Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Miscellaneous/2007 August 14

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August 14[edit]

Scandal rags of the Bay Area -- try two[edit]

I tried this over at Humanities and didn't get a bite, so I thought I'd try here.

Does anyone have any idea of what some of the major local "scandal rags" of the SF Bay Area were? You know, those which were off the record, on the QT, and very hush hush? I'm interested in any that might have been active at any point between say the 1940s and the present.

Many thanks, sorry for redundantly cross-posting. -- 00:52, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Tough question! The best I can offer is Category:San Francisco Bay Area newspapers and Holdings of San Francisco Newspapers In The California State Library, by definition neither are likely to offer anything particularly "off the record". Rockpocket 02:02, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Are you sure that such "scandal rags" existed? Having lived in the Bay Area during the 1990s, I certainly followed local happenings and publications, but I was not aware of any "scandal rag", unless you include the muckraking of the San Francisco Bay Guardian or the East Bay Express. Marco polo 17:17, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Nope, not sure at all. I know that there are muckraking local press — the ones you mention come to mind — and I know that there are "underground" presses (mostly hippy nonsense), and I was only conjecturing that there would be something in between the two (lower in journalistic integrity than the EBE, not quite done-on-my-own-mimeograph-machine as the underground presses). -- 02:33, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

Quick Easy Questions[edit]

Can god make a rock so heavy even God can't lift it? Also, what is the meaning of life? Calibas 01:10, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

God can either do whatever you believe she can do, so you tell us. Or there is no evidence of her existance, so no.
See Meaning of life, life, The Meaning of Liff and/or Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. Rockpocket 01:18, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! HISS! "her"?! --frotht 02:05, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Like everything, wikipedia has an article. It will answer all your questions.. end of thread --frotht 02:05, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
What a superb article. Rockpocket 02:13, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
I was disappointed that that page didn't have Homer Simpson's formulation, "Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he himself could not eat it?", which sums up the absurdity nicely. --Sean 14:06, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
As a "half-response" to the 1st reply, -nobody knows for sure of what gender god is. Just lettin' you know. :)
Of course. Yet its odd, is it not, that no-one ever feels the need to point that out when we use the pronoun He. Rockpocket 06:35, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Why would a being who will never need to reproduce (at least not by any conventional means) even have a gender? SteveBaker 11:38, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Males play the dominant role in our society so I guess we anthropomorphise (sp?) him to be male --frotht 01:21, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
Since (it is always asserted) there are no limits whatever to the power of most gods, a rock such as you describe would have to be infinitely heavy. When this hypothetical being attempts to move (accellerate) the infinitely large rock by applying a force of infinite strength, the resulting accelleration ought to be the force divided by the mass. Infinity divided by infinity produces an undefined result. So the 'formal' answer would be "it's undefined". But a being with literally infinite power would be able to make you believe that he/she could or could not move the rock - and neither you, nor anyone else would have a means to prove or disprove that. The meaning of life appears to be the strenuous efforts of one set of genes to replicate itself. We phenotypes are merely pawns in their ancient genotype games. In the end, life picks it's own meanings. SteveBaker 03:35, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
If a god is omnipotent, how do they change their mind? Lanfear's Bane
A being with unlimited powers would clearly be able to predict the future - recall all of the past and change history (or simply recreate all of everything so it comes out differently). It's not obvious that 'changing' is a meaningful concept for something where time is "just another dimension". SteveBaker 11:38, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
As a clever wit once quipped: "What happens when the unstoppable meets the unmovable? The inconceivable!" —Steve Summit (talk) 11:50, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Well if we are just going to start making stuff up then I declaring myself a god a relocating to 'another dimension' where this conversation never occured, although I may pop back from time to time to answer questions on the RefDesk. Lanfear's Bane
Tiny Toon Adventures said the meaning of life was friends. Recury 13:17, 14 August 2007 (UTC) Gzuckier`

The answer is obviously "yes". An omnipotent creature can do, well, anything. If he were to create a rock so heavy he couldn't lift it, then indeed he wouldn't be able to lift it. At least, not until he decided to be able to lift it. Hmm. 21:56, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Experts in religion and philosophy should be consulted, since they are specialists in unscrewing the inscrutible. Edison 02:47, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

