are we on the way to becoming science-fictional Tron-like connected societies, with political processes like those in Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game," economies like those in Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" and eventually the Borg and beyond into some sort of Intellectual Consciousness Rapture where All are One?

I don't know, but maybe an online discussion of Cobra Commander's sexual preference is the place to start. Or not.


Posted by: bc | May 22, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I do love blueberries.

And I do like Wikipedia - as RD points out, it's typcally a decent first cut at almost any topic.


Posted by: bc | May 22, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

I do love blueberries.

And I do like Wikipedia - as RD points out, it's typcally a decent first cut at almost any topic.


Posted by: bc | May 22, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

bcrd (your collective handle mashup!)

An emerging word for wiki-process is crowdsourcing. Not sure this is quite right but nothing makes for new words faster than tech-culture or baseball-speak.

I teach about wiki-ness in the shoals of the classroom. Not easy BUT must be done. My students also post directions to WikiHow, in one assignment.

The crowd is right except when the crown is wrong. Word. Beware.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 22, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

May I just say that for some topics, partisans on either side of an issue are never satisfied with Wikipedia's "just the facts" approach.

Not that I have any particular topics in mind or anything...


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 22, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Going off topic, but in keeping with real American Heros:

At our church's children's ministry wrap-up session last night, we had a small bonfire with marshmallows. Standing near the fire, looking wistfull was a middle aged mom whose husband is in the Army in Iraq. I asked her how her hubby was doing.

She replied with a very satisfied smile and said, "Oh, he was on CNN yesterday. The story was run several times throughout the day." Here is the link to the web article, which has the video:

Kleenex alert.

Now there is a real hero.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | May 22, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke if partisans from both sides don't like something, I probably will.

I'm partial that way.

Here's a tune cootie for folks *my* age, from Talking Heads' "Crosseyed and Painless,"

"Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts dont do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts dont stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape

Im still waiting...Im still waiting...Im still waiting..."


Posted by: bc | May 22, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for that lyrical post bc. It inspired me to track down this aamazind YouTube vid:

Talking Heads - Live in Rome 1980 - 07 Crosseyed & Painless

Can I just wow?


Posted by: omni | May 22, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

full lyrics can be found here:

Posted by: omni | May 22, 2008 10:18 AM | Report abuse

so amazing I spelled amazing aamazind. WOW again.

Posted by: omni | May 22, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Here's the thing about facts. Buried within facts can be hidden assumptions, which are sometimes hard to ferret out. For example, let's say one reads that childhood autism is on the rise. Implicit in the provocative statement is the assumption that the mechanism used to assess autism has been constant over time. What if, as some suggest, the criteria used to assess autism have evolved and changed. Are we now looking at more kids with autism, improved detection, or are have we simply greatly expanded our definition of what autism is?

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 22, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Resisting urge to YouTube search on Tina Weymouth, who I loved in Tom Tom Club (or is that whom).

I'm tired, my head hurts, and I'm too damned busy.

Posted by: omni | May 22, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, too much stuff coming at you. I'll add to the group hug, and think of you over the next couple of days.

Posted by: nellie | May 22, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Glad you liked that, omni.

I've been hearing the baseline from that song in my head ever since I posted those lyrics.

RD - of course, the definintions for human truths, ethics, and facts change over time, as more information becomes available and value systems change. I suppose as groups of people accept the changes, they become "fact."

Heck, there's even evidence that the speed of light, the value of gravity and the cosmological constant have changed over time.

Everything changes, including our perceptions based on subjective relative context. For example, human sacrifice and cannibalism are no longer considered ethical under most current religious or socio/political systems.



Posted by: bc | May 22, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, hang in there. Wishing you all the comfort available in family, cheesesteak, and boodle-oxidant scones.

Vintage Lady, I'm looking forward to the France report!

We're a week away from the house going on the market, and the "stager" came yesterday. I've concluded that "decorating" consists of packing away anything useful or necessary and then putting something pretty and useless smack dab in the middle of that nice, newly cleared, potentially useful space. My favorite lines: "Oh, I love books. I decorate with them all the time! But you really don't need so many of them, do you? And let's move all of these from the living room and bedroom into the office where they belong."

All that said, I have to admit that some of the rearranging looks nice. Jon has been very firm about locking me away with the dissertation and not letting me help him clean. If only my mind were similarly disciplined, I'd be doing great.

Nice kit, Nelson. Sorry I don't seem to have anything else on-kit to say!

Posted by: bia | May 22, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

One of the mental problems we faced in buying a new house was fighting the sense that we were unworthy to follow the previous owners into their beautiful home. I tell you, it has been tremendously liberating to discover all the places where workmanship on the home maintenance was sub-par or simply incompetent. Made me feel right at home. Now we face the same problem, from the other side, in selling our old house. It finally is nearly presentable enough to be shown to potential buyers without driving them off.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 22, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

SCC: J. That would be J. What's the guy's name? I sure don't know. Nobody here knows. He's totally anonymous and has in no way been boodle-identified. Not that a common first name would be in any way a useful identifier (speaking of internet privacy), but he doesn't know y'all like I do, and I know he'd be happier on an initial-only basis. Oops.

Posted by: bia | May 22, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. Just wanted to stop in and say hello. Time to get dressed and start the day. Not so much on the plate today, but still slightly busy.

The weather feels so good, although like Slyness, says a little chilly.

Mudge, know that we are with you in thoughts and prayers.

Scotty, I haven't had the coffee yet, and just might pass it up today.

Martooni, where are you? Good morning, Loomis, and have a good day.

And all here have a great day. Nelson, I like the site you're talking about(can't spell it right now), and use it often. And yes, it is good that someone decided to do this.

I hope everyone gets to do something special on their long weekend off. Here, or rather further South, we have the Bike Rally, but I will not join in that fun. It's at Myrtle Beach, and all the bikers will be there or at least those that can afford the trip. I've never been, but have not had the desire to go. I have several tee shirts, so that's just as good for me. Probably too much noise anyway, and I know there are way too many people. This is an event for young people anyway.

Enjoy your day, and just think the weekend is on the way or perhaps it has already started for some.*waving*

Posted by: cassandra s | May 22, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of the long weekend: I, your humble savant, will be attending the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention (Balticon) this weekend at the Hunt Valley Inn. On Sunday, I will be talking about the EPOXI mission at some time during the day (check the on-line schedule).

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 22, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Howdy. I like Wikipedia for what it is, and I appreciate RD and bc's thoughts on it. However, we actively discourage the Boy from researching anything for which he must do something substantive on Wikipedia. He can check it for simple things, or use it after he's mined some more traditional research resources.

bc, I used that quote from the Talking Heads as an intro to one of my college philosphy papers. hee hee

Thanks for the scone, college parkian. Hugs and good thoughts to Mudge and everyone who is a little sad or troubled today.

