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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

David's Ping Pong Ball

[I apologize in advance to any scientists out there who will almost certainly be cringing as my shaky grasp of nuclear physics becomes apparent.]

I remember very clearly that when I was in 4th or 5th grade my class was shown a short film in science class that was supposed to explain to us how nuclear fission worked.   

The narrator explained that if you sent a neutron into the nucleus of some unstable/heavy atoms, it would force them to give off energy, as well as a lighter atom known as the fission product).  It had a nice diagram that looked something like this:

Fission
[Source: Here}

Then the narrator went on to show us how nuclear energy (and nuclear weapons) do this on a grand scale.  He did this by showing a room whose entire floor was covered with spring-loaded mouse traps... each of which had a ping-pong ball balanced delicately on it. 

He then proceeded to toss in a single ping pong ball.

We watched in awe as the single ping-pong ball was able to trigger the nearly instantaneous ejection of nearly every ball in the room as the traps were triggered in a run-away chain reaction.

Clearly, this was a wonderful teaching aid because I remember it clearly almost 40 years later.  But I also remember the follow up discussion where our teacher taught us how such reactions could be controlled.  She told us that by spacing the traps further apart or putting something between them to block or slow down the balls shooting around the room, you could control the speed and frequency of the reactions.

It finally occurred to me yesterday that this is directly related to why I get so anxious about the current ease with which we can all receive and share information on the Internet.   

We are all like these heavy, unstable atoms sitting in close proximity to one another... and we are constantly bombarded by 'neutrons' of information (jokes, rumors, urban legends, news, images, petitions, etc.) that are tossed casually into the 'room' where we all sit. The resulting chain reactions are both rapid and uncontrolled. 

How many times have we forwarded or posted a rumor that turned out to be embarrassingly false?  We shrug and blush at having allowed ourselves to be tricked into wasting our energy (our 'ping-pong ball') on something that turned out to be wrong.

Our inboxes and comments sections fill with stuff that we quickly eject out into our virtual neighbor's inboxes and comments sections. What portion of the stuff we pass along would you estimate is 100% accurate? 

I would posit the following: The speed/interval at which a person forwards a piece of information that has come into his/her possession is inversely related to cumulative accuracy of all information emanating from that person. 

[If someone hasn't already laid claim to this axiom, I'd like to name it 'David's ping-pong ball'.  ;-)]

I always chide my friends for sending me urban legends and rumors without taking the time to verify their veracity.  Inevitably everyone complains that it takes too much time... that I'm a kill-joy... that if it's so important to me than I should check to see if it's true. 

In short, they feel like we are all standing around some water cooler shooting the breeze, so verification is optional.

But we are not in some corridor chewing the fat with a few friends.  We are in this enormous room filled with limitless potential energy/ping-pong balls, just waiting to be released. 

This situation is the dream of anyone who has ever created a chain letter, an urban legend or a fund-raising drive.  But for the dissemination of accurate information, it is a disaster waiting to happen (over and over).

In a nuclear power plant the fuel rods are surrounded by carefully cooled water that acts as a moderator to the chain reactions that want desperately to take place.  It slows down, and in some cases blocks, the neutrons from reaching the nuclei of the heavy, unstable atoms of the nuclear fuel... and allows the plant operators to keep everything under control.

Unfortunately, there is no moderating substance here in the real or cyber world. 

In some dictatorships the government acts as a moderating force... carefully controlling what the masses know.  But in a free society only common sense and self-discipline can serve this moderating role.

Many of us impose artificial restrictions/self-moderation on ourselves and take the time to check sources... look on Snopes... do keyword searches on all the relevant news media sites, etc. before passing along information.  And even then we preface our shared info with things like "I just read this in on Haaretz but you should check back there again since this is clearly a developing story and not all the facts are known".   But most of us don't do this.

This is why the Imams have such an easy time whipping their faithful into a frenzy that quickly spreads to the streets.  This is why the smallest rumor of misdeed or 'atrocity' is instantly on the lips and blogs of everyone with a stake in the outcome of a struggle. 

This is why cooler heads seldom have the opportunity to prevail.

Because without a moderating force, uncontrolled fission takes place and all the ping-pong balls are launched into the air before anyone has a chance to say "hold on a second... let's look at this logically!"

