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November 30, 2004

Meet The Beables

In particular we will exclude the notion of 'observable' in favour of that of 'beable.' The beables of the theory are those elements which might correspond to reality, to things which exist. Their existence does not depend on 'observation.' Indeeed observation and observers must made out of beables.
I use the term 'beable' rather than some more committed term like 'being' or 'beer' to recall the essentially tentative nature of any physical theory. Such a theory is at best a candidate for the description of nature. Terms like 'being', 'beer', 'existent', etc., would seem to me lacking in humility. In fact 'beable' is short for 'maybe-able'.

—John S. Bell, "Beables for quantum field theory," in Speakable and unspeakable in quantum mechanics.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:31 PM

Dead Leaf Roundabout


London plane trees, Cowper Street & Nevada, Palo Alto, CA.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:52 PM

What is the slashdot amnesia phenomenon?

What is the slashdot amnesia phenomenon? (via yak).

Posted by tplambeck at 11:24 AM

November 29, 2004

Thoughts on a new laptop

1) 802.11 isn't that useful at home if you don't have a TV (why else move the laptop)?

2) These unassuming and brief instructions for installing "LaTeX, Emacs, etc for your PC" kick ass. (Thanks, graham!)

3) Tech support for the HP Bluetooth Deskjet 995c has been outsourced to India, where they answer the phone cheerfully, thank you for your patience, but still can't solve your problem.

4) Putty is my new Telnet/SSH client. But of course I never use telnet. Nor should you. Once Anil screamed "STOP!" at me just as I was about to use it.

5) I'd forgotted M-x latex-mode. Nice to meet him again. It's been a few years.

6) Thumbnails of most of my ever-burgeoning collection of digital photos and scanned images seem to be available here, at Google. Why then do I struggle to archive them myself? Somehow this question reminded me of the book of Job. I had a Bible handy and found this at the end of Chapter 5, just as more JPGs and MOVs were being whisked off to some appropriate archive:

You shall know that your tent is safe, and you shall inspect your fold and miss nothing. You shall know also that your descendants shall be many, and your offspring as the grass of the earth. You shall come to your grave in ripe old age, as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season. Lo, this we have searched out; it is true. Hear, and know it for your good.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:20 PM

November 28, 2004

Hanalei Paparazzi

We just got back from a weeklong vacation to Hawaii (Kauai).

Returning from a hike on the Na Pali coast, we stopped in Hanalei for a snack. I was deeply engrossed in taking incredibly boring photographs of a Hawaiian Shave Ice stand when suddenly Ann urgently whispered—"Hey, that's Joey from Friends.'' [Matt Leblanc]. Gloria immediately confirmed it, but I wasn't so sure (couldn't really look past his loud red sunglasses). So I sidled up to the burger joint he was standing outside of, aiming to take a nice paparazzi. But of course he noticed me and the camera (I was standing right next to him), and I couldn't muster the courage to shoot a point-blank shot. So I let them go.

But then, as I was driving out of the parking lot, I had a perfect opportunity to roll down the window and capture my prey. Unfortunately it's not quite in focus. (Or was it this?)


Posted by tplambeck at 11:33 PM

November 19, 2004

From the Poker Weekend

Ivor's Adventure (PDF) at Indian Rock and on our hike to Chilnualna Falls.

I'm actually getting quite competent at saying and spelling "Chilnualna." It's not an easy word to internalize, somehow.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:30 PM

Tamaki Kawakubo

Tamaki Kawakubo. (Google search)

I saw her play the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor at the "Blue Hair" San Francisco Symphony matinee this afternoon.

[actually—yesterday afternoon. It's late]

Posted by tplambeck at 12:50 AM

Mahalia Jackson

In the Upper Room (first on the third CD of "How I got Over")

Posted by tplambeck at 12:37 AM

November 18, 2004

At the Guardian

"Can you spell with speed, accuracy and under pressure?" This is a question to which we wanted answers. We urged Professor Vivian Cook, professor of applied linguistics at the University of Newcastle and author of Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary or Why Can't Anybody Spell?, to supply us with 10 of the most orthographically problematic words in the English language. We then rang likely people to find out if they could spell all of them correctly. Sadly, a high proportion of them either did not reply or got someone to ring and say they were very busy - far, far too busy in fact, to take the test. Or maybe just scared...


[Also: Spellbound]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:50 PM

The hidden arrow

From an interview with the graphic designer who came up with the FedEx logo:

The power of the hidden arrow is simply that it is a "hidden bonus." It is a positive-reverse optical kind of thing: either you see it or you don't. Importantly, not "getting the punch line" by not seeing the arrow, does not reduce the impact of the logo's essential communication. The power of the logo and the FedEx marketing supporting the logo is strong enough to convey clearly FedEx brand positioning. On the other hand, if you do see the arrow, or someone points it out to you, you won't forget it. I can't tell you how many people have told me how much fun they have asking others "if they can spot 'something' in the logo." To have filled in the arrow, or to somehow make it more "visible" would have been like Henny Youngman saying "Please take my wife" instead of "Take my wife. Please." Punch lines that need to be explained are neither funny nor memorable.
Posted by tplambeck at 12:02 AM

November 17, 2004

the shortwave numbers mystery

the shortwave numbers mystery (thanks, Ivor!)