It is hot here suddenly, though not yet gosh darn hot. I'm just waiting for 2:00 pm tomorrow. The Science final is over then. There's one more day of finals after the long weekend, but if we can just get through this week all will be much easier. We are trying to reinforce in the Boy notions of process (collect study materials, allocate time wisely, put everything where you'll need it)- all those things I now do like breathing. It is killing me.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 22, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I will be there, too! I'll be telling stories in the Children's Program (age-ist ghetto-ization) at a different time on Sunday. And the ScienceKids will be leading children in the manufacture of sock puppets, sometime on Sunday.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | May 22, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - Indeed. Wiki is "first cut." Primary sources are still, well, prime.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 22, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Regarding blueberries, I had some leftover ones and put them on my deck railing. The robins ate every one of them. Gourmet snack for them I guess. Gulp.

Still, not as good a story as the Japanese parrot who knew his name and address.

Does anybody care, she whined?

Posted by: eidrib | May 22, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

I do, eidrib, I posted a link to that article yesterday. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 22, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

eidrib, I thought the parrot was a very cool story. So did Scottynuke, apparently -- he linked to it yesterday :) (oh, no! you were boodle-scooped!) Thanks to both of you for giving me a chuckle.

Posted by: bia | May 22, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I hope "10 years away" is a very pessimistic estimate for when we'll see this technology:


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 22, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

They say it's safer, and it's Volvo, so I guess I believe them, but having the motors in the wheels makes me wonder. If you've only got one motor, and that dies, you come to a stop. If you've got four, and one dies, what? You keep going full speed in a tight circle?

Posted by: bia | May 22, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I thought most birds know where they live. How could they find their nests otherwise?

*faxing Mudge a manly, commiseratory pat on the shoulder*

Posted by: Boko9999 | May 22, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

What no Raspberry scones? Oh wait,they aren't ripe till July and boy with all this rain this spring it should be a bumper crop. Some friends out here in west by god are so serious about picking raspberries,they throw a party every year and invite as many pickers as possible. They pick from a steep hillside on the Potomac river(location still unknown),so steep they need to take extension ladders with them and lay them down over the bushes. Now that is dedicated.

Bc, liked your fact cootie and Cassandra loved your post last night and I do believe we are all young at heart.

Have a great day everyone!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 22, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke, do I take you to mean that you hope this kind of car arrives sooner, rather than 10 years? Or are you bothered by something about the Volvo plug-in hybrid?

The article is flat wrong about one of the things it says in comparing the Volvo ReCharge to the Chevy Volt: it claims that the Volt uses its internal combustion engine to directly drive the wheels. That is not true. The Volt's fossil-fuel motor drives a generator. It *may* be true that the power from the generator goes directly to the electric motor and bypasses the battery, but I do not believe that is correct. That is why I think they should toss the piston motor and go for the far more efficient technology of a turbine. Turbines have lousy torque, which is just fine for a motor whose load is very steady.

I think the Volt uses just one electric motor and a transmission, so I think the Volvo beats it in that department.

There should be no problem with hub motors if one fails. There's no transmission -- the rotor is part of the wheel. A motor failure would make it into a dead weight, but not a brake. An electric motor has far fewer moving parts than an internal combustion engine and experiences less mechanical stress than a metal device that has to contain fuel explosions. Motor failure would be far down my list of concerns in a brand new electric vehicle. How many years does the motor in your electric dryer typically work without failure or even any repairs or maintenance -- 10 years? 15?

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 22, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Actually, bia, the electric-motor-in-the-wheel thing has been around for awhile, and it's done in the name of efficiency.

There's a lot of power loss in a typical cars' transmission from an gas engine or electric motor to the wheels, particularly in automatic transmissions (on the order of 30% IIRC). Electric motors driving the wheels directly makes them far more efficient that way. Now, this will drive the suspension engineers a little nuts, because having a lot of unsprung mass at the wheels (copper, magnets, etc.) will adversely affect handling and ride quality.

As far as what happens if a motor goes out, the current stability, traction and braking control systems are probably more than up to the task of handling the problem in such a vehicle while keeping it moving. Most likely, the loss of a single motor would result in the wheel/motor on the opposite side of the vehicle being cut out. Simple and easy.

I used to help a guy work on a plug-in electric car conversion that was originally built in 1980 or so. Would go 50 miles or so on a charge, and took 12 hours to do so. The charging system was not part of the car, so you pretty much had a 50 mile range from home. So, if we have to wait another 10 years from now...

As far as sock puppet construction goes, um, er, doesn't yellojkt usually attend Balticon? [kidding, kidding!]


Posted by: bc | May 22, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

*nose pressed against the pastry case glass, admiring my own personal scone the way Gollum looked at his "precious."*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 22, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Slowly emerging from the Slough of Despond. Too much illness, death and dying, too much rain and too much cold weather for late May. I've been feeling sorry for myself lately, but I'm determined to snap out of it TODAY. The sun and the ominous clouds have been chasing each other all day - no clear winner yet. But I'm optimistic, oh yes, I am.

Mudge, so sorry to hear about all your troubles. I know you have the resilience to snap back to your own particular mudgieness soon. We await your return.

The early morning boodle about collective knowledge reminded me of Consilience, the theory the the great Edward O. Wilson (among others) promulgated. Here's the Wiki entry.

E.O. Wilson was the subject of Nova this week, airing in the DC area on May 20, 2008. Damn. I missed it. Maybe it will rerun.

Here's the PBS promo.

I hope everyone has a lovely Memorial Day weekend. We can finally wear those white pants we bought on sale at the end of last summer. Sure hope they still fit!

Posted by: Maggie O'D | May 22, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Mudge, you're even more resilient than I thought!

Posted by: Maggie O'D | May 22, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

One of my many super-powers is Wiki-editing and I am the author of the Ted Forth Wiki-Article. Not that that isn't a little controversial all in itself.

I also undid a vandalism on the Maureen Dowd page. Someone had decided that this was important enough to merit inclusion:

'My old man refers to Dowd as a "Bomb throwing douchebag".'

The history function of the Wikipedia page is very entertaining all on its own.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

dbg - i was going to agree with you about david cook last nite but i didn't get a chance...

*faxing mudge 50 bazillion bear hugs*

and i'll take a blueberry scone - thank you! YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM (kinda coinkidink that i brought blueberries to work today...)

i love wiki - i love that you can find anything you want on there... info at the tips of your fingers. yes, i read wiki with caution... but then again, you have to read everything on the web with caution - the anonymity it offers is very appealing to those intent on deceipt...

and WHY is there a "p" is raspberry... makes no sense!

Posted by: mo | May 22, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Wikipedia was one of those things I thought was downright silly when I first heard about it. I have been impressed with its breadth and even sometimes its depth. Shows you what I know. I believe yellojkt authored Joel's wikipedia entry, didn't he?

After being a juror, I no longer know what a fact is. Or maybe it's sitting around in stuffy rooms that had that effect (affect?) on me. I do know that I am not cut out to be a lawyer.

Ivansmom, I was in my forties till I figured out good study habits. Good luck. It almost killed me to realize I had passed on my procrastination gene to my kid, without the motivation gene. Sigh.

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 22, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, I think you're right about the Volt driveline.

Chrysler produced prototype turbine-powered cars back in the early 60s that were given to 50 or so consumers as part of a test program. The Indy 500 was nearly won twice by turbine cars in the late 60s (they were the fastest cars on the track), but suffered mechanical failures very late in both races while leading. IIRC, one of the few overall victories for a turbine race car was at the old road course in Marlboro, MD in '68 or so, with local Dr. Dick Thompson driving the Howmet TC turbine sports car.