The acid throwing story is a perfect example. 

As soon as I saw it I wanted desperately to try to slow things down.  I did my own checking and found nothing on any of the news services.  I called the army spokes-person's office and even called Soroka hospital.  Nothing.  So I begged (OK, lashed out at) several people who were writing about it to pull their comments until they could verify the information. 

But within 24 hours the uncontrolled chain reaction had taken place and everyone - including the news media - were repeating it as fact.  It is worth noting that the rumor started a full day before the alleged incident ever took place... so whether this was an unfortunate coincidence or a case of life imitating 'art', we may never know. 

Once it was in the papers a second wave of chain reactions swept the world because now even the 'fact checker types' could give a citation for their information.

The problem is that Acid was never thrown. 

I've already beaten to death the ramifications of what could have happened as a result of the run-away fission of this rumor.

However it gets worse.  It now turns out now that something dangerous was thrown.

The latest news reports say that tests on the clothing of some of the soldiers indicate that Caustic Soda was the substance used to try and repel them.  Caustic Soda (better known as Lye) is not an acid.  In fact it is the exact opposite of an acid... it is a very corrosive 'Base'.

The most common place one is likely to find Lye in a home is in commercial drain cleaners.  It can burn skin and do damage to mucous membranes (such as eyes) if it isn't washed off quickly. 

Lye in common household products isn't as instantly disfiguring as vitriol, but it is certainly quite dangerous.  The big difference is that instead of being a premeditated attempt to maim or kill... someone (or several someone's) likely grabbed every household liquid they could get their hands on that they thought might be noxious or unpleasant for the people sent to evacuate them. 

This does not at all excuse the attack!  But it opens up the possibility that it was a combination of irresponsibility, ignorance and hooliganism rather than a deliberate attempt to cause bodily harm.

How does this relate to the fission/ping-pong ball analogy?

If the acid rumor had not gone 'super critical' so quickly and expended it's energy prematurely... there is a chance that the truth could have been discovered and disseminated much sooner in a helpful and productive manner. 

More importantly, instead of being an unfortunate footnote (as it seems now to be), the public and troops could have been given the opportunity to be justifiably outraged into taking corrective/protective action instead of simply being too emotionally drained to care! 

Instead, many people will now walk around for a few days mumbling "Oh, it was 'only' caustic soda", when in fact there is no 'only ' about it.  These few extremists, whether by accident or design, picked up and threw a substance that could have burned or blinded any of our brothers, sisters, fathers or children serving their country in Gaza. 

There is a fine line between passive resistance and active opposition. 

We may not agree on exactly where that line may be... but on this sort of physical resistance /attack on the troops I think we can come pretty damned close to a national consensus.  Anyone who is not party to such a consensus throws in his/her lot with the extremists /criminals and let them answer for such a position!

Terror could never have paralyzed a nation in the 19th century the way it can today because information simply did not have the ability to be transmitted quickly enough to the masses to provide a 'critical mass' on which the resulting hysteria could work.

But today, we all sit in front of our computers like heavy atoms... ready to instantly 'go critical' and unleash our energy in an uncontrolled chain reaction at the slightest provocation... with the click of a button. 

This is as potentially dangerous as real uncontrolled nuclear fission. 

In the absence of some substance to act as a moderator, we have only our judgment to prevent run-away chain reactions.   

You'll notice that the government doesn't rely on the Internet to warn the public of air or missile attacks.  They use a siren.  It is a low-tech device that can be centrally controlled and is used only in the case of real emergencies.

In all the years I have been using the Internet I have never once received information so urgent/time-critical that it could not wait a few moments while I thought it over or checked a source or two.   

Not once!  Think about that.

This isn't to say that I haven't fallen prey to the temptation to prematurely fire my 'ping-pong ball' out into the void... but I can honestly say that it has very seldom happened.

We are all, metaphorically speaking, fissable material.  The information and rumors that constantly bombard us are the neutrons.  It is entirely up to us whether we release our energy in a controlled, productive fashion... or whether we abandon all attempts at self-moderation and allow every random neutron to trigger a run-away chain reaction that consumes us all.

The only difference between useful and destructive energy is how effectively we slow down and control the fission that creates it.

