« November 2004 | December 2004 | January 2005 »

December 31, 2004

Some possibly nonexistent people Google hasn't heard of, except perhaps on this web site, after it crawls it

Darlene Kaelker

Jesse Gilliss

Armando Hardwick

[found using the random person generator]

Note added later, 2 Jan 2005: It's working! Google's "I'm feeling lucky" takes you right back to this page.

Yet another note, via the yak: altavistincantation.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:50 AM

I've heard of RTFM, but what does STFW mean?

the yak answers

Posted by tplambeck at 01:20 AM

What is a comfort vegan?

The definition is marred by


One of those "misspell it, and I'll hate you" kind of words.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:18 AM

Blue Spirits


Posted by tplambeck at 01:10 AM

Level of fame: niche

Don Knuth at the NNDB (wtf?)

At the bottom of the page:

Copyright 2004 Soylent Communications

So Soylent Green is people, after all.

This is not the Jan from the Brady Bunch that I remember.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:56 AM

Found Poetry Slam


alex [500K]
bob [356K]
cole #1 [350K]
cole #2 [481K]
gloria [218K]
kim [418K]
roxy [400k]
sally [519K]

Posted by tplambeck at 12:29 AM

December 30, 2004

New acquisitions

Tribute to a Mathemagician [that's where Mo Tu Uv came from]

Algebraic Theory of Machines, Languages and Semigroups [nice; recommended by Stuart Margolis]

The Divine Comedy: The Inferno/the Purgatorio/the Paradiso [Ciardi translation. Christmas gift from Dad]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:59 PM

Mo Tu Uv

Mo Tu Uv

Posted by tplambeck at 11:49 PM

December 27, 2004

"Lichtenstein Adult? That will be $15, please"


Posted by tplambeck at 11:04 PM

More on the secret decoder rings

Bruce writes:

i'm glad you guys liked the rings. it was an idea i had back in october. i wanted to buy a high grade decoder ring but googling for hours turned up nothing. contacting half a dozen "custom" jewelry shops was unfruitful - they all said "nice idea, but we can't/don't do that sort of thing".
finally, i went to jan's brother chris, who works at ideo. he set me up with a stanford classmate of his who runs a design/fabrication shop (www.unovo.com). i don't know what they do normally, but they totally grokked the project and we exchanged e-drawings of several designs (while i was on vacation in europe!). i've attached two pics that they sent me of the manufacturing process.
yes roger, there is a groove inside the silver part and two posts in the purple part to hold it together. the metal is anodized aircraft aluminum. the letters were laser etched. i don't know if extras were made; one set was produced and had to be scrapped because the letter etching didn't take into account the different ring sizes.
i'm just glad that i can finally wear mine to work :)

[Attached photos: #1 laser etch sample; #2: Aluminum in lathe]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:44 PM

Disneyland Map [1964]


Posted by tplambeck at 10:45 AM

December 26, 2004

The Evil Genius of a King

link. Also—The Seer, and The Enigma of a Day.

From one web site:

Giorgio de Chirico was the inventor of pittura metafisica (metaphysical painting), a unique and enigmatic style which served as the precursor to many artistic movements including Dada, Futurism, and Surrealism. His cartoon-like dreamscapes, featuring classical statues, Italian piazzas, sinister shadows, mannequins, geometric objects, and the odd artichoke or bunch of bananas, remind one of childhood drawings, but with a menacing edge.

[Google I'm feeling lucky; or search]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:58 PM

Gulf coast Christmas, the first snow since 1895

Greg writes

Believe or not, we had a white christmas on the Gulf Coast here in in Texas. We drove down Friday aftertnoon to be with Beth's Dad and it started snowing about 10pm—by morning we had six inches!


December 25, 2004


Bruce sent a secret decoder ring and cryptogram in a nice box.


The ring fits me perfectly. Thanks Bruce! And you're welcome!

[more (Google); also, this from the deep archives.]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:46 AM

December 24, 2004

Beat Cal Christmas cookies


Cole and Owen delivered them to the Andersons, across the street.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:43 PM

The 5-6 Cornhuskers

My dad may have finished the NYT puzzle, but he had trouble spelling NEBRASKA on a Christmas cookie.


He also made a cookie commemorating the 5-6 record of the 2004 Nebraska Cornhusker football team—the first losing season since 1961.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:37 PM

NYT crossword

My dad completes today's (Friday) NYT crossword


Posted by tplambeck at 11:29 PM

Astronomy picture of the day


Posted by tplambeck at 11:19 PM

Join the NSA

Learn about:
Two-Letter Words and Hooks
Three-Letter Words
Four-Letter Words that can be made from Three-Letter Words
Short J, Q, X and Z Words
Vowel Dumps
U-less Q Words

Join the NSA

Posted by tplambeck at 11:04 PM


Note to self: read about this. Start with this.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:11 AM

December 23, 2004

Northwest North Dakota

Northwest North Dakota has an opportunity for 5,000 people.
Not the first 5,000—the right 5,000.
If you are ready to get as far away as possible from urbanity and ease into sanity, you might just make the cut in Northwest North Dakota.

