« June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 »

July 31, 2005


Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 06:43 PM

World's first roller coaster, under construction

World's first roller coaster, under construction
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:48 AM

Nudibranch ID card


Know one when you see one.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:10 AM

Got Silk?

Lawrence Osborne, New York Times
June 2002



Nexia uses two common spider specimens, Araneus diadematus (the common garden spider) and Nephila clavipes (the golden orb weaver, native to many tropical forests). The spiders are frozen in liquid nitrogen, then ground into a brown powder. Since every cell of a spider contains the precious silk-producing genes, it’s easy to extract them. These genes are then tested in the "Charlotte machine," what Turner calls a "synthetic goat" that tests whether or not the gene will function inside an actual goat. Next, the gene is altered. A "genetic switch" is added, which programs the gene to "turn on" only inside the mammary gland of its new female host during lactation. The altered gene is then pushed on a fine glass pipette into a goat egg. The baby goat will have a spider gene present in each of its cells (its eyes, ears and hooves will all be part spider), but only in the mammary glands of female goats will the silk gene actually spring to life. The goat will eventually start lactating a kind of silk-milk mixture, which looks and tastes just like normal milk.


What's special about spider silk, as opposed to silk from worms, is that it is a unique liquid crystal. And that's what's magical, says Turner. "Liquid crystals are the Holy Grail of material sciences. They make for incredibly tough, light, strong materials with phenomenal properties. It's way beyond anything we humans can make. Milled steel pales next to it.

"But the complexity of arachnid silk is also what is problematic about it, from the point of view of biomimicry. Spider-silk proteins consist of very long strings of amino acids that are difficult to decode, and little is known of how spiders actually unravel them and spin them into threads. A spider, moreover, constructs its web methodically out of different kinds of silk. It builds diagonal support lines called "dragline silk" (which it also uses to hoist itself around its web) and then inner wheels called "the capture spiral" made from a more viscid, sticky silk. Dragline silk, says Turner, is the "best stopping material you've ever seen," but how it's actually made inside a small orb weaver's abdomen remains mysterious. And whereas spiders produce up to seven kinds of silk proteins, BioSteel, as yet, contains only one.

* * *

BioSteel (google search)

But now it's over three years since that NYT article, so how did BioSteel do in the meantime?

Nexia has decided to refocus fibre development towards biopolymer sales and specialized nano-scale fibre applications for spider silk and away from traditional fibres and yarns. This decision was prompted by the emerging interest in nanofibres and by the ongoing technical challenges of producing bulk, cost competitive spider silk fibres with superior mechanical properties, especially strength...
Posted by tplambeck at 12:13 AM

Music @ Menlo

Tonight, four Beethoven Op 18 string quartets performed by the excellent Miro quartet at the St. Marks Episcopal church in Palo Alto. The Music at Menlo festival is starting again, and one of several excellent string quartets will be playing every single Beethoven string quartet in the next couple of weeks, just a few hundred yards from our house.

Somebody pinch me.

For an encore they played part of a string quartet by Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio Arriaga y Balzola, who heard Beethoven's Op 18 quartets about ten years after they were first performed, and was inspired to write his own. I enjoyed the Arriaga encore quite a bit.

Arriaga died at age nineteen. On the web, people seem to call him the Spanish Mozart. He was born exactly 50 years to the day after Mozart.

Wu Han: "As you listen to the first notes of this string quartet (opus 18, #3), think that these are the first two notes that Beethoven chose for his quartets. It gives me goosebumps."

One web site on Juan Crisóstomo Jacobo Antonio Arriaga y Balzola

(born: Bilbao, 27 Jan 1806; died: Paris, 17 Jan 1826). Spanish composer. He studied under Baillot (violin) and Fétis (harmony) at the Paris Conservatoire; his music, which includes an opera (Los esclavos felices, 1820), a symphony and three fine string quartets, is elegant and accomplished and notable for its harmonic warmth. His death before he was 20 was a sad loss to Spanish music.
Posted by tplambeck at 12:00 AM

July 30, 2005

David Somers writes

Dear friends,

I'm having a bit of a Willy Wonka moment and feeling quite like Charlie Bucket. Late Sunday night I solved a sort of visual riddle in a book called a Treasure's Trove," a book for kids and adults that has a real treasure hunt for 12 Jewels worth a total of $1 million dollars. You may have seen this on the Today show. Anyway, we just found the 12th token! It can be redeemed for a jewel encrusted beetle valued at over $50K or a lesser amount of cash.

The riddle spelled out the name of an Overlook within the Badlands National Park. I immediately called Mark Moeglein, my best friend from Harvey Mudd days. His daughter Katie is my goddaughter and I had given her a copy of the book and we had all been doing the puzzles with the kids. Mark is lives in Oregon and I'm in Boston. We both dropped everything and each raced about 1800 miles from opposite coasts (I drove 560 miles in 7 1/2 hours after my flights). By late Monday night we were both in Wall, S.D. By 1am (MDT) Tuesday morning we were at the White River Overlook in the Badlands and quickly found the specific tree that we were looking for. After 15 minutes of searching from the ground with flashlights and lanterns, Mark finally climbed the tree and spotted the token in a knothole 8 ft off the ground.

It is quite amazing that decoding 15 characters (BADLANDSWROVRLK) out of a children's book set us off on this little adventure. It is even more amazing that we pulled it off without a hitch. We knew exactly which tree to search 1800 miles away. Incredible!