This question is actually asking, “Can an infinitely powerful being strip him/her self of this ability.” The answer would be yes, an infinity powerful being could by definition strip itself of its own powers. There are far better ways to argue the nonexistence of god by the way. (I read an analysis of this question online a while ago, but now I can’t find the link.) --S.dedalus 05:10, 15 August 2007 (UTC)

Not at all - the question makes no mention of the being modifying his/her abilities. It specifically asks whether a suitable rock could be created. That's an entirely different matter. SteveBaker 16:00, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
No, I am assuming we are talking about an omnipotent god. If god is omnipotent he can do anything. If there is a rock that he cannot lift than he cannot do anything. So if he can create a rock that he cannot lift than he can strip himself of his own omnipotence. Did I miss something? --S.dedalus 22:48, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Who was "Judge" Norman Van Horn, and what do you know about him?[edit]

"Judge" Norman Van Horn was a dis-barred lawyer. He Spent the mid 1880's in Denver, Colorodo and had dealings with the infamous Soapy Smith.

Does anyone have anymore information than this? Like where he was from or when he died. Any information about "Judge" would be greatly appreciated.

He turns up in a couple of books which you might be able to track down. --Tagishsimon (talk)
Websense is blocking me, but google's limited cache suggests that this is some sort of Van Horn family tree, with a Norman Van Horn having been born (or married?) around those dates. Plasticup T/C 13:36, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
I am the author of Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel. There is absolutely no information on a Norman Van Horn. There was a mayor of Denver named Marion C. Van Horn but that is as close as sources get. Sorry I could not be helpful. Jeff Smith (talk) 06:56, 21 March 2010 (UTC)

Big Belly Seahorse[edit]

Smiley1790 02:23, 14 August 2007 (UTC)How much does a big belly seahorse weigh?Smiley1790 02:23, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

A sample of 59 big-belly seahorses, Hippocampus abdominalis, was found to have a mean wet weight of 15.4 ± 1.0g in this study. Dry weight would obviously be considerably less. --jjron 05:10, 19 August 2007 (UTC)

gif dump[edit]

when is going to re-open?

You should probably ask section31 at gmail dot com who is the admin contact for that domain name or tonygarcia05 at gmail dot com who is listed as the contact person at Alexa. is listed as being owned by the same guy and may offer some insights as to what happened. SteveBaker 19:49, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Premarital sex with other people[edit]

What percent of married people in western cultures had sex with somebody other than their spouse prior to marriage?--PasswordrowssaP 16:18, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

I doubt that anybody has collected this data, and if they have, they have probably done so only for individual countries. Which countries would you include in "western cultures"? Would this include Latin America? Eastern Europe? Japan? This question is relevant because I suspect that the percentage is lower for Latin America, for example, than it is for Anglo-America and Western Europe. Marco polo 17:11, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
I mean Western European-type people. How about just the U.K. and the U.S.--PasswordrowssaP 17:20, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Zero; because they weren't married people prior to marriage. Badumpum. Gzuckier 17:26, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
That's not what I mean, and it's not clever.--PasswordrowssaP 17:47, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Not only was he not clever, he was not correct either. Those in second and third marriages were married before they were married. Plasticup T/C 18:47, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
According to this source, approximately 95% of people in the United States have premarital sex. I leave it to someone else to find this data for the UK, but I suspect that the percentage there will be similar. Marco polo 18:53, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Would that be the 95% of honest people? I bet you'd get wildly different answers if you asked a guy in front of his friends at a bar versus in front of his wife. Since human sexuality is one of our biggest privacy issues - I would be very surprised if we had anything like accurate data for this. SteveBaker 19:40, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Presumably the survey was conducted silently on pieces of paper, rather than out loud in front of friends or wife. People are a lot more honest when they know they're anonymous. --Masamage 19:45, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
That survey doesn't quite answer the original question, which was about premarital sex with somebody other than the eventual spouse. The survey just talks about premarital sex, which presumably includes sex with the spouse-to-be. --LarryMac | Talk 19:51, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