(From prairieopportunity.com)

I think I like this the best:

We have top-notch schools. Some are rural, some are very rural.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:24 PM

The Sleep of Reason

Beginning January 14, 2005, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco will present Sui Jianguo: The Sleep of Reason, an exhibition showcasing the work of Sui, one of the most well-respected sculptors in China today. The 14 works on view—ranging from a 13-foot tall caged tyrannosaurus rex painted bright red, a fiberglass replica of Mao Zedong sleeping surrounded by 20,000 tiny plastic toy dinosaurs, and life-size renderings of well known Greco-roman sculptures clad in Mao jackets—are witty, incisive, and humorous. As large-scale works, they are intended to address a public Chinese audience in urban spaces once dominated by ceaseless sloganeering and propaganda, as well as an international audience eager to understand social, political, and artistic changes in China. On view through April 24, 2005, Sui Jianguo: The Sleep of Reason was organized by the Asian Art Museum and is curated by Jeff Kelley, visiting curator of contemporary art. The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue.
Posted by tplambeck at 02:13 PM

Claim staking, or steak claiming?

Free land in the heartland (CNN Money). I wonder if Nebraska is contemplating this.

Call this wild speculation, but I'll wager that most people who know about pitchfork fondue were Bush voters.

According to the Wikipedia, the first claim under the Homestead Act was made for a farm in Nebraska on January 1, 1863.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:54 PM

Maples Pavilion Renovation

My dad is in town. Last night, we went to Maples Pavilion to see the renovations and watch the Stanford men's basketball team play Dartmouth.


DAD: Hmmm. Dan Grunfeld. I wonder if he is related to Ernie Grunfeld? I think he played for Tennessee. He even looks like him, a little bit.

THANE: I don't know. He probably is. Grunfeld is not exactly the most common name for a basketball player. It is a popular chess term.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:54 AM

Prison break

Twins Swap Identities for Jail Break.

"We knew there was a certain risk of a mix up, so we took some measures," said Lars-Aake Pettersson, the warden for the jail. "But this was apparently not enough. They managed to dupe us."

[Note to self: add this template (or at least that quotation) to the prison break story generator]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:31 AM

December 22, 2004


European Space Agency's Huygens Probe Set to Detach From Cassini Orbiter - December 21, 2004 -- The highlights of the first year of the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn can be broken into two chapters: first, the arrival of the Cassini orbiter at Saturn in June, and second, the release of the Huygens probe on Dec. 24, 2004, on a path toward Titan...


Also—the (always cool) Mission Summary (PDF)

Posted by tplambeck at 11:44 PM

Roller, busybuddha

My longtime friend, graduate school officemate, and software startup co-conspirator Anil Gangolli (a student of Persi Diaconis, who has a seemingly newly spiffed up web site, himself—I thought he doesn't use computers? Or was it only email?) has started a weblog. He's using a tool called Roller—apparently it's the official blogging tool of Sun Microsystems employees ("Sun has chosen Roller to power employee blogs at blogs.sun.com". Also—Tim Bray on that).

[This paragraph has too many links. It also just barely makes sense. I hate it when people do that. Now I'm doing it. Sorry.]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:52 PM

Mathematics by Experiment review

Welcome to the rich world of computer-supported mathematics! (via AK Peters)

Posted by tplambeck at 03:46 PM


Foolproof: A Sampling of Mathematical Folk Humor, in the AMS Notices:

A bunch of Polish scientists decided to flee their repressive government by hijacking an airliner and forcing the pilot to fly them to a western country. They drove to the airport, forced their way on board a large passenger jet, and found there was no pilot on board. Terrified, they listened as the sirens got louder. Finally, one of the scientists suggested that since he was an experimentalist, he would try to fly the aircraft. He sat down at the controls and tried to figure them out. The sirens got louder and louder. Armed men surrounded the jet. The would-be pilot's friends cried out, "Please, please take off now!!! Hurry!!!" The experimentalist calmly replied, "Have patience. I'm just a simple pole in a complex plane."
Posted by tplambeck at 01:39 PM

December 21, 2004

Luck of the Bodkins, relocated

The previous link I sought before.

I was too lazy to look it up before, and then when I did, strangely, Google seemed not to have indexed it.

What's the use of having all my stuff on this website if Google doesn't index it? Wait—I'll answer it—it's a big waste of time.

My Gods sometimes disappoint me.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:45 PM

Red Clay


From an Amazon customer review:

Red Clay just comes out and clobbers you over the head with jazz/funk/fusion/bop and whatever until you just shake your head in disbelief.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:54 PM



Posted by tplambeck at 06:50 PM

Benld, IL


How the hell do you pronounce that?

Benillda? (Probably not—still, it's my favorite)

Benlid? (Maybe)

Benold? (Best bet)

Bend? (?)

Posted by tplambeck at 03:16 PM

New Glarus, Wisconsin

America's Little Switzerland

[From the random location generator], of course.

I think I'm going to add a Google-indirected "I'm Feeling Lucky" to this perl script.

