[nSLUG] Please do not use Reply for new topics

Mike Spencer mspencer at tallships.ca
Fri Oct 9 15:23:08 ADT 2009

Daniel Morrison wrote:

> Still, while I'm dreaming away... it would be nice for email clients
> to have a 'reset/purge references' button,....


<begin $religious_war mode>

Button?  What is this "button" of which you speak?

If you were using Emacs to do your email, those headers would appear
visibly in your reply.  I routinely originate a new
conversation/exchange using "reply" with a new subject line but I
manually delete the References: and In-Reply-To: headers. Couple of
key strokes.

<end  $religious_war mode>

> Try telling my parent's generation that "you're doing it wrong" when
> as far as they know it's been working just fine all this time...

Yarn time:

My mother was born in the Texas panhandle in 1904, many miles from
anything remotely resembling 20th (or even late 19th) century
technology and half a day's ride on horseback from the railhead.

When I was still at home, she always finished washing her hair with a
cold water rinse containing a half a cup of vinegar "because it gets
the last of the soap out."  Early on, I knew (and argued) that soap
was less soluble in cold water that in hot, but to no avail.  I was
grown and away from home before I twigged to the factual basis for the
custom.  When she was a girl, the family's soap supply was made by her
grandmother in an iron pot over an open fire using home-made lye and
home-grown pork fat.  The cold vinegar rinse neutralized the traces of
lye that inevitably remained in the soap and precipitated (rather than
removed) any remaining soap.  But knowledge of this insight never
influenced her and she continued to use the vinegar rinse into her

More yarning:

In the 70s, I visited the "block shop" in Lunenburg where they made
tackle blocks with methods and gear that was a century or more old.
Down in the cellar was a blacksmith shop where they forged the
eyebolts, hooks and other metal parts.

When I was there, the smith was making hooks.  He split the end of a
rod, bent the two ears of the split around a mandrel to form an eye
and forge-welded them together.  (Then the other end was forged into
the hook.)  I asked him why he was splitting and welding to form the
eye when just hot-punching the hole would have been easier and given
more predictable results.  "Stronger this way, stronger this way." was
all he had to say.

It was weeks later that it dawned on me that he had learned how to
forge hook eyes from his predecessor at the block shop, who had
learned it from his, etc. back to when the place was built.  And that
reached back to the days before Bessemer, open hearth and cheap steel,
the days when wrought iron was the article of commerce from which
"iron" things were made.  And he was absolutely right: Wrought iron
has a macroscopic grain structure similar to wood.  Punching an eye
near the end of a piece of wrought iron predisposes to failure similar
to boring a hole near the end of a pine board and then using it as a
tension member. Splitting, wrapping and welding (which you can't do
with wood) makes the grain run *around* the eye.  The increase in
strength and reliability far exceeds the risk of possible defects in
the forge weld.

So he was right, or rather, he had been right up to a point somewhere
between 1890 and 1910.

> Try telling my parent's generation that "you're doing it wrong" when
> as far as they know it's been working just fine all this time.

Am I old enough to be of your parents' generation?  My parents'
generation -- late Victorian and Edwardian -- was from an era when
much of the science was itself wrong and folk knowledge was a very
mixed bag. A method the actually worked was a precious gem to be
cherished. [Leap ahead 70 or so years.]  The present generation --
late 20th c. -- has been the target of highly developed marketing,
media mindf**k, intentional ambiguation and obfuscation and a gradual
slide toward feel-good education. Something that works will be
replaced next week, or at least next year, by a cool, trendy,
mass-marketed and different thing.  You will be told that it is better
by highly paid epistemological engineers.

But between WW I and ca. 1980, scientific knowledge grew
exponentially, science was a highly valued public icon and it carried
a valued cachet. Note the take-off and popular recption of science
fiction in this era and the enthusiastic adoption of both Einstein and
relativity in pop culture.  "Better Living Through Chemistry" was a
popular meme from the 30s to the 80s.  Something that worked well was
probably a verifiably, "scientifically" Good Thing. Today, it's
regarded as incredibly geeky to be able even to pronounce chemical
names.  So MMT is bad?  Yeah, yeah, okay.  Why is it bad?  Their eyes
glaze over at the mere mention of methyl cyclo-pentaidieneyl manganese


Or even at the suggestion that Windoes isn't the best way to access a


So I'm not sure that the older -- really older -- generation is any
more prone to ignoring what's actually on the ends of their forks than
the most recent one.  I'm an Old Guy but from the in-between era.  And
I'm using Linux. And I can pronounce the True Name of MMT.  :-)

- Mike

Michael Spencer                  Nova Scotia, Canada       .~. 
mspencer at tallships.ca                                     /( )\
http://home.tallships.ca/mspencer/                        ^^-^^

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