I would think that the original Kinsey Reports would have something to say on this issue and on the sub question. These would likely be the most accurate data available, in my opinion. Mrdeath5493 05:08, 15 August 2007 (UTC)


What percentage of Americans masturbate? --Masamage 20:07, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Survey results vary. It looks like about 95% of males and90% of females have reported ever masturbating, while something on the order of 60% of males and 40% of females do so more or less regularly. Those poor kittens! - Eron Talk 21:16, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
A humorist once reported that 90% of people state they have masturbated at some time, and 10% lie. Edison 02:42, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
Perhaps the other 10% couldn't respond to the survey because they were otherwise engaged. StuRat 04:44, 17 August 2007 (UTC)


Why does Africa seem to have so many "crap countries"? What made them this way? I've read Guns, Germs, and Steel, but is that really the complete explanation?--PasswordrowssaP 17:49, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Historically Africa has suffered from two sources of oppression: white people and black people. Jon513 18:58, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
A similar question has been asked here before, but I don't have time to search the archives for it. Guns, Germs, and Steel offers a strong argument for why African societies' material development lagged behind those of Europe in the premodern era and why those societies then fell victim to European colonialism, but it doesn't fully explain the trajectory of African nations in the post-colonial era. African countries' shortcomings in recent decades can be attributed both to neocolonialism and to poor leadership and massive corruption in many African countries. While the entire post-colonial world has faced the challenge of neocolonialism, Africa has suffered from it more than most other countries because of the failure of local leadership. (Compare the former colonies of East Asia, many of which have prospered in recent decades.) Among the reasons for the failure of African leadership and ways in which African societies differ from many Asian societies are these: 1) a lack in many countries of an indigenous civil service in the colonial era, which helps to account for low-quality government services and widespread corruption; 2) a lack of cultural traditions supporting state institutions, since many precolonial African societies could not be called states, and the states that existed relied on kinship and patron-client relationships inappropriate for a modern capitalist nation-state; 3) the colonial legacy of states without any shared identity or sense of civic responsibility based on ethnicity or institutions, in which leaders feel little obligation to the citizenry as a whole, but seek to aggrandize only their own kin or ethnic group, often at the expense of the country as a whole. Note that the few relative success stories in Africa escaped or overcame some of these handicaps through ethnic homogeneity (Botswana), an effort to create a strong trans-ethnic national identity and national institutions (Tanzania), or a relatively strong indigenous civil service and nationalist movement dating to colonial times (Ghana). Marco polo 19:22, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Great answer, Marco polo (but then again, one expects no less from such a well traveled man.) I might only add that their "crapness" is judged very much from a Western view-point. Many African cultures do not value the same things as we do in the West and its a mistake consider the disinclination of indigenous Africans to embrace Western values, social or political structures as an inferiority, instead of a cultural difference. Unless one has lived or traveled widely on the continent, it can be very difficult to fully appreciate quite how richly diverse the people of Africa are (have a look at Category:African ethnic group stubs - remember, those are just the stubs!) And that many of these groups have existed for many thousands of years much like they do today (some over 20,000 years), before there was any white men promoting a for democratic statehood. Its also important to remember that the individuals between neighboring tribes in Africa can be more culturally (not to mention genetically) different as a Chinese and a Brazilian, despite them appearing indistinguishable to Western eyes. Even in the most, literally, black-and-white of conflicts in Africa - the fight against Apartheid, there was as much tribal violence between Xhosa and Zulus as there was against the White regime. Moreover, Africa can be a brutal place. Public "necklacing" or lynchings by mobs are seen as acceptable in some African cultures. I recall as a child walking by the body of a dead man in the gutter and my Xhosa nanny telling me he had been killed by his wife's brother because he had had an extra-marital affair. She, and the rest of her community, saw no wrong in such summary justice, telling me "he deserved it". That is not to say that the African cultures are all violent are warlike, they just deal with conflict in a different way. Expecting such vastly different cultures to successfully adopt Western democratic practices, just because we think it is the right way to govern, is asking a lot. Even more so when we have royally screwed up the country in the first place and exploited it for out own purposes. As Marco says, the African countries that have been successful (in our eyes) are either relatively culturally homogeneous, have managed to bridge the traditional ethic divides, and/or managed to push on with colonial infrastructures intact.
As a final thought, consider the Bushmen or San, perhaps the oldest people in the world. Sadly, these amazing people have been decimated by disease and driven out of their lands for diamond mining, there are perhaps only 100,000 left and less than 10,000 living traditional lifestyles. Yet, before we came to democratize the savage tribes of Africa, the Bushmen would ruled by consensus, having no chiefs. Women were essentially treated as equals and they operated a gift economy, giving each other gifts according to need. That doesn't sound so crap, does it? Rockpocket 06:39, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
Rockpocket, you're missing the point of my question. Most African countries are "crap countries" because of their high poverty levels, their instability, and other things that make a country a "crap country." It's not a westernized view at all.--PasswordrowssaP 00:06, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
I agree, with the possible exception of the few rich bastards in charge, I wouldn't expect most of the rest of the population of a typical African country to think of high AIDS and malaria rates, poverty, starvation, genocide, warfare, religious conflict, etc., as signs of success. Seeing those things as bad is not just a "Western view". StuRat 04:41, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
Obviously those things quoted are unlikely to be considered "good" by most humans. However, a number of Western countries have poverty, are at war over religious conflict, have pollution, have an obesity epidemic, and we work 60 hours a week for 45 years for the privilege of supporting an unstable stock market that can wipe out our entire financial future in a day. I had the pleasure of spending a few years on my life living in these "crap countries", in a small rondavel with no running water or electricity, yet and I met people that were perfectly content with their life and had no desire to swap it for the description I gave of my life in the West. When it comes down to the individual living his life, its all a matter of perspective. Rockpocket 06:17, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
Which Western nations are currently having religious warfare ? There was Northern Ireland, but that seems to be mostly over now. I suppose you could include Israel and Palestine, but I only consider Israel to be "Western". I'd also think just about everyone, given the choice of starvation or possible obesity, would choose the later. When given the choice of losing some of their wealth via bad investments versus having no money to begin with, they would choose the former risk. Working 60 hours per week versus not being able to find a job would also look better. The best measure may be in people who vote with their feet; are more people clamoring to immigrate to the paradise on Earth that is Africa or are they hoping on any boat that could possibly float to escape from that hell-hole ? StuRat 06:31, 18 August 2007 (UTC)