Added later: Ha! Did it. But it's not so interesting for most little places, it usually takes you to a stupid page generated by another bot.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:53 PM

My Cat Hates You Dot Com


Posted by tplambeck at 12:34 PM

Five random US locations

I just fixed the Mapquest links on this ridiculously mesmerizing perl hack. (Thanks to Marc, who suggested the simple fix!)

Posted by tplambeck at 11:57 AM

The meaning of catastrophe (via puzzlers.org)

[Rosalie Moscovitch] In today's paper: "If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur." Well, I liked it.

* * *

[Doug Hoylman] For being on a last-place bowling team, I once received a statuette of the back half of a horse. Now had the animal been a feline, THAT would have been a catastrophe!

Posted by tplambeck at 11:54 AM

Information on torture in FBI records

Interesting set of records released in response to "torture" freedom of information request, at the ACLU. We should all thank our respective Gods for the ACLU. I just love this organization, they do great work every day. There's probably no organization more worthy of a donation of money I think, especially now.

[Here's the background.]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:40 AM

December 20, 2004

Best $0.99 I ever spent

This little baby slices right through even the most irritatingly resistive CD wrappers.


You push the CD edge into the little thing under the "tower.com," and it exposes a little knife that rips right through everything.

Push it hard, and ENJOY

Posted by tplambeck at 11:39 PM

A problem in Google-based historical tech etymology

Locate the first online use of the term distro, referring to a version of a software distribution.

I don't think I had ever heard the term, up to 1995 or so. But I'm no expert. The Google groups may be the place to start

Posted by tplambeck at 05:06 PM

Scared of Santa photo gallery



Posted by tplambeck at 04:51 PM

Symmetry 454

The Symmetry454 Calendar is a perpetual solar calendar that conserves the traditional 7-day week, has symmetrical equal quarters, and starts every month on Monday.

I thought—I wonder how much vacation you get? Seems like an important question.

Posted by tplambeck at 03:56 PM

Fifteen months of no TV

It's been about 15 months since I hauled our TV to the dump.


I can highly recommend not having a TV. Our kids don't miss it at all. And it's not like we never see TV, anyway—TV is everywhere. It's nice to not have the option to change a channel. And when you see a really nice TV, say a large screen plasma at someone else's house, it's a real treat, not a mesmerizing, ever-present distraction. Today's high definition televisions are beautiful to watch occasionally.

I wish TV's occurred in the environment about as frequently as a full moon. It's always nice to point out a nice full moon to someone—hey, look at that! Both people then enjoy the sight for a few moments, and move on, since a full moon is just a full moon, after all.

Having a TV in your house is like having a loud, unpleasant roommate. Or maybe taking care of someone else's yip-yap dog.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:09 AM

December 19, 2004

How the *&^%$ does Google suggest work?

If this question hasn't troubled you, dearest reader, you're either much smarter or much dumber than I. Anyway. Here's a forensic dissection that looks good.

Is it correct? No hidden wires, no pigeons in sleeves?

Posted by tplambeck at 09:42 PM

Coming soon: Kasparov on Fischer


Posted by tplambeck at 09:26 PM

The primes go on forever...

...but your T stop is coming up soon.

[claymath] (via graham's comments)

Posted by tplambeck at 08:50 PM

If it looks like a duck

The angle of the wake of a body moving steadily in deep water is always 2 arcsin(1/3). Not very many people know that, but it is one of the many fascinating results proved in the Mathematical Tripos.

Also: Study Skills in Mathematics (PDF). It's come too late for me, I'm afraid.

Posted by tplambeck at 05:01 PM

Christmas Card from Elwyn Berlekamp



Posted by tplambeck at 12:43 AM

December 18, 2004

P=NP noise

If anyone actually proves that P=NP, they're going to have to be famous already. Otherwise, no one sensible is ever going to even try to read the paper.

Here's an interesting acoustical analysis of the noisy room that a correct proof will have to shoulder its way into.

Also: Oded Goldreich on the same issue.

By the way: it has to be true that P=NP, if only because of the multiplication of ugly complexity classes that arises if P isn't NP. There's no way that stuff can be allowed a position in the ultimate platonic beauty of the universe. As I put it to an admirably skeptical Scott Aaronson—

"All the stuff in your zoo needs to DIE."

He responded calmly enough, pointing out that some complexity classes can be separated even if P=NP. OK—I don't have a problem with that, we'll allow them on the Ark and then let the flood take the rest.

(Please consider these remarks my contribution to the noise).

Posted by tplambeck at 03:45 PM

December 17, 2004

Guess where my tattoo is lager

The goal of the campaign is to give the beer drinker a "conversation starter" on the back label of each bottle...
..."You go into bars and you see people holding bottles of beer, and they hold them like badges," Wright says. "We can't really compete with Budweiser and say all the things about people that it does, so we have to take a short cut."


Posted by tplambeck at 09:45 PM

Most accurately rated rock bands


Blue Oyster Cult: The BOC song everyone pays attention to is the suicide anthem "Don't Fear the Reaper." However, that song is stupid and doesn't use enough cowbell.


