Straight Dope Scrapbook

The Straight Dope, Cecil Adams, Chicago, emails a newsletter every Friday. (I read it, but my patience with their clowning wears thin.)

Star Trek Diffraction Limit
2015 09 20 http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/3254/would-aliens-looking-at-us-from-100-light-years-away-see-earth-as-it-was-a-century-ago?dm_i=2JCR,EZ6I,2KTRL0,YQAD,1
I still read every damn emailed feature and browse through the attached “classics”. My patience is worn extremely thin but the article just linked actually alerts me to a couple of astronomical issues I hadn’t been aware of. Thank you, refreshing. It answers questions I hadn’t asked but should have. I’ll introduce the issue in my own way: decades ago I first looked up my address in a satelite image. Sure enough, there was my trailer as photographed from space: but only large objects registered. My car was not visible: too small. I certainly, had I been standing there when the sat shutter clicked, would not have been visible. So, no, Dorothy: if we trained a telescope on Versailles from a star system of a distance where 17 century light would just be reaching us, Versailles would be visible, but not King Louis: not Colbert, not his girl friends.

2015 06 07 DisInter

Dear Cecil:
How old do human remains, graves, etc., have to be before digging them up is OK? If I go to a cemetery and dig somebody’s remains up, it will undoubtedly make front-page news, especially if I put what I find on display on my mantel. However, museums are filled with really old dead people and their artifacts. Is it just that these people’s relatives are no longer around?
— John E. Riley, Berkeley Heights, New Jersey
Cecil replies:
I’m tempted to ask what prompted this inquiry, but I’ll leave you and your god to resolve that between yourselves.

That just might be the straw that breaks this camel’s back: offensively obtuse, suicidally blasphemous. Cecil will leave it to the guy and his god?! The truth is up to Cecil? Cecil outranks the god?
This is an example of my “Let It Be” syndrome: the Beatles.
No congregation really believes the god is above them; in all cases they’re above the god. The Jews make the important decisions, not Jahweh.

2014 11 07 I love this one:

I’m sure you saw the story about the man who decided to cross 1,000 miles of ocean from Florida to Bermuda in an inflatable bubble. Several days later, he had to be rescued via helicopter. That probably wasn’t cheap, and someone has to pay for it, and I suspect it ends up being you and me. My guess is knowing someone will try to rescue them is why daredevils take these risks. But why should the taxpayers have to cover the cost?

Cecil begins his answer

You sound like a sensible chap who never puts himself in idiotic situations, Jim. I’m sure you floss twice a day and never mix beer with liquor. Taxpayers around the country applaud your efforts. Luckily, not everyone thinks like you — otherwise we never would have put a man on the moon.

This is exactly the theme of the novel I began sketching in 1989, to have been titled Primitive Access. It’s the novel that finally stopped me from writing novels, and instead writing more of what had always gotten me in trouble since grade school.
In sum, I’m on the side or the guy with the question and against Cecil and his answer: rescue should be up to self, friends, family, fellow adventurers; not the public. There should be no central kleptocratic authority taxing the public. Get in trouble? ask God to bail you out, or get out yourself: rescue services should exist only for those who can themselves pay.
I’ll say more under Primitive Access in my writing section: Fiction, Novels.

2014 08 31 The Straight Dope’s newsletter features a new question and answer per week: and also features selected reprints. A recent issue repeated Cecil & staff’s comments on obsessions about virginity: girls are told not to jump, not to ride: neither horse nor bicycle, and absolutely not a boys’ bicycle with its bar: it’s OK to rupture the boy, not the girl’s cherry: ruins her bride price. Cecil reviewed cultures around the world where a marriage that doesn’t produce a bloody sheet the morning after the honeymoon may result in the murder of the bride. Of course Cecil goes on about the big business of falsifying such evidence: surgeons who resew torn hymens …
Apropos I post a pic:

cheersaloft

Who’s protecting this girl from the guy’s thumb? Obviously only a family that cared nothing about their wealth would permit a daughter to try cheerleading.
When I was in the seventh grade my dance partner invited me to her house to help choreograph a routine. She wanted me to put my hand under her thigh at her crotch, help her hold her leg up and out: I’d be offstage, the audience would see her leg sticking out, staying horizontal for a long time, invisibly supported. I went catatonic: couldn’t cooperate. I never did explain to that girl what went wrong: but how could she not have known? But then trained to the stage, not to the bride market, she must have been a whore anyway, right?
I’m scribbling, not composing with care: I hope you see that I regard human attitudes toward virginity (and “evidence” of virginity) in the highest contempt.
Wonderful girl btw, I wish I could see her again. I wish I could hold her thigh today. She phoned me, out of the blue, a couple of New Years ago: sixty years since that incident.

