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August 31, 2004

Collective Nouns


I liked these two:

"An annoyance of cell phones."
"A visit of jehovah's witnesses."

Posted by tplambeck at 02:35 PM

August 29, 2004

The Taliban Song

When the wind is right, concerts at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View can be heard clearly at our house in Palo Alto.

Tonight, it's incredibly monotonous country music in the "big hat, no cattle" style. Internet research has now revealed it to be the creative work of someone named Toby Keith.

The only thing that changes from number to number is the key. And I think there have been three keys so far.

Sing "The Taliban Song," Toby! He writes:

I was watching CNN and thinking about those everyday people surviving the bombardment in Afghanistan. You know, what if you're a peace-loving guy in Afghanistan and you're watching Taliban TV, and they're trying to tell you, "It's all under control" while American planes are dropping bombs? You don't want any part of that. So it's a "get the hell out of Dodge" song for an Afghan man. We recorded it on the road in Alabama.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:08 PM

August 28, 2004

The Little Drum Major

35 second MPG, 3.1Mb

Posted by tplambeck at 02:40 PM

E is for Effort

"But I worked really really hard! Honest!" (via graham).

Posted by tplambeck at 01:56 PM

Cubism brought home

Turn your digital photos into Picasso masterpieces.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:51 AM

Edge Interviews

My next door neighbor (but one) was interviewed on the subject of the anthropic landscape of 21st century physics.

If you liked that, here's a more recent one that's even more interesting.

Prior to getting to know Lenny, I considered myself the strongest mathematician and physicist within 100 feet of my house. After getting to know him, I simply reduced the radius of interest to 50 feet.

Then the house right next door was sold (scroll down to 16 August 2003), and two physicists moved in. I had to reduce the radius to 15 feet.

"You forgot about your kids," commented Steve Norman.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:11 AM

First Day of School


Previous years: 2003 2002.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:52 AM

Cousin Liz

Since I'm enumerating cousins, here's a reprise for Liz, from the archives.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:50 AM

Cousin Stefan

My cousin Stefan Plambeck & Sharon Arad in the new kitchen.


Posted by tplambeck at 12:49 AM

August 27, 2004

Cousin Tim

My cousin ponders an orchestral score.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:21 AM

August 26, 2004

Mr Bush's War: CACOs and NOKs

From the Casualty Assistance Calls Officer Course: Study Guide, a US Navy document that provides

...explanation of the three areas of Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) responsibility: notification visit, funeral arrangements visit, and the survivor benefits visit. Anecdotal discussions by chaplains and experienced CACOs are included to provide first-hand information and to give students an opportunity to address issues of concern. Additionally, case studies offer students an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills presented in this course and to receive feedback on their performance...

"NOK" stands for "Next of Kin." An excerpt:

First In-Person Contact
Key Points for initial In-Person Contact
1. The information and examples in this list were compiled from interviews with experienced CACOs. These insights and approaches have been developed in a broad range of hands-on situations. Use your introduction to confirm the identity of the NOK. Use the NOK's name and the decedent's name as you introduce yourself and any others who are with you.
Mrs. Brown, I'm Warrant Officer Thomas Gray and this is Chaplain Orvec. We have some bad news about your husband, LT Frank Brown. May we speak with you?
If the decedent has a common name, or there is reason to doubt the NOK's identity, ask for confirmation.
Let me make sure that our information is correct. Are you the wife of LT Frank L. Brown who is assigned to the USS X?
2. A fearful survivor who has guessed the reason for your visit may refuse permission, irrationally believing that the message will not be delivered (and will not be true) if you are not admitted.
Talk quietly to the next of kin until you can gain approval for entering the house and closing the door.
Example: Could we please just step inside the door, Mrs. Brown? We need to talk with you privately.
3. If at a next of kin's place of employment, try to arrange a private room through the employer.
Is there somewhere we could talk privately with Mrs. Brown for a few minutes?
4. In most circumstances, it is preferable to have the next of kin come to a realization of what has happened on his/her own, and to be the first to ask whether their Navy relative is dead.
In the following example, the CACO's statements are given with typical responses from the NOK. Their may be no response at all as each of the statements is made, or the NOK may jump immediately to the conclusion and state that the member is dead.
CACO: I am LT Paula Smith, USN. Are you the mother of LT Frank L. Brown?
NOK: Yes, I am.
CACO: I have some news for you about your son.
NOK: He isn't dead, is he? Is he dead?
CACO: Yes, he is. I'm sorry to tell you that your son is dead.
Some CACOs may prefer a more direct method, such as this:
CACO: I am LT Paula Smith, USN. Are you the mother of LT Frank L. Brown?
NOK: Yes, I am.
CACO: On behalf of the Secretary of the Navy, I am sorry to inform you that your son was in a traffic accident in Rome, Italy, and was reported dead at 8:00 this morning.
NOK: No, there must be some mistake. Where did you obtain their information?
CACO: Regrettably it is true. It was reported by his commanding officer. I am deeply sorry.
5. Avoid euphemisms or vague language that may delay the NOK's acceptance of what has occurred. The words "dead" and "death" have a finality that has been found to be helpful for gaining NOK acceptance that the event has happened.
6. Gauge your next actions on the NOK’s response...

It helps to accentuate the positive:

2. Use positive language whenever possible. Even the most negative information can be reframed to emphasize positive aspects. For example:

"The funeral cannot be scheduled yet because we do not know when the remains will be received."

"I do not have that information now, and will not know until tomorrow."

"The funeral can be scheduled as soon we know when the remains will be received."

"I will have that information tomorrow."

The phrases have identical meanings, but the first ones are far more likely to trigger a defensive response...

Posted by tplambeck at 01:36 PM

Midwest vs Great Plains

Do you know where the "West Coast" of the United States is? How about the Rocky Mountains? Florida? The East Coast? Hawaii?

Good for you. It's nice to know what places are meant when I use these words, isn't it?

Now—how about the "Midwest"?

What about "Middle America" (a mysterious term that seems to come up with increasing frequency)?

The trouble is that these last terms don't really correspond to places, or if they do, they correspond to widely disparate areas.

There is a way out of this problem. Here's a map of the Great Plains. On the west, the Great Plains bump into the Rockies. Everything east of the Great Plains is the Midwest, until you run into someplace that has a descriptive term available (e.g, "The Appalachians," "the Great Lakes", "The Ozarks", etc).


Ohio? (answer: Midwest).
Omaha? (answer: Great Plains).

Posted by tplambeck at 10:37 AM

Two anagrams



Posted by tplambeck at 10:07 AM

Ike Cosse

Cold Blooded World.

I saw Ike perform at a farmer's market in Los Altos, CA. I liked his music and picked up one of his CDs to buy. He steered me away from the one I had chosen and said "This one is better. I was really feeling it in this one."

Looks like Amazon doesn't have it in stock but it's a great blues recording I think.

It's a cold-blooded world
Mean boys and girls
No smiling teeth
No "Thank you, please."
When a boy loves a girl
She walks away
One day he'll grow up
One day he'll say...
It's a cold-blooded world...

Beats "The Girl From Ipanema" all to hell.


Posted by tplambeck at 12:06 AM

August 24, 2004

Current Jazz Obsessions


For Irving Berlin's "Remember," first on the CD. Recorded 7 February 1960.


For "The Thing to Do," third on the CD. This one has moved beyond obsession, well into addiction. Cole asked me why I never play anything else when he's riding in the car. Recorded 30 July 1964.


"For All We Know," number 3 on the first CD. Recorded 21 February 1963. I heard this on KZSM radio in the car and pulled over to stop the car's engine noise. In the liner notes, Brubeck comments on the weird E Natural that he pounds out repeatedly in his solo like a magician pulling multiple animals from a single small hat—"I don't remember having used this note on this tune before."