Posted by tplambeck at 04:11 PM

Incredibly cool site at MIT, the History of Recent Science and Technology, including this Physics stuff by Dyson, from 1951. Excerpt:

One of Freeman Dyson's first tasks as a newly-minted professor of physics at Cornell in the fall of 1951 was to offer a course on quantum electrodynamics that incorporated many of the new techniques which he, Feynman, Schwinger, Tomonaga, and others had been developing. Dyson wrote up the notes to these lectures, variously titled Advanced Quantum Theory or Advanced Quantum Mechanics in mimeograph form. The mimeographs of these lecture notes are made available for viewing here...
Posted by tplambeck at 02:36 PM

Comment Spam Load Issue

Just as I was pondering whether to upgrade to MT 3 so that I could painlessly turn on comments on this weblog:

Excerpt from an article at the Moveable Type site:

In fact, we have found that there is a fairly major bug (in terms of effect, but not code size) which causes page rebuilding even in the case of a comment submission which would be moderated and hence should have no effect on the live page. This means that even if you are using comment moderation in Movable Type and even force moderation in MT-Blacklist, your server load is impacted just as if a comment had been posted to the live site. This bug has been fixed in development...

Added later: It seems a bit odd to measure a bug in terms of "code size." I guess they mean it's a simple fix? Or that it was an ever so tiny bug, say one character? Or maybe even one bit? So tiny.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:16 PM

Please put your papers online!

Please put your papers online!

Posted by tplambeck at 11:37 AM

A valued customer

THANE: I'm seeing $20 charges on my checking account as each check clears. Why?

BANK PERSON: There's a hold on a check you deposited.

THANE: But I looked online, to see if you put a hold on that check. You didn't.

BANK PERSON: There are many issues in the check clearing process, auditing, coordination [...long winded banking BS...]

THANE: I'm not satisfied. I want to be refunded all the $20 charges. How many charges are there?


THANE: The check has cleared now, right?

BANK PERSON: There are many issues in the check clearing process, auditing [...more BS elided...]

THANE: I'm not satisfied. I want to be refunded all the $20 charges.

BANK PERSON: OK, I've refunded 3 of the charges prior to the representment [...blah...blah...]

THANE: I'm not satisfied. How long have I been a customer?

BANK PERSON: 17 years.

THANE: Has there ever been the slightest problem in my account?


THANE: I want to be refunded all the $20 charges.


Posted by tplambeck at 11:23 AM

Random numbers, reprise: His Master's Voice

Excerpt from this Lem summary:

Sam Laserowitz, imaginative loner and small-time inventor, hits upon a scheme to make money easily. He sees a market for tables of random numbers. Now, truly random series of numbers are harder to generate than you might imagine, and they are of great use to scientists in producing accurate statistics. Laserowitz hits upon the idea that he can make tables of random numbers by purchasing data on the random patterns of neutrinos which come towards the earth from our universe. He does just that, and successfully publishes a book of random numbers. Shortly after this he finds he has a law suit pressed against him for fraudů..a scientist using the tables discovers that Laserowitz made his tables last twice as long by simply reproducing the first fifty pages of numbers over again in the second half of the book...

Posted by tplambeck at 11:11 AM

65 Mb of vintage random numbers from 1965

link (via boingboing)

Posted by tplambeck at 10:40 AM

December 15, 2004

Photo by Owen

Owen took a picture of me with his digital camera after I replaced the batteries for him.


I know, I know—a first-grader with his own digital camera? Well, he's sure as hell not touching my cameras.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:56 PM

High Speed Book Scanning

It's as big as an SUV and lives behind an unmarked door in the basement of the Stanford University library. The Swiss-designed robot scanner rapidly turns and flattens pages of old books -- both large and small, even bound newspaper volumes -- then scans and digitizes the text faster than you can say Evelyn Wood...

more ["Evelyn Wood?"]

Also this odd remark:

"Think about the power of bringing our library to little schools in the middle of Africa. Would it make a difference for those who now have their minds closed to the idea of democracy?"

Posted by tplambeck at 10:34 PM

Q: What can I print on M&M's candies?

A: Keep your message fun and positive

Posted by tplambeck at 10:26 PM

From the Wodehouse book

From pg 201:

These stories express Wodehouse's divided feelings about the film community: an understandable contempt for Hollywood combined with an amused affection for its foibles [...] his all-purpose studio executive, Jacob Z. Schnellenhammer, is an ugly, tyrannical dimwit, modelled on Louis B Mayer:

At his desk, Mr Schnellenhammer had paused for a moment in his writing. He was trying to remember if the word he wanted was spelled 'clorse' or 'clorze.'
Later, in The Luck of the Bodkins, Wodehouse cheerfully anatomizes the character of another mogul, the boss of Superba-Llewelyn:
`He hasn't a heart.'
`I see.'
`I'd like to wring his neck.'
`But he hasn't a neck either.'
They fell into a moody silence again, musing on Ivor Llewelyn. The man seemed armed at all points.

