Thursday, May 29, 2014

PanAm's First Moon Flights Club

(Click the images to enlarge them.)

As you can see, I was a charter member of PanAm's First Moon Flights Club.

Even before this, when I was a kid, I hoped to spend New Year's Day 2000 on the moon.

Autographs - Don Knuth

(Click the image to enlarge it.)

Famed computer scientist Don Knuth offers a modest cash reward to the first person who reports any specific error in his books. Many never cash their checks, preferring to display them!

In 1988, I found not one, but two errors in his then new book, Concrete Mathematics. I'm a pretty good proofreader / copy editor. Alas, I was not the first to find either error. I missed by 13 days in the first case.

At the time, Knuth did not use email. I wrote a letter to him about each error, and he replied beneath each letter. So I have his hand-writing twice, but only once did he write his name. Knuth is an author, and the autograph is about his book, but it's one more time I have an author's autograph not in the book.

In the image, Knuth's notes to me are a bit difficult to make out. They read: "previously reported on Oct 5 — please keep trying" and "yup — this is now the second-most-often reported error. I'm glad people are reading it... but sorry for being so erroneous... don".

(Full disclosure: In 2001, I reported what I thought was a misspelled name in a later Knuth book, but he was right and I was wrong. And that time, the correspondence was by email. No autograph.)

(Index of autographs)

Autographs - Paul Hawken

(Click the images to enlarge them.)

I was an avid reader of the Whole Earth Catalog and its spin-offs. Paul Hawken wrote occasional pieces in one of them, CoEvolution Quarterly. It was there that I read his invitation to submit title suggestions for his upcoming book.

I made the winning suggestion, but I wasn't the only one, so he split the cash prize.

This is one more instance of an author autograph not in the book.

(Index of autographs)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Political ads (March 2013)

I sent this letter to the Los Angeles Times (not published):
As a resident of the City of Los Angeles, I've been inundated by campaign mailers for weeks now. I throw them all away without a glance, but I do pause to thank all the electioneers for helping ease the U.S. Postal Service's budget deficit.

Handling crimes on campus

Last week, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about college administrators becoming sexual misconduct detectives. I sent the following letter (not published):
It's clear to me that colleges shouldn't be doing criminal investigations.

Accusers should be given all necessary support and counseling, and they should be told to go to the police to file a criminal complaint.

Friday, May 16, 2014

On GMO foods

1. I don't have a fundamental issue with it.

2. I think GMO labeling will happen. Those who care are already using "No GMO" labels. Big Food is wasting lots of time and money fighting it, only to incite more opposition.

3. Given how pervasive the technology is, the GMO label will be so common that it will quickly become ignored.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On Internet privacy

February 11, 2014 was designated The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance. I wrote a short Facebook post as my contribution:
1. Assume that all data that can be collected will be collected.

2. "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." - Scott McNealy, 1999 (See wikiquote.)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Keep your religion to yourself

In the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling on prayer before government meetings, I sent the following letter to the Los Angeles Times (not published):

Keep your religion to yourself.

Why is that so hard?
Let me elaborate here:

  • If you're not with co-religionists, keep your religion to yourself.
  • Pray anytime and anywhere you like, but silently.
  • If you shove your religion in my face, I may not react sweetly.
  • Don't expect me to respect your religion. I probably respect it less than I do the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
  • I don't want your imaginary god's blessing when I sneeze. Try “Good health to you” or, shorter, “Gesundheit” or “Salud”.
(I wrote much the same a couple of years ago.)
(See also Why I am an angry atheist.)