SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens
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SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens
December 1996

(formerly the _Rochester Rag_, formerly the _News from Detroit_)

Motto: The surest way to get a reputation for being a trouble maker these days is to go about repeating the very phrases that the Founders used in the struggle for independance.

-- C.A. Beard


Steve Langer
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On last month's Fix;

the answer to last month's Fix,

"Frontier research is dead in 
America. Particle physics, manned space flight,in short all those things 
which give humanity a new frontier to explore and a reason to grow. Comment 
on any possible effects and solutions."


Humanity is at its best when its striving to conquer the unknown, to reach the next horizon, in a word - to explore. World history shows that civilizations fall then they have reached the Zenith of their accomplishments. Rome, Greece, Portugal - all fell into the dust when they grew complacent and comfortable - when they ceased to strive. This phenomenon was described by Doug Adam's in his book, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." According to the book, "The history of mankind can be characterized by three phases which are: survival, science and sophistication. The first phase can be characterized by the question, "How shall we eat?" The second by the question, "Why do we eat?" And the third by the question, "Where shall we do lunch?"

America is in the third phase. I'm afraid that if we don't find another frontier, we are going to enter a terminal decline. Another author has commented on this. Bill Bennet, drug czar under Ronald Reagen and author of "The Book of Virtues" has a new book out called "Slouching Towards Gommorah." He argues that the increasingly passive response of the average American to what would have been outrageous just 10 years ago (murder and pregnancy rates among children for starters), shows that we have taken a fork in the road - and there may be no turning back.

I must disagree and I know many of you will think this is uncharacteristic, but I'm somewhat hopeful for the future. The move to deevolve power from Wash. D.C. back towards the states is one positive trend. Another is, despite media claims to the contrary, I think that America racial and gender interrelationships are really quite progressive. Finally, polls show that Generation Xers believe they are more likely to be abducted by space aliens than to see a Soc. Sec. check when they retire. They could just cynically resign themselves to that fate, but instead they are actively looking into self reliant ways of providing for their futures.

Finally, if market reforms continue in the former Soviet Union, and we can keep China contained until she implodes, the future of international scientific cooperation is brighter than it has been since the late 1800s. Granted, this is not a good time to be a particle physicist, and a generation of those currently trained will be lost in their search to put food on the table by being programmers. But I see a time, perhaps around 2005, when some large high energy and cooperative space ventures will once again glimmer in the eyes of politicians.

On a Self Serving Announcement;

On 7 June 1997, your's truly will wed the best pal a guy could have, Miss Sheryl Quimby (sorry Chuck). The neptuals are to be in Rochester MN and you are all invited. I'll give you more info. when Sheryl gives it to me ;-)

On the Holidays in Seattle;

Contrary to common perception, Seattle is not just on the water, it is surrounded by it. LIke Madison Wisconsin, Seattle is on an isthmus, salt water to the West (Puget Sound) and fresh to the East (Lake Washington). Lake Washington is crossed by two floating bridges, I520 near the North bank, and I90 near the south bank. This abundance of water is played up at all occasions - even XMas. On Wen. while I was driving to work at 8 am, a water skiing Santa Claus was covorting near the 520 bridge. Tonight as I was driving home, the annual parade of boats was occuring. During each of the five nights preceeding XMas eve, the yachts and boats on Lake Washington form an armada and cruise around the LakeShore. Its really quite beautiful. If only the traffic on the 520 didn't come to a dead stop to watch.

On an Ugly Truth;

I really wanted to avoid this. I was trying to make this issue a bubbling cauldron of good cheer to celebrate my aforementioned engagement and usher in the new year. And in time I'll probably look back on these events and chuckle. However, long time readers will know that a recurring theme in this rag is how the govt. enjoys shafting the governed. Expose`s on Randy Weaver, the Branch Davideans and other tales have all been along those lines. But as compelling as those tales are, they do not really bring home the point to some people as much as a personal shafting, albeit a non-lethal one.

Let me confess to all those who read this rag that in the eyes of the State of Wisconsin, I am guilty of grand theft - auto. It's true. In 1989, my parents bought a Ford Escort (on my behalf) from a local mechanic who was selling it for one of his woman clients. Doris gave my parents a hand written bill of sale, accepted a check, and turned over the keys with the promise that she'd mail the vehicle title. In the meantime, my mother got a temporary Wisconsin registration, which I turned over in Michigan to get a Michigan registration, and thence surrendered in Minnesota to get a Minnesota registration. During that six year period, the title was never transferred to my parents - or me. But that trifling detail got lost among the years of graduate school. While in MN I bought a Toyota 4Runner which I now have in Seattle. I thought I'd turn the Escort back over to my parents for their use and so that I've have wheels on my vacations back to the midwest. Not finding the title among my IMPORTANT PAPERS, I went to the State of Wisconsin DMV to file for a title replacement.