previous blog entry on this book

Posted by tplambeck at 09:50 PM

Now flying at a planet near you

Cassini Titan B Fly By mission description (PDF). I love the graphics in these reports. This fly-by just happened a day or so ago. From the introduction

Titan is one of the primary scientific interests of the Cassini-Huygens mission. Through observations by Earth based telescopes and the Voyager spacecraft, Titan has been revealed to be an intriguing world both similar in nature to Earth and unique among both satellites and terrestrial planets. The largest of Saturn's satellites, Titan is larger than the planets Mercury or Pluto. Titan is the only satellite in the solar system with an appreciable atmosphere. Like Earth's atmosphere, Titan's atmosphere is composed mostly of Nitrogen, yet appears to have few clouds. However, it also contains significant quantities of aerosols and organic compounds (hydrocarbons), including methane and ethane. Although Titan's thick smoggy atmosphere masks its surface, scientists have speculated Titan's surface could contain solid, liquid and muddy material creating features such as lakes, seas, or rivers. Additionally liquid reservoirs may exist beneath the surface forming geysers or volcanoes that feed flowing liquid onto the surface.
Posted by tplambeck at 11:00 AM

December 14, 2004

english: the lightest weight programming language of them all

PDF slides

lightweight programming languages MIT 2004 (I'm feeling lucky)

Posted by tplambeck at 05:38 PM



Cole's gymnastics team before a practice competition

Posted by tplambeck at 05:23 PM

Messiest Desk Contest Winner


Posted by tplambeck at 03:56 PM

The Wehe Wehe Experiment

Most words that look Hawaiian, even ones you make up, actually are Hawaiian words or Hawaii place names. There just aren't enough letter combinations to go around—most of the available ones have to be put use.

[try it out].

Posted by tplambeck at 11:32 AM

Modesto Death Row

Cats awaiting adoption (click the arrows at the bottom of the screen) at the Stanislaus County Animal Shelter, Modesto, California. (Somehow I ended up here looking for what the Modesto Bee newspaper had to say about Scott Peterson).

Posted by tplambeck at 12:12 AM

December 13, 2004


Most cited articles in Computer Science (2003)

Posted by tplambeck at 03:56 PM


How to pronounce ENISLED?

The definition helps.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:19 PM



Posted by tplambeck at 09:25 AM

December 12, 2004

Kid's Forensic Facial Reconstruction kit

Unfortunately, they're currently out of stock at Amazon.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:25 AM

Five ways I tend to feel after speaking with Sprint's Customer Service


Posted by tplambeck at 10:53 AM

The Freedom

"Ah, the freedom. Look, we have the gas-line freedom, the looting freedom, the killing freedom, the rape freedom, the hash-smoking freedom. I don't know what to do with all this freedom."

—Akeel, a 26-year-old Baghdad resident, on life in the new Iraq.


Posted by tplambeck at 12:34 AM

December 11, 2004

Enigma, Enigmaco, VENONA

Joshua writes:

I have long been fascinated by the Enigma machine and looked into building one after I finished the steam engine. Alas, the engineering would be formidable. However, I found some software programs to emulate the enigma and the link below shows a really excellent one (click on the orange enigmaco.de when you get to the site). Too bad it's a three rotor machine (the Nazis used a five rotor machine later in the war).
I guess I won't be able to play Alan Turing.

I replied:

In 1995, I got to play with an Enigma replica at the National Cryptologic Museum, which is close to NSA headquarters. When I worked for the signals intelligence contractor in Princeton NJ they took us a field trip to the place. We also got to walk around a bit inside the NSA, which looks like a hospital, wide stretches of hallways with push-open swinging doors. Except no nurses—instead, people in uniform walking around all over the place, stopping in rooms, then leaving again. I couldn't imagine what they were doing. Like nurses, they carried clipboards.
The VENONA story is probably the most interesting one, at least to me.
Here's one of their documents about the Enigma (PDF).
Posted by tplambeck at 11:10 PM

Segway Polo

Segway Polo in Sunnyvale.

Also—the Summarized Rules.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:47 PM

Pony Party

Two doors down this afternoon, neighborhood kids were enjoying a "Pony Party." [vendor link]




No one ever gave me a pony party. (Sniff!)

Posted by tplambeck at 07:29 PM


I'm wondering—is it time to learn category theory? I keep running into this stuff, each time saying to myself, "Ugh-gh," (or maybe it's "oh-ick," or perhaps a simple "Yuck"). Then I move on. But this looks good, and the price is right:

Toposes, Triples and Theories

A bunch of useless definitions? I guess I have to read it and find out? Ugh-gh.

Posted by tplambeck at 06:39 PM

Meet the Lucky Ones

There's no way I'm buying a Mercury, no matter what interesting web videos are deployed in its favor.

Posted by tplambeck at 03:47 PM

December 10, 2004

My neighbor's book, due out next year

An Introduction To Black Holes, Information And The String Theory Revolution: The Holographic Universe.

A few months ago, he told me the title was going to be "The Landscape."