Please think twice before firing your ping-pong ball out into the void.

221_16_5_51

Posted by David Bogner on August 23, 2005 | Permalink

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A few points:

a) While I agree with you about the danger of spreading rumours on the internet, I'm not sure that this is what happened with the acid/soda story. I first heard about it during the evacuation of Kfar Darom, and I haven't heard it associated with any earlier settlements since. I heard the claim that acid was thrown on TV, and I'm almost positive it was by General Dan Harel, the head of the Southern Command. I don't think he got it from a blog, or any other rumor. When later people were claiming that there was no acid at all (as you did), I thought the story was strange. But having worked with both acid and soda, I can very easily see how if someone felt burned by one, he wouldn't immediately be able to tell it wasn't the other. That's probably what happened here. A soldier got splashed with a liquid, said he felt burned, claimed acid, when it was really soda. I doubt rumour played a role.

b) You wrote:
Unfortunately, there is no moderating substance here in the real or cyber world.
Are you referring to any friendly, neighborhood email lists? Things seem to have really gotten out of hand here recently.

c)As far as how rumours are spread, I think you'd really enjoy the book "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell:
http://www.gladwell.com/tippingpoint/

If you'd like to borrow it (after finishing Harry Potter of course), let me know...

Posted by: Dave | Aug 23, 2005 1:15:35 PM

Well thought David….. I’m impressed. and he named it 'David's ping-pong ball' theory.

Posted by: kakarizz | Aug 23, 2005 1:20:58 PM

Dave... General Harel's TV interview took place almost 24 hours after I had taken a couple of bloggers/commenters to task over spreading the rumor. Either there was an as-yet unreported earlier incident or this was an incredible coincidence. Wherever the IDF got its information, it seems that the rumor was out there well before the throwing of any caustic substance. And thanks, I will take you up on that book when I have extricated myself from Hogwarts.

Kakarizz... I'll take that as a 'second' to the motion... shall we put it to a vote? :-)

Posted by: David | Aug 23, 2005 1:32:31 PM

Any news from the young soldier, Elroi ?

Posted by: Jany | Aug 23, 2005 1:36:14 PM

Well said. I believe it’s important to remember that anonymity (eg. on the internet) should not diminish our responsibility or integrity. I have a lot of respect for the fact that not only have you said this on numerable occasions, but have also always led by example.

Posted by: zemirah | Aug 23, 2005 1:39:21 PM

David

I think there were two incidents. I've seen reports that a policeman had acid thrown in his face in Neve Dkalim; the other reports are from Kfar Darom.

Posted by: Eyal | Aug 23, 2005 2:14:39 PM

Your point is so important I'm going to email it to everyone in my contact list with instructions to forward it to at least 5 friends immediately.

(just kidding, to be clear). Great analogy.

Posted by: AbbaGav | Aug 23, 2005 2:33:46 PM

From what I've been able to find, there was a police photographer in Neve Dekalim who reported a chemicl being thrown in his face. From most of the news sources, it seems to be ammonia.

Maybe that was the story that caused people to think that acid had been thrown earlier than Kfar Darom. Of course in the end, neither case was acid.

Posted by: Dave | Aug 23, 2005 2:35:48 PM

I don't see how anyone could mistake Lye for anything other than a toxic and dangerous substance and anyone walking around now saying "it was only caustic soda" is, quite frankly, a twat, no? The report I read mentioned over 100 people in custody while the tapes are being examined bcs the subjects are not cooperating. Sadly, I am no so sure the intention was entirely innocent if it envolved cleaners and especially Lye. Household cleaners often include toxic, dangerous substances, and the fact that someone is able to pick whatever up and hurl it at someone else (The "enemy"? The "opposition"? The "infidels"?) to me means they did not much care abt what may happen to the victim. I hope the punishment is severe but I fear it will not bring much.

Posted by: Lioness | Aug 23, 2005 3:25:38 PM

Jany... Elroi Refa'el has suffered a small setback. He has a fever and a lung infection. The doctors don't seem to be overly worried, but this is obviously not the direction that they'd like to see things going. As I find out more I'll let everyone know.

