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February 28, 2005


"Einstein solved problems that people weren't even asking or appreciating were problems," said Dr. Edward Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., Einstein's stomping grounds for the last 32 years of his life. "It could be there are big questions nobody is asking, but there are so many more people in physics it's less likely big questions could go unasked."

But you never know.

"One thing about Einstein is he was a surprise," said Dr. Witten, chuckling.

"Who am I to say that somebody couldn't come along with a whole completely new way of thinking?"


Posted by tplambeck at 10:16 PM

Etruscan Archaeological Museum, Orvieto


Posted by tplambeck at 09:51 PM

chainsaw writes

Last night while driving down the Joe DiMaggio Highway (West Side Highway) in Manhattan, I saw a black Ford Explorer with the following (New York) license plate:


To which I replied, "Not quite, buddy." Bear in mind that, depending on the driver, the enumeration might be (3 4, 3 5).

Posted by tplambeck at 08:10 PM

How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs


Posted by tplambeck at 02:53 PM

Cellphone photo transmittal

By accident, I figured out how to use my overly complicated cellphone to email myself a digital photo.


I have to "Sign in" to an AOL messenger account, first. Then I can send photos as email attachments.

I have a dim memory of having created the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) account when trying to figure out how to transmit the photos the first time (over a month ago), but I'm not sure why I did it. There's nothing in the manual about creating such an account. There's nothing in the manual that's useful at all, in fact.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:48 PM

Scissors, TX


Posted by tplambeck at 02:16 PM

Sally Snow

On our flight from Atlanta to Rome, they announced that one of our flight attendants would be retiring when we landed. She had been with Delta airlines since 1968. They passed around a book for passengers to sign:


I could only think of all those movies where a police officer or "detective" is nearing retirement. It's a sure sign that the s*** is about to hit the fan for that particular peace officer.

But there weren't any problems.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:02 PM

Experimental Researches in Electricity

By Michael Faraday: read November 24, 1831.

These considerations, with their consequence, the hope of obtaining electricity from ordinary magnetism, have stimulated me at various times to investigate experimentally the inductive effect of electric currents. I lately arrived at positive results; and not only had my hopes fulfilled, but obtained a key which appeared to me to open out a full explanation of Arago’s magnetic phenomena, and also to discover a new state, which may probably have great influence in some of the most important effects of electric currents...

link (PDF) and RIGB home page

Posted by tplambeck at 01:00 PM

The Pantheon

The coolest building I've ever stepped into.


I had no idea it's so big. Since we had just had a little trouble finding it on the map, I thought, "OK, well, it's a little building, maybe we just walked past it..."

Then I looked up and saw it looming.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:56 AM

On Bullshit

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern. We have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, as Harry Frankfurt writes, "we have no theory..."


Posted by tplambeck at 10:07 AM

February 27, 2005

Crooked house, Parco dei Mostri [Park of the Monsters], Bomarzo


A little Disneyland from the year 1552. The crooked house floor slants about 20 degrees I think. Although the inside walls are undecorated today, it's easy to imagine a 16th century trickster painting and decorating it to enhance the illusion of being tugged on by unseen forces when you're standing inside it.


Gloria enters it over the bridge that leads into its second floor:


One monstrous sculpture:


parco dei mostri (google search)

Posted by tplambeck at 10:17 AM

Cole and Owen on the Spanish Steps


Posted by tplambeck at 09:49 AM

Etruscan Archaeological Museum, Orvieto


Posted by tplambeck at 09:41 AM

Shockheaded Peter


Posted by tplambeck at 09:07 AM

pocket universe

From an article ["String theorist explores dark energy and our unique 'pocket' of the universe"] and interview with my neighbor on his new book:

Today, string theory has become a serious controversy even within the physics mainstream. The number of possible energy states-10^500 [ten raised to the power of five hundred]-inherent in string theory is ''totally unexpected,'' Susskind says. ''There was constantly a sense that there would only be one, or some very small number, of legitimate solutions of the theory. Ed Witten [a physicist famed for his mathematical prowess] worked very hard to show that there was only a very small number, and he failed-failed completely.''
The dust isn't likely to settle soon. Says Susskind: ''More and more as time goes on, the opponents of the idea admit that they are simply in a state of depression and desperation. More and more people are starting to think about this possibility. But it's been a major sea change in the attitudes of theoretical physicists. ... It means we have a mathematical framework to think about it. We have a basic set of precise concepts to think about it, and it means that in time we will know the truth.''
Posted by tplambeck at 07:21 AM

Useful term in Umbria in February

catena neve [snow chains]

Posted by tplambeck at 07:06 AM

Cow Magnets (via Roger)

Cow magnets are popular with dairy farmers and veterinarians to help prevent Hardware Disease in their cattle. While grazing, cows eat everything from grass and dirt to nails, staples and bits of bailing wire (referred to as tramp iron). Tramp iron tends to lodge in the honeycombed walls of the recticulum, threatening the surrounding vital organs and causing irritation and inflammation, known as Hardware Disease.


Posted by tplambeck at 06:59 AM

February 17, 2005

Physics Seminar Videos


[And that's it for awhile on this blog. I'm going to Italy, leaving the laptop at home]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:51 PM

Hat Problem


Posted by tplambeck at 03:29 PM

Life on Mars (?)


Posted by tplambeck at 12:41 AM

February 16, 2005

Conversation with Cole

THANE: Look at that SUV, at that bumper sticker. "My child was student of the month at Cumberland Day school." It's got three stickers on it!

COLE (age 9): Why so many?

THANE: I don't know. Just so you know, if you ever win a "Student of the month" award, or are named to the honor list 4 times, I'm not putting a bumper sticker on my car.

COLE: Why not?

THANE: It's annoying to read those stickers. I don't know. OK, I'll put the bumper sticker in my office, if you get one. I'm all in favor of being the "student of the month," OK? I just don't want to put the sticker on my car. It's kind of rude, like you're bragging. [Now in a high-pitched, whining tone] "WELL, *MY* kid was the STUDENT OF THE MONTH! HA! HA! HA!"


From the archives: [Recent video of Cole: His two entries #1 #2 in the "Topsoil-Bark-Compost-Rock" poetry slam.]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:14 PM

The Washington and Lee logo


Possible interpretations:

1) Melted Yankees baseball cap

2) Pitchfork, drawn blindfolded

3) Rejected early concept for the NASDAP

4) Graffiti in tribute of a failed heavy metal band

5) The artist formerly known as...


Posted by tplambeck at 10:31 PM

Portrait of a Knight of Malta, Fra Antonio Martelli


Caravaggio [1607-8 Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:32 PM

Polar aurora on Saturn


Posted by tplambeck at 07:37 PM

From Owen's 1st grade spelling list


One word, or two?

Posted by tplambeck at 08:35 AM

February 15, 2005

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

I went to see Sideways (which I liked) at the Aquarius Theatre downtown.

They showed a trailer for another movie.

[parrot photo]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:34 PM

February 14, 2005

Amazon Light


Posted by tplambeck at 11:10 PM

The Mozart of Chess?

Magnus Carlsen

Posted by tplambeck at 11:07 PM

Born Losers: A History of Failure in America


Posted by tplambeck at 10:59 PM

Grad School: Where Parties Go to Die (version 2.0)

An amusing essay by Navin Sivanandam in today's Stanford Daily.

But is it online? I will check...


Added later: [Searching on Navin's name led to this interesting page: Nature's Neglected Puzzles].

Added later: OK, I've just become a fan of Navin Sivanandam. Check out this essay:

It's troubling to hear young people wax lyrical about how much they enjoy their classes. This is a University, not a place of learning.

Added later: Eight simple rules for dating a graduate student

Posted by tplambeck at 09:43 PM

Name of the day

Wuthichai Choonhaskulchoke

[Unfortunately, the whole name doesn't appear on that page, but I know better. And Google confirms I'm not making it up.]

Posted by tplambeck at 08:21 PM

I took my chances...