I just "preordered" at Amazon.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:31 PM

The strange case of Billy Cottrell

An "autistic string theorist" according to one web site, convicted of SUV vandalism in southern California, and awaiting possible long-term imprisonment [35 years to life!] when he is sentenced in early 2005.

Sounds like a real big mess, but it did generate at least one good quotation from a defense lawyer who argued Cottrell never threw Molotov cocktails:

"He didn't throw. He didn't know," said defense attorney Michael Mayock, in his closing argument. "There is no evidence zero that Billy ever threw a Molotov cocktail. ... He should be set free."

If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit.

Also—[Earth Liberation Prisoners].

That'll teach those uppitty environmentalists from messing with those Tonka H2s.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:54 PM


Shiing-Shen Chern obituary at NYT.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:19 PM

Google Suggest

"As you type, Google will offer suggestions." link

Posted by tplambeck at 12:52 PM

Aids—the worst disaster in history

Excerpt from this Guardian article:

Unless action is taken, swiftly and decisively, to stem the tidal wave of infection and loss, it is estimated that by 2010 over 18m African children will have lost one or both parents to HIV/Aids


Posted by tplambeck at 12:00 AM

December 09, 2004

Schubert D 813

Acht Variationen ueber ein eigenes Thema in As-dur, op 35, D 813.

Track 4 on this CD, which is to recommended if only for an unusual portrait of S. in its liner notes, a miniature by Robert Theer (1829), which apparently can be seen in the Archiv for Kuenst and Geschichte, Berlin.

Radu Lupu looks like my idea of a 21st century Rasputin.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:40 PM

MIT vs Berkeley

Q: Did you experience culture shock going from M.I.T. to Berkeley?

Oh my goodness. Yes. It was so strange to be in an environment with people having I.Q.'s below 150 and where it wasn't necessary to study 12, 13, 14 hours a day, seven days a week just to keep up.


Posted by tplambeck at 11:14 PM


Please welcome a new noxious weed to Nebraska—the saltcedar.

[From the deep archives: Noxious Weed Busting. That's from a web site I thought I had completely blown away. But Google knows about it.]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:51 PM

Stop trying to steal from my laundromat


The change machine. A good target, right? Full of bills and quarters (well, not bills since I remove them 3 or 4 times a week to be safe). Take a look at it. You see that lock on the side? That's one of 6 locks you need to get through to get to the money. Those next two locks that you assholes tried to drill through last week? I bet you were pretty surprised when your drill bit stopped an 1/8 of an inch in. I don't know what kind of alloy the locks are made of but it's clearly pretty strong (thanks, Medeco!).
(While I admire your accuracy with the drill, and your ingenuity of patching the hole in the painted-black steel with electrical tape, I have to ask: How did you afford the drill and the super-strong bit? Did you steal those too? Maybe you bought them with the "earnings" from another "job" and you're working you way up. Good career path. I'm sure you'll be the next Thomas Crown or Catwoman - depending on your gender).
Back to the change machine. Even if you somehow managed to get through those first three locks, there are 2 *more* locks before you can even open the door and 1 more inside before you can get to the money. Again, SECURITY designed by SECURITY EXPERTS. Once, someone tried to cut the machine away from the wall with a hacksaw. They didn't get very far. Even if they had managed to get it off its base, it weighs a ton. Quarters aren't light, you know. And the machine itself? Well over 200 pounds of metal (that's what it says in the manual). A car once crashed through the exterior wall of the building. You know what stopped it? The change machine. That's how well secured it is. Leave it alone.
craigslist "best of" link
Posted by tplambeck at 10:39 PM

Probable Proverbs

* Toto's tag turned up in Tennessee.
—Eric Beilman

* None of us is near Nebraska's neighbor nowadays.
—Stanley Anderson

* Jou & I've jointly journeyed outside of jayhawk jurisdiction just now.
—Rex Stocklin


* Even though erudite engineers expertly exercise esoteric equations on the evolution of energy, entropy, enthalpy, and exhaust emissions in establishing each engine's efficiency, environmental effects elude exact estimation; expect erratic economy of ethyl in the eventual employ.
—William Flis

* The real ratio of ruled road to rotation is rather unreliable.
—Stanley Anderson

* Determined distance may deviate.
—Rex Stocklin



Posted by tplambeck at 08:47 PM

The Amazing Slow Downer

The Amazing Slow Downer. Recommended by our violin teacher. I plan to try it out tonight.

Posted by tplambeck at 05:39 PM

US Economy Foam Balls

US-Games Uncoated Economy Foam Balls ["Great budget savers"]

Posted by tplambeck at 05:19 PM



Posted by tplambeck at 12:03 AM

December 08, 2004

Two photos of Bruce Oberg

Lincoln, Nebraska (1983)

Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park (2003)

Posted by tplambeck at 11:42 PM

Giant Sequoias, Mariposa grove


Jim's UNL Reunion photos.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:25 PM


In the space of five minutes:

1) A communication from Oracle 401K staff, warning that diversification might be a good idea for people who have concentrated their retirement positions in Oracle stock. Are they trying to tell me something?