Spread 'em mister!

Well actually, they didn't cart me off. I was able to produce Doris' handwritten bill of sale (an obvious forgery to a hardbitten DMV dude) and the Ford original-owner metal tag made out to her (this of course only proved that I took it off her cold dead body after I murdered her.) None of this mattered. I then produced the current MN registration, primae facie evidence in MN that I am the car's owner. Lies lies ALL of it LIES.

"Ok", I said reasonably calmly I thought, "so since my mother filed for the original registration, why didn't the failure to produce a title trigger sending a denial of Registration to her? She's lived at the same address since 1955! Furthermore, since I surrendered the WI registration to MI, the state of MI should have gotten a message from you so they could have denied me a MI registration. WHat happened there?"

"I don't know said the DMV man. But you must hunt down Doris and convince her that you actually own the car, or she could press charges."

Note here the typical response of a law enforcement type. The state is never at fault, you are, and even if it's the state's fault, its you who will pay the price. So my liberty hangs on the whim of a woman I've never met who may have questionable mental faculties.

Now the preceeding was really just an annoyance. What follows is even more illustrative and is based on true events that happened to a friend of mine. Imagine you are driving along Friday night and get pulled over for speeding. You were doing 38 in a 30, you shrug, figure what the hell, and prepare to take your punishment. The cop comes back, orders you out of the car, demands your license, informs you that you are being charged for driving on a suspended license and has your car towed. Dumbstruck, you argue that can't possibly be true, you just had your car insurence redone by a new company in order to get cheaper rates. They checked the state DMV computers and confirmed that you qualify for the cheapest "preferred rate" insurance. Nevertheless, you find yourself taking a cab home and the next day you and a freind take a cab to the impoundment where you spend $50 to free your car so the friend can drive it home. On Monday you call DMV to find out what the HELL is going on. You find out that you have an unpaid parking and speeding ticket, both from 1993. The parking ticket started at $3 and through the miracle of exponentially compounded interest is now at $53 (bet CitiCorp would like 123% per year). The $50 dollar speeding ticket is now at $250, and due to non-payment and a no-show at court, your license was suspended and you now have an additional $250 driving on a suspended license ticket.

"But I payed that ticket," you scream. "Got a receipt?", they ask. "Hell no, it was three years ago and I paid cash", you say (realizing that it would have been better if you'd used a check so the bank would have the cancelled check). You begin to learn the value of paranoia.

"But wait, my insurance company just upgraded my driving record on the say so of your computers, and I just sent in my license renewal last month, why haven't I heard anything from the Licence department?" A shrug is the only answer. "I've lived in the same place since 1991, why didn't you send another bill for the tickets?" Another shrug.

Defeated, you ask what your options are. "Well you can plead guilty now, pay the $550 in fines and get a permit to drive to work for the 30 days of your suspension, or plead innocent, pay the fines and go to court where the Judge may still find you guilty and put you on suspension for 30 days."

Some choice, pay now and drive on restrictions now, or pay now and get restricted later. In either case I want you to note those operant words, "pay now." The moral here is that traffic tickets are a form of legal extortion.

When you begin to realize that all govt. is aimed at control and extortion - you'll begin to make some headway. Play poker with your buds at home, that's criminal. Play Lotto, that's patriotic. Build a house on the beach on your own property - erosion, habitat loss. Bury barrels of toxic waste from the defense dept. along a watershed, hey that's national security. Those who make and enforce the rules are very rarely ever subject to them, and then only once. If you studies recent cases where the US has been sued successfully, the laws are changed immediately afterwords so that no one can succeed again.

Merry Xmas.

On things that drive me nuts;

Yeah, this could be getting to be a column. This month, software stupidity. This past Monday I was installing Matlab for Windows on my PC. Matlab is not cheap, it costs around $800 for the base package, and we have additional toolboxes (3) at another $150 or so each. So I'm installing this thing, get to the end of the 8 disks of the main part and it asks, "Would you like to install some additional toolboxes now?" I say "Sure" and install the image and signal processing modules without incident. Then I try the last, the wavelet module. After nearly reading the entire first disk, Windows reports that the floppy is corrupt "Retry or Cancel?". I press cancel. The Matlab Installer comes back "Unable to read disk - retrying" whereupon I get back to the Windows warning box, "This floppy corrupt. Retry or Cance?" A closed loop. No way out.