...but the Berkeley police won:


This one cost me $32.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:54 PM


The last Prussian station on the train ride from Berlin to Petrograd.

Eydkuhnen, the last Prussian station, was as other Prussian stations, built of trim red brick, neat, practical, and very ugly; with crowds of red-faced, amply-paunched officials, buttoned into the tightest of uniforms, perpetually saluting each other.

[From The Vanished Pomps of Yesterday, by Lord Frederic Hamilton (1921), pg 81].

Google brought up this page with cool old postcards.

I've been reading the books in this photo. I procured them for $2 at the Palo Alto "Friends of the Library" booksale, which happens bimonthly, and which always has an astonishingly large turnout, whenever I've attended. I've wanted to stop and ask people—why are you here? Just for the books? Really?!


A few pages on, Lord Hamilton is out of Eydkuhnen and into Russia:

Behind the line of tables serving for the Customs examinations was a railed-off space, containing many desks under green-shaded lamps. Here some fifteen green-coated men whispered mysteriously to each other, referring constantly to huge registers. I felt a thrill creep down my neck; here I found myself at last face to face with the omnipotent Russian police. The bespectacled green-coated men scrutinised passports intently, conferred amongst themselves in whispers under the green-shaded lamps, and hunted ominously through the big registers. For the first time I became unpleasantly conscious of the existence of such places as the Fortress of St Peter and St. Paul, and of a country called Siberia. I speculated as to whether the drawbacks of the Siberian climate had not been exaggerated, should one be compelled to make a possibly long sojourn in that genial land.
Posted by tplambeck at 01:59 PM

An SUV? That's so yesterday.


Like bloodmobiles and mobile command centers, the Bad Boy Truck is street legal, and at 17,589 pounds and 9 feet tall, it is poised to strike fear in the hearts of its alphabetical ancestors.

Looks like someone stole the rear bumper on this Bad Boy.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:27 AM

The Calculus Gallery


Posted by tplambeck at 11:01 AM

February 13, 2005

A 9V battery's worst nightmare


This gizmo—which I use to tune three violins—will faithfully register whether the latest dog bark, door closing, or telephone ring in its vicinity is 50 cents off an F sharp for hours on end, until its battery dies.

Attaching the note doesn't seem to help. I can't remember to turn it off.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:20 PM

"Come see our Einstein books," suggests the PUP

Well, okay.

Buno has quite a few of the "Collected Papers" volumes. I think he told me they were given to him by a thankful venture capitalist after Numerical Technologies went to its IPO.

"Thanks a million."

Posted by tplambeck at 10:38 PM

Japanese Folk Song [Kojo No Tsuki]

click me

From an Amazon review:

There's the smoky 16-minute groove of "Kojo No Tsuki" which never seems to get repetitive...

Yup. There's almost no melody in that "japanese folk song."

But that's no problemo, if you happen to be Theolonius.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:26 PM

Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley


Posted by tplambeck at 10:00 PM

Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley


Posted by tplambeck at 09:54 PM

I-80 Eastbound, San Francisco


Posted by tplambeck at 09:47 PM

February 12, 2005

The Gates


Posted by tplambeck at 11:42 PM

People spotting

At this afternoon's Stanford-California men's basketball game: Tiger Woods, wearing a black Nike ski cap and goatee. He had a very good seat, in the front row at half court. The "Jumbo-Tron" TV thingy that now looms over center court at Maples (photo) spoiled his cover. He looked like Spike Lee. He didn't stay for the jump rope exhibition at halftime, which Cole and I enjoyed. He came back just before play started for the second half, and stayed for the rest of the game, which Stanford won, 71-56.

Walking the neighborhood: Steve Jobs, on his way downtown. More gray in his beard than I remember from recent photos.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:54 PM

Red Garland at the Prelude, vol I


Recorded live on the night of 2 October 1959.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:44 PM

Princess and Brigadier General

I asked a friend who works in the San Francisco Symphony ticket office whether a more appropriately illustrious title might not be available for me in their mailings. He obliged.