I'm not sure what happens next. The first token was redeemed on the Today show, but the prizes are not scheduled to be awarded until the end of 2007. Oddly enough, the film rights to the story were purchased by Paramount and assigned to Tom Cruise's production company Cruise/Wagner. Film or no film, Mark and I have shared a tremendous adventure together, one that we hope will inspire our kids as well.

We're downright giddy at the moment. Please feel free to sing along. either choose Charlie Bucket "I've got a golden token..." or Bruce Springsteen "these Badlands started treating us good, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa...."


Posted by tplambeck at 04:41 PM

Grave Creek Mound [1833]











Josiah Priest (1788-1851)
(1st ed.: Albany, 1833, 2nd ed 1834)


Tumuli are very common on the river Ohio, from its utmost sources to its mouth, although on the Monongahela, they are few, and comparatively small, but increase in number and size, as we descend towards the mouth of that stream at Pittsburgh, where the Ohio begins; after this they are still more numerous and of greater dimensions, till we arrive at Grave creek, below Wheeling. At this place, situated between two creeks, which run into the Ohio, a little way from the river, is one of the most extraordinary and august monuments of antiquity, of the mound description. Its circumference at its base, is fifty-six rods, its perpendicular height ninety feet, its top seven rods and eight feet in circumference. The centre at the summit, appears to have sunk several feet, so as to form a kind of amphitheatre. The rim enclosing this concavity is seven or eight feet in thickness; on the south side, in the edge of this rim, stands a large beech tree, the bark of which is marked with the initials of a great number of visitants.L

[I scavenged for contemporaneous images of Grave Creek Mound and put together this slideshow].

Posted by tplambeck at 02:46 PM

July 29, 2005

Solution to misere play of Guiles

link (Aaron Siegel).

Posted by tplambeck at 11:43 PM

Solutions to wild four digit quaternaries

PDF (Aaron Siegel).

Aaron has also found a solution for the wild octal game 0.144 (its misere indistinguishability quotient semigroup has order 30 and a pretending function of period 9).

More information here (background paper) and here (my original problem statement, presented at the Banff CGT conference problem session last month).

More tidbits from Aaron:

0.01222 has period 8 and quotient order 370
0.10322 has period 8 and quotient order 214
Posted by tplambeck at 10:23 PM


Originally uploaded by thane.
Second experiment
Posted by tplambeck at 09:06 PM


Originally uploaded by thane.
Cole, Owen and I downloaded a set of Lego modeling programs called LDraw.

It was surprisingly easy and fun to create our first Lego model (admittedly only two bricks).
Posted by tplambeck at 08:40 PM

Giant chocolate donut discovered on Mars


Posted by tplambeck at 10:44 AM

July 28, 2005

A question

Why haven't I ever been to Big Sur, despite having lived in CA for 20 years? Perhaps because everyone who's told me about it has mentioned nude people in hot tubs?

Not that that is a bad thing.

At least I could go to the Esalen Institute bookstore.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:52 PM

If using Firefox

View->Page Style->No Style

More readable and hype-neutral.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:40 PM

carhenge—now with spawning salmon and dinosaurs

flickr slideshow

I proud to say I was one of only two people in my archaeoastronomy class to know that carhenge is near Alliance, Nebraska.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:58 PM

K.T.E Piano Moving

is there a hidden meaning in this?

Posted by tplambeck at 01:38 PM

Spike the Lizard

Spike the Lizard
Originally uploaded by thane.
Gloria has been taking care of our neighbor's Bearded Dragon. He gets "salad" in the evening, and prefers it to be handed to him.

I've never seen him move much, but Gloria says he can really scoot after a cricket when he wants to.
Posted by tplambeck at 08:55 AM

Review of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

[Audiobook version—as read by Gregory Peck ("intoned" may be a better term)]

By Thane Plambeck

* * * *
There's nothing like hearing Gregory Peck say


in that ever-so-decisive tone that he has—I'm sure you can imagine it.

But someone should have pointed out to God, or to whomever was responsible for this final compilation of the revealed truth of our Saviour, that things in these four books are bit redundant. Perhaps I wasn't paying attention closely enough, but I think I put the audiotapes in one-by-one, without repeating anything. These four books repeat themselves a lot. These four gentlemen Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John might possibly have been copying over one another's shoulders as they wrote these "independent," "synoptic" accounts of the life of Jesus.

I think I need to move on to Romans. Everyone seems to be quoting from it, particularly the evangelicals.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:46 AM

Something I just found at the web site of Col. G. L. Sicherman:

* * * *

When Herbert Hoover was a small boy in Iowa, his father operated a barbed-wire factory, and, anxious to improve his product, he hit upon the idea of covering the steel strands with tar.

One day young Bertie, standing beside the steaming caldron of tar and wondering whether it would burn, tossed a flaming stick into it. The conflagration which resulted destroyed his father's plant and nearly wiped out the little town and his father's store.

"That night," according to Rose Wilder Lane, one of Hoover's most adulatory biographers, "he heard his father tell how the store, and perhaps the town had been saved. The fire, it was thought, had been caused by the unwatched kettle of tar, which must have boiled over. Bertie said nothing. If he had been asked, he would have told what he had done, but no one asked him.