Posted by tplambeck at 11:17 PM

The Yellow Peril

If I were a Springer-Verlag Graduate Text in Mathematics, I would be William Fulton and Joe Harris's Representation Theory: A First Course.

My primary goal is to introduce the beginner to the finite-dimensional representations of Lie groups and Lie algebras. Intended to serve non-specialists, my concentration is on examples. The general theory is developed sparingly, and then mainly as a useful and unifying language to describe phenomena already encountered in concrete cases. I begin with a brief tour through representation theory of finite groups, with emphasis determined by what is useful for Lie groups; in particular, the symmetric groups are treated in some detail. My focus then turns to Lie groups and Lie algebras and finally to my heart: working out the finite dimensional representations of the classical groups and exploring the related geometry. The goal of my last portion is to make a bridge between the example-oriented approach of the earlier parts and the general theory.

Which Springer GTM would you be?
The Springer GTM Test

Posted by tplambeck at 10:26 PM

Errol Morris's Interrotron

The device he used to produce these unbelievably great anti-Bush ads.

Also: an article by Philip Gourevitch at the New Yorker about the ads.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:42 PM

August 23, 2004

16D4: Bi Dotted B

Runic Unicode.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:25 PM

W Poison

Some interesting software intended to trouble spam bots:


Posted by tplambeck at 11:00 PM

August 22, 2004


Another sheet metal dinosaur near Half Moon Bay, California.


Posted by tplambeck at 10:44 AM

August 21, 2004

Judith Beheading Holofernes

Caravaggio, c. 1598


From one website:
The story comes from the apocryphal Book of Judith in the Old Testament. The Jewish town of Bethulia was under siege by the Assyrian army and its general, Holofernes. When the residents were at the brink of capitulation, the beautiful widow Judith devised a scheme for their deliverance. Dressing in her finest clothes, Judith left Bethulia with her maid and entered the Assyrian camp as an ostensible deserter. Holofernes found her a welcome addition to his camp, as much for her beauty as for her veiled promise to assist in the defeat of the Jews. After a banquet, at which Holofernes became drunk, the general lured the beautiful widow into his tent. He quickly fell asleep, however, and Judith seized the opportunity to cut off his head with his own sword. Together with her maid, who stuffed Holofernes' head into a bag, Judith stole back to Bethulia. Once apprised of Judith's heroic act, the Bethulian soldiers charged from the city and defeated the Assyrian army.

Holofernes has about the posture and expression on his face that I would expect to have myself, were I to be suddenly awakened from a drunken slumber for my beheading. But Judith seems to be headchopping in an abstract way—although she's got a firm grip on his hair, her posture doesn't quite seem to permit the leverage that would be required to complete the chopping in the most efficient way. She regards Holofernes from a distance, leaning slightly backward. And the "maid" is hardly paying any attention to the good general at all—she's got the bag ready for Judith and seems to say, "Well then, let's have this done now already..." I imagine that Judith is wearing a clothes contemporary with Caravaggio's time. So imagining Caravaggio alive today, would he have painted her in the fashions of the 21st century? Everytime I've seen a play or opera performed by characters in contemporary dress, I've liked it. A performance of Coriolanus up in Ashland comes to mind—the politicians wore business suits, and the soldiers wore khakis and fired machine guns.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:00 PM

Sheet Metal T Rex


Cole and I photoshopped this while waiting for Gloria to return from walking the dog.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:30 PM

August 19, 2004

T Vine Cellars

We (Stefan, Sharon, and I) had a damn fine T Vine Cellars Merlot (2001) at dinner at bacar. Looks like bottles are still to be had for $29 apiece from the web site.

"I blog, so as to remember."

This morning, I went for a run on the San Francisco waterfront, along the Embarcadero.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:33 PM

Mozilla Redrum

I bought a Firefox T-shirt.

Then I glanced at it in the mirror—I thought it said Ellison.