Posted by tplambeck at 09:29 PM

2004 MN4


Posted by tplambeck at 05:42 PM

New on the clickables

outer life

(via learning curves)

Posted by tplambeck at 12:18 PM

17c/45 caterpillar spaceship

link [Gabriel Nivasch]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:56 AM

February 11, 2005

Early Comic Strips, 1898-1916



In 1904, the first daily comic strip A. Piker Clerk by Clare Briggs ran in the Chicago American. On November 15, 1907, Bud Fisher introduced A. Mutt in the San Francisco Chronicle. The popular daily comic strip, quickly rechristened Mutt and Jeff, became a model for the daily comic strip format. Bud Fisher was also the first cartoonist to copyright his work under his own name and successfully defend the copyright in court. This action and the popularity of Mutt and Jeff eventually made him a millionaire. Nine years after the birth of Mutt and Jeff, comic pages such as this one from the December 28, 1916, New York American were a common feature in daily papers.

[Unfortunately, even the "large" scan images on this web site aren't clear enough to be read. What were they thinking?]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:07 PM


Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter

Posted by tplambeck at 04:15 PM

Tsunami N2


Posted by tplambeck at 04:14 PM

The Neume Notation Project


Posted by tplambeck at 01:43 PM

crax writes

This is to let all my friends and family know that I will be the guest player on the puzzle segment on the "Weekend Edition" radio show on Sunday morning!
In the Bay Area, the segment airs on KQED Radio (88.5 FM) on Sunday at 5:40, 7:40 and 9:40 a.m. (It'll air on other NPR stations, too, but I don't know their schedule.) The segment is hosted by Will Shortz, editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle. I know Will from the puzzler conventions I go to every year.
I just finished taping the segment over the phone. I was nervous, but I managed to answer Will's puzzle questions OK. Will told me that he had originally planned an easy on-air puzzle, but when he found out who I was, he switched to a more difficult one.
To get on the show, I entered a weekly contest in which I had to send in the answer to a puzzle. This week's puzzle was: Think of a seven-letter island that belongs to a NATO member country. Change one letter in the island's name to a new letter. Read the result backward, and you'll get a new seven-letter word that is also related to NATO. What are these words?
Posted by tplambeck at 12:39 PM

morning dilemma

Drive up to SF for codecon 2005, or not?

Answer: Probably not. But I'm sad to miss the one on RPOW.

Reconsidering once more: When the slides are on the web, why bother. I'm not that sociable, really, anyway. There's a Google reception, though. There might be good cheese. Hmmm....

Posted by tplambeck at 11:26 AM

The woonerf


One of the great things about the street that we live on in Palo Alto is that it is narrow. There are sometimes plenty of cars parked on it, up on the curbs on two wheels. And across from our house, there's a valley oak whose trunk rises from the street, past the sidewalk. These things work together to transform the street into an area that's shared with cars, rather than one that's treated as a thoroughfare for automobiles only.

From an article in the Sierra Club magazine by Linda Baker, "Kids, Go Play in the Street (sharing the road makes everyone safer)":

Imagine driving down a street with no traffic lights, stop signs, lane dividers, or sidewalks. Pedestrians, cyclists, and playing children wander about the road at will, and trees and flowers are planted in the right-of-way. How do you avoid hitting anyone—or anything? Simple. You slow down, maintain eye contact with people around and stay alert.
Some might see this dissolving of the boundary between street and sidewalk as an invitation to pure chaos. The Dutch call it woonerf, and it works. Based on a set of design principles that emerged in the 1970s, woonerfs, or "living street"—reject standardized traffic controls, which many drivers ignore or try to beat anyway, in favor of attractive urban signals designs that signal a multi-use public space. By introducing uncertainty into the driving experience, cars are forced to slow down and share the road. It sounds counterintuitive, but creating a more "dangerous" environment actually leads to heightened awareness that makes the street safer for everyone.