The big problems with turbines as appropriately sized drive systems as I see them them are keeping road debris (and small animals) out of the compressor stages, and what to do with all of that scary hot exhaust. Granted, heat abatement technology has come a long way in 40 years, but larger gas turbines throw off a lot of BTUs IIRC. Considering how much of current cars are made of plastic, it would be kinda worrying to be sitting at a stoplight, hoping you don't melt someone else's bumper cover.

Now, little turbines as generators, *that* could work (didn't GM's EV1 use a turbine generator?).


Posted by: bc | May 22, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Hi, mo, yellojkt, Maggie! Watched the American Idol finale - was hopeful when I saw Seal, but it sort of went downhill for me after that. And I still don't know which David is which - not that I watched it this year till last night. But as background noise while I knit, it was ok.

The bad thing about getting released from jury duty early is that I really should check in at work. I know I will regret it.

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 22, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Good one, bc, but I cannot make Balticon this year. Connie Willis is the Guest of Honor. She writes very good time-travel novels. I never quite made it through the award-winning "Doomsday Book" set in medieval Europe.

I did read "To Say Nothing of the Dog" which is set in Victorian England and takes it's cues from "Three Men In A Boat."

I saw her at Philcon several years ago where she read a passage from a forthcoming novel set during the Blitz. According to her website, that novel is still unpublished.

The Balticon website lists Douglas Adams as Ghost Of Honor. I'm not sure what those duties entail and whether it includes any appearances.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I would speculate that the "rasp" in "raspberry" has something to do with texture.

I might even be right.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 22, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

And if any of you can find a copy of the BBC 70's production of "Three Men in a Boat" with Tim Curry as J.K. Jerome and Michael Palin as Harris (sorry I don't know who played Montmorency the dog), it is an hour well spent! I don't know if it's on DVD, but it did make it to video tape.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | May 22, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I've done some clean-up work on Joel's WikiPage, but little of the heavy lifting. None of the other editors on the history page are identifiable by boodle handle, so if you are Rwiedower, thanks for all the work.

Joel's own page has been subject to intermittent vandalism. For a while his degree from Princeton was in Dweeb rather than Politics. It also seems that his family was raising alpacas at some point.

Also, links to the AchenFAQ have disappeared somewhere along the way.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 2:08 PM | Report abuse

This year is Balticon 42. I'm a little slow sometimes.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

If it were me... I would send the turbine exhaust through a heat exchanger and use it either to generate some additional electricity from a steam-powered piston system, or from a thermoelectric generator. Or, just use it to provide cabin heat for winter-time.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 22, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Mr. F's organization is attempting to use crowd sourcing and other wiki-ish things to improve communications and procedures. Very popular with the young soldiers, not so much with the old, and I sense a bit of hesitation from the "private sector." Could it be defense contractors don't want to see soldiers doing for free, and fun, what they charge the big bucks for?

I get to be a super-hero tonight! More accurately I get to wear the Chippy (the chipmunk) mascot costume at a reading carnival. This is not a usual part of my part-time early literacy gig, but since I have to recruit volunteers to wear it I figured it was time to step inside so I can be honest about the joys and challenges.

So glad I had a chance to drop in over lunch today. Not having a chance to read kit and 'boodle until evening is a major hardship.

CP- My astilbe made it through the winter, and I have so many fern fiddleheads I can eat them with reckless abandon. May have a second peony survivor as well and this one looks like it's going to have enough energy to bloom this year. Despite a high of just 57 today I am in a full spring box canyon of joy. Pictures will follow when I have some actual bloom, round about July 4 I expect.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 22, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

i really enjoyed the american idol finale tho boy did zz top, bryan adams and george michael look OLD or WHAT!!! (kinda made ME feel old! sheesh!) and seal ROX no matter what he's doin! darn tivo cut off the end of the show where the winner was announced and i wasn't watching it real time! i had to call my mother to find out who won! i was very pleasantly surprised that cook won and i hope the contract doesn't turn him into a sucky pop singer...

as for the AchenFAQ - well, *sheepishly kicking at ground with toe* i let my blog die... no more "den of darkness" - the person hosting my site decided to get rid of the server and i've been to lazy/busy to get another host...

Posted by: mo | May 22, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Ultimately, though, wouldn't a turbine engine still rely upon some sort of petrochemical fuel? And isn't the combustion process (at least of a hyrdochemical fuel) inherently wasteful of energy, especially through generation of heat? So I think the solution must lie in some other direction. I don't claim to know what it would be, but burning fossil fuel isn't it. need a Plan B, whatever it is.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 22, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

frostbitten, that sounds like fun. Hope the costume isn't too stuffy.

I discovered some peonies growing where they had been thrown out, in a big pile of brush and debris. Irises are impossible to throw away too. Speaking of which, I've got German, Dutch, and Siberian irises all starting to bloom, as well as some roses, clematis - great time of year. It's raining and in the fifties. Hoping the weekend will be sunny - usually Memorial Day (Monday) is. We learned not to go camping this time of year though - we always got rained on.

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 22, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Reflecting on Wiki reminds me of Simon Winchester's book The Professor and the Madman, about how the Oxford English Dictionary was put together with the help of volunteers, each of whom would read through books, collecting words in their native habitats, sending them in with no reward other than the satisfaction of being part of a community effort.

The internet is amazing for the way it taps into a basic human impulse--it's essentially the same impulse that drives the phenomenon of gossip. If I have an opinion, I might be inclined to share it, but if I know some INFORMATION, and I know you don't know it, I REALLY want to tell you. That, along with the bonding power of The Secret, is what makes society coalesce.

Kguy: Tim Curry and Michael Palin? That's what I call useful information that I didn't know before. I will certainly look that up.

Posted by: kbertocci | May 22, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The current generation of Army tanks use turbine engines. Early in the development, dust contamination was an issue, but that seems to have been resolved. Of course, energy efficiency is not high on the military performance spec requirements, but the technology is out there.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

OK, I'm outa here and heading home to go to Penna. Thank you for all the hugs; now there's something I want you guys to do: go hug someone who can/will hug you back. Virtual hugs are nice, but real hugs are better. Go getcha somma that.

See yuns Saturday or Sunday.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 22, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

mo, ZZ Top and Bryan Adams were nice surprises. I thought having George Michael end it was sort of weird - especially the bit about his first American tour in 17 years - yikes! And why do they wait so long to announce who won? Well, I suppose so they can drag the show out, but I think having 5 or 10 minutes for the winner to revel in winning would be nice, after all the hype.

Hi, kbertocci! As usual, you have delved deeply into the meaning of things.

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 22, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Hi Mudge the nice thing about a turbine is that you can burn pretty much any fuel -- gasoline, diesel, alcohol, hydrogen, hydrogen peroxide. You need control systems that can adapt to the performance of the fuel you happen to be using, but that's what computers are for. The fuel is simply a way to store energy that is more mass-efficient than a battery. The battery is nice, because you can charge it from central power plants, which are easier to clean emissions from. However, the battery may not be able to get you the range you need, and batteries are slow to charge. Hence, you may want a chemical fuel.