Posted by tplambeck at 10:25 PM



Browsing a list of sports in the paralympics, I found an interesting one called "Goalball":

Goalball is open to athletes who are blind and partially sighted. While goalball competitors with varying degrees of sight compete together in open competition all competitors are required to wear "black-out" masks. The masks ensure that none of the competitors have any light perception or vision and as such compete on an equal footing in spite of varying degrees of sight. A team is comprised of six players with no more than three players per team on the court at any one time. The object of the game is to score goals by rolling a ball (called a goalball) using a bowling action toward the opposing team's goal, which spans the entire width of the court. Players (1 centre and 2 wingers) attempt to prevent the goalball from crossing the goal line. Goalballs weighing 1.25kg and containing noise bells along with raised lines on the court help orient the players.

goalball.jpg japgoallballsmall.jpg

Posted by tplambeck at 09:24 AM

Millau Viaduct

The world's highest bridge, now under construction between two plateaux in southern France, on the road from Paris to Barcelona. From one description:

Each of its sections spans 350 metres and its columns range in height from 75 metres to 235 metres—higher than the Eiffel Tower—and crucially it makes the minimum intervention in the landscape.

Yeah—I can hardly see it [lots of photos].

Posted by tplambeck at 12:17 AM

August 18, 2004

The Fallen Yokozuna

Reminded me of Rockem Sockem Robots:

Akebono vs Sapp

Posted by tplambeck at 04:27 PM

86 43

I just bought six of these buttons for $1 apiece at brainbuttons. But now, just after completing the purchase, I can't find them again on the web site. Weird. So if you want one, let me know. I'll send it to you.


They sure beat the mostly boring Kerry buttons I've been seeing around town.

[ Note added later: Go to the brainbuttons site, and click the "Newest" link on the bottom of the screen. The 8643 button came up then for me. ]

Here are some thoughts on possible 86 etymologies. Some more details can be found here.

Unnecessary RoughnessToo Many Men on the FieldIllegal Procedure

Another note added later: I found a blog that carries the tag 86-43-04 inside the title of each its pages. Last month it had some interesting documents on Bush's mysterious 1972-3 National Guard "Service."

Posted by tplambeck at 02:14 PM

The Kakutanis

I didn't know that Michiko Kakutani is Shizuo Kakutani's daughter.

Shizuo just died.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:23 AM

20 laps vs 5 miles

First googling

Looks like it's about .03 miles short. How far is that?

Second googling

Posted by tplambeck at 12:44 AM

The chess seance

Another quotation from Alexander Cockburn's 1974 book, "Idle Passion: Chess and the Dance of Death:"

Most parents will have noticed the curious phenomenon of a child apparently repeating an unpleasant experience—such as a visit to the dentist. Is the child's manipulation of the imaginary drill merely a mimicry, a fairly meaningless adaptation of excess energy to a recent experience? [...]
Now, the game of chess has much to do with repetition—repetition with variation certainly. Yet the player will repeat, and repeat again certain moves; he will replay throughout his life certain gambits and strategies; in his own form of exile from reality he will repeat certain rituals that may have the same fundamental significance as the child's toying with the imaginary drill. The chess pieces represent a mime of the Oedipal situation, and the player is forced to confront this mime every time he looks at the board. The player may be receding in time from a traumatic event, yet in the game he plays each day, that event enjoys a symbolic repetition or metaphoric existence in the battle of the pieces. The player is exiled from his childhood as the years go by; he is exiled from ordinary reality during his chess seance; yet that exile allows him to play out the dramas of his early life, otherwise repressed.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:22 AM

August 17, 2004

Schwinn Stingray

Schwinn brings back the bicycle I cherished in grade school, The Stingray.


Posted by tplambeck at 01:59 PM

August 16, 2004

Playing Soldiers & The Lame Witch Lurking in the Forest

The first four measures of two delightful, slightly dissonant, and—most importantly—extremely simple piano pieces by the Russian composer Vladimir Rebikov. He died in 1920.



They came out of this book (copyright 1943):


Posted by tplambeck at 10:23 AM


A nice source for well-written course notes on algebraic geometry, number theory, abelian varieties, modular forms, and more by j. s. milne.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:07 AM

August 12, 2004

Cassini Orbit

At the planetary society, graphics explaining the Cassini orbit. I had looked for this kind of information at the mission web site without finding it.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:21 PM

Interview with Marcel Duchamp

Q: Your passion for chess . . . ?

A: It's not a serious matter, but it does exist.

Q: But I also noticed that this passion was especially great when you weren't painting.

A: That's true.

Q: So I wondered whether, during those periods, the gestures directing the movements of pawns in space didn't give rise to imaginary creations—yes, I know you don't like that word—creations which in your eyes had as much value as the real creation of your pictures and further established a plastic function in space.

A: In a certain sense, yes. A game of chess is a visual plastic thing, and if it isn't geometric in the static sense of the word, it is mechanical, since in moves; it's a drawing, it's a mechanical reality. The pieces aren't pretty in themselves, any more than the form of the game, but what is pretty—if the word "pretty" can be used—is the movement. Well, it's mechanical—the way, for example, a Calder is mechanical. In chess there are some extremely important things in the domain of movement, but not in the visual domain. It is the imagining of the movement or of the gesture that makes the beauty in this case. It's completely in one's gray matter.

Q: In short, there is in chess a gratuitous play of forms as opposed to the functional play of forms on the canvas.

A: Yes, completely. Although chess play is not gratuitous. There is choice.

Q: But no intended purpose?

A: No, there is no social purpose. That above all is important.

Q: Chess is the ideal work of art?

A: That could be. Also the milieu of chess players is far more sympathetic than that of artists. These people are completely cloudy, completely blinkered ... madmen of a certain quality, the way an artist is supposed to be and isn't in general. That's probably what interested me most.

—From Idle Passion: Chess and the Dance of Death, by Alexander Cockburn, Simon and Schuster, 1974. Cockburn writes "...it must be emphasized that Duchamp was an extremely strong player. He played on the French team with Alekhine. He won several tournaments, including some New York club championships. In 1967 and 1968 he coached the United States team. At one point he was the best French player..." The interviewer was Pierre Cabanne.

Added later: L. H. O. O. Q.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:15 PM

Op Ed for the CFP?

This contribution to McSweeney's by Michael Ward, "Create your own Thomas Friedman Op Ed column," might easily be added as a simple new template to my context free press [more on the CFP]. I'll try to add it.

I've also been meaning to add a "Jackpot reaches $XX million in [whatever] Lottery" template.

I'm thinking that the Reuters AlertNet might be a good source of other "Overseas" templates involving disasters, famines, etc.

From the archives: Read the theory.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:25 PM

How not to buy happiness

From "How not to buy happiness," (PDF) by Robert H Frank:

In this essay I offer a slightly different interpretation of the evidence—namely, that gains in happiness that might have been expected to result from growth in absolute income have not materialized because of the ways in which people in affluent societies have generally spent their incomes. [...] In effect, I wish to propose two different answers to the question "Does money buy happiness?" Considerable evidence suggests that if we use an increase in our incomes, as many of us do, simply to buy bigger houses and more expensive cars, then we do not end up any happier than before. But if we use an increase in our incomes to buy more of certain inconspicuous goods—such as freedom from a long commute or a stressful job—then the evidence paints a very different picture. The less we spend on conspicuous consumption goods, the better we can afford to alleviate congestion; and the more time we can devote to family and friends, to exercise, sleep, travel, and other restorative activities. On the best available evidence, reallocating our time and money in these and similar ways would result in healthier, longer—and happier—lives.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:29 AM


A New York Times (Friday) crossword puzzle from a week or two ago:


The grid on the NYT daily puzzles is always 15x15. It's useful to remember that CHARLOTTEBRONTE fits exactly in that number of spaces. This isn't the first time that answer has been in the puzzle, and it's not the first time I got wedged because of it. The clue for it was "Mrs. Reed's creator." I don't know who Mrs Reed is, but dammit, I'm not going to forget that CHARLOTTEBRONTE has 15 letters ever again.