Posted by tplambeck at 09:26 AM

February 10, 2005

Arthur Ganson

Machines created between 1978 and 2004

Posted by tplambeck at 09:33 PM

Garry Kasparov likens Putin to Caligula


Posted by tplambeck at 06:01 PM

You know your days of recreational tech stock flipping are in the distant past when...

...you can't even remember the ticker symbol for Hewlett Packard.

I tried

HP = Helmerich & Payne

and then

HPC = Hercules Incorporated

Posted by tplambeck at 05:26 PM

And now, from a crypt in Moravia...

MoraviaCrypt 2005

Posted by tplambeck at 05:18 PM

Thomas O Larkin

San Francisco (Upper California), June 1, 1848.
Sir: I have to report to the State Department one of the most astonishing excitements and state of affairs now existing in this country, that, perhaps, has ever been brought to the notice of the Government. On the American fork of the Sacramento and Feather River, another branch of the same, and the adjoining lands, there has been within the present year discovered a placer, a vast tract of land containing gold, in small particles. This gold, thus far, has been taken on the bank of the river, from the surface to eighteen inches in depth, and is supposed deeper, and to extend over the country...


Posted by tplambeck at 02:47 PM

via langreiter

David Reveman, who became a Novell employee a couple of weeks ago, has been writing a new X server on OpenGL/Glitz called Xgl. Because Xgl is built on GL primitives it naturally gets the benefit of hardware acceleration. For example, window contents get rendered directly into textures (actually they get copied once in video memory for now), and so you get the benefit of the 3d hardware doing the compositing when you move semi-opaque windows or regions around...


Posted by tplambeck at 12:06 AM

February 09, 2005


Learning to reason 'correctly' using probability concepts, such as randomness and chance, is a skill that very few people have mastered, mainly because we have had very little assistance to do so. A fairly large body of research, for example Piaget and Inhelder (1965), Fischbein (1975), Green (1983), Jones et al. (1996), Way (1996), has shown that young children develop intuitive understandings of basic probability concepts without instruction. There is also evidence that many of these intuitions are misleading or incorrect, and that by adulthood, they develop into misconceptions that are extremely difficult to correct. However, studies such as Fischbein's and Jones's have established that children are responsive to appropriate instruction on probability concepts...

more (via learning curves)

Posted by tplambeck at 11:53 PM

mysterious plasma

From the archives: Annie conjures a mysterious plasma at the table behind her (people in the background wear protective eyewear)

Posted by tplambeck at 11:49 PM

Johannes Kepler

"Why should I mince my words? The truth of Nature, which I had rejected and chased away, returned by stealth through the back door, disguising itself to be accepted. That is to say, I laid [the original equation] aside, and fell back on ellipses, believing that this was quite a different hypothesis, whereas the two, as I shall prove in the next chapter, are one and the same ... I thought and searched, until I went nearly mad, for a reason why the planet preferred an elliptical orbit [to mine] ... Ah, what a foolish bird I have been!"

—From Astronomia Nova 1609

Posted by tplambeck at 11:17 PM

Illustrated hashing

Quite a way down into this page:

Some very bright researchers in China presented a paper, Collisions for Hash Functions MD4, MD5, HAVAL-128 and RIPEMD, at the Crypto 2004 conference in August 2004, and it's shaken up the security world considerably. This was some outstanding cryptography research.
They have found ways to reliably generate collisions in four hash functions much faster than brute-force time, and in one case (MD4, which is admittedly obsolete), with a hand calculation. This has been a stunning development.

Maybe stunning, but with no security impact that I can see.

Anyone doing any crypto by hand is to be congratulated. But maybe they used an abacus? Would that be cheating?

Posted by tplambeck at 11:01 PM

how google maps works


Posted by tplambeck at 10:08 PM

Take that, you robotic slimeball

After a long and hard-fought session of Texas Hold'Em against 9 robots, I ended up facing only "Winston" in a final "All-In" hand. He drew a final '7' to complete an inside straight and I lost to the robotic moron.