This brings up another point, however. You could improve efficiency right now, with current technologies, without waiting for fancy new battery technologies or fuel cells, by using a turbine-supported electrical transmission system in a car. Use a turbine to run an ordinary generator; use a modest-capacity battery system to even out the load on the generator; and use hub motors to eliminate mechanical complexity and inefficiency in the transmission system. You get the fuel economy of a turbine with the torque and high dynamic speed range of electric motors. No mechanical transmission, no pistons, so it's efficient and quiet. Burn ethane, propane, methane, hydrogen -- doesn't matter to the motor. Plug-in hybrids get high "mileage" because electric motors are efficient and they have regenerative braking, and because they typically don't count the fuel cost of the wall-power in determining the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. Electricity is not free. I suspect that end-to-end efficiency of a plug-in hybrid probably is worse than for a battery-mediated turbine system like I describe, in which the batteries merely smooth the load applied to the turbine.

Posted by: ScienceTim | May 22, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Yello beat me to it, again. (started writing this post almost an hour ago but darn it's busy here...)

Hang on Mudge, the sun will rise again tomorrow.
My peonies are thriving this years, they have been protected by a deep layer of snow and they really liked it.

Nobody (note: Wrong, yello did) mentioned the obvious turbine-powered vehicle, the M1 Abrams MBT. Not quite fuel efficient at 65+ tons curb weight but eh, it gets the traffic out of the way.
I don't know about turbines in cars, the gear box on the turbine-equipped naval ships are pretty complicated, read expensive, mechanism. And heat management is an issue with all the heating up and cooling down cycle; turbines are better at being turned on for long periods of time. Both the US and Can Navies had thermal fatigue issues in the uptakes of their early turbine-powered frigates.

And now CP makes me pick up a half dozen of scones at the Scone Witch for tomorrow's breakfast:
"At The Scone Witch, all the baked goods are made very carefully, and all by hand. Scones must be made and mixed in a certain way so that they do not become cake-like. The process takes a considerable amount of time, but The Scone Witch has it down pat.

Scones from the Cauldron
At the Scone Witch café, you can purchase ginger-currant, orange-cranberry, vanilla-cream, lemon-poppy seed, cheddar cheese and "Urban" onion-flavoured scones. They are always soft, fresh and delicious, because new pastries are made each day. Purchase them individually, by the dozen or the half dozen."

Posted by: shrieking denizen | May 22, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to a not so great, but not too dreadful, original Lifetime TV series called "Army Wives," "having some scones" has taken on a totally new meaning. Here, a spouse is finally home after a long deployment so the kids are sent next door to borrow some coffee because mom/dad is making scones. Scone is the code word to keep the kids for a while, but much like the Dominoes ad which asks "What are you going to do with the other 28 minutes?" a while doesn't have to be so long as to be an imposition on the neighbor.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 22, 2008 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Onion flavored scones? Blech.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | May 22, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

mostly-if your peonies are as indifferent to good care as irises then I am faint with peonies envy. Once established they do fine here, but coddling is the rule for the first 2-3 years.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 22, 2008 3:17 PM | Report abuse

SciTim and sd, and probably bc, clearly know more about turbine technology than I do even though it is nominally within my area of study. Nearly all modern train engines are coupled turbine generator and motor combinations. Getting rid of all those gears makes a lot of difference.

The big difference is that turbines run on a continuous fuel cycle rather than the four-stroke internal combustion system which always seemed like a kludge, albeit a kludge with over a century of optimization. At the dawn of cars, steam engine technology was a contender but got quickly eclipsed.

Anything that is to replace the IC engine has to overcome the advantages of the installed base.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Greetings, all, and thanks for being such a friendly group of people the last few days. I have it on good authority that the captain of the USS Achenblog will be returning to the bridge shortly. I will head back to the wardroom now to drink some grog and gamble away my savings.

Posted by: Nelson | May 22, 2008 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Scones, indeed.

I'm not so sure I would like to telegraph to my neighbors my amorous activity schedule. My mother has taken to referring to "mom and dad's naptime" in finger quotes when discussing our childhood, much to my horror and dismay. I do remember one afternoon when my dad was very irritated to be woken up from his "nap" to resolve some sibling dispute. In hindsight, ewwww!

Also, the night we arrived in the Philippines after my dad went ahead two months earlier is the only time my dad has ever paid for two hotel rooms for the family. I guess they had a lot of scones to catch up on.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Very quick post I have Wisteria in bloom by the bucket load. Like frosti, I am mega box of crayons happy - peonies still a few weeks away.

Posted by: dmd | May 22, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Bravo Zulu, Nelson, BZ

Fair winds and following seas.

Posted by: Don from I-270 | May 22, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Yes, SciTim, I want that Volvo mass-produced YESTERDAY! :-)

And I could tell some stories about the exhaust of the M1A1 and car hoods... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | May 22, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Turbiines. Aren't they on jets, too?

You know.. doilies are just turbines made of yarn, no? I think we've got our Standard Bunker Doily Design if you ask me.

Posted by: TBG | May 22, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Great Job Nelson. I have enjoyed your kits.

And put 2 bits on the black 8 for me.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | May 22, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

The one thing I am technically able to discuss is the the amount of useful work from any process is proportional to the temperature difference between the heat source and heat sink. Diesel engines are more efficient because they operate at much higher temperatures.

Decades ago I had a professor working on ceramic engine blocks to allow for even higher temperatures. Haven't seen that technology hit the streets yet.

Likewise, anytime the exhaust temperature is above ambient, you are leaving horsepower on the table. Hence the advantages of intercooled superchargers (turbo or otherwise). Of course, wringing the last little pocket of enthalpy (or exergy if you want to be really esoteric) becomes very cost prohibitive in a hurry.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, thank you for babysitting (boodlesitting?). You did great!

I regret that we didn't really have the discussion that you set out yesterday, about brains vs. brawn. I guess it would have been a somewhat one-sided discussion, given the composition of the boodle (more mental muscle than physical force around here, and that's a good thing, IMVHO)

Don't be a stranger...

Posted by: kbertocci | May 22, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

On topic, all I can say is I heart Wikipedia. When the techies around me are throwing around terms I don't understand, it's a good place to go for a quick translation.

Thanks for taking care of us, Nelson. You done good.

*faxing more scones and hugs to Mudge*

mo and mostly! Glad I wasn't the only one squandering two hours of my life on the AI finale.

I'll be absent for the next week or so. Tomorrow we go to the country house (with no Internet) and next week I'm on business travel. Take care all!

Posted by: Raysmom | May 22, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Scones as code for that? Well I never. Both are fine comestibles of a sort but my goodness.

Fiddleheads, oh frosti, fax me some and I will saute them with the barest swipe of butter.

Peonies here were laid low by driving and constant rain, so Max (as in Festiva Maxima) we hardly even sniffed you. Sigh.

Maggie, the sun is shining here and there, isn't it.

Still grading but nearly done.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 22, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Bye, Nelson!