Zemirah... I'm glad you made the point about anonymity. I have heard of studies that indicate people wearing masks will conduct themselves in rude, and even uncivilized ways that they would never consider if their identity were known. I'm strongly considering unmasking a few of the people here in our little end of the blogoshpere who feel they can act with impunity simply because nobody knows who they are. Some leveling of the playing field' may just be in order. I write plenty of bone-headed things that I later have to account for... but I do so as David Bogner. I'm tired of being sniped at from behind masks.

Eyal... If true, that would explain it... but for the period during which the first reports appeared here in the blogosphere... nothing was being reported in the news.

AbbGav... Thanks. I'm starting to think that the reason many physicists have that wild hairdo (think Einstein) is from pulling out great handfuls of it when laymen like me try to co-opt their lexicon for illustrative purposes.

Dave... I'd like to see it on a time line... but the more I read today the more I am convinced that the intentions may have been to harm and not simply resist. I will be very interested to see the results of the video analysis. If anyone used force against the soldiers they should be charged. But if anyone intentionally intended to harm them, they should face assault charges appropriate to the level of harm that their weapon's could have caused. In the end science and evidence will prevail over speculation and rumors (I hope).

Lioness... Many people have made a lot of allowances for behavior ranging from 'bad' to 'criminal' over the past week. I am among those who felt that the settlers had a right to passively resist (even though it was clearly against the law) until they had no choice but to be evacuated. I'm very proud that the majority of settlers did exactly that. But for others the line of what is acceptable went deeper into criminal territory. The problem is that once you say some illegal behavior is OK, you lose the moral high ground from which you have the right to say something else is really illegal. However, as I see people physically attacking soldiers on the news and making threats with knives and guns (even if the threats are simply 'gestures') then I hope that a consensus would agree that the criminal behavior has gone from grudgingly acceptable to criminal assault.

Posted by: David | Aug 23, 2005 4:19:55 PM

You ever see what happens to a Ping Pong ball with a small dent in it. That sucker no longer bounces the way it should and instead takes all sorts of crazy turns. Which I suppose still fits your analogy quite nicely.

So true about people not taking the time to confirm the veracity of rumors.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 23, 2005 4:32:42 PM

Your blog keeps becoming more and more of a must-read.

Posted by: Drew | Aug 23, 2005 5:40:38 PM

I was used to be an slightly above avg ping pong player myself....don't you hate when you try to slam your opponent only to hit the net? Great eloquent post as usual...

Posted by: Jewish Blogmiester | Aug 23, 2005 5:41:37 PM

100% in agreement

Posted by: Essie | Aug 23, 2005 7:50:35 PM

After reading your two posts on this subject, I'm still trying to sort out what happened in Kfar Darom. The Globe and Mail (a national paper here in Canada) initially reported,

yesterday's success in Kfar Darom took a toll, with as many as 44 people injured in the synagogue siege -- including 29 police officers and three soldiers. Most of the security officials were injured when radicals threw small bottles of what authorities believed to be acid.

Note the cautious language, "what authorities believed to be ...". But note also the high number of casualties - not among the settlers but among the police and soldiers.

Twelve hours later, the Globe offered a fuller report:

Mr. Sharon said he was saddened when watching the evacuation of Kfar Darom on television. "But in the evening, when I saw the tossing of those bottles of poisonous substances, or harmful substances, and the injury to ... soldiers and police, my mood altered and the pain turned to rage," he said.

In Kfar Darom, dozens of protesters had barricaded themselves behind razor wire on the synagogue roof, at first singing and waving flags, then attacking soldiers below with caustic liquids and objects, including paint-filled light bulbs.

Stunned police and soldiers, shaking in confusion, ripped off their helmets and clothes after being splashed by what police said was acid. Comrades quickly poured water on their heads and bodies. Some of the men gasped for air, and one sat on the floor, seeming disoriented.

