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June 30, 2004

Electoral Handicapping


Some data on the upcoming 2004 Presidential election.

(1) Thomas F. Schaller, writing in the 15 June 2004 Washington Spectator, "The Electoral College Seen By Many as the Deplorable College:"
Based on 2003 Census estimates, the 16 states almost universally agreed to be "battlegrounds" and the five that some also consider competitive—Colorado, Delaware, Maine, Louisiana and Tennessee—make up just 40 percent of the national population and 39 percent (212) of the electors. That means three out of every five voters will be mostly ignored between now and November 2.
(2) A second article by a different author lists only fifteen battleground states:

Arizona
Arkansas
Florida
Iowa
Michigan
Minnesota
Missouri
New Hampshire
New Mexico
Ohio
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin


(3) A third, more informative article on battleground states at the Wall Street Journal (21 June 2004) agrees that there are sixteen, but puts Tennessee in the category of a definite battleground, unlike Shaller.

bgroundmap.jpg


And here's the latest polling data in those states:

bgroundtab.jpg


So my sources don't quite agree completely on the battleground states. Taking the union of all the states mentioned by at least one source as a battleground, I get 21 states:

Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Delaware
Florida
Iowa
Louisiana
Maine
Michigan
Minnesota
Missouri
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Mexico
Ohio
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Tennessee
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin


That leaves 51-21 = 30 "uncontested" states (D. C. is a "state" here). So who is supposed to win in those? This graphic (also from the WSJ article) seems to have the answers:
jxj.gif


It's time to start whacking on this data in Mathematica. First, a list of with all the data so far, including the number of electoral votes per state:
eVotes ={{"Alabama", 9, "Bush"}, {"Alaska", 3, "Bush"}, {"Arizona", 10, "Battleground"}, {"Arkansas", 6, "Battleground"}, {"California", 55, "Kerry"}, {"Colorado", 9, "Battleground"}, {"Connecticut", 7, "Kerry"}, {"Delaware", 3, "Battleground"}, {"D. C.", 3, "Kerry"}, {"Florida", 27, "Battleground"}, {"Georgia", 15, "Bush"}, {"Hawaii", 4, "Kerry"}, {"Idaho", 4, "Bush"}, {"Illinois", 21, "Battleground"}, {"Indiana", 11, "Bush"}, {"Iowa", 7, "Battleground"}, {"Kansas", 6, "Bush"}, {"Kentucky", 8, "Bush"}, {"Louisiana", 9, "Battleground"}, {"Maine", 4, "Battleground"}, {"Maryland", 10, "Kerry"}, {"Massachusetts", 12, "Kerry"}, {"Michigan", 17, "Battleground"}, {"Minnesota", 10, "Battleground"}, {"Mississippi", 6, "Bush"}, {"Missouri", 11, "Battleground"}, {"Montana", 3, "Bush"}, {"Nebraska", 5, "Bush"}, {"Nevada", 5, "Battleground"}, {"New Hampshire", 4, "Battleground"}, {"New Jersey", 15, "Kerry"}, {"New Mexico", 5, "Battleground"}, {"New York", 31, "Kerry"}, {"North Carolina", 15, "Bush"}, {"North Dakota", 3, "Bush"}, {"Ohio", 20, "Battleground"}, {"Oklahoma", 7, "Bush"}, {"Oregon", 7, "Battleground"}, {"Pennsylvania", 21, "Battleground"}, {"Rhode Island", 4, "Kerry"}, {"South Carolina", 8, "Bush"}, {"South Dakota", 3, "Bush"}, {"Tennessee", 11, "Battleground"}, {"Texas", 34, "Bush"}, {"Utah", 5, "Bush"}, {"Vermont", 3, "Kerry"}, {"Virginia", 13, "Bush"}, {"Washington", 11, "Battleground"}, {"West Virginia", 5, "Battleground"}, {"Wisconsin", 10, "Battleground"}, {"Wyoming", 3, "Bush"}};
So what's the battleground?
battleground = Select[eVotes, #[[3]] == "Battleground" &]