"Why must I lose to this idiot?" —Nimzovich

Anyway, it was sweet to bankrupt Winston in the second hand of the next game:


Poker Academy Pro

Posted by tplambeck at 04:34 PM

February 08, 2005

disturbing SSL / domain name hack


explanation of the homograph attack.


Posted by tplambeck at 11:13 PM

best blog title I've seen in a week, shoot, maybe even more

farm accident digest

Posted by tplambeck at 11:08 PM

Hieronymus Bosch Action Figures


Posted by tplambeck at 09:10 PM

San Francisco / History / Time / Place


Posted by tplambeck at 07:03 PM



I can't believe I've never heard of this before.

Most of the structures at Hovenweep were built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. There is quite a variety of shapes and sizes, including square and circular towers, D-shaped dwellings and many kivas (Puebloan ceremonial structures, usually circular). The masonry at Hovenweep is as skillful as it is beautiful. Even the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde rarely exhibit such careful construction and attention to detail. Some structures built on irregular boulders remain standing after more than 700 years. Many theories attempt to explain the use of the buildings at Hovenweep. The striking towers might have been celestial observatories, defensive structures, storage facilities, civil buildings, homes or any combination of the above. While archeologists have found that most towers were associated with kivas, their actual function remains a mystery.
Posted by tplambeck at 02:56 PM

Google maps

link [drag the map with the mouse. too cool]

Posted by tplambeck at 02:54 PM

The evolution of the 'Heavy Metal Umlaut' entry in the Wikipedia


Posted by tplambeck at 10:27 AM

February 07, 2005

Owen's Pirate Ship


He comments: "I learned from this book. The pirate ship starts at page 44."

Posted by tplambeck at 08:26 PM

Wendy Wasserstein

Sloth: The Seven Deadly Sins

"You have the right to be lazy. You can choose not to respond. You can choose not to move."
Posted by tplambeck at 06:42 PM

Via Eric Albert

The person profoundly in love with words may make an excellent poet, composer of crossword puzzles, or Scrabble player; he may write novel-like things which a select group admires; but he will probably not in the end prove a first-rate novelist.
—John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist, p. 7
Posted by tplambeck at 08:47 AM

February 05, 2005

we recommend you let us quarantine all of the selected items automatically

This Norton AntiVirus dialog has been bugging me for months:


OK, so quarantine them already! And yes, yes, yes— I want you to quarantine everything that has a virus, always, and stop asking me about this!

But there doesn't seem to be anyway to set up the Norton software to do that.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:27 PM

Dragon Tamers

A schoolgirl has become a publishing sensation after her first novel sold 50,000 copies in six weeks. A second print run for Emma Maree Urquhart's Dragon Tamers has been ordered...


Posted by tplambeck at 11:11 PM

at crooked timber

will you go bankrupt before Social Security?

Looking at credit cards, the population is about evenly divided between those who pay off their balance every month, and therefore get almost-free credit, and those who run balances, pay interest and keep the card companies in business. Assuming that the two groups are fairly stable, as appears to be the case the risk of credit-driven bankruptcy is fairly low for the first group, and these are also likely to have safer jobs and better health insurance. In fact, one way of viewing the credit card business is that it needs to extract as much interest as possible from members of the second group before their highly probable resort to bankruptcy...
Posted by tplambeck at 10:45 PM

hermeneutic, proairetic

HERMENEUTIC AND PROAIRETIC CODES: The two ways of creating suspense in narrative, the first caused by unanswered questions, the second by the anticipation of an action's resolution. These terms come from the narratologist Roland Barthes, who wishes to distinguish between the two forces that drive narrative and, thus by implication, our own desires to keep reading or viewing a story...

link; or bypass that to the application of these terms to episodes of Star Trek.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:58 PM

Charles McGrath article

The NYT was cooking up an article on literary magazines even as I was taking the vital signs of the American Scholar yesterday: Does the Paris Review get a second act?