Is Gmane targeted to the free software community? Jet (talk) 21:38, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

From the Gmane home page: "Any public mailing list can be carried by Gmane, but the vast majority of the lists here deal with free software." - So it's not clear whether the service was intended to be mainly for the free software community - but it's certainly ended up that way. SteveBaker 21:50, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Ai honours[edit]

Hi all, does anyone know how an "Ai honours" degree in England relate to the honours system in New Zealand? - Thanks, Aaadddaaammm 22:46, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Are you sure you have that right? Not a BSc (Hons) in Artificial Intelligence, by any chance? --Tagishsimon (talk)
We have an article on British undergraduate degree classification, you can find it here - British undergraduate degree classification :) DuncanHill 23:25, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
First-class honours, probably. Anything equivalent to the top decile. Hornplease 11:11, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

Rabbit's head symbol[edit]

Today while walking along a creek in the park, I saw rabbit heads, in profile with one eye, spray-painted in white on two trees and a rock. Each was accompanied by an arrow that didn't seem to point to anything in particular. Is this rabbit head a symbol for anything in particular? (I doubt it was the Playboy Bunny since it didn't have a bow tie.) NeonMerlin 23:18, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Where was the arrow in relation to the bunny-head? --Masamage 02:49, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
It's probably marking the route of some kind of jogging trail. SteveBaker 12:29, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
The arrow was a few inches below the head. NeonMerlin 14:57, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
Did you follow it? Plasticup T/C 15:07, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
Yeah! Take the red pill! SteveBaker 22:16, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
Go ask Alice, I think she'll know. Corvus cornix 23:34, 15 August 2007 (UTC)