2014 08 08 It’s Friday, the Dope letter comes on Fridays, I just read more Cecil & Co. And he’s done it again: someone asked about the efficacy of sucking on zinc as a cure for the common cold. Cecil reported studies as contradictory, first I’m hearing about any of it. But then he brought up “controversy” about vitamin C. He didn’t mention Linus Pauling, didn’t mention Linus Pauling’s accusation of evidence tilting on the part of the cold-dependent medical industry. Science got sabotaged: nothing new there. Docs and pharms are in the drivers seat, nothing new there. What’s ludicrous is that anyone’s talking about science!
Cecil makes a good living, has fame, researching things, then leaving out the evidence of tampering that his own industry is a leader in.
pk says it’s obvious: if you support compulsory schooling, compulsory military service, compulsory tax collecting and spending … then you can’t reasonably discuss anything with an expectation of being swallowed as reasonable!

2014 07 25 Two things this week: Inter-species sex; Mapping history through racism

Inter-species sex http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/3172/has-a-human-ever-been-raped-by-a-dolphin
Good: except for one thing: Cecil doesn’t mention Carl Sagan’s experience getting goosed by the erection of a dolphin as reported by Gregory Bateson. Here are two important (late) scientists, the latter the greatest of all science teachers: no mention. But then Cecil cooperates with his newspaper’s staging that he, Cecil, is the source of all awe-due ratiocination.
Racism / History How come Europeans dominated the rest of the world and not vice versa?
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1238/how-come-europeans-dominated-the-rest-of-the-world-and-not-vice-versa
OK, but once again, the most important study, the first (maybe the only) scientific study of the question, gets short notice down column toward the bottom. Shameful, unless you remember: they’re just magicians, stage setters: temple priests juggling myths in a cosmetic mirror.

Magic Mao: Getting Head Off the State
2014 02 21 Was Chairman Mao a pedophile?
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/3150/was-chairman-mao-a-pedophile
Read it, I quote just part: Mao “was happiest and most satisfied with several young women simultaneously sharing his bed,” Li writes. “He encouraged his sexual partners to introduce him to others for shared orgies, allegedly in the interest of his longevity and strength.”
Dope also says that Mao had and passed the clap, didn’t wash, didn’t brush his teeth. Good Gosh.
I heard of a pope who was so fat that they only way he could get it in involved the aid of a modified table. The whore lay on the table, the pope stood at the end of the table, the table’s wood was jigsawed so that his belly was lifted out of the way … Popes aren’t supposed to fuck, but of course they do, popes are people, that’s what people do. But they don’t do it openly.
Who does have multiple-partner orgies that are almost public? Basketball players! Wilt bragged about the football sized bed he invited hoards of women to. And Magic Johnson. And a really stupid golfer: but there the fuss was about how many, how regularly, not how many at once. Can you imagine jeopardizing a marriage to the most beautiful girl in the world? Of course he knew her; I only see her: and then only on the web.
I’m reminded of another dictator whose orgies got rumored. Augustus Caesar. He ruled a long time, worked like a bastard was at his desk eighteen hours a day. When the old many finally wanted a little nookie, it wasn’t so easy: he was old, he was distracted. So Gus, on his island retreat, would stand in his swimming pool and cute ittle naked boys were kept on hand to swim between his legs and nibble at his wretched desiccated feeble old balls.

2014 02 14 http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/3149/why-is-public-exposure-of-the-female-nipple-considered-indecent-but-the-exposed-male-nipple-isn-t
Why is public exposure of the female nipple considered indecent but the exposed male nipple isn’t?
Bravo, Cecil here duplicates pk’s own position exactly, cites same source, repeats the account.

2013 12 20 Where did the practice of kissing under the mistletoe arise?
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2378/mistletoe-kissing-origins-why-do-worms-surface-during-rain
Cecil misses another crux. He tells a Germanic legend, fine, but misses the point: mistletoe, being a parasite, remains evergreen. That is, right there, it’s a Christmas tree, older than a Christmas tree, at least in Germanic climes. It embodied immortality for the tribes’ priests: therefore, it was related to love, which engenders another kind of “immortality”: another generation.

2013 11 29 http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/3137/has-a-stopped-clock-ever-really-helped-solve-a-crime
Guy asks Cecil if stopped watches ever determine the time of a crime in real life, a string of examples follow. I wonder why anyone assumes that the victim’s watch was keeping accurate time when it stopped. Right now I’m working on my Mac which updates my clock from the internet throughout the day: if that clock could be frozen, that would tell us something. Look at the other clocks in my possession and you’ll see that no two agree.