I often hear people deriding the "mainstream media" for its biased reporting, but it appears there was something more than rumour at work here. Whether it was acid or some other caustic substance is of secondary importance.
Q

Posted by: Q | Aug 23, 2005 9:17:26 PM

Wise advice. You’ve hit on one of my pet peeves: chain emails. They range from scams to innocent but almost always false rumors. I’ve alienated many a friend by complaining about the junk they send. I think some basic rules of thumb for email etiquette might be:
1) never forward an email that asks to be forwarded
2) if the content of the email is a long story or article, email a link to it rather the content itself so that the recipient can check the source
3) 30 seconds on Google will let you know that the great scheme that your friend emailed you that can save all puppies or make you a million dollars or help homeless widows is fake. Take that time.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Aug 23, 2005 10:24:13 PM

Jack... I knew I could count on you to take my mind of what's going on here. Thanks. :-)

Drew... Thank you, but as I've been criticized recently by one of my fellow bloggers (long story... don't ask) for having too many "adoring fans"... could you please temper any future remarks with some constructive criticism. Y'know... grammar, spelling, that sort of thing. Thanks. :-)

Jewish Blogmiester... You and Jack are the rodeo clowns of the blogosphere! When things get too tense or tempers flare, I can always count on one of you to lighten the mood. Thanks.

Essie... Oy (please see my reply to Drew). :-)

Q... You see all those people wearing robes and holding hymnals? Now look closely at the front row... that's me there in the middle! You're preaching to the choir! Acid = bad. Bleach = bad. Lye = bad. You will get no argument from me on any other weapons or irritating chemicals you want to put on that list. My issue was purely one of how and especially when we use our words. That the bloggers turned out to be right about a caustic liquid being thrown does not minimize the problem that as far as I can tell they were reporting it before it was actually thrown. Also, the niggling detail that they were reporting acid was thrown while it is not yet clear if lye was intentionally used or if it was one of many liquids readily at hand. From a purely legal standpoint it does make a difference if you pick up a stick and beat someone in a moment of passion, as opposed to buying a gun and going over to a person's house and shooting them in cold blood. We've established that a crime seems to have taken place. Now we need to let the police do their job to determine if there was premeditation involved.

Doctor Bean... All finished with your exam module? Anyway, I have become somewhat of a pariah amongst some of my friends because I refer them to Snopes every other day over stupid forwarded urban legends. [sigh]


Posted by: David | Aug 23, 2005 11:06:05 PM

I kind of like being compared to the Rodeo Clown, but most clowns are smarter than I am. They at least try to get out of the way of the bull. I on the hand make sure to irritate the bull as much as possible and then prove how macho I am by letting it crash into me.

But enough about that, back to those Ping Pong balls. You know there are all sorts of tricks you can do with them. If you want to entertain your children you can always take one in your mouth and spit it out.

But you have to remember to smack yourself in the back of the head before spitting. The kids will love it and so will your therapist/chiropractor and MD. ;)

Doctor Bean

1) never forward an email that asks to be forwarded

And this explains why you have nothing but bad luck. Every chain letter in the world promises you wealth and riches for participating, but break the chain and you have one angry email ready to slap you down.

Pretty nasty if you ask me.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 24, 2005 12:16:03 AM

I kind of like being compared to the Rodeo Clown, but most clowns are smarter than I am. They at least try to get out of the way of the bull. I on the hand make sure to irritate the bull as much as possible and then prove how macho I am by letting it crash into me.

But enough about that, back to those Ping Pong balls. You know there are all sorts of tricks you can do with them. If you want to entertain your children you can always take one in your mouth and spit it out.

But you have to remember to smack yourself in the back of the head before spitting. The kids will love it and so will your therapist/chiropractor and MD. ;)

Doctor Bean

1) never forward an email that asks to be forwarded

And this explains why you have nothing but bad luck. Every chain letter in the world promises you wealth and riches for participating, but break the chain and you have one angry email ready to slap you down.

Pretty nasty if you ask me.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 24, 2005 12:24:12 AM

I would have only posted once but I was struck in the eye by a dented Ping Pong ball. It bounced off of the monitor and knocked me in the noggin.

The worst part is that it fell into my salsa. When it came into contact with my eye it made it burn, I guess that you could say it felt like someone threw acid in my eye.

Ok, I take back because I don't want to start any rumors about Ping Pong balls and acid being tossed in people's eyes as we all know from this very blog about rumors.

Although I should add that it hit me while I was drinking a soda and the shock of it made the the soda go up my nose which turned it from a Diet Coke into something more like Caustic Soda which is more dangerous than Diet Coke in the short term but probably not as bad as the preservatives in the Coke in the long term.