"He sat unnoticed, eating silently. He was sorry and terrified, yet he was glad. It was such a strange feeling that when he had gone to bed he lay awake for a long time, hearing the katydid in the wild crab-apple tree outside his window. He had done a frightening thing; the shock of it was still in his nerves and the crime of it on his conscience, but he had not meant to do wrong. He had been innocently experimenting, and the result was not entirely disheartening.

"`Anyway, I found out what it would do,' he thought. `I found it out all by myself.' He wondered if he would be punished if he told. He thought not. But he decided that it was best to keep his own counsel in the matter.

"And for forty years he did so."

The story is one of the most revealing incidents in Herbert Hoover's life. It gives the key to many qualities in his character which both his friends and his enemies have been trying to explain.

It explains his vacillation, his indecision, the worry through which he passes before making up his mind. It explains his hesitancy in facing issues, a hesitancy which sometimes borders on outright cowardice. It explains why he privately denounced the oil scandals of the Harding Administration and yet sat unmoved throughout that régime, never denouncing it publicly. It explains why he hesitated three days before accepting the rôle of Belgian Food Administrator which the Allies had offered him. It explains his basic intellectual timidity, his inability to grapple in a straightforward and forthright manner with vital issues, why he is always resorting to such indirect devices as commissions to relieve him of the responsibility of acting on controversial questions.

* * * *

It's long been customary to beat up on Hoover, particularly since circumstances conspired to make his successor FDR America's greatest president (I think—he certainly kicked ass). I've often marvelled at this—no matter who is president, something always kicks that president in the butt. Except for FDR. The guy overcame everything. GBII is going down on Iraq.

David M Kennedy's Apology for Hoover (aka "Freedom from Fear") probably gets Hoover better.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:05 AM

UPS delivery

Originally uploaded by thane.
UPS guy: "I've got some boxes for you."

Thane: What? Two?

UPS guy: "One hundred fifty-nine."

Note to self: forbid Gloria from being the AYSO kids soccer uniform coordinator next year.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:24 AM

July 27, 2005

A Thane writes

Lori Thane writes:

I was just googling my last name and you popped up. Are you a Thane? It's my last name and we pronounce it "tiny."

This startling news from Texas, that there are whole families of "tinies," certainly merited further discussion.

I answered:

-----Original Message-----
From: Thane Plambeck [mailto:thane@best.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 27, 2005 5:14 PM
To: Lisa Thane
Subject: Re: just wondering

Really? You and your family in the USA pronounce "Thane" as "tiny" ?

Lori replied:

Yep! I know I hate it and I hated it all through school... :) My family tried to keep it close to our German heritage.

This raised the question, just how the hell could that happen.

In further email to Lori, I speculated as follows

* * * *

I haven't heard of German people using Thane as a last name, but it is certainly possible.

In modern German spelling, words that start with Th all have foreign origin (ie, not German).

In older German spelling, some words that started with T used to be spelled Th.

For example tun ("to do") used to be "thun".

"Tal" (valley) used to be "thal."

The word "Tanne" in modern german means "fir tree."

as in O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum (oh Christmas tree, o Christmas tree)

That word Tanne may have be spelled Thanne long ago (I'm not sure)

So your name might come from the word for Christmas tree.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:38 PM

Le Ciel est Bleu [music-making flash toy]

Panther writes:

I think the idea is that it's theoretically possible to get the machine into the right configuration to play a nice melody, and that's certainly the puzzle-related aspect. In any case, it's an interesting little toy. If you don't see any help bubbles when you move over controls with your mouse, click on the '?' in the lower-right to turn them on.

[I actually like the music already, in the start-up configuration. It's quite a bit of fun to play with..]


Posted by tplambeck at 10:23 AM

July 26, 2005

In today's mail—full-postage letters from a lawyer, and the IRS.

From the lawyer, just a note about his changing address. But—

0) It's always a bad sign to receive an IRS letter with full first-class postage.

1) They give you 10 days to schedule the audit appointment.

2) "Their goal is to drag it out. My goal is to finish it off quickly." [our accountant]

3) "It is to your advantage to respond quickly." [IRS]

Not having cheated even in the slightest, I'm not worried.

Should be interesting.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:44 PM

Jazz obsession, reprise

For example, buy this, listen to the Freddie Hubbard trumpet solo near the beginning of the first track, "Watermelon Man," and then pause to ask yourself the following question:

Might it not be a good thing to immediately listen to that solo again? Right now?

You will find that the answer to this question is, in fact, "YES."

The answer is still "YES" after one rehearing.

And again, "YES," after the next.

You get the idea.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:25 AM

Jazz is too good

I play the same jazz recordings over and over again, and then finally decide, "OK, maybe I should listen to something else." But I don't do this because I'm tired of what I've been listening to. I do it the same way I might decide to put on a clean pair of jeans—for hygenic reasons only.

Then I dig to the bottom of the jazz CD set, and pick something out at random. Then I listen to that one endlessly.

My kids often say—"that's the same thing, put on something else."

To which I reply, yes, but—hold on, listen to the next eight beats of this Dexter Gordon solo, hold on, just a moment..."

At some point I realized—wait—no one is going to throw me in jail if I listen to the same Lee Morgan solo 100 consecutive times as I drive around Palo Alto. It's no crime.

But then again, the thought has often occurred to me—someone is going to wise up and declare the jazz music of the late 1950s illegal. It sure would make sense—"Look what this guy is doing—he's listening to this stuff OVER AND OVER AGAIN! HE'S CRAZY."