I liked ITSAFREECOUNTRY, another 15 letter answer. The clue was "Declaration of independence." It's useful to notice that the "I" in "independence" is not capitalized in that one.

One across, "Home of America's first stoplight, ca. 1920," caused me to immediately check whether LANSINGMICHIGAN fit, and it did. I had a strong notion that was the right answer. Even though instant answers like this tend to be right, upon further reflection, I decided I was more sure that the answer ended with MICHIGAN than that LANSING was the city. I would have had to do a lot more bold ink letter scribbles if I had actually written that in. So I wrote in the MICHIGAN part only, and was rewarded for that. A smarter person would have spent some time trying to think of other Michigan cities that had seven letters. I thought of ANNARBOR (8 letters, sorry), but then strangely dropped this line of inquiry to worry over CHARLOTTEBRONTE some more.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:50 AM

August 11, 2004


Paper by Alan T Sorensen, "Bestseller Lists and Product Variety: The Case of Book Sales."

Also: a summary.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:06 AM

August 10, 2004

Palo Alto Venture Capital

Google Local list of nearby VC.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:22 PM

Implanted Brain Stimulator

Looking over a list of Medtronic products that received FDA approval in 2004, I noticed two "brain stimulation therapy" products, the Kinetra Neurostimulator and the Access Therapy Controller.

Medtronic Neurostimulator

They're used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease. The patient turns them on or off using a remote that looks a lot like a car door opener.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:59 AM

August 09, 2004

DVD encoding blues

I really need to see Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine. But no one seems to be selling a Region 1 DVD encoding of it.

[Very cool trailer].

Posted by tplambeck at 11:37 PM

Winchester Mystery House

As her arthritis worsened, Mrs Winchester called for her staircases to be replaced by "easy risers."


Each step in an easy riser is about two inches tall. Kids love them.


You've got to wind back and forth a few times to get to the top.


But some staircases lead to the ceiling.


I liked the simple door latches.


And the floor tile patterns.


At about 5:13am on 18 April 1906, San Francisco was wrecked by a Great Earthquake. In San Jose, Mrs Winchester was trapped in the front part of her house.


After being rescued, she decided to board up that part of the house and work on the back part instead.

You're supposed to think—what a crazy lady!—but who doesn't want to live in a bigger house? Who hasn't viewed home ownership as one endless improvement project? And who doesn't like the idea of a false cupboard, secret passageway, or trap door?

Somebody asked once asked the founder of Habitat for Humanity, "How big does a house have to be before it is obscene?" and he answered, "When it's bigger than my house."

Posted by tplambeck at 12:11 AM

August 08, 2004

Niff Actuals

Looks like most of the products are completely sold out.

[Graham Rawle's Lost Consonants]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:22 PM

August 07, 2004

Sidney Morgenbesser

From a NYT obituary of the philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser that Joshua Sommer pointed out to me:

Dr. Morgenbesser's reputation for questioning other scholars, often in midsentence with barbed humor, struck fear in the hearts of would-be sages.
It went like this, according to Arthur Danto, a Columbia philosopher: "Let me see if I understand you," Dr. Morgenbesser would begin.
"He would restate the thesis, and that would be that," Dr. Danto said. "It was one of the ordeals you had to go through."
In an interview yesterday, Noam Chomsky, the linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who agreed with Dr. Morgenbesser about some things and not others, called him "one of the most knowledgeable and in many ways profound thinkers of the modern period."
Dr. Chomsky called him "a philosopher in the old sense - not so much what's on the printed page, but in debate and inspiring discussion."
Harry Frankfurt, professor emeritus of philosophy at Princeton, struggled to define Dr. Morgenbesser's contribution, finally resorting to metaphor.
"You don't ask what the wind does," he said. "It's just power and self-sustaining energy."
But it was often energy with a humorous punch line, as Dr. Morgenbesser earned fame for witticisms. He insisted the jokes were openings to more substantive philosophic discussions.
An example: in the 1950's, the British philosopher J. L. Austin came to Columbia to present a paper about the close analysis of language. He pointed out that although two negatives make a positive, nowhere is it the case that two positives make a negative. "Yeah, yeah," Dr. Morgenbesser said.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:25 AM

