pyesetz: (Default)
The children’s book section at my local Border’s has been voted “Most Likely to be a Total Fucking Disaster” for three years running.
Rands

* * * * *

The website WorldMeets.US is frequently quoted in the RSS feed I get from TheModerateVoice.com, so I finally went there for a look.  At the bottom they mention the various newspapers they use for sources, including The Canadian which I've never heard of, so I looked at a few of its articles.

The Canadian has a strong focus on LGBT stuff, which is a poor match for the heteronormative lifestyle I'm leading these days, but that's okay.  The articles seem like they were written by people with ADD, veering from one subtopic to another.  Example: this Global Warming article starts out strong, talking about the world's two plutocratic cabals who have taken opposing sides in the debate about what (if anything) we should do about Climate Change.  I was actually hoping that this article would tell me something of interest.  But then it veers off to a discussion about environmental science.  The intro paragraph focuses on "elites" but the concluding paragraph is all about "scientists".  Didn't these people ever learn how to write a five-paragraph essay?

But this article is over the top, treating the domestication of dogs and the existence of alien visitors in flying saucers as equally plausible.  I don't think I'll be adding The Canadian to my RSS feed.  Oh wait—they don't offer RSS!  I guess you can be "socially progressive and cross-cultural" while still living in a Low-Tech world.  And maybe they'd get more respect if they spent $30 to buy a website that's actually named for their paper?  Just a thought...

* * * * *

My laptop works much better now that I finally got another 1GB of RAM for it!  "swapon -s" shows only 5 MB of swap space in use, much better than the 400 MB that I used to see.  Resuming from suspend no longer hangs waiting for lots of disk I/O.  Terminating Opera no longer hangs waiting for whatever it is that program does instead of immediately exiting like I told it to.  Not bad for an upgrade that cost only $56 with tax and shipping.  Still no fancy Compiz effects though.  Those stopped working when the LCD was replaced.  Maybe I could restore them by installing a new OS?  I've had this one for a year.  I'm still running Linux 2.6.27!
pyesetz: (Default)
(Discussing the novel “Tetraktys”, which is like a Dan Brown story where he got his facts straight.)

Asking people to imagine a Dan Brown where he got his fact straight is closer to asking people to imagine what an Agatha Christie novel would read like if set in a postapocalyptic future where giant mutant weasels fight off vampire dogs aided by elves from a parallel universe, in a metaphor for the fifth century Roman Empire and the collapse of the Catholic church.

Performed as a play written in iambic pentameter, and directed by Spike Lee.
pyesetz: (sozont)


My favourite part is the blood spatter that just happens to be covering the spot in the comic's text where a serial comma isn't, and this becomes important four lines later.

When I went to Wikipedia to get that reference for "serial comma", I half-expected to see a trivia item about xkcd's mention of it today, because xkcd is more notable than are serial commas.  But no, and I didn't feel like adding it.
(What?  You wanted more "Mass. Trip of Doom" posts?)
pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069 by William Strauss & Neil HoweAmazon is an attempt to begin constructing the "Science of Psychohistory" that Isaac Asimov imagined for his Foundation Trilogy.  Strauss & Howe stare into the "noise" of our culture (the stuff that we're taught to ignore while looking at the "signal") and find an oscillation in our social values that has been repeating, roughly every 88 years, for more than four centuries.

I think they're basically right that the cyclic instability actually exists, but they fuzz out many "irrelevant" details in order to bring the oscillation into sharp relief.  The book's tone is academic and its structure is quite repetitive, sounding at times like a raw compendium of every paper they're ever written on the topic.

Spoiler: the social-values oscillation is caused by an oscillation in child-rearing practices, which is caused by the relatively low ratio between childhood-length and elderhood-length for our species.  Children tend to repeat the same mistakes that their great-grandparents made because information about those mistakes is not passed on to them.  People live longer nowadays, but they also delay child-bearing more, so the four-generation cycle continues.  Overbearing parents produce children who are less overbearing, producing grandchildren who are allowed to run wild, producing great-grandchildren who are a little stricter, producing great-great-grandchildren who are just as overbearing as their ancestors were 90 years earlier.

Strauss & Howe's viewpoint is almost entirely nationalist—these are the "Generations of America", although the process that causes the oscillation seems to be part of the design of our species and should show up in every culture.  They mention that the American oscillation was originally synchronized to the oscillation in Europe during the founding.  Is Canada's oscillation synchronized to America's because their French and English populations also came from Europe?  Is a "nation" a group of people that oscillate together, but separately from their neighbours?  These cultural-anthropology questions seem to be of no interest to Strauss & Howe, who are apparently sociologists.

I think this is what they have to say about the Global War on Terrorism (bolding is mine):
The Crisis of 2020

When will this crisis come?  The climactic event may not arrive exactly in the year 2020, but it won't arrive much sooner or later.  A cycle is the length of four generations, or roughly 88 years.  If we plot a half cycle head from the Boom Awakening (and find the 44th anniversaries of Woodstock and the Reagan Revolution), we project a criss lasting from 2013 to 2024.  If we plot a full cycle ahead from the last secular crisis (and find the 88th anniversaries of the FDR landslide and Pearl Harbor Day), we project a crisis lasting from 2020 to 2029.  By either measure, the early 2020s appear fateful.

What will precipitate this crisis?  It could be almost anything, including incidents trumped up by a generation of elderly warrior-priests, gripped with visions of moral triumph.  The spark that catches fire may seem accidental, but—as with many past examples (the overthrow of Andros, the Boston Tea Party, Lincoln's election, and Pearl Harbor)—the old Idealists may have a hand in stirring events to maximum political effect, mobilizing younger generations into action.

How significant will this crisis be?  Recall the parallel eras: the Glorious Revolution, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the years spanning the Great Depression and World War II.  The Crisis of 2020 will be a major turning point in American history and an adrenaline-filled moment of trial.  At its climax, Americans will feel that the fate of posterity—for generations to come—hangs in the balance.

What will the national mood be like?  This crisis will be a pivotal moment in the lifecycles of all generations alive at the time.  The sense of community will be omnipresent.  Moral order will be unquestioned, with "rights" and "wrongs" crisply defined and obeyed.  Sacrifices will be asked, and given.  America will be implacably resolved to do what needs doing, and fix what needs fixing.

How will this crisis end?  Three of the four antecedents ended in triumph, the fourth (the Civil War) in a mixture of moral fatigue, vast human tragedy, and a weak and vengeful sense of victory.  We can foresee a full range of possible outcomes, from stirring achievement to apocalyptic tragedy.

What happens if the crisis comes early?  What if the Millennium—the year 2000 or soon thereafter—provides Boomers with the occasion to impose their "millennial" visions on the nation and world?  The generational cycle suggests that the risk of cataclysm would be very high.  During the 2000‒2009 decade, Boomers will be squarely in midlife and nearing the peak of their political and institutional power.  From a lifecycle perspective, they will be exactly where the Transcendentals were when John Brown was planning his raid on Harper's Ferry.  Boomers can best serve civilization by restraining themselves (or by letting themselves be restrained by others) until their twilight years, when their spiritual energy would find expression not in midlife leadership, but in elder stewardship.

Not bad for a couple of guys writing in 1990!  The main thing they got wrong was the idea that Boomer warrior-priests would actually care about whether their actions are bad for the civilization.
pyesetz: (fire-hunter)
Many Furries seem to act like they're living in a book, such as Watership Down or Redwall.  My book is Fire-Hunter.  I read it many times when it was on the "reading cart" in my fourth-grade classroom.  Due to the Magic Of The Web, info on this out-of-print book is now easily available.  The image at left was provided by an Amazon customer.

See also here for more on "FPrH".
pyesetz: (mr_peabody)
Below is a fisking of the song "As Lovers Go" (Chris Carrabba, Dashboard Confessional; A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar; Shrek 2).  It's the only emo song I know, so I'll assume its faults are typical of the entire genre.  Here are all the lyrics.  Don't expect any great insights from me: in high school English my worst subtopic was poetic analysis.  Apparently I just don't see anything in poems.
She said "I've gotta be 1honest, you're wasting your time if you're 2fishing round here."
Starts well.  1"Honest" is well-sung as /ʡʌ.n̩.ɪst/, clearly audible despite all the plucking, strumming, and drumming of the other instruments.  2"Fishing" introduces the central conflict: the girl has already said "No" before Carrabba even begins mouthing his pick-up lines.
And I said "you must be mistaken, cause I'm not 3fooling, this 4feeling is real."
3,4What's the word for the sound relationship between "fooling" and "feeling" here?  “Ablaut” doesn't quite fit.
She said "you've gotta be crazy, 5what do you take me for, some kind of easy 6mark?"
This is her last line in the song.  IRL she probably walks away at this point; the rest of the lyrics are Carrabba's fantasy about what he *should* have said.

5The syncopation pattern he's chosen for the song matches up well here with the natural speech-rhythm of this utterance.  Perhaps he's had this line burned into his brain by too many failed pickups, or maybe he just has a good ear.  6In "mark", Carrabba does a great job putting some vibrato(?) into his /ɹ/ without corrupting it into a Europeanish trill.  But the /ʌ/ vowel is too broad, sounding more like /ɑ/ (as in "mahrk").

Sorry about all the IPA symbols in this post.  No wait, I'm not.  It's the only hammer I have and I'm going to whack every mole I can!  Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] porsupah, for the link to this handy IPA chart with example sounds.  But I probably got some of them wrong.
7No, you've got wits, you've got looks, you've got 8passion, but I swear that you've got me all wrong.
Wits, looks, passion?  What is he searching for—a Fame castmember?

7Every lyrics site says this verse begins with "No", but I can't hear it.  8I would have expected "passion" to be strongly accented here, as the most-desired feature in the prey he's hunting, but Carrabba mutes this word and slurs it into the following conjunction.  Some phrasal-prosody thing, perhaps?

I'm sorry now that I didn't bother attending the free Music Theory classes offered at the All Newton Music School in conjunction with my piano lessons.  My teacher, Ms. Broughton, thought I should be a concert pianist, but I didn't want to work that hard—computer keyboards are *so* much easier!
All wrong.  9All wrong.  But you 10got me.
In a typical pop song with A-A-B-A structure, this would be a "bridge".  But this song's structure is more like A-B-C-D-A-B-C-D, so I don't know what to call section B.  Anyway, it's too long for my taste.  9Nice wail, interleaved with fancy drumming, but just too long.

10"Got" is a pun, compared with its meaning in the previous verse, and it ties in with the hunting-and-fishing metaphor that floats through the background of this song.
I'll be true, I'll be useful; I'll be 11cavalier.  I'll be yours my dear.  And I'll 12be-
long to you, if you'll just let me through.
Fiskars... Australian for shears )
pyesetz: (Default)
Larry Niven's Ringworld Throne (1997).

Most implausible part: the idea that 1000-year-old City Builder electrical devices would start working again if you just replace their wires.  Um, imagine burying a lightbulb for a millennium, then digging it up and plugging it in.  Would it work?  No!  Nobody would engineer a lightbulb with a vacuum seal that's 500 times better than needed for the product's expected lifetime.  Despite what we see in Indiana Jones movies, the only mechanism from Ancient Egypt that was still working when a tomb was opened was King Tut's curse—and the agent of that curse was bacterial spores, not anything created by man.

Our hero, Louis Wu, claims to be bothered by the billions of deaths he authorized in order to save the Ringworld (but very few actually died).  Yet when he finds out that his sex partner Sawur was killed by a plague brought by a "traveller" (very likely himself), he seems merely miffed that he can't yiff her again.  Wu deliberately leaves a open pathway to the Tree of Life, so he can turn Tunesmith into a protector without asking if he wants to become one; yet Wu seems to have no reaction at all when he learns that Chime (a throwaway character) followed that pathway first and died from eating T-o-L.

Best comical line:  Tunesmith (who as a protector looks like a stereotypical E.T.) sees Hindmost the Pierson's Puppeteer surrounded by thousands of puppeteer holograms.  He says, "I want to talk to your leader".

In this book Niven makes at least 21 attempts to describe the sound of a puppeteer's voice. Here are the Top Ten Descriptors for Puppeteer Vocalizations:
10.  a warbling, whistling music with overtones in subsonic bass.
9.  whistled chords of programming music.
8.  music from hell.
7.  sang like a bronze bell.
6.  snorted like an angry horn section.
5.  … as if a clarinet had sneezed.
4.  a pipe organ cried in pain.
3.  squeaked like a smashed piano.
2.  screamed like the world's biggest espresso device tearing itself apart.
1.  the song of an orchestra being gunned down by terrorists
pyesetz: (Default)
A big story in the US political blogosphere right now is Barbara Whitehead's article Bridging the Parent Gap.  Speaking under the aegis of the Democratic Party's Leadership Council, she identifies "married parents" as a demographic group the Donkeys should try to appeal to, and she recommends some platform-changes to attract them.

I am a married parent.  The proposed changes will not attract me.  I do not blame "the culture" for my inability to get my kids to behave.  Their disdain for workbooks and school essays is normal childhood short-sightedness; trying to blame it on "wardrobe malfunctions" at sporting events is just a cop-out.  My kids engage in sassy back-talk, not because they play violent computer games like Grand Theft Auto, but because they are *my* offspring.  I gave them my genes and my day-to-day behavior to copy and this is what they came up with.  There is no one to blame but myself.

I do not find it difficult to "resist the onslaught of corporate Goliaths investing huge amounts of time and money thinking up ways to appeal directly to children right over parents' heads".  I just say No.  Try rolling that word over your tongue: No.  It's far more effective than having the FCC to ban advertisements for sugary cereals or to micromanage how much embedded advertising shall be permitted at NeoPets.

The FCC receives many complaints about "indecent" broadcasts.  99.8% of all their complaints come from a single source: The "Parents Television Council".  These trolls pour over every disgusting episode of every sleazy TV show, looking for things to hate and writing them up as complaints to the government.  Seems like a fun job, in an ultra-geeky obsessed-trollish sort of way.

[Insert segue here]  Yet another book I received as a Winter Holidays gift was An Underground Education, by Richard Zacks.  It contains a lot of "forgotten history" I did not know, plus a few tidbits I've seen before (such as Edison's attempt to make "Westinghouse" a verb meaning "to kill by electrocution").  In general it seems this book is a truth-teller.  A good many of the illustrations would horrify the Parents Television Council types.  I thought of all the fun they were having with their VCRs, analyzing tapes of TV shows, and decided to try my paw at analyzing Zacks' choice of illustrations.  Here is a table I came up with.  The table seems rather "busy"; is there a clearer way to present this information?  Also, I thought it important to use Unicode font-symbols instead of image-graphics, so the table would scale properly when you change your font-size, but Unicode is somewhat lacking in appropriate symbols for lechery and debauchery!  I scanned the book multiple times because I kept changing my mind about the set of features I wanted to catalog

Creating that table took days of spare time, days during which kid #1 would look over my shoulder and ask what I was doing, why was I doing it, why did I have a file called underground-pictures-analysis.html, why did I stop working on it whenever she looked over my shoulder, etc.?  One of the Amazon reviewers says "I cannot even begin to imagine giving this book to my father..."  Well I'm a father and I received this book!  And I left it lying around the house where (for all I know) one or more kids has flipped through it—but I'm not going to present it to them as a book they should read (unlike, say, The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy, which I have recommended).

So now I have this table.  Now I can confidently spout statistics like "16% of all the pictures in that book involve nudity" and "8% involve dismemberment".  Now what do I do with it?
pyesetz: (Default)
God's DebrisAnother book I received as a Winter Holidays gift was God's Debris: A Thought Experiment, by Scott Adams.  It was the top-ranked ebook of 2001 (4500 copies sold).  I got it in dead-tree paperback form because I'm an old fogey (and also for professional reasons I won't go into here).

GD is a book about God.  It talks about God using a viewpoint that's rather like scientific pantheism (defined).  I think it's somewhat similar to the implied viewpoint in Douglas Adams' HHGttG.  People who like to thump their inerrant Bibles won't grok this book.  Unfortunately, people who like well-presented solid arguments won't like it either; nor will those who've come to expect a big dollop of humor in their scientific-pantheism books.  If you've liked Adams' more famous work, that says nothing about whether you'll like GD, which tastes almost but not entirely unlike tea and is thoroughly devoid of any humor.

Adams is a dedicated self-promoter who likes to write press releases in which he quotes himself.  He designed this book "to make your brain spin around inside your skull".  He warns persons under 14 not to read it because "the ideas are powerful".  With such hyperbole on the back cover, the contents could not fail to disappoint—and they don't.

When I think of brain-spinning ideas, I think of the Great Questions like "What is the difference between a cow?" or "What if our entire universe is just a molecule in some hyperdimensional dog's dewclaw?".  Okay, I'm weird, but that's what I think.  Adams' brain-spinning ideas are comparatively mundane, more like spoiler warning ).

The Package and The Old Man:  The opening chapters set up the narrative storyline.  They also set up the reader for disappointment, because only the first two and last two chapters make any sense as a novel.  The body of the book is just the Avatar talking at the Narrator for no reason.  Imagine a Dr. Who episode where the Doctor goes into a soliloquy about the time-space continuum for a minute.  Now imagine the Doctor talking about time-space for 27 minutes of a 30-minute show, while the Daleks sit around waiting for him to finish so they can "Exterminate!  Exterminate!"  Now imagine the supporting characters standing around with the Doctor, talking idly about Dimensional Transcendentalism for days on end, while ignoring their jobs/ bodily functions/ the everpresent Daleks/ etc.  This book is even less plausible than that.

Your Free Will and God's Free Will:  Ick!  God can be omipotent without being omniscient.  Adams appears to be trying to disprove omnipotence, but all his arguments are aimed at omniscience.  Being omnipotent means God can do anything that *can be done*.  But if scientists are correct in theorizing that our universe contains unknowable facts, God cannot know those facts.  That doesn't stop God from doing anything that can be done; He just can't know all the consequences of His actions.  And anyway the Narrator seems far too comfortable with these philosophical dialogues.  He is supposed to be a package-delivery boy.  Research is conclusive that "idea people" do not do well in jobs that require driving vehicles all day: they don't pay enough attention to the road.  Yet this fellow, seemingly quite at home with Socratic discourse, is supposed to have umpteen years of experience as a driver, a job he passively throws away by continuing to listen to the Avatar, without thinking about why he is doing it.

Delusion Generator:
As my lunch hour blurred into afternoon, I had technically abandoned my job. I didn't care.  [...] my mind was more alive than it had been since I was a child.  (Maybe you should try an RPG?)  [...]  "What does it mean to be yourself?" he asked.  "If it means to do what you think you ought to do, then you're doing that already.  If it means to act like you're exempt from society's influence, that's the worst advice in the world; you would probably stop bathing and wearing clothes.  The advice to 'be yourself' is obviously nonsense."
Adams is being deliberately thick here.  People often do what other people tell them to do, instead of what they personally think they ought to do.  So the advice to "be yourself" is quite sensible with the first meaning proposed.

Reincarnation, UFOs, and God:
"There has to be a difference between real and imagined things", I countered.  "My truck is real.  The Easter Bunny is imagined.  They are different."
     "As you sit here, your truck exists for you only in your memory, a place in your mind.  The Easter Bunny lives in the same place.  They are equal."
     [...]
     "Like the Easter Bunny, the past exists only in your mind," he said.  "Likewise, the future exists only in your mind because it has not yet happened."




I think this point got a better treatment in HHGttG (book 3 chapter 29): "The past is a fiction designed to account for the discrepancy between my immediate physical sensations and my state of mind."  Or perhaps this can be shortened further: "The past is a fiction to explain the gap between what I do and how I feel about it."

God's Motivation:  Finally Adams introduces an idea I haven't heard before, although perhaps others have: Another spoiler ).
     It seems to be a requirement in books of this type to include a major fallacy, to "break the mind of logic" perhaps, or perhaps to act as a cover for any *inadvertant* lapses in the author's thinking.  In HHGttG we see the Babel fish, whose evolutionary nonplausibility causes God to vanish in a puff of logic (book 1 chapter 6).  This is not central to HHGttG's point.  But in GD the major fallacy is a major defect: la la la don't listen to this )  Circularity, anyone?

Et cetera:  Several chapters are devoted to developing the idea that God lives in the probabilities.  To us the flipping of a coin is random, but God can encourage and suggest the coin to flip in a manner that furthers His goals.  Or something like that.  There are also a few random snipes, such as a chapter on how the Holy Land can't be holy because its atoms are constantly exchanged, its position in the galaxy is constantly moving, etc.  "The concept of location is a useful delusion."  Yes, indeed.  This review is too big already, so I'll just move along...

Relationships:  This is the only chapter containing any advice useful for day-to-day existence.  A woman wants a man who will make sacrifices for her.  A man wants a woman who will accomplish things for him.  Everyone wants a conversation partner who will listen when we talk about ourselves and our hopes and dreams.  Seem to be such a person and you will succeed.  Minimize your victories and overemphasize your failures to make others feel good and want to be around you.  Touch people.  Remember names.  It's too bad that this chapter is so far into the book that most casual readers will never find it.

Affirmations:  This is the last chapter before the Avatar starts to tell the Narrator why he was summoned, so it functions as a kind of "bridge" or "turning point" in the story.  But it seems quite unrelated to anything else in the book.  In his Introduction Adams says, "You won't discover my opinions by reading my fiction."  This is the rankest poppycock.  There's no better way to take the measure of a man (or dog) than by reading his fiction.  The narrative structure of GD is a giant arrow pointing to this chapter on "Why don't daily affirmations work for everyone?"  To make sense of this the reader must already know that Adams credits his own financial success to his use of daily affirmations (insert Stuart Smalley reference here).  In this chapter he is trying to answer a question that truly bothers him: why doesn't everyone succeed when they do what Adams did to succeed?  His answer is cogent and makes good use of the vocabulary set up in previous chapters, but the boiled-down version is "because it's not God's will", which is one of the traditional excuses trotted out by plutocrats.

Fifth Level and Going Home: Why don't spoil the magic )?

After the War:  GD ends with a foreshadowing of another war between Christians and Moslems, which is the subject of Adams' appropriately-named sequel The Religion War.

(Previous book review: America: THE BOOK.)  )
pyesetz: (Default)
Among other Hanukkah gifts, I received America: THE BOOK, by Jon Stewart et al.  It was written by the staff of The Daily Show and has the same tone as that TV program, except that it is markedly more profane.  The presence on page 99 of full frontal nudity (M/F) makes this book unsuitable for coffee-table use in a household with kids in a country with a right-wing government.

There are some interesting tidbits in the Acknowledgments.  On page 219 the book implies that its own production was outsourced to Southeast Asia (despite the "Made in the USA" mark on page iv), and some acknowledgments are aimed at people with suitable names ("Moon Sun Kim"), but it's unclear whether they were actually in New York during book-production.
     Another acknowledgment: "To Dr. Maya Angelou, thanks for the dick joke on page 118."  Unfortunately, I can't quite figure out which joke is being referred to.

The book presents itself as political satire masquerading as a social-studies schoolbook, but actually it *is* a social-studies book, masquerading as political satire masquerading as social studies (with dick jokes).  For example, on pages 110-111 there is a cartoon depicting a graveyard of former US political parties.  It's done in a large-pixel style reminiscent of 1970's computer graphics; the people in the drawing look like Legos.  But wait!  Why are birth and death dates shown for parties with no current relevance and no other mentions in this book?  Why do we need to know that the Know-Nothing Party flourished 1850-1856 and was anti-Catholic?  Because this is a history book!  Why is the Bull Moose Party's grave strewn with teddy bears?  If you wonder, look it up on the web!
     The TV program engages in a similar masquerade.  They openly claim to be "fake news", but really they're fake fake news—that is, real news.  In the old Soviet Union they had two national newspapers and a saying about them: "In Pravda there is no news; in Izvestia there is no truth."  If you wanted to know what was really going on you had to read Krokodil, the "fake news" satire magazine.
     As an American, I am ashamed that my country has sunk to similar depths of censorship in which the obvious truth can be spoken only through a blurry mist of satire, but this is hardly the first time, as we see on page 137:
The founding fathers were so grateful to the media for their role in the revolution that the foremost inalienable right codified in the Constitution's Bill of Rights was the First Amendment which guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  This right was revoked in 1798 by the Alien and Sedition Acts, but still, it had been a fun nine years.  So when the Acts expired in 1801, the government pledged to never again use legislation to censor the media, vowing to only use intimidation and coercion from that day forward.


I must however take issue with chapter 7's footnote 10:
Few could have imagined radio's influence based on the inanity of the first voice radio transmission: "One, two, three four.  Is it snowing where you are?"10
10Broadcast December 23, 1906, by Reginald Fessendon.  (Note: This is the book's only factual footnote.)
The humor here is drier than elsewhere in the book, so readers with a short clue stick might fail to get the joke.  At serious risk of driving all the fun out of it, let me explain (I'm an instant expert because I just looked it up):
  • The date was 1900, not 1906.
  • His name was Fessenden, not Fessendon.
  • There are other footnotes that are clearly factual, such as this one on page 62:
    What formula would determine the makeup of [the US Congress]?  Should the criterion be population with every person² equally represented?
    ²For the purposes of this chapter, "person" still means "white males" up until 1870, then "males" until 1920, then "all people but really still just white people" until 1964.
Indeed, one might be tempted to think that footnote 7‒10 is the only *non-factual* note in the book, but this too would be an error, as we can see from this doozy on page 36:
The 22nd amendment—passed in the wake of the Depression-ending, World War II-winning nightmare that was the Roosevelt Administration—means the president has no more than eight years, and possibly as little as one month,² to put his stamp on the office.
²Assuming the jackass plans on delivering an hour-and-forty-minute inaugural address outside in a blinding snowstorm, then succumbing to pneumonia.  (See Boorstin, Daniel, William Henry Harrison: Idiot of Tippecanoe, Viking Press, 1973.)
Whoa, Nellie, that's totally wrong!  Boorstin's 1973 book was actually called The Americans: The Democratic Experience.

So we see what a big problem it is to have to speak in code like this.  Without an independent source like Google it's impossible to know which statements are true and which are satiric.  Under extreme censorship, the true news ends up sounding like Nostradamus, worded so vaguely (to avoid official ire) that it barely says anything, and then only to people who sort of already know the answer.

Actually, I hate to break it to you folks, but Google.com has been caught making politically-motivated changes to their supposedly-objective database.  They have become a "big target" and have had to bend to avoid getting broken.  But I'll save that post for another day.  Are you sick of politics yet?  )

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