Posted by tplambeck at 12:04 AM

July 25, 2005

Anatomy of Integers


Posted by tplambeck at 11:47 PM

When Computers Were Human


[they still are. at least the good ones.]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:13 PM

The Best Army We Can Buy

David M Kennedy, NYT

Posted by tplambeck at 10:42 PM

Nice NYT article on the Millau Viaduct


Book (in French) Les Ponts, Le Diable et Le Viaduc" ("Bridges, the Devil and the Viaduct")

Posted by tplambeck at 08:30 PM

Murder runs in families

From the San Jose Mercury News a week ago.

I was a juror in the trial of Roy Garcia, Sr, about five years ago.

* * *
Posted on Sun, Jul. 17, 2005 **
Tangled web surrounds Gilroy death
*By Scott Herhold*
*Mercury News*

In the superb Paul Haggis movie ''Crash,'' all our stereotypes are upended: The racist cop becomes a hero. The sensitive cop becomes a killer. The cranky district attorney's wife learns the meaning of friendship with a Mexican-American maid. Nobody is all good. Nobody is all bad.

I thought of that film as I researched the killing of 25-year-old Jeffrey Garner of Gilroy, who sheriff's deputies say was clubbed to death with a lead pipe two weeks ago by a friend, Rogelio ''Roy'' Garcia Jr.

Straightforward? Hardly. For starters, there's the paternal issue. Five years ago, Garcia's father, Rogelio ''Roy'' Garcia Sr., was convicted of murder in a celebrated case, the shooting of a female neighbor with whom he quarreled.

Then there was the victim, Garner, a man with both a police record and a conscience. Though he had problems with drugs and alcohol and brandishing a knife, he could rise to heroism. He once helped Gilroy police solve a triple homicide.

Finally, there's the girl, Lydia Mollett, 15, a one-time Garner girlfriend. The victim's family claims she lured him to his death. She told deputies Garner was beating her when Roy Garcia intervened.

*Alcohol and drugs*

Nobody is all good, nobody is all bad. One man is dead. A friend is in jail. An un-indicted co-conspirator, a wicked mix of methamphetamine and alcohol, sits silently on the side.

More than most killings, this one had a prologue. In November 1998, not too far from the finished barn where Jeff Garner died, the Garcia family's neighbor, Deborah Gregg, was shot to death as she was building a fence. Sheriff's deputies arrested Roy Garcia Sr., a carpet business owner who had quarreled with Gregg over property lines.

The senior Garcia is now serving a life sentence without possibility of parole. His case is being appealed to the California Supreme Court on an odd issue in keeping with this odd saga: whether the judge erred in taking a deliberating jury back to the crime scene without the lawyers.

I couldn't reach the Garcia family to ask the key question: How did the fate of his father influence Roy Garcia Jr.? Court records show the younger Garcia, 25, had his own brushes with the law, violating a restraining order to keep away from his mother. Did the father's murder arrest somehow foreshadow his son's? It remains unclear.

Sheriff's investigators say Roy and his younger brother picked up Lydia and Jeff that Saturday, July 2, and -- after a stop at Taco Bell -- drove to the Garcia barn on Duke Drive.

*A quarrel erupts*

According to what Lydia later told investigators, everyone in the barn that evening smoked meth. And Jeff, Lydia and Roy drank Campari. So it wasn't surprising that Lydia and Jeff quarreled: Their friends say she could make him violently jealous.

The most reliable witness that night was a young man named Hasan Qaddura, who says he neither smoked meth nor drank. Hasan told deputies that Lydia and Jeff went into a bedroom, where they began to fight.

When a choking noise came from the room, Hasan said, Roy got a ''crazed'' look in his face and grabbed a 3 1/2-foot-long lead pipe. Hasan told deputies that Roy barged into the bedroom and struck Jeff from behind on the head, adding two more blows after Jeff collapsed. Lydia, he said, told Roy, ''Thank you.''

The circumstances might offer a Good Samaritan defense. But both Roy and Lydia initially told stories to investigators that didn't square with Jeff's injuries. ''If it was done in defense, why did he hit him from behind?'' asks Jeff's sister, Angela.

Jeff Garner had his own sadly prophetic prologue. Four years ago, he wrote a judge, ''I am sorry for my mistakes. I feel like I have been a failure all of my life at nearly everything I have done, and without change, I surely will not survive.''

Posted by tplambeck at 11:17 AM

Things Not Overheard at a Conceptual-Art Gallery Opening.

link (mcsweeneys)

Posted by tplambeck at 12:23 AM

From "Fingertips store personal information"

via laputan logic, at physicsweb:

* * * *

Secure optical data storage could soon literally be at your fingertips thanks to work being carried out in Japan. Yoshio Hayasaki of Tokushima University and colleagues have discovered that data can be written into a human fingernail by irradiating it with femtosecond laser pulses. Capacities are said to be up to 5 mega bits and the stored data lasts for 6 months -- the length of time it takes a fingernail to be completely replaced (Optics Express 13 4560).

"I don't like carrying around a large number of cards, money and papers," says Hayasaki. "I think that a key application will be personal authentication. Data stored in a fingernail can be used with biometrics, such as fingerprint authentication and intravenous authentication of the finger...."