2013 10 18 Will Transcendental Meditation enable you to levitate?
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1014/will-transcendental-meditation-enable-you-to-levitate
… the 50-meter aerial dash. When I called Thom to ask about it — he was one of the 1,200 who attended the event in D.C. — he freely conceded it was “a sight to behold.” The contestants weren’t continuously airborne; rather, they proceeded by a series of hops — all this, mind you, in full lotus, the familiar yogic sitting position.
The transcendentals assume the lotus position, hop about, and call it “levitation.” I’m reminded of a favorite Steve Allen gag from the 1960s or thereabouts: Steve interviewed a guy who claimed that he could concentrate brain energy to make water boil. It required effort, discipline, couldn’t be done all at once. How’s it coming, Steve asked. Well, after months and mnoths of effort, his performance was improving: he’d now raised the temperature of a glass of water to “room temperature.”
Bravo. And that’s about how close the yogis have come to levitation.

A skeptic might say it’s ridiculous to call hopping levitation, but Thom says it’s merely the first stage of a three-stage process.

2013 10 11 http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/3130/why-can-t-alcoholics-learn-to-drink-in-moderation
Why can’t alcoholics learn to drink in moderation?
Discusses abstention from alcohol versus moderation in drinking. Good coverage of an insane distinction: ignoring an obvious question of far greater importance: if (a big if) the drinker can abstain, why would s/he ever want to risk moderate indulgence? We have to breathe, eat, move no matter what danger those activities put us in; we do not have to drink!
There’s an additional problem here, little discussed in my experience: some people blessed with non-addictive personalities (and a conventional view of free will) cannot understand addictive personalities. This male can’t understand the menstrual mood, that female can’t understand the drive to climb mountains. And societies can’t understand that some people are not qualified for some discussions. If a bat can’t explain sonar successfully to a worm, I don’t want the bat or the worm to be euthanized; neither do I want them on the Nobel committee.
But, all committees are made up of bats, and worms, and dopes.

2013 09 06 http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/985/why-were-dinosaurs-so-big
Cecil supposedly reviews theories on why dinosaurs got so big. I didn’t seem any reference to the theory I just read about in Johnson’s The Invention of Air: as Priestley began studying and discovering, the atmosphere was different 150 millions years ago: much higher oxygen content. Critters were super-fueled, huge critters could fly!

2013 02 08

Dear Cecil:
My youngest sister was born in a hospital, but my mother was determined to spend as little time as possible there. On leaving the hospital the front desk insisted she had to name the baby and fill out a certificate. My mother insisted she had to do no such thing and she’d register the child at the courthouse in a month when she had decided on a name. Our neighbors were shocked and said, “You can’t just call her ‘the baby’ for a month,” to which I snapped, “That’s better than calling her Tabitha for 90 years.” My mother settled on a name and phoned the courthouse and talked to a clerk who told us it was registered. Four years later she decided to get a copy of my sister’s birth certificate and found the clerk had never filled in the names and the last name alone was listed. I’m not certain why it couldn’t be changed until my sister became 18, but when she tried to register for a driver’s license, a DMV clerk, conflicted between her adamance that a person must be named what is on her birth certificate and her insistence that a person must have a first name, concluded that my sister wasn’t entitled to a driver’s license. She has legally changed her name but even then the clerk insisted, “But what are you changing it from?”
— Nathaniel Meyers, Berkeley, California
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1278/is-it-illegal-to-take-a-newborn-home-from-the-hospital-without-naming-it-first

One idea I’ll want to develop when I can: The bureaucrats wants everything to be convenient for the state, and for the bureaucrat, the hell with liberty, especially individual human liberty. The state has rights, individual component states have rights, maybe you municipality has rights: as well as lawyers, cops, taxes; but do you have any rights? apart from your and the bureaucrat’s imagination?
It was the bureaucrats in Germany who gave the helpless Jews their embarrassing names: Goldstein, Goldblatt, Goldfine …

“What’s your name?”
“Shlomo.”
“What’s your last name? Shlomo What?”
“Shlomo: we Jews don’t have “last” names: I’m Shlomo, son of Avram.”
“Shlomo Christkiller,” writes the bureaucrat.
Then relents, and writes “Shlomo Goldkike.”
Then further relents to “Shlomo Goldman.”

It’s bureaucrats who show their ignorance with their names: The French had colonies, not just the English. They organized territories as “provinces”: provence, just like in France. But then English colonists renamed things, into their own familiar (but irrelevant, wrong) cosmology. The French map says such and such a line divides this province from that province: so the Puritans say, Oh, they must mean Providence: so they miscall the line Providence Line.
The American bureaucrat sees a name in Vietnamese, in Urdu, and “corrects” it into illiterate American English: translating oddity into orthodoxy.

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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