Out[63]= {{"Arizona", 10, "Battleground"}, {"Arkansas", 6, "Battleground"}, {"Colorado", 9, "Battleground"}, {"Delaware", 3, "Battleground"}, {"Florida", 27, "Battleground"}, {"Illinois", 21, "Battleground"}, {"Iowa", 7, "Battleground"}, {"Louisiana", 9, "Battleground"}, {"Maine", 4, "Battleground"}, {"Michigan", 17, "Battleground"}, {"Minnesota", 10, "Battleground"}, {"Missouri", 11, "Battleground"}, {"Nevada", 5, "Battleground"}, {"New Hampshire", 4, "Battleground"}, {"New Mexico", 5, "Battleground"}, {"Ohio", 20, "Battleground"}, {"Oregon", 7, "Battleground"}, {"Pennsylvania", 21, "Battleground"}, {"Tennessee", 11, "Battleground"}, {"Washington", 11, "Battleground"}, {"West Virginia", 5, "Battleground"}, {"Wisconsin", 10, "Battleground"}}
The starting situation:

Bush 161
Kerry 144
Battleground 233


There are 538 total Electoral College votes, and 270 are needed to win. To make some guesses about who might win, I need to come up with a way to convert each battleground state's polling data into a probability of victory in that state. I can then exhaust over all 221 possible battleground outcomes and sum over probabilities to get some idea who's going to win. That's not too difficult a calculation (roughly 2 million possible outcomes).

So, how to convert the polling data for a state into a probability of victory? [Note to self: read this PDF document on the meaning of "margin of error" (from the American Statistical Association), which has the following useful warning (see its pg 10)]:
A misleading feature of most current media stories on political polls is that they report the margin of error associated with the proportion favoring one candidate, not the margin of error of the lead of one candidate over another. To illustrate the problem, suppose one poll finds that Mr. Jones has 45 percent support, Ms. Smith has 41 percent support, 14 percent are undecided, and there is a 3 percent margin of error for each category.

If we note that Mr. Jones might have anywhere from 42 percent to 48 percent support in the voting population and Ms. Smith might have anywhere from 38 percent to 44 percent support, then it would not be terribly surprising for another poll to report anything from a 10-point lead for Mr. Jones (such as 48 percent to 38 percent) to a 2-point lead for Ms. Smith (such as 44 percent to 42 percent).

In more technical terms, a law of probability dictates that the difference between two uncertain proportions (e.g., the lead of one candidate over another in a political poll in which both are estimated) has more uncertainty associated with it than either proportion alone.

Accordingly, the margin of error associated with the lead of one candidate over another should be larger than the margin of error associated with a single proportion, which is what media reports typically mention (thus the need to keep your eye on what’s being estimated!).

Until media organizations get their reporting practices in line with actual variation in results across political polls, a rule of thumb is to multiply the currently reported margin of error by 1.7 to obtain a more accurate estimate of the margin of error for the lead of one candidate over another. Thus, a reported 3 percent margin of error becomes about 5 percent and a reported 4 percent margin of error becomes about 7 percent when the size of the lead is being considered.


[to be continued...]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:00 AM

boosters

boosters

Posted by tplambeck at 01:03 AM

bonny doon

bonny doon

Posted by tplambeck at 01:01 AM

boobams

boobams

Posted by tplambeck at 12:58 AM

June 29, 2004

Gravitational Chocolate

The Original Hershey's Automatic Gravitational Chocolate Machine allows visitors to create custom blends of candy mixes. Candy travels from chutes in the wall and down a giant funnel before dropping into Times Square collectible tins and boxes.

[Logo by Michael Doret].

Posted by tplambeck at 11:03 AM

More Brautigan

ufo.jpg
UFO VERSUS CBS by Susan DeWitt. The author was an old woman who told me that her book, which was written in Santa Barbara at her sister's house, was about a Martian conspiracy to take over the Columbia Broadcasting System.
"It's all here in my book," she said. "Remember all those flying saucers last summer?"
"I think so," I said.
"They're all in here," she said. The book looked quite handsome and I'm certain they were all in there.

hhn.jpg
THE EGG LAYED TWICE by Beatrice Quinn Porter. The author said this collection of poetry summed up the wisdom she had found while living twenty-six years on a chicken ranch in San Jose.
"It may not be poetry," she said. "I never went to college, but it's sure as hell about chickens."

bbf.jpg
BREAKFAST FIRST by Samuel Humber. The author said that breakfast was an absolute requisite for travelling and was overlooked in too many travel books, so he decided that he would write a book about how important breakfast was in travelling.
[book]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:54 AM

June 28, 2004


At the loft

Owen watching Cole play a video game.


owenloft.jpg


coleloft.jpg

Posted by tplambeck at 03:00 PM

June 27, 2004

Courtyard Heron

heron.jpg

Posted by tplambeck at 06:09 PM

Movable Type Hack


An annoyance for about 6 months:
Problem: The Movable Type new entry text entry boxes are too narrow when rendered either in IE or in Firefox on a computer that is running at high screen resolution.

Solution: I was too lazy to rehack the MT templates extensively, but I did find an easy change that solved the problem for me in Movable Type 2.64, which I'll describe here even though it is a miserable hack, in the hopes of helping other people...

Just go into the file

cgi-bin/tmpl/cms/edit_entry.html

look for the text string cols=""

and put a number you like in between the quotation marks.

For example, I changed it to cols="100", which worked great for me from Firefox. I think I had to change about 6 lines, maybe, in a similar way, for similar .tmpl files under .../tmpl/cms to completely solve the problem.

Thane Plambeck
(I couldn't contribute this information to a forum where the "Comments were Closed." Since the comments that were there were mostly useless rants about CSS, pointers to unrelated software, or other unhelpful information, I thought I would put my solution up here in case people are looking for it.)

Posted by tplambeck at 04:38 PM

Lensbaby


Jim used a gizmo from Lensbabies to take these cool haircut photos.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:57 AM

June 26, 2004

Richard Serra

An image from the back cover of The Nation magazine (5 July 2004):


pv.jpg



The web site explains:

The website www.pleasevote.com is a call to vote the Bush administration out of office. The sculptor Richard Serra contributed the illustration based on Goya's Saturn Devouring one of his Children that appears on the site's home page.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:37 PM

June 24, 2004

Livery for a Lackey

Livery for a Lackey of the Counts of Attems
Austria, c. 1820
Mont. Dep. Inv. No. N 63 1


livery.jpg


As was done at court, the nobility dressed its servants in livery, usually in the colours of the coat of arms of the family concerned. Thus a keen observer could immediately recognise from the livery whose servant it was.

The livery depicted here, that of a lackey of the counts of Attems, is one of the few examples preserved from the early 19th century. It consists of a coat of yellow cloth, decorated with wide blue and white silk edging with a floral pattern, as well as a waistcoat of light-yellow cloth with silver edging and silver-plated buttons.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:32 PM

Googlelinking: Let's Feel Lucky


It's possible to compose a URL that mimics the effect of the Google "I'm feeling lucky" button. For example, the URL
http://www.google.com/search?q='Albert Einstein'&btnI=Google+Search
will immediately transfer you to the web page that Google currently considers best for the term Albert Einstein (to see that this works, copy the URL into the address bar of your browser).

I call it Googlelinking, and I think it's a useful possible solution to linkrot. The (current) top-ranked Google site for "linkrot" explains:
6% of the links on the Web are broken according to a recent survey by Terry Sullivan's All Things Web. Even worse, linkrot in May 1998 was double that found by a similar survey in August 1997.

Linkrot definitely reduces the usability of the Web, being cited as one of the biggest problems in using the Web by 60% of the users in the October 1997 GVU survey. This percentage was up from "only" 50% in the April 1997 survey. Users get irritated when they attempt to go somewhere, only to get their reward snatched away at the last moment by a 404 or other incomprehensible error message.
When you Googlelink, you push off the problem of keeping your links up to date onto Google itself, which is likely to do a much better job than you, anyway.

I first experimented with Googlelinking over two years ago in my random person generator, and it still works. So perhaps the risk that Google will change the input URL format is small.

Now what I need to do is write a web form that will spit out an appropriate HTML Googlelink for an input search term. Then I wouldn't have to keep refiguring out the appropriate syntax when I want to use this technique in my own web pages.

Maybe tomorrow.

Note added 26 June 2004: I started an experiment to googlelink the Mathematical Subject Areas used by the American Math Society and other organizations to classify mathematical literature. Unfortunately, it's looking like a huge task to complete it—I had no idea how many different subareas of mathematics there were—but I am pleased with how it is turning out, as far as I've gotten. I need to find a better way to automate the creation of the googlelinks).

Posted by tplambeck at 10:17 PM

June 23, 2004

Thén

My name misspelled with an accent.


starbuckscup.jpg

Posted by tplambeck at 10:14 AM

Richard Brautigan


From the amazingly comprehensive Brautigan Bibliography plus+:

A Happy But Footsore Writer Celebrates His Driver's Block

People Weekly June 8, 1981: 113, 116, 120.

In this interview with Cheryl McCall, part of a cross-country promotion for The Tokyo-Montana Express and written to appear as if he were the author, Brautigan discusses "his deep distaste for the automobile and explains how he successfully remains in the driver's seat by staying out of it." Includes photographs of Brautigan.

Not driving is a personal decision, not a protest in a socially active way. I don't dislike the modern world. I just don't have a love affair with the car.

I do think it's unacceptable that we have to walk around breathing what's left over from swamps and dinosaurs from prehistoric times. The noise pollution, hum, drone, shifting, grinding and roaring are enemies of silence and contemplation.

Not driving is almost considered a character flaw in America. I just accept it cheerfully and have evolved the Zen art of nondriving. Because I've made this conscious decision not to drive, I've accepted and created a lifestyle around the fact that I do not have spontaneous movement.

I'm always on the passenger sides or in the back seats and when I look at the drivers, they always seem to be enjoying themselves. It's a total mystery to me. The person who is driving always has to keep his eye on the road. Whenever I'm in a car as a passenger, I get to look out and see everything. I'm always pointing out things they can't look at.

Driving is such a part of our culture that the driver's license is a more respected document than a passport. It's almost like I don't have an identity without one.

My favorite form of transportation is walking anywhere with somebody I love. I've never gotten a parking ticket for walking and I don't need a license. I take buses, cabs, airplanes and sometimes I hitchhike. I don't care if I get wet.

Maybe I'm an anachronism—not of the past but of the future. A portent. The days of the automobile are numbered. I don't think the internal-combustion engine has a great future. Who knows, maybe five years from now I'll be driving alongside Paul Newman at some raceway. Stranger things have happened.
Posted by tplambeck at 12:47 AM

June 22, 2004

In repose

reaganpin.jpg

Alexander Cockburn, writing in his column in the 28 June 2004 Nation magazine:

The ceremonial schedule for Reagan's corpse the week after his death had it "lying in repose" for several days. What else was it supposed to be doing?

[...]

Reagan was "in repose" much of his second term, his day easing forward through a forgiving schedule of morning nap, afternoon snooze, TV supper and early bed. He couldn't recall the names of many of his aides, even of his dog. Stories occasionaly swirled around Washington that his aides pondered whether to invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment. I saw him at the Republican convention in New Orleans in August of 1988, where he sat in his presidential box entirely immobile, with the kind of somber passivity one associates with the shrouded figure in some newly opened Egyptian tomb before oxygen commences its mission of decay...

[Cockburn's Counterpunch deserves a close look]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:45 PM

June 19, 2004

Spectra Art

colecastle.jpg

More third grade art.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:30 PM

Rope Toy

Pearl's favorite game.


ropetoy.jpg

Growling dog [video, 2Mb, 22 second MPG].

Posted by tplambeck at 10:58 AM

June 18, 2004

Plenty of Leg Room

From a June 2004 document at the Cryonics Institute, the "Cryostats Status Report":

Currently the Cryonics Institute has nine cryostats in service for storage of cryonics patients in liquid nitrogen...

Although we have some patients who are quite tall and/or obese, we have not yet experienced any problem fitting six patients into one of our cylinders. There would be even less problem in the rectangular units where the patients lay flat and are simply stacked on top of each other 3 or 4 layers deep. In the cylinders the most crowding occurs in the area of the chest, with general narrowing toward the feet (partly due to the variation of abdomen and hip girth for men and women). There is plenty of leg-room.

The cylinders and capsule are filled once weekly, whereas the rectangular units are filled twice weekly. The depth of liquid nitrogen ranges from 7.5 feet at the lowest to about 8 feet just after a refill. The level of liquid nitrogen in the most efficient cylinders drops only a bit more than 2 inches in a week (We will soon start filling these cylinders only once every two weeks.) So in the cylinders our tallest patients, at about six-and-a-half feet have at least a foot of liquid nitrogen above their toes at all times. Should a disaster occur -- which has not happened since we began service in 1976 -- the feet would be the first to suffer exposure and the head the last.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:00 PM

June 17, 2004

Halifax

I went to a Mathematics conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia at Dalhousie University (where the larger buildings reminded me of the undergraduate dormitories I lived in twenty years ago at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln).

Posted by tplambeck at 11:50 PM

June 12, 2004

The Collection Series [1949]

While waiting for Owen to complete a karate lesson this morning, I went to a used book sale and spent $1 to acquire a copy of Effective Business English, an attractively bound 850+ page volume by Alta Gwinn Saunders, the "Late Chairman of Division of Business English" at the University of Illinois. It was published in 1949.

I wondered what Alta Gwinn might have to say about getting deadbeats to pay bills:

The Collection Series: The collection procedure divides itself into roughly six stages. In the first three stages, the collection correspondent is working on the assumption that the debtor intends to pay. The solicitations gradually rise through statements, reminders, and stronger reminders, to a climax, which is called the discussion stage. In this stage, the fourth, the collection manager divides the attention between securing immediate payment and breaking the silence of the debtor. In the fifth stage, the urgency stage, the collection correspondent assumes that he must use strong persuasion to make the debtor pay. In the sixth stage he uses the threat of forcible collection.

[Some boring stuff on "Stage 1," the "Notification Stage" deleted here. This is just sending out normal statements in the first month...]

(Stage 2): Reminder Stage: At the beginning of the second month, a printed enclosure such as the following may accompany the statement:


collect.jpg

It is especially important to seek goodwill in reminders. The type of first reminder that collects 90 percent of the revenue is likely to be the kind that gets the money but drives the customer away. It is better that the first reminder be 50 percent efficient and keep the customer

[...]

(Stage 3): Stronger Reminders: The creditor usually assumes that the debtor has some justifiable and perhaps unusual reason for not paying—dissatisfaction with goods or service, illness, or absence from home or office, and that payment will be forthcoming as soon as this difficulty is removed.

The collection letter in this stage excludes sales material in order to etch more sharply on the debtor's message one thought: "You owe an account which you should pay." The attitude is friendly, the tone frank, the request for payment, direct. The following example suggests "talking it over," a technique useful in writing to a good customer who is "touchy" about being asked for money:

We recently sent you a statement of your account which amounts to $_______.

Not having received your check, we wonder if there is something in connection with the charges you would like to discuss.

If there are no corrections to be made in your account, won't you assist us by sending us your check today?

(Stage 4): Discussion Stage: In the discussion stage, the object is to procure payment if possible, but if not, to induce the debtor to explain his attitude toward his account and tell the creditor when to expect payment and in what amounts. The discussion letter which succeeds is is using the right motive for inducing payment, and which has this motive presented in a sincere, vivid, concise and friendly way. There is psychological value, moreover, in reviewing the collection effort, which means mentioning the number of statements, reminders, and letters; the definite date on which each was sent; and the changes in the attitude of the creditor toward the debtor...

(Stage 5) Urgency: When the credit or collection manager has given the debtor customer ample opportunity either to pay or to explain why he cannot pay, then he must make a new assumption. In the urgency stage, he assumes that the customer does not recognize the importance of meeting his obligations; that he is apathetic, indolent, or stubborn; that the creditor has to say or do something forceful enough to arouse him to act. From this point, back of every letter he writes is the thought: "You must pay."

An example of a strong appeal to self-interest, presented from the customer's point of view, is the following:


collect2.jpg

(Stage 6) Action Stage: A usual type of force is a letter from credit manager, treasurer, or president on his official stationery imforming the debtor that the firm will start legal proceedings unless he pays or makes satisfactory arrangements.


collect3.jpg

From the archives: Repeat, Reassure, Resume (how to handle customer complaints, or alternatively, their objections when you're trying to sell them something—scroll down a bit).

Posted by tplambeck at 02:43 PM

June 10, 2004

Two word palindromes


drawn inward
diapers repaid
devils lived
fresh serf
march cram
name garageman
nurses run
purist sirup
redrawn warder
rewards drawer
rotary gyrator
see referees
senile felines
snack cans
sorting nitros
soot tattoos
some demos
stressed desserts
wondered now

Posted by tplambeck at 09:47 AM

June 08, 2004

Q

For all their wealth of content, for all the sum of history and social institution invested in them, music, mathematics, and chess are resplendently useless (applied mathematics is a higher plumbing, a kind of music for the police band). They are metaphysically trivial, irresponsible. They refuse to relate outward, to take reality for arbiter. This is the source of their witchery.

The American Mathematical Monthly, v. 101, no. 9, November, 1994.

Steiner, G

Posted by tplambeck at 11:51 PM

June 06, 2004

More Adware Companies


More examples of Adware companies:

redsheriff.com
googleadservice.com (possibly defunct)
myaffiliateprogram.com
webtrendslive.com
humanclick.com
scripps.com
centrport.net
adtech.de
atdmt.com

Posted by tplambeck at 11:44 PM

Adware Company Glut

As an experiment, I clicked the checkbox "Override Automatic Cookie Handling" on my Internet Explorer settings at

Tools->Internet Options->Privacy->Advanced,

and then chose the setting "Prompt" for both "First-" and "Third-party" cookies.

I then resumed browsing the Internet as usual. I immediately started getting confirmation cookie acceptance popups at literally every web site I visited. Sometimes I got as many as four popups originating from four different domains on a single web page.

There are more Adware companies than I ever dreamed existed.

It's clearly challenging to "differentiate" oneself from the competition in such an environment. Here are the descriptions offered by the first eight companies I ran into:

zedo.com: "powers ad serving for websites, advertisers and ad agencies with a unique Third Generation Technology."

ru4.com: "a leading provider of marketing technology that helps advertisers dramatically improve the profitability of their online marketing investments."

adserver.com: "the most flexible, efficient, and technologically advanced online ad serving solution in the industry."

customcoupon.com: "gives CPGs, retailers and media companies a way to deliver secure and targeted coupon offers to millions of online consumers."

[When I first read that acronym, "CPGs", I thought, hmm, maybe that's "Computer Propelled Grenades." But no, it's "Consumer Packaged Goods"...]

coremetrics.com: "helps companies increase eBusiness profitability by developing and acting upon a comprehensive understanding of all online visitor and customer interactions."

mediaplex.com: "the most advanced technology available for managing online advertising workflow and increasing campaign effectiveness."

I was starting to get a little bored. But then, amidst all these claimants for "most technologically advanced," the next company actually seemed have some fancier buzzwords as well as a little gratuitous background music that sounded like a rejected jingle for a fight scene in "The Matrix":

specificpop.com: "specializes in pop-under advertising on the most popular and premier websites on the Internet. Our pop-unders are 720x320 pixel size windows that are fully functional with HTML, Java, Flash, etc..."

Not a pop up, mind you, but a pop under. Ah, yes.

Finally, it was back into the familiar trenches with

hitbox.com, which resolved to websidestory.com. It promised "online marketers actionable insight to optimize their entire customer life cycle. HBX makes it simple to improve your marketing ROI, sales and revenue and increase customer satsfaction."

Maybe it's a good thing there are so many companies, particularly if it means they're holding the information they collect in proprietary databases that aren't shared across company boundaries. I don't know. It's nice to have them all turned off.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:20 PM

Wind up

Cole, playing pitcher, awaiting the delivery in his final pitching machine baseball game at Terman Middle School.


pitchingmachine.jpg

Teammate photos

Posted by tplambeck at 10:19 AM

Assist

Owen celebrates an assist in his final tee ball game.


assist.jpg

Posted by tplambeck at 10:01 AM

Tag out

Owen makes a play at second base in his final tee ball game.


tagout.jpg

Posted by tplambeck at 09:52 AM

June 05, 2004

Advanced Placement Test


Match the works to their authors:

a. The Bell Jar
b. The Man and the Golden Bell
c. The Golden Bough
d. The Golden Bowl

1. James George Frazer
2. Henry James
3. Sylvia Plath
4. L. Ron Hubbard

Posted by tplambeck at 10:35 PM

June 02, 2004

Full house

War Profiteers Card Deck

Posted by tplambeck at 12:50 PM

An easy day for a lady

From Jon Krakauer's Eiger Dreams:

As the heavy traffic on Mont Blanc began to rob the climb of its cachet (by its easiest routes, the 15,771-foot peak is not technically demanding or even very steep), ambitious alpinists turned their attention to the hundreds of sheer-walled satellite peaks—the fabled Chamonix Aiguilles—that stud the ridges of the massif like the spines of a stegasaur. In 1881, when Albert Mummery, Alexander Burgener, and Benedict Venetz bagged the fearsome-looking Aiguille du Grepon, it was lauded as a superhuman feat. Nevertheless, in a prescient moment following the climb, Mummery predicted that it would only be a matter of time before the Grepon lost its reputation as "the most difficult ascent in the Alps" and came to be regarded as an "easy day for a lady."

A hundred years after Mummery's heyday, new techniques, better equipment, and a population explosion on the heights have brought about just the sort of devaluation Mummery feared, not only of the Grepon, but of most of the other "last great problems" that followed: the Walker Spur, the Freney Pillar, the North Face of Les Droites, the Dru Couloir, to name a few.


Posted by tplambeck at 09:42 AM

June 01, 2004

Ten Year Trudge

Here's a running log [spreadsheet, (PDF)] showing roughly how fast I could run five miles (the "Wetlands Turnaround" entries) over the last 10 years. On 23 October 2002, at age 40, I ran five miles in 41 minutes, 39 seconds. Judging from some other scraps of paper I've kept, I probably weighed about 185 pounds then. That seems to be about my peak level of fitness since early 1995.

Since then, I've clearly fallen off the wagon. This morning I weighed in at 204 pounds and ran five miles in 48 minutes, 39 seconds.

But on 27 February 1999, I weighed 214 1/2 pounds and could just barely run 5 miles in less than an hour. In fact, most of the time I exercised then, I would only run just over two miles (the "Bridge Turnaround") entries. I was quite the fat slob back then.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:13 PM

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