Posted by tplambeck at 12:14 AM

The Zohar: Pritzker Edition


Ever since it emerged mysteriously in Castile, Spain toward the end of the 13th century, the Zohar has enthralled, confounded, challenged, and enraptured readers. Composed mostly in lyrical Aramaic, the Zohar is a mosaic of Bible, medieval homily, spiritual fantasy, and imaginative commentary, or midrash, on the Torah written in the form of a mystical novel. In it a group of rabbis wander through the hills of Galilee, discovering and sharing secrets of Torah: at times they interpret the actions of biblical figures, and at other times, they take center stage themselves through their adventures on the road and their encounters with various astonishing characters...
Posted by tplambeck at 12:04 AM

July 24, 2005

Frequent conclusions drawn after using Google's "I'm feeling lucky" button to look up people whose names are generated at random from US census data

1) She's a real estate agent. [Lori Bishop]

2) He's a photographer. [Scott Evans]

3) He's a real estate agent. [Todd Brown]

4) She recently ran in a footrace. [Julie Gosnell]

5) He's dead. [Jason Conley]

6) He's a academic or a book author (and usually both), but not one you've heard of. [James Weinstein]

7) He's not a person at all, but instead the name of a business in the yellow pages. [Troy Stump]

8) He's participated in an obscure online forum related to computing technology or genealogy. [Joseph Bove]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:17 PM

London bombings, Iraq, and Charlie Starkweather

My kids (7 and 9) keep asking me questions about Iraq and (more recently) the London suicide bombings.

When I was their age, I asked my mother about Charlie Starkweather, whose name came up on Nebraska grade school playgrounds even into the late 1960s. I think I mainly wanted to know, "should I be scared about this?"

My mother's message—no, probably not.

That's just about the tone I'm looking for with my own kids. But I'm probably no more convincing than my mom was.

No. Maybe not.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:21 AM

Henry Plitt describes the capture of Julius Streicher


Posted by tplambeck at 12:55 AM

July 23, 2005



Posted by tplambeck at 07:18 PM

automatic writing

google search

Posted by tplambeck at 06:58 PM

Syndrome from "The Incredibles" grows up

link (smoking gun mugshot)

Posted by tplambeck at 05:43 PM

reduced pipe dreams

google search

Posted by tplambeck at 03:23 PM

The Thrill is Gone?

link (chazelle & arora; PDF)

Posted by tplambeck at 01:42 AM


On the NPL list, I posed:

Decompose the letters of SEMINOLE SURGERY into a pair of antonyms in two different ways.

* * * *
Treesong replied:

minors eyegluers
unseemly orgiers (no, that's a concominym)
generous miserly (one down)
seriously germen
lousy resmeering

I have much mail to answer yet; I turn to Internet Anagram Server.

mongreliser suey (well, chop suey is an American dish)
merriness eulogy (ha!)

Nice one.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:35 AM

July 22, 2005


Originally uploaded by thane.
Posted by tplambeck at 09:56 PM

Isn't email fun

Isn't email fun
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:43 PM

Creative Writing class

A poem Cole (age 9) wrote in his creative writing class this week:

May you always be forever
Will you always be so strong
Will you always say whatever
May you admit that you're wrong
Posted by tplambeck at 08:57 PM

Math term of the day


Posted by tplambeck at 04:08 PM

Ford Mystere (1955)


Posted by tplambeck at 11:39 AM

"Hoping someone will stroke my bark."

Six bad poems (flickr slideshow) painted on a back wall of a Walgreen's drugstore in my neighborhood.

I need to find a way to avoid driving by these poems so much.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:42 AM

July 21, 2005

Hatred of losing and the joy of non cycling fans

At last, Lance Armstrong reveals his motivations

Asked how he has managed to stay so focused for seven years, he replied: "A love for the event and a hatred for losing the event."

"I learned in 1999 that this race is bigger than any, greater than any," he added. "I also learned what it's like to win it ... and how much happiness and joy it brings to myself and to an entire program and to a country really of non-cycling fans."

Posted by tplambeck at 11:05 PM

The Haystack


Posted by tplambeck at 10:53 PM

I didn't know that

Chaucer wrote a treatise on the astrolabe

Posted by tplambeck at 03:51 PM

Nice-looking vineyard & winery


Posted by tplambeck at 12:10 PM

July 20, 2005

Candelaria Goupil

Bingo! Again!

Posted by tplambeck at 06:39 PM

Neva Lizotte

The personal name generator hits the jackpot.

An excellent name!

And unknown to Google, as are all truly great names.

Posted by tplambeck at 06:36 PM

Litigious Society, part II: Mega Millions

Despite frequent trips to 7-11 to buy food-like substances for myself and the kids, I hadn't noticed that California is now participating in a multistate lottery system, with Powerball-sized jackpots.

But things need to get beyond mere "mega millions" to true billions before I'll play, sorry.

They were a bit sneaky about the legal issues surrounding joining this system and are being sued.

The other states are New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington.

Posted by tplambeck at 03:39 PM

Litigious Society, part I: Junk Fax

Junk Fax
Originally uploaded by thane.
I've been getting Junk Fax at the rate of one or two every week, after a long lull of getting none.

After a little research, I found the heartwarming news that the sender of a junk fax I received this morning is already already being sued by someone.

Here's a description of the fax I got this morning:

Health Match: A northeastern Indiana resident received a fax for "Pre-Approved Health Plans as Seen on TV." Everyone is accepted! They want your day phone, fax number, evening phone, cell phone, date of birth, height, weight, gender...they haven't asked for your personal information—yet. The company is listed as Health Match, a division of L_2_H A B.V.I. LTD (whatever that means). The Bureau could find no report on this company.

I like the "whatever that means."

So—any good proposals for the meaning of L_2_H A B.V.I. LTD?

Posted by tplambeck at 02:57 PM

Hermann Weyl (1931)

Nevertheless I should not pass over in silence the fact that today the feeling among mathematicians is beginning to spread that the fertility of these abstracting methods is approaching exhaustion. The case is this: that all these nice general concepts do not fall into our laps by themselves. But definite concrete problems were first conquered in their undivided complexity, singlehanded by brute force, so to speak. Only afterwards the axiomaticians came along and stated: Instead of breaking the door with all your might and bruising your hands, you should have constructed such and such a key of skill, and by it you would have been able to open the door quite smoothly. But they can construct the key only because they are able, after the breaking in was successful, to study the lock from within and without. Before you can generalize, formalize, and axiomatize, there must be a mathematical substance.

From Pioneers of Representation Theory: Frobenius, Burnside, Schur, and Brauer, by Charles W. Curtis, pg 210.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:54 AM

July 19, 2005

Charon occultation

Missed it, but on closer examination, looks like I needed to be in Chile (and near a very large telescope).

"Watching Charon approach the star and then snuff it out was spectacular..."

Not the snuff film a person might think of on reading that, but—

Charon, in Greek mythology, is the ferryman of the dead. The souls of the deceased are brought to him by Hermes, and Charon ferries them across the river ...
Posted by tplambeck at 10:03 PM

New markets for chess opening book authors

From "Unorthodox Chess From an Odd Mind", at Wired:

[Bobby] Fischer unveiled the new chess at a 1996 press conference in Buenos Aires. The idea was simple: With so many possible starting positions, Chess960 -- or "Fischer Random Chess" -- takes rote memorization off the board. Opening books are obsolete, and competitors live and die by skill alone from the very first move...

Opening books aren't obsolete—they will just form 1/960 of the future chess opening literature.

Posted by tplambeck at 03:25 PM

Headless Boy Wins Limbo Contest!

Headless Boy Wins Limbo Contest!
Originally uploaded by thane.
via rick
Posted by tplambeck at 02:16 PM


Originally uploaded by thane.
Gloria bought some of this stuff, and I put it on my cereal because there was no "real" milk available.

I would never buy something like this myself, but I liked quite a bit. It had a sweet taste that I associated with pleasant memories of milk saturated with dissolved Cap'n Crunch condensate.

I wondered—what is Silk soy milk?

Filtered Water, Whole Organic Soybeans, Naturally Milled Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Calcium Carbonate, Sea Salt, Natural Flavors, Carrageenan, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin (B2), Vitamin B12.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:09 PM

Franz Schubert (Vienna)

Originally uploaded by McManly.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:16 AM

July 18, 2005


link (via langreiter)

Posted by tplambeck at 11:40 PM

de Young museum

de Young museum
Originally uploaded by thane.
In the mail, a solicitation for a contribution to the new de Young museum, now under construction in Golden Gate park and to be completed in October 2005.

Suspiciously, neither the web site nor the snail mail provides a clear idea of what the finished building is going to look like.

Trying to get some idea of it from the sketchy pyramidal and darkly stony images provided, I eventually realized, ah yes, it's not going to be a museum at all, but rather a Mayan Holocaust Memorial.

Maybe there will be sacrifices up there on the top of that smokestack thing?
Posted by tplambeck at 11:22 PM

Fish wrap

(1) Lunch with Aaron Siegel, who's already whipped together amazing Java for everything in my misere CGT paper (and more), and seems to be on the verge of finding some really interesting stuff. He's solved .15, .115, .144, and bunch of wild quaternaries.

(2) Photo of Gloria at Susie Lake, sent by Rick. It's a long trek up from the south end of Fallen Leaf Lake.

(3) Added some Earls to the blogroll.

(4) Two violin lessons.

(5) Writing camp for the kids.

(6) Started reading the The Rings of Saturn, by W. G. Sebald.

(7) Read another scary article on the "inevitable" coming Avian flu epidemic, this one in the NYT. Nature magazine pulled out all the stops a couple of months ago, describing what might happen. Wondered if the s*** hits the fan, is a person safer in the mountains away from people, but surrounded by quail and migratory birds? Oh Tamiflu, oh tamiflu...

Posted by tplambeck at 10:54 PM


I'm experimenting with Haloscan—try making a comment!

Posted by tplambeck at 06:49 PM



Posted by tplambeck at 12:08 AM

July 17, 2005


Originally uploaded by Monoscope.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:58 PM

Tall ladies meet wonderland

Tall ladies meet wonderland
Originally uploaded by caffeineslinger.
Another burning man photo from flickr
Posted by tplambeck at 11:01 PM

Sunday NYT crossword

Clues that gave me grief

It may be dribbled (8) BABYFOOD

Eponymous doctor who studied hypnosis (6) MESMER

[ This should be an easy one, and it's been in NYT puzzles before. Yet I always have trouble with it. I see spirals, watches dangling from chains, spiritualists, occultists—everything but MESMER. Maybe blogging it will help for next time. ]

It's the fiftieth anniversary of Disneyland today, and that was the puzzle theme. I dispatched DISNEYLAND, PIRATESOFTHECARIBBEAN...

...[ hestitating a bit there—one R and two B's, or the reverse?]...