I sit and ponder my options. There really is only one. I consider the package managment tools available under the free Linux operating system which will log an installation's progress, and be able to resume if interuppted. Linux - that wild collection of free software brought together by teeming hoards of unscrupulous hackers, most of them pimply face and pre-pubescent. I consider the professionalism of Windows developers, those suit wearing, proud upstanding paragons of responsible and secure corporate data warehouses. And I press "Reset" and waste another 1/2 hour redoing the installation from scratch.

Today I come to work and try to launch Microsoft Excel on my Mac the same way that I have done for the past month. It will not start. It gives the error, "Unable to find MicrosoftVisualBasicAppsLib." Dutifully, I search the hard drive for the named file, and cannot find it. I go to three other Macs in our area. Their Excels work, but they don't have the file on disk either. Confused, I decide to reinstall Excell from scratch. During the installation, the installation program says I need more memory to run Excel. I abort the installation to investigate. I have 32 MB on the machine. I highlight the Excel icon and use the Mac Finder's "Get Info" function. It says Excel wants 48 MB of RAM. Now this is interesting becuase on previous occasions, I've noticed it "only" uses 6. Nevertheless, I up the the virtual memory to 64 MB and voila, Excel starts. Now think what this means. The file that it could not find before it now finds because there is more RAM. In other words, this "file" is a runtime file, never on disk at all. And the error was due not to the missing file, but to insufficient memory. I exit Excel, recheck the memory it wants, and now it wants 6 MB.

I've just wasted 2 hours hunting down a transient bug caused by Excel spontaneously reassigning its memory requirements all becuase the error it gave me sent me hunting for a non-existent file. And Bill Gates is the richest man in America!

Guest Editorial:

no one submitted anything, hence none


1. Sheryl writes;

Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 11:21:00 +0000
From: RSC!RSC! (Sheryl Quimby)
Subject: FW: The New Priest

Ok, so us Catholics aren't perfect either!
From: Dan Perrier
To: Sheryl Quimby
Subject: The New Priest
Date: Thursday, December 12, 1996 11:17AM

The New Priest

A new priest at his first mass was so nervous he could hardly
speak. After mass he asked the monsignor how he had done.  The
monsignor replied, "When I am worried about getting nervous on the
pulpit, I put a glass of vodka next to the water glass.  If I
start to get nervous, I take a sip."  So the next Sunday he took
the monsignor's advice.

At the beginning of the sermon, he got nervous and took a
drink. He proceeded to talk up a storm.  Upon return to his
office after mass, he found the following note on his door:

1. Sip the Vodka, don't gulp.
2. There are 10 commandments, not 12.
3. There are 12 disciples, not 10.
4. Jesus was consecrated, not constipated.
5. Jacob wagered his donkey, he did not bet his ass.
6. We do not refer to Jesus Christ as the late J.C.
7. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are not referred to as Daddy,
Junior, and Spook.
8. David slew Goliath, he did not kick the shit out of him.
9. When David was hit by a rock and knocked off his donkey,
don't say he was stoned off his ass.
10. We do not refer to the cross as the Big T!
11. When Jesus broke the bread at the Last Supper he said, "Take
this and eat it, for it is my body", he did not say, "Eat
12. The Virgin Mary is not referred to as the, "Mary with the
13. The recommended grace before a meal is not: "Rub-A-dub-dub,
thanks for the grub, yeah God."
14. Next Sunday there will be a taffy-pulling contest at St.
Peter's, not a peter-pulling contest at St. Taffy's.
And then Sheryl adds the following;

Could you please add the following message to the News!
I took the liberty of cleaning up the message so it is easier to read.
and don't forget to send your copy back to Houghton Mifflin, the address is
Houghton Mifflin Interactive is sponsoring the Polar Bear Express Share the
Spirit Campaign.  For every 25 e-mail messages they receive, HMI will donate
a copy of The Polar Bear Express or another Children's book to a children's
Hospital.  The goal this year is to receive 50,000 messages, and thereby
give away 2,000 books.  Send an e-mail to: and tell your pals to do the same.  Have a Happy Holiday.
This is any easy way to help out this Christmas.
Richard L. Koca, Sr.,
Founder & National Executive Director, StandUp For Kids 