August 05, 2004



I got a delightful package today from the good people at puzzlers.org (The National Puzzlers' League, founded in 1883), together with some back issues of their publication, The Enigma.

Here's a good article on this group. Their Guide has a pleasingly well-informed and grown-up description of word puzzle nomenclature as well as lots of other information. It merits close study.

How did I spend years making anagrams, editing my grandfather's crossword puzzle dictionary, solving cryptics, pondering the NYT Saturday crossword, studying Dudeney and Loyd, working occasionally at places like this, making and selling products like this, in short, wasting ever larger amounts of my precious time on similar activities, without knowing about this group? I could have been doing this in the company of the professionals.

So—I'm sorry I didn't know about this group earlier. I added it to my list of Clickables.

Craig Hamilton suggested I take the Nom THANE, which sounded good to me.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:05 PM

Stuck with Q


From Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players, by Stefan Fatsis (2001):

I make a list of some of the words laid out on the boards: LEZ, GOBO, VOGIE, TAOS, FOVEAL, GUID, MOKE, JEREED, LEVANTER, ZAYIN, GLAIVES, SHELTIE, DOVENED, CAVIE. They are all alien to me. And as for my beloved Q, I learn that it is a Trojan horse. Sure, it and the Z are the only tiles worth 10 points, but clinging to the Q for too long in hopes of a big score, as I did against Diane, prevents you from drawing letters that offer a fresh chance for a bingo. A lingering Q is like an unwanted houseguest, gnawing on your nerves, consuming your attentions, refusing to take the hint and get lost. I've let the visitor raid the refrigerator, plop his feet on the coffee table, and channel-surf.

[There's also a movie; here's a good review].

[Update 6 August 2004: There was something on LEZ in today's news.]

Posted by tplambeck at 02:41 PM

Stuck at Q

It was a splendid mind. For if thought is like the keyboard of a piano, divided into so many notes, or like the alphabet is ranged in twenty-six letters all in order, then his splendid mind had no difficulty in running over those letters one by one, firmly and accurately, until it had reached, say, the letter Q. He reached Q. Very few people in the whole of England ever reach Q. Here, stopping for one moment by the stone urn which held the geraniums, he saw, but now far far way, like children picking up shells, divinely innocent and occupied with little trifles at their feet and somehow entirely defenceless against a doom which he perceived, his wife and son, together, in the window. They needed his protection; he gave it them.
But after Q? What comes next? After Q there are a number of letters the last of which is scarcely visible to mortal eyes, but glimmers red in the distance. Z is only to be reached once by one man in a generation. Still, if he could reach R it would be something. Here at least was Q. He dug his heels in at Q, Q he was sure of. Q he could demonstrate. If Q then is Q—R— Here he knocked his pipe out, with two or three resonant taps on the rams horn which made the handle of the urn, and proceeded. Then R... He braced himself. He clenched himself.
Qualities that would have saved a ship's company exposed on a broiling sea with six biscuits and a flask of water—endurance and justice, foresight, devotion, skill, came to his help. R is then—what is R?
A shutter, like the leathern eyelid of a lizard, flickered over the intensity of his gaze and bscured the letter R. In that flash of darkness he heard people saying—he was a failure—that R was beyond him. He would never reach R. On to R, once more, R—
Qualities that in a desolate expedition across the icy solitudes of the Polar region would have made him the leader, the guide, the counsellor, whose temper neither sanguine nor despondent, surveys with equanimity what is to be and faces it, came to his help again. R—
The lizard's eye flickered once more. The veins on his forehead bulged. The geranium in the urn became startlingly visible and, displayed amongst its leaves, he could see, without wishing it, that old, that obvious distinction between the two classes of men; on the one hand the steadygoers of superhuman strength who, plodding and perserving, repeat the whole alphabet in order, twenty-six in all, from start to finish; on the other hand the gifted, the inspired who, miraculously, lump all the letters together in one flash—the way of genius. He had not genius; he laid no claim to that: but he had, or might have had, the power to repeat every letter of the alphabet from A to Z accurately in order. Meanwhile, he stuck at Q. On, then, on to R.
Feelings that would not have disgraced a leader who, now that the snow has begun to fall and the mountain-top is covered in mist, knows that he must lay himself down and die before the morning comes, stole upon him, paling the colour of his eyes, giving him, even in the two minutes of his turn on the terrace, the bleached look of whithered old age. Yet he would not die lying down; he would find some crag of rock, and there, his eyes fixed on the storm, trying to pierce the darkness, he would die standing. He would never reach R.
He stood stock still, by the urn with the geranium flowing over it. How many men in a thousand million, he asked himself, reach Z after all? Surely the leader of a forlorn hope may ask himself that, and answer, without treachery to the expedition behind him, `One perhaps.' One in a generation. Is he to be blamed if he is not that one? provided he has toiled honestly, given to the best of his power, till he has no more left to give?