Have a good Memorial Day weekend and feel free to drop in. I think we have proven that most of us don't bite. Much.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 4:10 PM | Report abuse


The big difference is that a jet engine turbine using the kinetic energy of the exhaust gas for thrust. Not practical on the DC (or any other) Beltway.

IIRC, the Batmobile had a jet turbine and a nuclear reactor. I want that mass-produced YESTERDAY!

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 4:15 PM | Report abuse

raysmom - i do not believe those two hours of american idol to be squandered... they were spent focusing on the good fortune of a young performer at the highest point of his young life - i'm sure there will be many more highs... i live vicariously through him...

i do "serious" things during the day at work... which is why i'm unable to boodle as much as i'd like... at night - i like to relax...

i know SQUAT about turbines, engines, etc... but i DO know that faster and smaller processors for a computer produce more heat than the older clunkier ones and therefore need more advanced/better heat sinks to disperse the heat away from the motherboard... gamers with super processors and overclocked processors often use liquid cooling - is that an option in a electric car? (or is it something we already do and now i look like a great big dunce?)

Posted by: mo | May 22, 2008 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Hi all...

I need an engine that runs on sawdust and dandelions. Got an endless supply of both here.

The "Scone Witch" had me thinking of a certain Seinfeld episode. Particularly, what would happen to you if you ticked off the Scone Witch. Instead of "no soup for you!", it might be "enjoy your life as a toad".

btw... anybody have one of those Homer Simpson "cloning hammocks"? I could really use one right now.

Have a safe trip Mudge.

And good job, Nelson. I still think Mighty Mouse could whoop Iron Man *and* The Hulk at the same time. Gotta watch dem little superdudes... they're quick and squirrelly and often underestimated.

Peace out...

Posted by: martooni | May 22, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

mostly - i love george michael and i LOVED the song he did - but i'm not sure he's in any shape to be doing a tour! he was looking RUFF (and yes, 17 years??? YIKES!!)

yeah, american idol has always been one to overstretch the "breathless anticipation" crap. i heard the program went over by 9 minutes which is why my TIVO cut off the end... MAN was i pissed!

Posted by: mo | May 22, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

That @#$%@@!! George Will! Would that his articles were peer-reviewed!

He keeps bringing up the fact that some scientists were proposing global cooling in the 70s. In past articles he used to snarkily mention scientists' "frenzy" on this topic and then cite some media report (e.g., in NYT) instead of a science paper; dishonest little @##$!

In today's article he cites a March 1975 Science article as mentioning "the approach of a full-blown 10,000-year ice age". This citation is loved by climate change skeptics as it allows them to claim that scientists don't know it all (well of course not; we're trying to figure it out remember!?!).

A) I've looked and I can't find the actual article (Science doesn't even have a March 1, 1975 issue)...I'm working on it still...

B) It's true, however, that there was evidence for climate cooling then, but scientists were just getting their act together to record data from around the globe (the cooling trend was based on data mainly from the northern hemisphere), and get data of the quality necessary for any decent level of meta analysis and modeling required to understand such a complex system (and improving modeling methods as well).

C) Even with limited data and comparatively primitive approaches, scientists were engaged in a rousing debate about global warming v/s cooling. So cherry-picking one article and touting it as evidence that scientists thought the world was cooling is super dishonest!

The abstracts of some of the articles published in 1975-81 (close to that "banner" 1975 year) illustrate the point.

August 1975

August 1976;193/4252/447

August 1981

Rant over...back to previously scheduled programming

Posted by: DNA Girl | May 22, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

mo, you do know I was kidding about the "squandered" don't you? Something about AI (and DWTS and, to a lesser extent, SYTYCD) just hook me. I was glad that Cook won, and hope they let him be himself and not pop-tart him up too much.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 22, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Interesting mo. I was just thinking how annoying the new computers are with the variable speed fan. When I make my computer think hard, the fan revs up and It makes it sound like the machine is going to either blast off or blow up. Next time I buy a computer, I'll consider the noise factor over processor speed.

Posted by: DandyLion | May 22, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

And what about Fearless Fly? Now that's a superhero I'd say.

Posted by: Aloha | May 22, 2008 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I think she meant "squandered" as in...

"I squandered my day on the Boodle again today, dear!"

Posted by: TBG | May 22, 2008 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Precisely, TBG.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 22, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh, *Tim, see that I mentioned turbine generators for cars at 1:38...?

And I think the EV1 in fact used a system like that, which is why I brought it up.

yellojkt, I use intercoolers on all my turbocars, and sometimes even inject nitrous oxide as much to add O2 as to cool the intake charge down. I remember work done on ceramic IC engine components back in the 80s - lighter and more thermally stable than ferric or aluminum metals. Ceramic coatings are currently being applied to turbocharger turbine wheels, piston crowns and combustion chambers to help them run cooler and more efficiently, and I even think some turbos were made with completely ceramic turbines.

kbertocci, I really liked The Professor and the Madman, and that's a good point about how the dictionary was a managed collective effort.

Finally - Nelson, you did us proud, sir. Well done. Thanks for sharing some great Kits with us, and I hope you don't lose your shirt or spill your grog. Please don't be a stranger, come and visit when you can.

On another note, I see that a Texas appeals court has ruled that the state had no right to seize the children from that polygamist community...

Speaking of comic book heroes, I'm highly likely to see the new Indiana Jones movie this weekend.


Posted by: bc | May 22, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Mo, raspis (raspberry) + berry is the original source of the word. (Nobody knows where raspis came from, although a derivation from raspise, a sweet rose-colored wine is suggested... from latin, "vinum raspeys" Since the fruit is indigneous to Asia Minor, it might be a loan-word from a non-Romance yet I.E. tongue, probably a variant on "red" in that language.).

The sound of Razzberry from raspberry is kind of like if we started calling plums "Plumberry" then eventually started saying it "plubberry" instead.

Speaking of which, this here plumberry is rather rubberry in texture.

Thanks for the E.O. Wilson-Nova tip! I like his books, and as he grew up hard of hearing (deaf in one ear, I think), he chose to work with insects instead of say, birds, mammals, and all that.

And for something completely different:

"Conurbation"-- I blinked before it clicked in place. Even knowing the latin roots, It still sounds vaguely like some kind of boozy cocktail served to yuppies.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 22, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

I spent most of the week in the company of people so conservative as to approach neandertal. There was widespread cheering on the news of Ted Kennedy's illness. Their position is that the cure for global warming is nuclear winter. And yes, they did mention that scientists just can't make up their mind.

In the popular mind (as well as George Will's), this 1975 Newsweek (that peer-reviewed journal of record) article is considered the touchstone for climate change flip-flopping:

Even beginning to refute dittohead talking points on the topic is a fool's game.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Mouthful of Raspberries = Heaven
Mouthful of Rasberries = Hell

Posted by: DNA Girl | May 22, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

There is a treatise out there that a single 75 watt chip in a Goggle server farm requires the burning of 3 megawatts of fossil fuel once all supporting equipment and production and distribution inefficiencies are figured in.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Thought I'd at least raise a brief *wave*. I've been snowed under for the last couple of weeks on this zoning thing. Finally got the Planning Commission to sign off. Now I have to get the revisions done and the document printed by Wednesday. No rest for the wicked. Going to Morton's tomorrow night for friend wife's birthday dinner, then will try and enjoy what sounds like a nice holiday weekend.