...and also didn't have too much trouble with INDIANAJONESADVENTURE, MOUSKETEER, and ARTLINKLETTER ("TV personality who co-hosted the opening of 75-down," ie, DISNEYLAND).

But then, next to each other as long down clues (the latter starting one square above):

39 Down: Technology-based 75-down attraction (12) INNOVENTIONS

[ What the f***? I think that is correct though ]

29 Down: Amusement park that was the model for 29 down (13) TIVOLIGARDENS

[ I wasn't sure about that, but wrote it in anyway. It worked out OK ]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:57 PM

Cool art car

Cool art car
Originally uploaded by caffeineslinger.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:44 PM

Burning Man

Originally uploaded by xaotica.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:51 AM

Mulvane Twister photo

With more twisters (most of them Nebraskan)


Posted by tplambeck at 01:07 AM

Rare Piano Encores

i'm feeling lucky

Posted by tplambeck at 12:51 AM

July 16, 2005

Tech Job Arbitrage

Take your telecommuting programming job paying $60K year, and hire an Indian contractor to do it for you. Pay him $17K/year. Get another such job. Repeat—


Outsource your job to get a new one! This is the new mantra doing the rounds in the US IT sector.
Programmers are outsourcing their software modules to cheap and efficient labour in India. This way they get the best of both worlds- more money and more time. They earn doubly - one from the outsourced job, other from the new job they undertake.
According to this concept the techie is able to give himself a promotion outsourcing the specific modules to one or more Indian techies . While he takes the charge as a overall project manager.
Posted by tplambeck at 11:42 PM

Some web searches performed while catching up on the activities of the evangelicals

[Jerry Falwell and Dr Billy Graham are so yesterday. I really need to pay closer attention to this stuff. It's scary...]

Pastor Ted

World Prayer Center

Saddleback Church

The Purpose-Driven Life

Dr James Dobson

[The] troika of exurban ambition [works] on multiple levels. Just as Nixon used marijuana and herion in the 1960s as a code for hippies and blacks, [Ralph] Reed devised a platform that conflated ordinary personal goals with fundamentalist values. "Shorter commutes" is a ploy that any old-time ward heeler would recognize. It means: let's move the good jobs out of the city. [from "Soldiers of Christ," by Jeff Sharlet, Harper's Magazine, May 2005]
Posted by tplambeck at 11:34 PM

Institute for Creation Research, reprise

I take that back. That web site is actually quite a bit of fun.

From "What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?":

According to the Creator of chickens, and the author of the Record of their origins, chickens came first.

From "Should Darwin Day be observed?":

This being realized, foolishness certainly doesn't need a special day. Actually, many have noted that there already is such a day. It's in April each year...

From Star Wars—Are There Civilizations Far, Far Away?:

The irony of these intergalactic discussions is that there is Someone out there, an Intelligent Being who actually contacted Earth 2000 years ago. This Man came to Earth to say and do the most amazing things in history. Indeed, history has been called "His Story." The coded message some scientists have been seeking is found in the Bible the Book of Life that answers where people come from and where they are going. There is also a sophisticated coded message in the living creation called the DNA molecule clear evidence of design from an all-powerful Designer (Romans 1:20).
Posted by tplambeck at 12:32 AM

Institute for Creation Research


Posted by tplambeck at 12:23 AM

Joker Poker

I remember playing this pinball machine in the student union of Kearney State College, when I was in high school—maybe even junior high school.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:08 AM

July 15, 2005

How do cycling teams work?


Posted by tplambeck at 11:42 PM

Please be nice / Thank you

Please be nice / Thank you
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:25 PM

Spirit and Opportunity, April-May slideshow


Posted by tplambeck at 10:49 PM

More Freakonomics

Notice anything? [...] There is a clear pattern at play: once a name catches on among high-income, highly-educated parents, it starts working its way down the socioeconomic ladder. Amber and Heather started out as high-end names, as did Stephanie and Brittany. For every high-end baby named Stepanie or Brittany, another five lower-income girls received that those names within ten years...
Posted by tplambeck at 10:03 PM

From Freakonomics

The Twenty White Girl Names That Best Signify High-Education Parents

1. Lucienne
2. Marie-Claire
3. Glynnis
4. Adair
5. Meira
6. Beatrix
7. Clementine
8. Philippa
9. Aviva
10. Flannery
11. Rotem
12. Oona
13. Atara
14. Linden
15. Waverley
16. Zofia
17. Pascale
18. Eleanora
19. Elika
20. Neeka

Posted by tplambeck at 09:59 PM

In the news


Posted by tplambeck at 09:45 PM

America's most well-known mathematician speaks out on Egyptian dwarf veneration


They must have quite a library there in Florence, Colorado.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:59 PM

July 14, 2005


google search

Posted by tplambeck at 01:34 AM

popol vuh

google search


Posted by tplambeck at 01:33 AM

Eight rules for dating a graduate student

I blogged this before, but what the hell, it's still good.

It has come to my attention that despite our towering intellects, foraging skills and incredible resilience, grad students are not being asked out in droves by our younger counterparts...


Posted by tplambeck at 01:17 AM

Bang Drop It! Trow It!

Bang Drop It! Trow It!
Originally uploaded by thane.
Posted by tplambeck at 01:03 AM

Weird clouds over Hastings, Nebraska

I remember many trips to Hastings to visit my cousins and grandmother when I was growing up.