Meanwhile new literary magazines are always popping up - "showcases of idealism begotten upon unlikelihood," as Sven Birkerts, the current editor of Agni, has said. Among the more visible newcomers these days are Tin House, with its catchy graphics and departments devoted to pop culture, and the quirky, whimsical and slightly Victorian McSweeney's, which now comes out in elaborate hardcover form. Both have tried hard not to be what the Tin House founder, Win McCormack, calls those "stuffy, staid literary magazines that go down like cough medicine."
Posted by tplambeck at 09:19 PM

Link posted to quantum diaries

A Ph.D. is not Enough: A Guide to Survival in Science.

A book that's over ten years old, and still in the top 10,000 best sellers at Amazon. By contrast, the only copy of "What Color is my Parachute?" I could find wasn't even in the top quarter million best sellers.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:44 PM

books, box 2

box 2 part a

box 2 part b

box 2 part c

box 2 part d

Posted by tplambeck at 04:51 PM

books, box 1

I'm clearing out books from my office.

The greater the classic, the less likely to be read, so in the box it goes. I want to create room for the less-than-great books that tend to be on my desk far more often.

I'm recording final photos before each lot is packed and then buried in the garage.

box1 part a

box1 part b

box1 part c

box1 part d

Posted by tplambeck at 04:45 PM

February 04, 2005

Dumbing down The American Scholar

The Partisan Review went under last year (or is at already two years)? I could never throw those magazines away. Every time I opened one, I found something else good inside it that I missed before. Once I found one in pieces on the floor of the backseat of my car. The kids had trampled it. I thought I might throw it away, since I knew I had read it or flipped through it at least ten times. But no, one glance and there was something really good I had missed, a review of Marcel Reich-Ranicki's autobiography, The Author of Himself, which Joshua had given me.

The Paris Review is looking like it's going to morph into something stupider.

The New Yorker—well, you know about that. I'm still a subscriber, but still.

Now I've unwrapped the latest American Scholar and find this:

"Understanding Iraq" banner; also
"Arts—A New Department"

Could anything represent dumbing-down better than an announcement: "Arts—A New Department"? I don't think so. Now let's open the magazine. What do we find?

Enlarged font quotebites

Let's read that quotebite:

If there is a single theme that unites all of the inaugurals, from George W. to George W., it is the need to explore the central mystery of God's relationship to the American experiment. This is hardly a simple topic, and some handle it better than others.

The "central mystery." It's "hardly a simple topic." "The American experiment."

Good god. Excuse me—a wave of nausea is passing my way. The central mystery; some handle it better than others.



Here's a short list of why enlarged font quotebites are stupid. Perhaps no one has ever compiled such a list. So I'll try.

1) Obsequiousness: The quotebite fawns over the reader, congratulating him heartily for letting his eye fall upon the page. "Say, thanks for stopping by!" it says. "Perhaps you'd like to read more?" It's sort of like having a boring person follow you around, talking about real estate, horror movies, or sports cars.

2) Misemphasis: Most quotebites obscure an author's meaning, calling out some particular sentence for undeserved attention.

3) Uncertain provenance: Who decided to make the quotebite larger? The editor? The author? Why?

4) Distraction & the advertising effect: It's hard to ignore big letters.

5) Encouraging laziness: Ah, what the hell. I'll just read the big letters. Like "George W. or George W.", sometimes you need to focus on the big picture. Yet it always seems to be the small picture that is where the action is. At least to my way of thinking.

6) Disrespect: Who's to say the author's meaning can be cast into a few large font sentences? And if that's not what the quotebite is doing, what is it doing?

Posted by tplambeck at 11:09 PM

imdb entry for a movie version of David Auburn's play, Proof

With Gwyneth Paltrow, who played the role of Catherine on stage in London's West End. It's supposed to be released in mid- to late-2005, apparently. link

Posted by tplambeck at 10:08 PM

Springer Math Store inside Amazon


Posted by tplambeck at 04:22 PM

no one in my surroundings would vex and confuse me

From SF Symphony program notes by James M. Keller:

As Haydn later recalled of these years, in an interview with his biographer Georg August Griesinger: "My sovereign was satisfied with all my endeavors. I was assured of applause and, as head of an orchestra, was able to experiment, to find out what enhances and detracts from effect, in other words, to improve, add, delete, and try out. As I was shut off from the world, no one in my surroundings would vex and confuse me, and so I was destined for originality."
Posted by tplambeck at 04:13 PM

Platonism and Anti-Platonism in Mathematics

Mark Balaguer

Posted by tplambeck at 03:38 PM

UNICED Brownies


Via Rick Rubinstein, on puzzlers.org:

Several bright people I know were once perplexed for a good stretch by a box of brownies with "UNICED" on the box. What the heck was "you-nih-sed"? Isn't that a medical charity of some kind?
Posted by tplambeck at 01:25 PM

February 03, 2005

Vintage Vandals

Some artists took boring paintings, modified them, and are offering them for sale:


link (for the painting shown above)
another link (for more).

Posted by tplambeck at 09:46 PM

Symphony matinee

Variations on La ci darem la mano [Chopin], Shai Wosner, piano

Posted by tplambeck at 06:36 PM

Zvart Alteration


Posted by tplambeck at 06:29 PM

February 02, 2005

Crossword in 60 minutes

From a message I just received via the puzzlers.org email list from Will Shortz, describing events to take place at this upcoming crossword puzzle tournament:

There's one late addition to the Friday night program that's not in the brochure and not yet on the website: Manx is going to create a complete 15x15 crossword in 60 minutes or less! As one of the country's best and fastest crossword constructors, who still does not use a computer autofill function in his work, he's probably the perfect person for this demonstration.
We'll start the evening by taking theme ideas from the audience. Manx will choose one he likes. Then he'll leave to: a) develop the theme entries, b) place them in the grid, c) plot the pattern of black squares, d) hand-fill the grid with words, e) write the clues, f) typeset and lay out the puzzle, g) make about 500 photocopies, and h) return ... all within an hour. (The rest of the evening program will continue while he's away.) Then we'll hold a competition to solve Manx's puzzle. Afterward, he'll spend 5-10 minutes on the stage explaining how and why he did what he did.
That's something to look forward to.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:05 PM

February 01, 2005

Grande Latte Speaks

Starbucks would like you to submit ideas for things to be printed on their cups. (link)


I picked up this brochure at my local Starbucks ("Store #5555," if a handwritten annotation on the back of it is to be believed). Since the inside of the brochure warns that "it is not possible for us to respond to or publish every submission" [aside to Stephanie: at least you did for the Kopfschmerzen Decaf!], I think I'll just contribute my idea for a short, thought-provoking remark to be printed on the back of zillions of Starbucks cups, here, instead.

It's good to have a model in composition. Here is what one cup-o-joe has to say:

Zeroes are important. A million seconds ago was last week. A billion seconds ago, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency. A trillion seconds ago was 30,000 BC, and early humans were using stone tools. America's national debt is now $7.5 trillion, and it's skyrocketing, even as America's population ages. There will never be a better time to start paying off this crippling debt than today.
-- Denis Hayes Chairman of the Earth Day Network and longtime environmental advocate.

I sense in the words of this paper cup pedagogic intent, and also concern for our shared future, which, it must be said, would be a sad one indeed if zeroes were to be ignored while the national debt ascended to some unimaginabily distant Kuiper belt object far beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, dragging our crippled, aging population behind it like so many pathetic innumerate streamers attached to a kite with a broken string. This cup wants to help, even if by some unfortunate exponential coincidence it must recall the evil Nixon administration in making its point.


What can one paper cup teach? Well, I'm here to tell you. Through the power of language, used since humans first picked up stone tools over 30,000 years ago and then realized, it would be nice to have a complete list of all the other cave people who might be well served by a whack in the head with a rough-hewn granitic awl, a paper cup can teach you the value of writing things down. Isn't it time today that you stopped reading, and starting writing? Maybe you should start a blog. Just a thought.

---Tall Toffee Nut Latte
PS: I'm not your Toffee Nut Latte, I'm his. Put me down! Can't you see he came in before you?

Posted by tplambeck at 10:56 PM

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