Posted by: ebtnut | May 22, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

DNA girl, 33 years ago cell phones and personal computers didn't exist and NOAA had yet to launch the first geo-stationary operational environmental satellites (GOES) in 1975.

Our data-gathering and processing abilities have increased exponentially since the 1970's.

I support the environment and I also think that governmental regulation, in fact, is the least of our worries in this regard.

The lawsuit/regulation of global warming under the Endangered species lawsuit is of most concern if courts allow third-parties to sue on behalf of animals without showing direct harm ("emotional distress")... something a lot of animal rightists are trying to do. This would result in people suing people for doing things they don't like because it incurs "emotional distress," decaying civil rights further.

I do not expect this reinterpretion of the law to succeed, but it has to be fought-- and it means a lot of spurious lawsuits could be brought against businesses daily. (Yes a judge will thrown those lawsuits out on lack of grounds, but it does mean time and money wasted by the business and system).

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 22, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

In the early days of the threat of electric cars, the folks at Car and Driver used to proclaim that there is a smokestack at the end of every plug. Moving transportation fuel storage from the local Exxon station to the coal-fired plant on the Potomac is a potentially massive transforming infrastructure adjustment.

What happens to the power grid at 6 pm when every commuter comes home and plugs in his car? Gotta trace out all the ripples when you get pie-in-the-sky Utopian dreams.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

As somebody commented on this case, "Breeding (or animal rescue) is the only business in which you can go to jail and be jailed up to 20 years because you failed to clean your house for three days straight."

Granted, dead cats in the freezer sounds gross, but it's actually an appropriate way to preserve biohazardous remains until they can be disposed. It's done in vet's offices and laboratories all the time (granted, those refrigerators are not used to store food as well.... although I once had a boss who would do so.)

46 animals sounds like hoarding, but rescuer do get overwhelmed, and those cats often arrive in poor health and need to be treated. If investigators came knocking after 10 stray cats were just dropped off that same day, it would look bad, indeed.

However, this is being contested mostly because the law was poorly written, and negiligence as far as I know, is normally used to mean lack of responsibility leading to injury to others; applied to when an child or animal harms others or is harmed. As the cats were rescues, they came in with pre-existing neglect that takes time to be remedied.

Personally I think this woman needed to learn how to set limits on her cat care, but does she deserve to go to jail for it? It's not clear that any cats were actually harmed by criminal irresponsibility.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 22, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Hey, ebtnut.

frosti, your "peonies envy" made me laugh. I tried to make sure I had spelt it correctly. I don't know if these will bloom. Part of the reason Mr Ml tossed it was because it wasn't blooming so well. I was gobsmacked to see them, and there are 3 plants now, so he divided the root as well. I'm debating whether I should move them to a better spot - I'm a sucker for volunteer or plants that are trying. Which is why I would have left it where it was - ha!

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 22, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

DNA Girl... ewwwww... those ants look vicious. I love the part on the page in big, bold letters that says "Please send samples in sealed vials."

Posted by: TBG | May 22, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

raysmom... raysmom... OF COURSE i knew you were kidding sweets! what's the first thing we talk about at bphs you and i?? i think my addiction to american idol and sytycd (i absolutely LOVE sytycd - i mean talk about ADDICTION) is that i used to be a performer... so i literally mean "living vicariously" when i watch it... gives me a tiny bit of the rush i used to get when performing...

i pick on the poor raspberry out of love - i love raspberries... and blueberries - and ESP blackberries!! YUMMMM but you hafta admit the english sometimes seems so foolish - letters here and there that you don't need... it's a wonder that a non-english speaker WANTS to learn english

dandylion - you could always go for a custom case and get liquid cooling

Posted by: mo | May 22, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad for all our sakes that you "support the environment" :-)

But, you're right, I too have concerns about how this, not-thoroughly-thought-through-it-seems, reinterpretation of the law will play out, and therefore did not take issue with that aspect of George @#$$!! Will's article.

Posted by: DNA Girl | May 22, 2008 6:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why you guys are all wound up about global warming.
Does anyone know what happens to a person's tattoos when they're raptured?

Posted by: Boko999 | May 22, 2008 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I will broach no disrespect of the noble raspberry.

During the summers of 1971 through 1978 inclusive I picked raspberries for money. In my last summer I was a triple-tagger - a lofty achievement that placed me amongst the most refined berry pickers of the Puyallup Valley. I wore my permanently stained hands as if they were the lips of Mentat.

Oddly, though, the local distaff population was profoundly unimpressed.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 22, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

I thought George Will was in some sort of competition for "most commas in one sentence." There were *nine*. Counting them caused me to loose all track of what he was saying, thank goodness!

Posted by: nellie | May 22, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Wow, RD, *I'm* impressed.

My mother inherited land in an neighboring county when my grandfather died. Her portion of the farm was exactly the one she wanted, and she built a house on the hill. May was the best month of the year because the wild strawberries were there for the picking. Granted, one had to avoid the ticks and the poison ivy along the road to find them, but oh, they were heavenly. Homemade wild strawberry ice cream - the best in the whole world. Wish I could find some now...

Kber, I enjoyed The Professor and the Madman, such an interesting story. Have you read Adam Nicholson's God's Secretaries? It's the story of the translating of the King James Bible. I was rather disappointed in the lack of detail, but I suppose the detail doesn't exist anymore.

Second dottir just left. Her accomplishment of the day was to order the components of a new computer for me. The current laptop is almost 3.5 years old and has a bad case of Winrot. A new desktop will be nice, and she will reformat the laptop for travel.

Posted by: slyness | May 22, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Well, a lot of diaphanous threads come together in one kit 'n' kaboodle today.

First, thanks bc and omni for the THeads tune.

Secondly, here's a guy who has assiduously monitored all the disinfo about the "70s global cooling hype"
I suggest climbing up this particular webpage a few levels to acclimate to the layout, then diving back in.

Thirdly, which should be firstly, thanks to Nelson for pointing out the essential neatness of the Wiki discussion pages, for they are the key to the whole deal (and of course the citations, if any, at the bottom of the articles are a good clue about the scholarliness or lack of same in each article)

And fourthly, I confess I put in the alpaca misinfo as an experiment. I did not do any other thing.

Posted by: Jumper | May 22, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, you did a great job. I second yello's comment about the group here. Have a wonderful weekend.

The g-girl and I have finished our meal, and grandma will be turning in soon. Enjoy your evening, folks, and make great plans for the weekend.

Night, boodle. Sweet dreams.

Posted by: cassandra s | May 22, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for raspberries and strawberries and blueberries and all that, but what about the "hanging chad" of berries -- the dingleberry?

From what I hear, they're very easy to grow and are a very fragrant fruit.

I'd also like to know why the elderberry gets singled out in "yo-father" jokes. Nobody says "your father smelled of blackberries" (or strawberries or blueberries [or even dingleberries]). No... they go right for the humble elderberry who was just minding his own business being a berry on a tree.

Fruitists! Berryists! (or is that Berryistas?)