Also: this creepy archive of mysterious shortwave broadcasts, with banner reading

Have you ever listened to your short wave radio and heard a strange voice repeating numbers or letters ?? You may have stumbled across something they call a NUMBERS STATION
Posted by tplambeck at 11:18 PM

2000 BC

Neolithic carved stone polyhedra

Posted by tplambeck at 11:08 PM

From today's NYT crossword

Returns from Venus, say (7): VOLLEYS

I'm not sure why the "say" needs to be there. I like the clue better without it.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:46 PM

A suspicious NYT correction

This is from the 16 Nov 2004 New York Times:

A picture caption on Saturday with a film review about "Veer-Zaara" misidentified the actress shown. She is Preity Zinta, not Veer Zaara.

This has got to be a secret message to spies behind the lines, picking up their instructions in the newspaper. Or something like that.

But I can't figure out what it means.

I've tried saying this out loud:

"veer zaara, it's preity zinta."


Posted by tplambeck at 09:30 AM

November 15, 2004

Dresden Dolls

Driving home from Physics class, I just heard this on the radio.

Hmmm, that sounds a lot like the Three Penny Opera, I thought. What's that doing on the radio? I'm looking for U2!

So—got to have it.

I'm probably the last one to become aware of this group, I'm sure, amongst cool people (not that I count myself amongst them, of course).

Posted by tplambeck at 11:09 PM


Flowbee Vacuum Haircut System (thanks, Marc!)

Posted by tplambeck at 01:38 PM

From Learning Curves

Calculus students have fewer bizarre personal crises.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:03 PM

The Incredibles vs The Fantastic Four



Mr Incredible vs Mr Fantastic

Violet vs the Invisible Woman

With special pre-fight card

Dash vs The Thing

Frozone vs The Human Torch

Posted by tplambeck at 12:50 AM

November 14, 2004

G4G rotating dragon


A G4G folding dragon from Binary Arts that appears to watch you by rotating its head [3.15 Mb mpeg video, 30 seconds] as you move around it with one eye closed.


Second image revealing the trick.

Template for folding your own dragon.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:28 PM

November 10, 2004

Ron Graham

From an interview of Ron Graham in Mathematical People (one of the books Kara Lynn sent):

"You can start to get mad at a problem," he says. "Did you ever see a Daffy Duck cartoon? When a few bad things happened to Daffy—Elmer Fudd or somebody blows him up in a number of different ways—he says, `Of course, you know this means war!' And you often get a very appealing, attractive problem that gets under your skin. You're living the problem, it's a part of you, it's always in the background, running. In some sense this means war. It's kind of life or death."
Posted by tplambeck at 11:41 PM

From Slashdot

Infinityis (807294) writes:

Maybe Winzip and Ziplock should merge. I think it'd be nice to have encrypted, password protected sandwich bags, but at 90% compression, I think the bread might not taste so good afterwards.
Posted by tplambeck at 11:35 PM


my ordeal interviewing nabokov

Posted by tplambeck at 11:08 PM

Polya Picture Album

Kara Lynn sent some of David's books:


The Polya Picture Album is a good one. I'd looked at it in libraries and the bookstore a few times. It's nice to have a copy. Polya died just as I arrived at Stanford for graduate school, in 1985. They have some interesting Polya displays in the Math library at Stanford, including a postcard from G. H. Hardy challenging Polya to identify the source of the quotation, "Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone."

This is an easy one in the days of Google. Hardy wrote the answer on the bottom of the postcard: Ella Wheeler Wilcox.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:29 PM

Santa's big red sack

From a review by Manohla Dargis [cool name!] of the movie "Polar Express," in today's NYT:

I suspect that most moviegoers care more about stories and characters than how much money it took for a digitally rendered strand of hair to flutter persuasively in the wind. Nor will they care that to make "Polar Express" Tom Hanks wore a little cap that transmitted a record of his movements to a computer, creating templates for five different animated characters.
It's likely, I imagine, that most moviegoers will be more concerned by the eerie listlessness of those characters' faces and the grim vision of Santa Claus's North Pole compound, with interiors that look like a munitions factory and facades that seem conceived along the same oppressive lines as Coketown, the red-brick town of "machinery and tall chimneys" in Dickens's "Hard Times." Tots surely won't recognize that Santa's big entrance in front of the throngs of frenzied elves and awe-struck children directly evokes, however unconsciously, one of Hitler's Nuremberg rally entrances in Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will." But their parents may marvel that when Santa's big red sack of toys is hoisted from factory floor to sleigh it resembles nothing so much as an airborne scrotum.

I wondered—"Manohla Dargis?" A man's name, or a woman's? A pseudonym? In any case, it cried out to be anagrammed.

MIRA HOAGLANDS—Aha. I was right. Must be a woman.