2) A friend sends a pointer to this craigslist posting.

The Sun is also setting, if it's not dark already: I looked for the latest news and found this:

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS.MW) -- Sun Microsystems and Microsoft are "shaking hands" but still competing, said Sun's Chief Executive Scott McNealy.

"We're shaking hands kind of like two boxers tap gloves just before they back off and come at each other with both hands flailing," said McNealy.

"We're going to do it in a way that customers can see the integration, certification and actually have alternatives and choice and integration between what are their two key suppliers of .Net and Java Web services," McNealy said.

Speaking with CBS MarketWatch's Rex Crum at the Oracle Open World conference in San Francisco, McNealy said it has been "a pretty wild year" for the company, with partnerships, technology acquisitions and new product lines.

"We are growing again," he said.


And IBM's PC business has been sold the Chinese.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:34 PM

OCR test

Last month my dad sent a copy of a newspaper clipping from the Kearney [Nebraska] Daily Hub. Today I scanned it in to see if the "optical character recognition" capabilities of my new printer/scanner/fax machine/copier/french fry maker actually work.

Ref, player exchange words, item of respect


TOO often, the only discussion we see between players and referees reflect poor sportsmanship and poor language. But not too long ago, a veteran official and a young high school player had an exchange that reflected deep respect between the two of them.

Kearney's Vern Plambeck, the referee, has been wearing the striped shirt for 50 years. He has contracts for the next two years, even though he, knows his officiating career is nearing its end.

LOOMIS quarterback Drew Billeter, the player, is leading his team through the playoffs. They face a tough game tonight against Bertrand: His high school career could end tonight or last a couple more weeks.

They crossed paths early in the year when Loomis played at Elba when Billeter and the other captains gathered at midfield for the flip of the coin. For that ceremonial prelude to the game, Plambeck has been using a 1910 Boy Scout shoe company coin.

The coin has its own history, having belonged to Plambeck's father-in-law, Earl Nicholas, a Crofton native. The coin was passed on to Plambeck when his mother-in-law died in 1986. Plambeck has used the coin for pregame coin flips since that time ... which means he started using it about the time Billeter was born.

THE COIN'S "heads" side included a horse and rider. The "tails" side had a swastika—a symbol of good luck that was hijacked by the Nazis—about 1935, the year Plambeck was born.

Plambeck has always provided the captains with a brief history of the coin prior to the coin flip. Most of them have had a comment or two, asking to see the coin again or saying, "That!s pretty neat." Billeter said something else he said, "I'd really like to have that." Three weeks later, Plambeck and Billeter met again for the coin flip of the Loomis-Ansley game, and Plambeck decided to pass the coin on to Billeter.

drewbilleterNov2004.jpg vernplambeckNov2004.jpg

"I GAVE IT to you because I am not going to be officiating very many more years, and it will be nice to know that this old piece of history has an owner who will value it as I did," Plambeck said in a letter to Billeter.

He also expressed hope that Billeter, someday, might become a referee and extend the coin's history.
In a letter of thanks to Plambeck, Billeter said it "means a lot to me that you chose me out of all the players you could have given it to." He went on to say he would "keep this coin in a safe place and maybe use it if I ever become a referee." Plambeck said there were others, including grandchildren, to whom he could have given the coin. But "they don't know the world of small-town high school football" as well as Billeter.

Many times, the world of small-town high school football has more stories of respect than' can be told. Let's hope that it stays that way and there are many more collectible exchanges between players and officials.

e-mail to:


Not too bad! Here's a picture of the coin.


Posted by tplambeck at 06:50 PM

In an ICC chat room

yellowtang(97): if i was god I'd have made sure that everyone agreed I existed

Posted by tplambeck at 03:54 PM

Dry quicksand

Sounds like a bad way to go.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:51 AM

December 07, 2004

Time before Time


Posted by tplambeck at 12:45 PM

RSS in Thunderbird

Creating an RSS News & Blogs account in Thunderbird

Posted by tplambeck at 09:38 AM

Unread Magazine Stack


I should be reading them, not blogging them.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:39 AM

Wodehouse biography

This excellent Wodehouse biography (I'm averaging one or two out-loud snorts per page) includes many of my favorite Wodehouse quotations, even the first sentence from the Luck of the Bodkins, which I know I blogged but am too lazy to find in the massive archives of this web site


Posted by tplambeck at 12:30 AM

burning man photo

Somehow this photo exactly captures my mental image of Burning Man (which I've never attended)—someone is having fun despite being trapped in the high desert surrounded by apocalyptic recreational vehicles. Unreachably distant objects of interest glimmer in the far background (the flags).

Posted by tplambeck at 12:10 AM

December 06, 2004


An inquiry into whether or not 1000009 is a prime number, by Leonhard Euler.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:38 AM

At the Economist

Has an inventor found the hardest possible simple sliding-block puzzle?

Updated 13 Dec 2004: No, says Ed Pegg.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:25 AM

Joke over breakfast

COLE: I know someone who thinks he is an owl.


COLE: Now there are two.