Posted by: martooni | May 22, 2008 7:21 PM | Report abuse

In honour of all the boodleberries

Posted by: DNA Girl | May 22, 2008 7:34 PM | Report abuse


*cough cough*

Not EVERY plug connects to a smokestack, yanno...

*cough cough*


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 22, 2008 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Nellie, does George Will's putting nine commas in a sentence mean his thought processes were commatose?

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 22, 2008 8:36 PM | Report abuse

DNA girl, I cannot tell a lie.

I admit that I've chopped down and uprooted helpless trees whose only fault was taking root inside gardens where they weren't wanted. And I've been seen tearing plants out of the ground like a fiend. I also refuse to cohabit with domestically inclined insects.

Gosh, with friends of the earth like me, who needs enemies? ;).

On the up side, I have contributed to environmentalist causes; I haven't owned a car in years, I walk or bike, and my carbon footprint is probably mostly what I eat and how much time I spend inside on the PC instead of outside enjoying nature. I've also been known to hug a tree or two, but it was entirely platonic, I tell you.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 22, 2008 8:44 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Inside TYPING on the pc.

Posted by: Wilbrod, not only a member of SCC, but its president. | May 22, 2008 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod! One for you!

Posted by: nellie | May 22, 2008 8:46 PM | Report abuse

My carbon footprint could be smaller. I only drive a mile or two a day, but I'm sure my shop (based on my electric bills) burns up a lot of coal. I can only imagine the energy involved to mill the wood I use and ship it here. Then there's all the chemicals I use -- paints, stains, lacquers, thinners, strippers (and not the nubile kind, unfortunately). I do dispose of my hazardous wastes responsibly, but there's gotta be some bad carbon going on there.

And when I think of all the paper I go through every month -- printing out patterns, invoices, packing slips, shipping labels, etc. -- I probably wipe out a tree or two with my printer in addition to the wood I use to make my doors.

I just hope they don't start tracking "methane footprints" or I'm doomed.

Posted by: martooni | May 22, 2008 9:11 PM | Report abuse

For RD, especially, because he is the Man Who Loves Bunnies.

But this year, there are no moon flowers! Sniff. I am doing battle with a raccoon who is picking through potted items Sigh.

Saw a very white mottled deer this evening on my bike ride. More white than buff-fawn.

Very sleepy. Off to dream about raccoon-less potting tables.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 22, 2008 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Have just come from seeing "Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull."

My intent is not to provide any spoilers. It's pretty much Jones all the way.

However, in the first part of the movie, I knew instinctively what was coming in the next scenes, thanks to this photo from Life magazine that I found when investigating photographer and cousin Loomis Dean circa last summer. (As you may recall since I blogged about it, Loomis Dean photographed the sinking of the Andrea Doria that our mayor's wife, Linda Morgan Hardberger, sailed on as a young girl.) I even went so far as phoning and talking to the gallery owner--in Dallas, if I recall correctly-- about the price, not inexpensive. I think I jotted the price on some notes laying around somewhere.

I meant to pass the information about the photo on to Jennet Conanat because she wrote the book about Alfred Lee Loomis and his efforts that led to the Berkeley cyclotron and eventually and indirectly the Manhattan Project.

As my husband says, the film is pure Jones--snakes, ants, monkeys, prairie dogs, spider webs, underground tunnels, secret passageways, archaeological treasures. It opens like the end of "American Graffiti" and closes like "Close Encounters."

We stay for the credits for just about every movie we see. The academic scenes surely were filmed in Connecticut, the desert scenes in Nevada, the jungle scenes in Hawaii, but we're trying to figure out why the nod at the end of the credits to the Fresno Film Commission. George Lucas hails from Modesto, but Fresno?

There was lots of lightning in these parts last night but no precipitation. Midway through the movie, the air conditioning conked out. With outside temps near 100, I can't begin to tell you how stuffy and warm our theater was for the latter part of the movie. Jason Sly at the customer service desk comped us for another visit to this Santikos theater.

Don't know if you read the news that Harrison Ford was recently invited to sit on the board of a prestigious archaeological society in Boston.

Posted by: Loomis | May 22, 2008 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Oops: was on the wrong boodle: repost here:

Has anyone heard of this: ?


I sat next to someone who used it and,,,Wow.

Posted by: omni | May 22, 2008 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Those poetry samples along with the pictures are a nice mood lifter, CP.

If the deer was rather mottled, what is the possibility it is a big fawn, CP? Whitetails tend to have those big white spots when born...

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 22, 2008 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Omni, that sounds like what I provide for my friends for free whenever they text me from their mobile phones to help get information they can't without full internet or call somebody.

I didn't know I could make money doing it, although I suppose they want verbal information instead of text. Bah.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 22, 2008 9:38 PM | Report abuse

CP, I love Spanish lavender! Mr Ml, unfortunately, did not appreciate its qualities. Or maybe it was all the grass and weeds growing amongst it, and its somewhat unruly sprawl. At any rate, he ripped it out last year and I haven't replaced it yet. I have lots of purply things in bloom now - irises, columbine, the dratted mountain bluet - and the Spanish lavender went along with it beautifully. I love its rabbitty little ears.

I have 2 moonflowers in sprout stage. I planted a few more last weekend. I've been blaming the dang squirrels for digging in pots - could be the resident raccoons, too.

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 22, 2008 9:43 PM | Report abuse

We had an interesting sky tonight as we made a trip to BJ's for supplies. The last of the wet weather was leaving the area and there had been a 20 second downpour just before we left the house. Suddenly a rainbow appeared to the east, it was very fat and rather short, but the colors were vivid. When we started riding back home, half the sky was clear and the rest was gunmetal grey with heavy rain showing in the southeast. As we drove home we could see the setting sun as a slit in the western sky below a bank of very dark grey clouds. It looked like the sky was broken and liquid sunlight was seeping through the cracks.

All this talk of flowers is making me jealous. We've still got a few weeks before everything bursts into bloom. The azaleas are starting to bloom and of course all the flowering crabs and cherries, but the rhodedendrons, peonies, lavendar, etc., are awaiting warmer days. I have a lot of morning glory sprouts that I will set out this weekend, I just hope the critters don't dig them up.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | May 22, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

The squirrels are digging in the pots of double impatiens on my front porch, so I sprinkled cayenne on the soil this afternoon. Fortunately, they hadn't uprooted the plants. That would have made me mad. I'll have to remember to keep the cayenne replenished until they get the memo.

Cosmos! D@mn earwigs eat my seedlings and I never get past that stage. I bought some more seed, maybe next week I'll have time to plant them in pots so they can get big enough to withstand the insect assault.

My columbines are long past. Last year, I cut them back hard and they came back and bloomed a second time. I may try that again. The rhododredrons are fading and I really need to cut back the spent rose blooms. Irises are done, but the new bed of daylilies looks good; I hope they do well there. The shasta daisies in the side yard are doing well but not those I tried to divide in the back.

CP, my two lavender plants went wild last year, so I cut them back hard and expected to have to replace them. But they are growing well. The rosemary is getting ginormous. It looks so shabby and ragged until the weather warms, and then it grows gangbusters. It overpowered the chives, so I had to buy and plant more. The annual herbs are in an iron washpot that came with the house. It's cracked, so I can plant whatever I want in it and nobody cares.