I think that I'll stop eating up your bandwidth now.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 24, 2005 12:31:42 AM

I would have only posted once but I was struck in the eye by a dented Ping Pong ball. It bounced off of the monitor and knocked me in the noggin.

The worst part is that it fell into my salsa. When it came into contact with my eye it made it burn, I guess that you could say it felt like someone threw acid in my eye.

Ok, I take back because I don't want to start any rumors about Ping Pong balls and acid being tossed in people's eyes as we all know from this very blog about rumors.

Although I should add that it hit me while I was drinking a soda and the shock of it made the the soda go up my nose which turned it from a Diet Coke into something more like Caustic Soda which is more dangerous than Diet Coke in the short term but probably not as bad as the preservatives in the Coke in the long term.

I think that I'll stop eating up your bandwidth now.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 24, 2005 12:32:52 AM

Jack: You posted twice twice! I'm going to have to double the dose of the red pill.

David: Yes, thanks for asking. And I passed!

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Aug 24, 2005 12:36:35 AM

Jack: You posted twice twice!

For your patient's sake I am glad to see that the lasik was successful.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 24, 2005 1:56:34 AM

'In a nuclear power plant the fuel rods are surrounded by carefully cooled water that acts as a moderator to the chain reactions that want desperately to take place. It slows down, and in some cases blocks, the neutrons from reaching the nuclei of the heavy, unstable atoms of the nuclear fuel...'

David,

OK, now that other readers are (hopefully) moving on to the next post, I’m going to say this. First of all, I KNOW that you weren’t trying to teach a nuclear physics lesson. I understand your point, it was beautifully made as usual, and the analogy to the nuclear chain reaction is great.

However. As an engineer who has been working in the nuclear field for the last twelve years, I have a little comment concerning the role of the moderator in the fission process, at least when enriched uranium is involved (my field of, um, knowledge). Moderator actually helps the fission process (and therefore the chain reaction) happen. The slowing down process increases the neutrons' probability of hitting and splitting their targets. Although fast neutrons do cause a few fission reactions, the fission chain is actually sustained by the slowed-down, moderated (thermal) neutrons. True, some neutrons are absorbed in the moderator, but the main control of the fission process is done by absorber or control materials (cadmium, boron and several others). Also true, water is used as a coolant, to remove the heat generated by fission.

As an example, when fresh (unirradiated) fuel elements are to be kept in a dry storage, one of the main checks to be done is what would happen if water were to accidentally enter the place. Because it might trigger a chain reaction and turn the configuration into a critical one!

I just could not hold myself :-). Sorry for being nitpicky and pedantic. Now you have another fundamental fact without which you would not be able to live :-). And thanks for listening to my rant.

Posted by: Sandra | Aug 24, 2005 3:30:53 PM

I've taken many of my friends and relatives to task for spreading Internet urban legends. Even my employer - a Very Large Corporation - has been fooled occasionally. Seeing something in print, even if it is only in the form of an e-mail, seems to lend the most idiotic material legitimacy.

The Chain Reaction analogy is an excellent one, and that mechanism works in conventional chemistry as well as in nuclear physics. It also is a good model for the propagation of blogmemes.

Yeah, yeah. Another great post.

Posted by: Elisson | Aug 24, 2005 3:51:14 PM

Jack... That's 5 minutes of my life (I read really slowly) that I'm never going to get back! :-)

Doctor Bean... Good to hear it.

Sandra... You'll notice I started out with an apology in advance! To say my grasp of nuclear physics is shaky sort of bragging. I really have almost no grasp of that field. :-) Thanks for allowing me some poetic license (and for the science lesson).

Elisson... I agree that we seem to be pre-programmed to give extra credence to things we see in writing. Unfortunately there is a great big world out there of writers that perhaps shouldn't have such ready access to us as readers. :-) BTW, I've been enjoying your blog (even if I don't always step up and say so).

Posted by: David | Aug 24, 2005 3:59:54 PM

Drew... Thank you, but as I've been criticized recently by one of my fellow bloggers (long story... don't ask) for having too many "adoring fans"... could you please temper any future remarks with some constructive criticism. Y'know... grammar, spelling, that sort of thing. Thanks. :-)


So you're saying that you care more about what a fellow blogger thinks than what I think?! Well, I believe your comment reflects an ugly prejudice in the blogging community against those of us who are non-bloggers. (How's that?)

Posted by: Drew | Aug 24, 2005 4:28:47 PM

Drew... Thank you, but as I've been criticized recently by one of my fellow bloggers (long story... don't ask) for having too many "adoring fans"... could you please temper any future remarks with some constructive criticism. Y'know... grammar, spelling, that sort of thing. Thanks. :-)

Essie... Oy (please see my reply to Drew). :-)

and what's wrong with having adoring fans? :-)

Posted by: Essie | Aug 24, 2005 5:01:44 PM

Drew... I really hope you know how deeply I appreciated your compliment. I've just been coming under fire recently for having had the nerve to try to get people to think for a split second about how hateful and dangerous their rhetoric has become. Too many people have this attitude that 'well, it's my blog and I can say whatever I want...", but they refuse to acknowledge the potential harm their words can cause. I think (hope) you were being ironic when you made your comment about "an ugly prejudice in the blogging community against those of us who are non-bloggers". As much as the line made me smile, as with all jokes there is a kernel of truth in there. Most of us who blog/journal claim to write for the sake of writing... as if we were writing long-hand in a diary at home. Yet I know very few bloggers/journalers who could honestly say it wouldn't matter to them if they had 1 reader or 100,000 readers. The fact remains that we can't have it both ways. We can't rant and scream and say hateful, destructive things about individuals or groups as if nobody can hear us... and at the same time check our stats and yearn for the validation from readers. True the blogosphere passes the 'town hall test in that anyone can get up on their soap box and say pretty much anything they want without fear of harm or reprisals. But I wonder if those same people would actually say those same things in the company of real live human beings in an actual town square? This is the standard to which I wish people would hold themselves. They shouldn't fear to express themselves because they fear reprisals... but rather because they fear the damaging effect their words might have on other human beings.

Essie... Sorry to give you short shrift again, but please see my response to Drew. :-) Seriously, as much as it may bother some people to see how respectfully people speak to one another here, or how diverse a readership treppenwitz may have... I don't for a moment consider anyone here a 'fan'. I have learned far more from the people who have commented here as well as the other writers with whom I share the blogosphere, than anyone could ever claim to have gleaned from my long-winded scribblings. If you enjoy what I write, great! But just know that I enjoy writing it because of the unexpected discussions that are launched by even my most mundane posts.

Posted by: David | Aug 24, 2005 5:29:28 PM

As roadkill in this particular extended metaphor, I shall pass on the rather original view of physics as applied to social interaction. For every rumour you hear, there are ten you don't.

Posted by: ExpatEgghead | Aug 24, 2005 10:25:13 PM

just a quick note to find out how Elroie is getting on. I hope that no news is good news.

How come no Blog today? yesterday?, sorry, I know you are 'allowed' to run your blog in the way that you wish/can but I almost fwlt like saying I feel let down without your daily installment. Shabbat Shalom
Please God this should be ths Shabbat that brings new hope for an improvement in Elroie's situation

Posted by: savta yaffa | Aug 25, 2005 11:15:53 AM

I think (hope) you were being ironic when you made your comment about "an ugly prejudice in the blogging community against those of us who are non-bloggers".


Yes, it was supposed to be my effort at fulfilling your request for constructive criticism by constructively criticizing said request. Ahem. Having never commented here before, I facilely forget that I have been looking through a one-way mirror and am a complete unknown to you. So let me assure you that people do like me irl. (Okay, that was supposed to be ironic / humorous / silly, too. But they do. Really.)

Posted by: Drew | Aug 26, 2005 2:24:32 AM

ExpatEgghead... Road kill might be too strong a word. perhaps 'collateral damage' might be more fitting since you were an innocent victim here. Thanks for turning a blind eye to my novel approach to physics. :-)

Savta Yaffa... I wish there were more good news to report, but I'm grateful that there is nothing worse either. Elroi still has a fever and a lung infection, as well as some inter-cranial pressure that has the docs worried. Please continue your prayers and good thoughts.

Drew... I hoped as much. I just needed to ask since you hadn't put an emoticon after your statement and my irony meter is on the fritz. Thanks. :-)

Posted by: David | Aug 26, 2005 2:22:51 PM

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