THANE: Ha. That's actually a good one.

OWEN: (a 1st grader, listening to the previous conversation) Kids in my classroom—sometimes they don't get jokes like that.

THANE: Tell it to your teacher, maybe.


Posted by tplambeck at 10:10 AM

Paly JV


Posted by tplambeck at 10:06 AM


September 12: Shoot terrorists with imprecise weapons, causing unavoidable civilian casualties.


From a review in the Winter 2004 Amnesty International magazine (pg 05) by Carin Zissis:

The wails of veiled women rising from a bombed out Muslim village make playing the video game "September 12" disturbing rather than fun—but that's the point [...] players must try to shoot down terrorists with an imprecise weapon that will frustrate hardcore gamers, but the unavoidable civilian casualties are very much intentional [...] even as a player strikes a terrorist, civilians mourning innocent casualities turn into terrorists. The player can't lose—but can't win either.
Posted by tplambeck at 09:48 AM

Another one

MLK mugshot, 1956.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:44 AM

Rosa Parks

Mugshot at the Smoking Gun.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:35 AM

December 05, 2004

Supposed Confessions of a Second-Rate Sensitive Mind not in Unity with Itself

Supposed Confessions of a Second-Rate Sensitive Mind not in Unity with Itself

In my opinion—nice title, bad poem. In 1860, the consensus was the reverse.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:36 PM



Cole's curtain call as Russian Licorice.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:25 PM



Walking Pearl the dog today at Cole's gymnastics meet in Santa Cruz, Gloria found an interesting cemetery where almost all the headstones are over 100 years old. On my turn to walk the dog, I took my camera.

heathbar140.jpg williamhmoore140.jpg peralcem140.jpg

williamlogan140.jpg icirespose140.jpg harrietcrichards140.jpg

Posted by tplambeck at 11:02 PM

December 04, 2004

Russian Licorice


Two nutcracker performances today.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:20 PM

Taming the Wild in Impartial Combinatorial Games

Here's a preprint of a paper I just submitted to INTEGERS, "Taming the Wild in Impartial Combinatorial Games" [PDF].

It looks like I first contemplated sending a paper to INTEGERS on this topic on 27 September 2002. So over two years have gone by. Oh well. The paper is much better now than it would have been then, anyway. I only really got the point of what I wanted to write on August 15, 2004. I was standing in our kitchen, cleaning carrots. Suddenly I realized what to do, after working on the problem for about two years from a slightly wrong point of view.

Holding a carrot, I turned to Gloria and said:

I just had a really good idea. It's going to completely solve the stupid problem I've been obsessing about.

It's worked out exactly the way I imagined, holding the carrot. Weird.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:30 AM

December 03, 2004



Posted by tplambeck at 07:20 PM

Word of the day


Update: There were only 26 google hits this morning. I just checked again: 2,750 at 6:42pm

Posted by tplambeck at 09:12 AM

December 02, 2004

Friends in the news

Greg's most recent company, Trustgenix, signed a deal with HP.

Bruce, the Suckerpunch Scapegoat (he's got the best corporate title of all time) writes:

Hey all
In case you haven't heard, i've been accepted to give a lecture at the game developers conference in san francisco next march.
yes, there is a typo in the description of my talk. hopefully, i won't look so stupid for the real thing
Posted by tplambeck at 11:07 AM

Cassini photo

Via ciclops (and click the image for much better version):


In a splendid portrait created by light and gravity, lonely Mimas is seen against the cool, blue-streaked backdrop of Saturn's northern hemisphere. Delicate shadows cast by the rings arc gracefully across the planet, fading into darkness on Saturn's night side.
The part of the atmosphere seen here appears darker and more bluish than the warm brown and gold hues seen in Cassini images of the southern hemisphere, due to preferential scattering of blue wavelengths by the cloud-free upper atmosphere.
The bright blue swath near Mimas (398 kilometers, 247 miles across) is created by sunlight passing through the Cassini division (4,800 kilometers, or 2,980 miles wide). (The rightmost part of this distinctive feature is slightly overexposed and therefore bright white in this image.) Shadows of several thin ringlets within the division can be seen here as well. The dark band that stretches across the center of the image is the shadow of Saturn's B ring, the densest of the main rings. Part of the actual Cassini division appears at bottom, along with the A ring and the narrow, outer F ring. The A ring is transparent enough that, from this viewing angle, the atmosphere and threadlike shadows cast by the inner C ring are visible through it.
Posted by tplambeck at 09:26 AM

December 01, 2004

Coffee spill with fifteen nearly symmetrically arranged ejected spherules

I just noticed this coffee spill on my desktop.


With my finger I spilled some other droplets from the same cup at various heights, trying to recreate a pattern like this. They all came out looking like asymmetric single bloblets, instead.

I don't know if "spherules" and "bloblets" are actually words, but that's the nature of scientific research—sometimes you have to coin a new term.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:28 PM

Follow the Arrow

First we had the face on Mars. Now we've got the Arrow on Titan.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:27 AM

« November 2004 | December 2004 | January 2005 »