From To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Posted by tplambeck at 12:44 PM

August 04, 2004

686, 687, ...

We went to SBC Park to see the Giants game, taking the train from Palo Alto. They beat the Cincinnati Reds 11-0.

san francisco from inside sbc park

Barry Bonds hit his 686th and 687th career homeruns, the latter as part of a "back-to-back-to-back" (as one says) sequence of three consecutive homeruns.

I took some photos.

The Giants's rookie pitcher Noah Lowry had allowed no hits through six innings. At the top of the 7th inning, I turned to Gloria and Ann and said:

"You know, he has a no-hitter going."

They had barely time to look at the scoreboard and start to respond when a hit squibbed by the shortstop. So then I had to admit

"Well, it is supposed to be bad luck to say that."

Lowry has a strangely hypnotic changeup pitch that I found myself waiting for, expectantly, even in our deep outfield seats. After he gave up a couple of hits it looked like things might turn for the worse for him, but he just put the magic hat back on and kept throwing the changeups, alternating with fastballs. He pitched a complete game.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:51 PM

August 03, 2004

Security Freeze

An identity theft resource: the security freeze.

Posted by tplambeck at 03:19 PM


I went back to St Marks again tonight for the second Music@Menlo concert, a Schubertiad.

At intermission, instead of studying the mysterious hymn selection criteria of the Episcopal Hymnal, I turned instead to the other book in my pew, the "Daily Book." Its early pages explained with admirable precision how Episcopal Feast Days are determined (and how exceptional cases are handled, such as Christmas on a Friday—Christmas trumps the normal injunction against having feasts on Fridays, apparently).

Next came a full blown Church Calendar identifying a specfic year and date on the calendar to be identified with particular martyred or otherwise noteworthy Christians, many from the first Millenium.

From this, I learned about John Chrysostom, for example, and about Wulfstan.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:08 AM

August 02, 2004

Three Columns

I decided to take another whack at unifying the look and feel of these new web pages with the style of my carefully-handcrafted old ones.

I'm also experimenting with a three-column format that I ripped off from CSS style sheets at typepad.

To do list:

1) Fix the CSS style sheet for the newer archives so that they have the same color scheme as older ones.
2) Figure out a way to whack all the old content into the new, MovableType-managed database.
3) Improve upon the fonts and spacings on this page.

Posted by tplambeck at 05:07 PM

Infertility blogs

An amazingly long list of blogs all dealing with infertility, adoption, or pregnancy after infertility or loss. Most of them seem to have been updated in the last 48 hours.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:36 AM

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