OLDISH ANAGRAM—Maybe not. Since I use anagrams as a sort of divination (heh), this led me to reconsider.

OMAHA DARLINGS—A secret society of movie reviewers? More evidence that it must be a woman's name.

HADAL ORGANISM [Hadal: Of or relating to the deepest regions of the ocean, below about 6,000 meters (20,000 feet)]. Not a person at all perhaps, but a new life form?

Posted by tplambeck at 09:39 PM

November 08, 2004

LaTex picture whacking

It's easy for me to spend too much time fine-tuning diagrams like this one, produced in the LaTeX picture environment—countless iterations shunting a line or symbol up and bit, or down a bit. There's got to be a better way.


Posted by tplambeck at 11:59 PM

A friend writes

I forgot to tell you a story last night that I had been meaning to relate. We met this couple a few weeks ago who had lived and worked in the Netherlands for a number of years. The husband was discussing the difficulty of initially learning the language well enough to conduct business. For his first six months there, he had been using the phrase XXXXX to indicate his assent at the end of a discussion, thinking that it meant "I agree." It never seemed to have quite the conciliatory effect that he expected. He understood why after someone eventually explained to him that the meaning of the phrase was "I am right."
Posted by tplambeck at 10:58 PM

November 07, 2004

100,000th OEIS Sequence Revealed


I'm proud to be the first guest at the 100K E-Party.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:41 PM

David Shulman

nyt obit

Posted by tplambeck at 08:35 AM

November 05, 2004

J & K

You may have heard that John Kerry lost.

It wasn't any better for Jerry Kohn.

Posted by tplambeck at 03:31 PM

Things are so complex you need an M.Sc. to program crud!

I don't think the M.Sc. is likely to help. [link]

Posted by tplambeck at 12:38 PM

You Say Tomato, I say F triple prime(ut)

amazon link

Posted by tplambeck at 12:03 AM

November 04, 2004

Lunar E, reprise

A grim grin for my Great Pumpkin.

I'm reminded of two "odometer" word pairs

HIDEOUS HIDEOUT (found by Dan Asimov)

GRIM GRIN (what you see there)

Posted by tplambeck at 12:56 PM

November 03, 2004

Kamimoto Outcome

Expecting to have to buy the busted violin, I was surprised when Susan at Kamimoto only charged me $25.60. Apparently they embed insurance in the rental fees.

In preparing the paperwork, Susan pulled out a sheet of paper she uses to record instrument rentals that were cancelled because the instrument was dropped on the floor, lost, or otherwise damaged. Cole's broken 1/4 violin was #23 on this year's list.

She drew my attention to a cello that got crushed in the early spring of this year.

"That was a bad one," she said.

I rented a replacement violin. Cole thought its neck was shorter than the old one.

In today's lesson, Denise tried to get Cole to use a 'slower bow'. "You can play fast, but with a slow bow," she says. Shinichi Suzuki gave students short bows on small violins so that they had to use a slow bow on them.

Another technique to enforce slow bowing—attach big metal paper clips to the bow.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:40 PM


Cole and I had just finished practicing "Perpetual Motion" on our violins, playing along with the Suzuki CD.

Cole put his violin down on my desk. I turned around to turn off the stereo. I heard a clatter.


Time to head back to Kamimoto String Instruments [my photos]. Here's their website.

November 02, 2004

kwytza kraft

From the web site:

The idea is simple: collect post-use, single-use chopsticks from restaurants in China, thoroughly clean them, sanitize them at extremely high temperature and pressure, and use them to make high-quality accents for the consumer's living space.
Posted by tplambeck at 09:04 PM

November 01, 2004

Separated at birth?

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero

Ron Reagan Jr

Posted by tplambeck at 10:54 AM

Thank you Andrew

The votemaster revealed at electoral-vote.com.

The website is almost unresponsive today (not surprising). It has Kerry ahead with 298 votes, but who knows.

I recommend that these Guardian paragraphs be used for medicinal purposes if all goes bad and we all have to deal with four more years of chimp smirking:

One theory - which you might call the "George W Kerry" theory after an article by that title in the journal Foreign Policy - is that Kerry will be more like Bush than most of his supporters suppose.
In that article, author Moises Naim argues that the president whom Kerry will most resemble - at least in terms of foreign policy - is the one we've got now, and that, paradoxically, if re-elected President Bush will be more like Kerry than he is today: "If re-elected, Bush will have difficulty sustaining the foreign policies of his first term, whereas a first-term Kerry presidency is bound to emulate some of Bush's more aggressive positions."
There's some truth to this. Presidents are powerful, but they are also influenced by the world, and neither the world, nor America's interests in it, change as much as people think from one election cycle to another. Nixon, remember, ran as a "peace candidate" in 1968, but was still fighting LBJ's war in 1972. And although George W Bush invaded Iraq, Bill Clinton threatened to, and even, in 1998, signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which made regime change official US policy.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:21 AM

Eric Silver

substitute limericks

Posted by tplambeck at 09:30 AM

Turn off that smooth jazz FM nonsense

automatous monk

Posted by tplambeck at 08:41 AM

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