The E does stand for Entertainment

Allan Savory gives a rubbish science TED talk and gets 2M page views. George Manbiot looks at the peer-reviewed literature and finds no evidence to back up Savory’s claims.

When faced with the claims of a Savory, Leta and I like to quote Brick Pollitt, in the last line of the play as Williams originally wrote it: “Wouldn’t it be funny if that was true?”

Lili Taylor

Regarding a Missing Page On your Website

Recently in my e-mail I received a well-crafted if spammy solicitation to participate in a link farm. Not too many clues in the body of the message, most everything conventionally spelled, punctuated, and capitalized.

Good Morning

First I’d like to say you have a great page at My name is Christina and I am a science teacher in London. I also try and write helpful (hopefully!) articles and guides whenever I find a topic I think I can help with. I have bookmarked some of your links for future reference and projects – thanks.

I ran across a dead resource on your page. The Botanical Gardens of The Huntington link is broken , but I have a related article here [redacted URL]. Just thought it might be of interest to you and your viewers.

Thanks for the great page, keep exploring!


The referenced page was little more than a link to a rather fine Botany Photo of the Day; hardly a trove of “links for future reference and projects.” My link was indeed broken (and easily repaired). The suggested replacement link, although it had nothing to do with the Huntington, led to a page with a few generic paragraphs about organic gardening worthy of Demand Media (written in American, not British English), but the payload was in the domain of the link: the root page of that domain flogs garden sheds.

Try again, old chap.

Subject: Check Your Email and Respond within 48hours!

Geoffrey K. Pullum marks up a distinctly clumsy Nigerian scam e-mail message.

Strange though it may seem, the scammer’s best interests are served if the email doing the phishing is ludicrously incompetent and transparently suspicious. He isn’t after you or me; he’s after the poor, lonely, gullible, housebound pensioner next door, the rare uninformed shut-in who has never heard of Nigerian scams and for whom the dream of a windfall will be attractive enough to justify handing over a bank account authorization password.

Public groping

Nathaniel Rich shares my mistrust of airport body scanners. Like him, I consider the scanners personally intrusive and carrying unknown health risks.

…an investigative report in 2011 by ProPublica and PBS NewsHour concluded that the X-ray scanners, then still in use, could cause cancer in 6 to 100 United States airline passengers every year, and that the European Union banned those machines because of health concerns.

(I was unaware of the “cancer cluster” associated with Logan Airport that he mentions, but I’m not surprised.) More to the point, I think they are an egregious misplacement of resources. Like the security bollards that sprang up around federal buildings in the 1990s, body scanners a splendid example of “fighting the last war” thinking.

The way I look at it, if the TSA is going to waste time and money to invade my space, let’s make it personal. Someone has to lay hands on me. Bring on the patdown. Rich’s gambit of trying to pick the line with the metal detector doesn’t work for me.

Contrary to his experience, in the few times that I have “opted out,” as they say, my inspector has always been respectful and prompt. No one has tried to argue me out of my decision. It remains my quiet protest against the forces that would slide us into a state of constant fear.


Ian Bogost ends a call:

Hanging up on someone is a physical act, a violent one even, one that produces its own pleasure by discharging acrimony…. Just try to hang up your iPhone or your Samsung Galaxy. I don’t mean just ending a call, but hanging up for real, as if you meant it. For a moment you might consider throwing the handset against a wall before remembering that you shelled out three, four, five hundred dollars or more for the device, a thing you cradle in a cozy as if it were a kitten or a newborn.

At least the train goes to Airport

Yuck. Ersatz D.C. Metro system with a nonsensical map and extra helpings of brown and muddy orange in the color scheme.

The producers of TV’s Leverage slapped some signs on a Portland light rail station and rolling stock to make it look part of the Metro system—excuse me, the District of Columbia Subway Transit System. Perhaps the silliest sign is the one posted in the Washington Park station (the only fully underground station in that system): it says “DC Subway.” How many signs do you see inside a subway station that tell you, yes, you are indeed in a station of the system you are traveling on? Fox forbid that I should step out of a Chicago Red Line car at Jackson and need the reassurance that I’m not, in fact, somewhere on Boston’s T?

Again with the orders

Another one of these peculiar spam messages that purports to be a product order.

Dear Customer,

My name is Jack Melvin…and this order is an individual order. and i like to make a purchase of a (Architectural Casement Windows)and i will be more happy if you can email me with the types and Prices that you have for sale as well………Please let me know if you do accept credit card as a form of payment, and that will be pick up at your location….Hope to read back from you soon..

Best Regard
Jack Melvin

At least I think it’s supposed to be an order, even if it’s addressed to “Dear Customer.” “Jack Melvin” has some overtones of “George Spelvin,” the Equity actor’s pseudonym.

What, no tears?

I’ve been scrubbing the spam comments from a blog that was left unattended for a short time. Sort of like scrubbing a toilet, but smellier. Amid all the filter-evading nonsense text and copy-paste from real articles written by honest people, this bit of non sequitur caught my eye:

Fantastic website. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you in your sweat!

Erm, not really

Andrew Hacker and his fact checker commit a howler in an op-ed piece in which he argues that it’s not necessary to teach algebra to high schoolers:

Mathematics, both pure and applied, is integral to our civilization, whether the realm is aesthetic or electronic. But for most adults, it is more feared or revered than understood. It’s clear that requiring algebra for everyone has not increased our appreciation of a calling someone once called “the poetry of the universe.” (How many college graduates remember what Fermat’s dilemma was all about?)

Pierre de Fermat had a primality test, a little theorem, a principle, and a last theorem (eventually, voluminously proved), but whether he had any dilemmas is a question best asked of his spiritual advisor.

many Ways

Most of the low-quality posts on Stack Overflow you just ignore, edit, or flag, and then move on. (Sort of like the game Date, Screw, or Throw off a Cliff.) But this little illiterate gem, posted in response to the question “What is the best way to get a site visitor’s location?”, is jolie laide, definitely worth making fun of:

Thank youuu :) but the best and important ways to get more visitors are : add you website to directory Web like Altavista alltheweb DMOZ ..(must have a hight page rank) Add your website to The Big Search Engine Like Yahoo GOOGLE …( add url ) Make Rss To your website (feedcat …. feed rss …) share it in Facebook Twitter Google plus youtube and also Link In …myspace.. Do and change ads whit your friends mine share blog of your friend in your blog …(change ads it’s free ) and also ADS NOT FREE buy the area in the other website Or go to The big Company and to have more visitors trought BUY ADS like google Adwords like yahoo Adversing !… We have many Ways to get visitors you can visit us : or contact us :


The post has been flagged as spam, and will be gone soon from SO. Enjoy it here.

TSA blues

Patrick Smith and I are of one mind.

I’m traveling off-duty, just a regular old passenger. Approaching the body scanner, I “opt out,” as I always do. I’ll be taken aside for a thorough pat-down.

I don’t opt out because of worries about radiation. I do it because I find it appalling that passengers are effectively asked to pose naked in order to board an airplane.

Though I have some concerns about the radiation, too.

Oh, please

One of the web’s minor annoyances are those ads from “people finder” web sites that pop up on Google’s search results page whenever there’s an iota of a chance that you are searching for someone by name. It matters not that the service has no information for you, the lame ad is still there looking at you.

From time to time I do a vanity search for Larry Shue to check that my little shrine to L.S. is still being indexed by Google the Stupendous. Recently these ads have been appearing. Dude, I already found Larry Shue, and he’s buried in Staunton, Virginia!