2. Tom Hall writes;

From: Tom Hall 
Subject: Re: lastcall
Status: R
>"The era of mind expanding frontier science (space expo, high
>energy physics, etc) is over. Speculate on possible outcomes
>and fixes."
Get everyone REALLY interested in the water on the moon and the life on
Mars.  Let's terraform the universe!
   It's really kind of hard to get people excited about high energy physics,
really.  It's just not sexy to the layman.  If somehow quarks were made up
of particles that could make a beam that would blow up asteroids, or that
would make Claudia Schiffer fall in love with you, then there would be a lot
of funding.
   ##  *** \   +------------------+
  ** __  __|   | Tom Hall         |
  (|  o \ o|)  | Game Designer    |
  **     \ |   | Ion Storm        |
   **  ****|   | |
  **  * O *|   +------------------+
  ** \__,_/*
 **/      \**

Ed: Unfortunetly, without some major breakthroughs in basic physics, we'll never have a propulsion system capable of taking us beyond our solar system. So, like, the Buck Rogers needs high energy physics. "Why?", you ask. Well, consider a ranking of the four basic forces and their coupling constants. I'll do this from strongest to weakest and try to get the relative magnitudes right (I'm doing this from memory so Chuck or Rooster may have to correct me).

  Force         Particle        Coupling Magnitude
  strong        gluon           10^23
  electromag    photon          10^0
  weak          W, Z            10^-13
  gravity       graviton        10^-23

Now assuming I'm close, this means that if it takes 1 Watt to lift something electromagnetically, it would take 10^23 Watts to do it with a gravitational "magnet". To build a Start Trekian "Warp Drive" which surrounds a ship with its own personal black hole would take more power than the sun produces in, well a few years. Without some very clever new physics at the fundemental force level, we'll never leave our solar system.

Quotes(s) of the month:

"You know you're mature when you no longer do things that you have to make excuses for, and no longer make excuses for the things you have to do."

-- Marilynn Vos Savant

Fix of the month:

Optimism; how do you maintain it?



1. Olympia, Dec. 15: While still King County Commissioner, Gary Locke promised Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen that he could get the city to raze the current Kingdome and build a larger dome if Allen would agree to purchase the financially ailing Seattle Supersonics. Locke pointed to this deal repeatedly during the governor's race as an example of how he was a pro-business Dem. It now turns out that Locke did not have the authority to make this deal, and Allen is backing out.

Meanwhile, Seattle's neighboring city to the south, Tacoma, just happens to have a large sports dome with no team to put into it. Odd as it sounds, Tacoma has historically been jealous of Seattle's preeminance, both as a port, and a commerce and cultural center. Tacoma built the dome about 10 years ago in the expectation that it would lure a team to the city. That team may be the Sonics.

2. Redmond, Dec. 19: In a decorative pond near the Microsoft campus, a hen mallard was noticed swimming sluggishly. Concerned observers noticed a dart sticking out of her back. The local TV news stations lost no time in sending out crews to the area to cover the animal control team's rescue of the duck, and subsequent ambulance ride to the Vet. clinic. Emergency surgery was performed and for the past two days, TV viewers were riveted to their screens, observing the duck's XRays, surgery and post-op recovery. The KOMO News station is taking up a collection to pay for the $2200 bill. The city waits with baited breath for the reintroduction of the duck to the "wild", and a $500 reward is being offered for the foul miscreant responsible.

Ed: We hope none of these folks will have a fowl XMas dinner.

3. Seattle, Dec. 20: The man who made the phrase "billions and billions" famous passed away from bone cancer yesterday. Carl Sagan was being treated at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Center.

New York;

1. Wall Street J., Dec. 16: A new Reuters poll shows that only 51% of the ppublic think that the major news media get the facts right. 75% think that the media is biased. 41% believe that the they are intentionally dishonest, and 34% belive that reporters should be liable for damages caused by inaccurate reporting.

2. Harlem, Dec. 20: For those who haven't read it, "Primary Colors" is advertized by its anonymous author as a work of fiction about a southern governor who runs for the Presidency. In it, the Govnr (Jack Stanton) has a quick one night affair with a woman who heads up an adult literacy clinic. Now, Kay Carter, a woman who heads up an adult literacy clinic in Harlem, is suing the book's author (who we've since learned is xxx xxx of the Wash. Post) for deformation of character. The book describes a campaign visit by the govnr. to the clinic and in fact this actually occurred during the Clinton campaign, as well as many other events related in the book. Carter is claiming that "its common knowledge that this book is based on true events, and by extension everyone will think that I slept with Pres. Clinton. Well I did not."