But I don't remember freaky clouds like this.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:36 AM

July 13, 2005

Via Michael Kleber

planarity flash game

Posted by tplambeck at 11:22 PM

July 11, 2005

Coloring—more fun than work

Originally uploaded by thane.
I'm cleaning up a math paper for final submission to INTEGERS, an online combinatorial number theory journal. Dan Hoey drew attention to a lot of redundant information in one table. So I started matching up pairs of symbols in the table, only one of which I need to keep in the final version of the paper. Because there were a lot more pairs than I expected to find (thanks, Dan!), I needed to get out multiple pens and colors to find them all. It was more fun to color it than to type it in (actually I dont know that, since I haven't typed it in yet)
Posted by tplambeck at 10:53 PM

Slate State of California

Slate State of California
Originally uploaded by thane.
I noticed this rock while hiking with Gloria up to Angora Lake from Fallen Leaf Lake.

Since I found it on the ascent, I carefully put it on the side of the trail to pick up on the descent. But then we couldn't find it on the descent. Two days later, we tried the same hike and I found it again. This time I successfully brought it down.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:45 AM

July 10, 2005

Hittite and the Indo-European Verb

link ["a major event," says the blurb. to think it almost passed me by!]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:20 PM

White Collar Zen


Posted by tplambeck at 11:14 PM



[I thought it sounded like a new type of Puzzlers' Flat]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:29 PM

via Chessbase

Another "twenty-minutes from the bombing" story:


Posted by tplambeck at 05:52 PM

Giant Robot magazine

Originally uploaded by thane.
Plucked from the rack of the checkout line at Whole Foods.


giant robot

Posted by tplambeck at 05:49 PM


After taking a $199 DNA test offered by DNAPrint Genomics in Sarasota, Fla., Kennedy was told he was 45% Northern and Western European, 25% Middle Eastern, 25% Turkish-Greek and 5% South Asian.



DNAPrint Genomics (I'm feeling lucky)

Posted by tplambeck at 09:45 AM

July 09, 2005

Even in the crossword!

Originally uploaded by thane.
With Stanford Sierra Camp on my mind today as I struggled to wrestle digital photos to the ground, I turned to today's NYT crossword and my eye fell on

23 across: Tiger Woods's alma mater.
Posted by tplambeck at 11:22 PM


Recommended to Jay and me by Donald Kennedy [I just found this photo amongst the zillions I took at Stanford Sierra Camp]

The Big Year

Added later: Math and Science Achievement (PDF, 1 pg), Donald Kennedy and Rodger Bybee.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:00 PM

33 games of 4 minute speed chess

Boris and I played 33 games of speed chess this week at Stanford Sierra Camp (slideshow). I wasn't sure who had won more games, but he was—16 for me, 15 for him, and two drawn.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:24 PM

London calling

We're back in Palo Alto.

From the Inbox, this message from Gary:

Just an quick FYI. I managed to avoid the bombs today by 20 minutes. I actually work 50 feet from the Aldgate tube entrance and our building actually shook from the blast.
After evacuation I walked to Kings Cross (2 miles away) only to come across another bomb site and a closed station. 2miles later I was at Finsbury Park station where the trains were just beginning to take people North (only)(2:20pm).
Just some sore feet for the experience.
Posted by tplambeck at 04:51 PM

July 08, 2005

NYT crossword clue

Speak Persian? (4): MEOW

Posted by tplambeck at 11:52 AM

July 07, 2005

Narco Polka

I'm away at Stanford Sierra Camp.

Here's a term I learned today—Narco Polka

Added later: A book on Narco Polka.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:15 PM

July 02, 2005

Bush Iraq speech by the numbers


Posted by tplambeck at 12:11 AM

July 01, 2005

Guess before clicking

127 130 131 132 133 135 music [I'm feeling lucky]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:20 PM

John Horton Conway

John Horton Conway
Originally uploaded by thane.
I like this photo of Conway that I took in Banff a week or so ago at the BIRS combinatorial game theory conference. By taking zillions of photos, eventually I get some good ones. If you click this photo, you'll get photos of Richard K. Guy and Elwyn Berlekamp, too.
Posted by tplambeck at 08:09 PM

Primer movie

Primer movie
Originally uploaded by thane.
Bruce writes:

"primer" is a low-budget film from last year about some engineers building
some sort of device in their garage. the guys are young and trying to figure out how to a) get it working, and b) make money off it. it has a bunch of startup and engineering jargon and it all plays really realistically.

the film totally has game, and i think you guys might enjoy it, with one
caveat: AVOID READING ANYTHING ABOUT IT. the film also has a big twist,
which is given away by every single review i've seen, including the damn box
cover. filmed for $7K, the film won the grand jury prize at sundance last

it's a pretty short movie (1:15), and the last 15 minutes are a bit muddled,
but the presentation of young geeks, and the handling of twist are top

Posted by tplambeck at 04:57 PM

Via Neil Sloane

This just came in - if any seqfan wishes to help, go ahead!


> From smithc@ninox.co.nz Thu Jun 30 16:54:53 2005
> Subject: Query: Code?
> Hello,
> I am currently researching a documentary about a murder in New Zealand.
> The killer contacted police and left the number 120640 which may be a code of some sort.
> Can you recommend an online messageboard where I could ask mathematicians to comment on the number?
> Many thanks,
> Cinna Smith

Posted by tplambeck at 12:16 AM

« June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 »