Posted by: slyness | May 22, 2008 10:11 PM | Report abuse

So I'm reading Minxterbloom and it's official. I can no longer read Emily Dickinson without singing you know what.

In other news, my Concise Oxford says that "raspberry" as in "pffllb" originates in the Cockney rhyming slang term "raspberry tart". Aye-art? Nope. Keep going.

Nelson, good job. I think you should do some kind of computer coup d'etat and take over one of the blogs. Maybe the never-quite-airborne Short Stack.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 22, 2008 10:59 PM | Report abuse

This buyout stuff is so sad for Post readers...

Posted by: TBG | May 22, 2008 11:02 PM | Report abuse

This months Wired has a contrarian article that says if we want to stop global warming we need to embrace nukes.

Here's a hug:

***big big nukey bear hug***

It also says that buying a used Geo Metro has a smaller carbon footprint than getting a new Prius.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Wow, TBG.

That buyout is not cutting fat. It is hatcheting out muscle, sinew, tendons, and bones. Perhaps even a few vital organs.

On the other hand, Joel's parking space just got three years closer.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 22, 2008 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I cut back all my Spanish lavender today, thinking of you easterners who haven't gotten to see it yet. The English lavender, (three plants)is just beginning to bloom. Wish I kept decent records, I love these, they have dark green leaves. Also have some with grey leaves that I don't like so much.

Roses are just about done with the first bloom, daylilies are bracing for a color storm. I love spring!

Posted by: nellie | May 22, 2008 11:09 PM | Report abuse

It's odd that raspberry would trigger the memory of soft drinks. Yet another sign of middle age.

then this stream of consciousness thing...

Old Folks Boogie
-- Paul Barrere, Gabriel Paul Barrere

Off our rockers, actin' crazy
With the right medication we won't be lazy
Doin' the old folks boogie
Down on the farm
Wheelchairs, they was locked arm in arm
Paired off pacemakers with matchin' alarms
Gives us jus' one more chance
To spin one more yarn

And you know that you're over the hill
When your mind makes a promise that your body can't fill
Doin' the old folks boogie
And boogie we will
'Cause to us the thought's as good as a thrill

Back at the home,
No time is your own,
Facillities there, they're all out on loan
The bank forclose, and your bankruptcy shows
And your credit creeps to an all-time low
So you know, that you're over the hill
When your mind makes a promise that your body can't fill

Try and get a rise from an atrophied muscle,
And the nerves in your thigh just quivers and fizzles
So you know, that you're over the hill
When your mind makes a promise that your body can't fill

Posted by: jack | May 22, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I read the names and I was reassured to see the only writer I actually read enough to miss would be Rick Weiss (The science reporter). Kornheiser hasn't actually written new material for the Post since 2005, so...

It's just over 10% of the workforce being bought out. That always hurts but often works out long-term in that those who do not feel comfortable staying can opt out.

And I agree that bus service should get priority.

As far as I am concerned, Metrobus really helped me NOT have to get a car, but the major downside is that the buses don't run enough, and they need to reorganize that and also improve where they select their bus stops, so people don't get stuck waiting for nearly a hour or more in deserted, unsafe neighborhoods with nobody about.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 22, 2008 11:49 PM | Report abuse

I am amazed that the highest circulation figure for the WaPost was not 1 million. It is such a huge area, what were all those people doing to get information? And so much good stuff to read?

I left the area before the internet took over communication. So, even tho I read the WaPo via the internet, I still think every person in the greater Washington area is reading the print edition. And I envy them.

Posted by: nellie | May 22, 2008 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Wow - Thomas Ricks, David Broder (although his column will still appear), Stephen Hunter, Desson Thomson (I'll miss him the most, and Rick Weiss).

BTW, remember that the postage rates went up last week - 42 cents for a letter. I mailed my kid his birthday card Monday, with a check inside, and stuck one of my beloved knit Christmas stamps on it. I've been using Forever stamps for so long, that I had completely lost track of when the rates were to go up. Of course, as I drove down the road after putting the card in the blue mailbox, I remembered they were going up sometime...But either the Post Office took pity on me, or they thought it was a stray Christmas card (it was in a red envelope) - he got the card.

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 23, 2008 12:09 AM | Report abuse

slyness, thanks for the book hint--"God's Secretaries" sounds interesting. I just went to my library website and put a hold order on it.

Posted by: kbertocci | May 23, 2008 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Thank you bia and scottynuke! I need reassurance occasionally that my quips and quirks aren't just jibberish chatter to be ignored. I love birds! Such a revelation, I know.

Mudge, I hugged my tall manly redheaded husband tonight at your suggestion and you are right... a skin to skin hug is so therapeutic especially after a hard day at the office or after learning bad news. Bad news seems to be all around us these days. We all need each other more than ever.

Oh, I thought American Idol was the best yet. Loved the music and the artists like Seal and Bryan Adams, ZZ Top and all the rest. I was singing and dancing in my living room. This is what we all need more of..g-rated fun for the family complete with a competitive edge which we Americans thrive upon. David Cook rocks!

Night all.

Posted by: eidrib | May 23, 2008 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Oh, they never go unignored, eidrib.

Yet, like the sparrow described by Thomas Aquinas, you flit through rather quickly by the time we realize you're here, you've flown right out.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 23, 2008 12:43 AM | Report abuse

FYI, those in the neighborhood, Obama's itinerary has a new stop this Sunday:

Posted by: Anonymous | May 23, 2008 12:53 AM | Report abuse

No, eidrib, you're not ignored. When I come on, you've probably already gone to bed. It's always nice to read your report.

We've got some pretty birds here. I tried googling them for their names but no luck. We've got a lot of water hens running around. One of the reasons why they are not been trapped for food is that they are just skin and bones. The other reason is that they could speed like road runners.

The Post buyout is very sad. The way News Corp go gobbling up other newspapers, I hope the day will never come when WaPo and NYT gets gobbled up by it as well.

Posted by: rainforest | May 23, 2008 2:32 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Morning, morning, friends. It is five o'clock in the morning, and this soul could not sleep any longer. I am trying to decide if I should attend the funeral of one of our deacons. The funeral is at eleven o'clock this morning. It will take me this long to be ready by eleven.

Morning, martooni. I had a good laugh at your "methane footprint" remark.

Morning, Slyness, Mudge, Scotty, and all.*waving* Scotty, I'm trying to find the coffee. Hope your luck is better than mine in that endeavor.

My neighbor has been removed from her apartment and is now in a nursing home somewhere in the mountains. I did not get a chance to see her before she left. I went to visit a friend at the nursing home yesterday, and he was not feeling well at all. He told me what was going on with him, and there were tears in his eyes. I prayed for him, but it does hurt.

Friends, the best help you can give me is a word of prayers. Please.

Posted by: cassandra s | May 23, 2008 5:48 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Cassandra. Good morning everyone else up early. I just posted a new kits, lots of pics. I'm back in the USA, happy to be home!

Posted by: Achenbach | May 23, 2008 6:04 AM | Report abuse

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