So interestingly, we have the first woman to step into the legal limelight with Mr. CLinton and deny having sex with him, and the anon. author of a work of fiction is being sued for slander.

Ed: Paula Jones sex harrasment case against the real Bill CLinton is scheduled to go before the supreme Court in January.

Washington D.C.

1. Dec. 13; Pres. Clinton revealed in a news conference today he will renew Janet Reno's tenure as Director of FBI. There was considerable thought among pundits that Reno would get the boot due to here appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Whitewater, but the Admin. has apparently come to the conclusion that Reps. would sieze on this for political gain.

2. Dec. 13; Jan Reno had a busy week. She also argued a case in front of the supreme Court. At issue, should law enforcement be able to routinely order the passengers in a vehicle to exit and be searched, even if only the driver was the cause for the stop? Reno said yes, but the Court may wonder what effect this would have on bus passengers if the bus driver was speeding.

3. Dec. 12: The CLinton Admin. suggested that they would consider a 25% cutback in heating assistance aid for the nation's poor as a means of further reducing the national debt. House Dems. praised the president for his open minded approach.

4. Dec. 17: Following weekend rallys in Maine and New York demonstrating against heating assistance cutbacks, Clinton said in a press release today that, "No American will suffer increased hardship in the winter months under his administration." Dem. Congressman Gephardt praised the President for his compassion.

Net News;

1. From the Dr. Science list server;
Dear Dr. Science,
My mother loves chocolate and I hate it.  How can we have such vastly
different reactions to the same food?
------------------- Mary Porter, Fort Dodge, IA
Chocolate is the most co-dependent of foods.  It becomes what it thinks you
want it to be.  In your mother's case, a reward, and in your case, a
You could change your relationship to chocolate, but it would involve
changing your relationship with yourself and that takes a lot of work.  My
guess is your revulsion for chocolate isn't great enough to prompt you to
action.  If you were surrounded by chocolate and still found it repulsive,
eventually you'd be in enough pain to either unconditionally accept
chocolate or remove yourself from the situation.  But you're not there yet.

You're reading the Dr. Science Question of the day. Send questions for Dr.
Science to and visit him in his virtual laboratory
TO UNSUBSCRIBE: Do NOT reply to this message, PLEASE.  Instead, send a
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2. And from another source

>From Fri Dec 20 03:40:32 1996 

>From  Thu Dec 19 14:56:35 1996
Date: Thu, 19 Dec 1996  2:57pm
From: "RODRIGUEZ Ismael" 
Subject: FW: Twas the night before Christmas
From: GABEL Chris
Subject: Twas the night before Christmas
Date: Thursday, December 19, 1996 2:17PM
This was always one of my favorite holiday stories:
My dad and his friend was stationed in the Pittsburg with the bomb squad in
the mid 70's. So that might help explain this little incident.
Well, here it goes;
There was a certain sergeant that was stationed with my dad in Pittsburgh.
 This sergeant (who will remain nameless) had three children with ages
something like 3, 4, and 8.  These smiling little commercialized children
decided to drive their already unstable father (let's face it, to play with
bombs all day you can't be all there) a little more insane.  Their loving
father came up with a plan.  The plan needed a few things.  They were
1 Neighbor
1 Ring of sleigh bells
1 Bag of goodies
and finally
1 Shotgun
Being Christmas Eve, the excited children in this particular household
decided to attempt to push daddy over the edge (some people still think it
was to grab his disability checks after they got him committed).  Daddy got
even.  His neighbor rang the sleigh bells outside the house just so that the
children could bearly hear them.  Of course they were ecstatic.  Their
father moved like a shot towards the closet with the statement "That son of
a bitch isn't going to ruin my roof this year" and ran outside slamming the
door behind him.  The children were in a panic saying things like "daddy is
going to shoot Santa Claus".  While the father was outside already he
figured why not fire a few shots in the air for effect.  So he did.  After
that he went inside with he bag of toys and stated that "He missed that
damn fat guy and his sleigh, but he dropped this as he was trying to get
away".  From then on the children were on their best behavior not to piss
off dad before Christmas and always promised to fix the roof by New Years.

Please note the Steve Langer "Sea Views" is available on the web at: