December 31, 2005
Spent the day at Dillon Beach with Alex & Kim and family. (Now I Google Alex for the first time and find that according to the Sierra Club web pages, "[he] bears the unusual distinction of being the first staff lawyer ever hired by the Sierra Club (in 1991) and he served as the law program's first director before reducing his duties and assuming the deputy director position in 2001.") They rented the same place as last year (I visited the town, not the beach, this year, onlyI stayed inside and worked on the crossword. It rained all day. Pearl the Dog loved the rain, as did the kids).
One year ago: Dillon Beach found poetry slam.
December 30, 2005
From An Epistle to Arbuthnot
Peace to all such! but were there one whose fires
True Genius kindles, and fair fame inspires,
Blest with each talent and each art to please,
And born to write, converse, and live with ease:
Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne,
View him with scornful, yet with jealous eyes,
And hate for arts that caus'd himself to rise;
Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike;
Alike reserv'd to blame, or to commend,
A tim'rous foe, and a suspicious friend;
Dreading ev'n fools, by flatterers besieg'd,
And so obliging, that he ne'er oblig'd;
Like Cato, give his little Senate laws,
And sit attentive to his own applause;
While Wits and Templers ev'ry sentence raise,
And wonder with a foolish face of praise.
Who but must laugh, if such a man there be?
Who would not weep, if Atticus were he?
From the Buell Emerson biography
Emerson presupposes an initial state of timid, unhappy conformism. By adulthood, people are conditioned to look through other people's eyes. In this state, "one can scarcely experience oneself," as political theorist George Kateb puts it. So the first move is to disengage yourself from the influence of others' opinions. Kateb calls this "negative individuality." Note that Emerson is not talking just about others but also about himself. Biographer Robert Richardson, Jr., rightly diagnoses his "calls for self-reliance" as "ground won back from dependency." Emerson's indictment of the " 'foolish face of praise,' the forced smile which we put on in company where we do not fell at ease in answer to conversation which does not interest us" was a charge he had leveled against his younger self nearly two decades before on the eve of his twenty-first birthday, using the same quotation from Alexander Pope's "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot."
[ Holy cow, must get that Pope letter. I'd wondered why the single quotation marks (the 'foolish face of praise') are in the original Emerson essay. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughtsthey come back to us with a certain alienated majesty...[[ahem]] ].
Elwyn Berlekamp's Christmas card
Lacking enough snow, this year Santa is travelling by hot air balloon. To keep the elves amused en route, Santa has been randomly distributing red and green hats. The clever elves are now using a Hamming code to win in 7/8 of the possible cases. For details, see [Emissary], Fall 01, Page 8, Problem 3C.
Stories Ending With 'Long Story Short' That Could Actually Use Some Elaboration
zhubin parang (mcsweeney's)
December 29, 2005
December 28, 2005
A harrowing night for Nebraskans everywhere
The Nebraska football team celebrates after defeating Michigan 32-28 in the Alamo Bowl (AP Photo)
They almost lost it, instead, just as Stanford lost the 1982 Big Game (vs California; a game Gloria attended as a freshman at Stanford), on a confusing play at the very end. Michigan started pitching the ball all over the field on a play that started deep in their territory with :02 seconds left. But instead of making it into the endzone as California did against Stanford, the last Michigan player to get the ball was tackled on the Nebraska 15 yard line by the last two Nebraska defenders.
I almost went into cardiac arrest, watching itif that Michigan guy had run with more conviction, it would have been a Big Play Nightmare Repeat.
Coming soon: Pearl the Mud Dog Video
I'm waiting for Google Video to "verify" my submission of Pearl wallowing in the mud at the Mitchell Park dog runmore sensible dogs kept their distance, and Cole observed "I don't think Pearl is a good role model." Now it has been over 24 hours since I've submitted it. Do they really look at each video before making it available on the Google Video site?
Added later: The video has been Google-verified. Here it is
December 27, 2005
Encore appearances, Christmas 2005 vs Christmas 2004
1) Endangered Species Chocolate
2) LEGOTM toys
3) Mystery novels
5) Ghirardelli Chocolate
December 26, 2005
Diaconis on foundations and history of probability
From the course description:
History of probability from Greek and Talmudic sources to Pascal, Fermat, and Bernoulli. Interpretations of probability from axioms to subjective probability. Psychology of probability, heuristis and biases - what we know that isn't so. Humes problem of induction. Exchangeability and deFinetti's answer. Randomness and gambling. Statistical inference. Alternatives and caveats.
Maybe I can sneak in? It might mesh nicely with the Vortex Emerson class, the same day, only later.
The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design
I used to consider myself the strongest mathematician and physicist within a radius of 500ft of our house. Then I made some casual enquiries and learned that Lenny lives one door down from us (street party photo). So I reduced the radius of interest to 50 feet.
Anyway, I just got his new book, which is ranked #2239 today at Amazon (up from #3018, yesterday).
I remember reading somewhere that every equation in a science book subtracts some number of potential sales. So it's best to never write any equations, if you want to maximize sales. I looked for the first equation in Lenny's book and can report that it occurs on page 25:
He should have found some way to say that differently. I could have helped. But I'm glad to see it's selling well, anyway.
Max Dlugy is a former president of the United States Chess Federation and chess Grandmaster who was arrested and thrown into a Russian jail months ago on charges that he had embezzled money from Russian magnesium plant.
It's nice to see that he has been acquitted (link).
December 25, 2005
2006 Prospect: articles in books & other pseudo-academic conceptoids or business activities.
1) Just about finished now with my paper Advances In Losing, for the Cambridge University Press MSRI combinatorial games book.
3) Aaron and I need to finish The Phi values of Various Games.
4) Also want to write The Model: How to Quit Your Lowly Computer Programming Job and Become a Millionaire, Instead, with Greg.
5) Hatching a new company with Joshua, maybe. He has a good idea.
6) Still want to whack together my special top secret project, code named "Program 48." Do I have the Sitzfleisch to do it properly?
[you don't need to click that link for a definition of "Sitzfleisch"....here you go...couldn't have said it better myself...]
Sitzfleisch is another one of those inimitably useful German words. Literally it's "Sitting Meat". What it means is patience --- as associated with the gluteus maximus and surrounding padding that enables someone to perch on a hard chair for hours. In a chess context Sitzfleisch describes the kind of dogged analysis that a good player has to do in a complex position. (A:vimo)
Bush v Gore
December 24, 2005
House of Humor
House of Humor
It's the smokiest night of the year
All over Palo Alto, people are burning wood.
Who's going to declare a Spare the Air emergency?
House of Humor, Redwood Cityslideshow
December 23, 2005
Yosemite weekend (OK, let's say "middle of the week")
1) Cross-country skiing at Badger Pass. [not much snow, but enough to stand up the kids on skis and go. We were lucky it didn't rain on us.]
2) CSTVCollege Sports TVadded to the DirecTV subscription at the Yosemite house for $12/mo. We were able to watch the Stanford men's team play Princeton in the Pete Newell Challenge. Nice channel, no nonsense; they even had an interesting and informative one hour show on Stanford athletics prior to the Princeton game. Not a good enough channel to persuade me to get a TV, however. Informed that "Iron Chef" was playing on another channel, Cole successfully lobbied for change of channel away from CSTV: "C'mon, it's even the Japanese one, in translation!" he said. A basketball game is just a basketball gamethere's only one kitchen stadium.
4) Arrival of interesting Christmas letters from many quarters again makes me wish I had gotten off my ass to write one myself. Not that getting off my ass is really essential to writing a Christmas letter, I suppose.
5) Avoided the temptation to slink off to the Chukchansi casino and relieve whatever Texas Hold'Em players might be present of their $$$. "We don't need to gamble," Gloria says. Maybe I wouldn't win in a real life game, but I don't think I'd be easy to beat, either. I'll just play like the Poker Academy Pro robots. They're baffling and inscrutable.
December 21, 2005
Illustrating St Denys
Martyred by beheading, he picked up his head and carried it six miles to the site of the church to be constructed in his memory.
Sowhich is the better illustration?
I think I prefer the second one, although certainly the surprise of the executioner merits consideration in the first one.
December 20, 2005
Poker Academy Pro cumulative statistics
I'm coming to get you, robots. My cumulative winnings graph is looking like a 1999 Nasdaq technology stockone more 40 robot victory and we're making money here.
[Useful information department: those emergency defibrillators a person sees around town and in airports know how to talk...]
From a news article at the Gothenburg (Nebraska) Times:
* * *
Annie Cornwell had just finished catering dinner when someone burst into the kitchen.
"That person yelled to call 911," Cornwell said.
Cornwell, a nurse at Gothenburg Public Schools, also works for a local caterer.
On Saturday, Dec. 3, she helped serve employees of Husker Ag Salesa local business that was having a Christmas party at Wild Horse Golf Club.
Because of her medical training, Cornwell dashed into the dining area where someone was doing the Heimlich maneuver on an ashen-faced, 50-year-old man slumped in a chair.
Just two weeks before, Cornwell and others on the school's Quick Response Team had been trained to use Zoll defibrillators that are now in 10 key locations throughout the city.
"I had even practiced using the equipment on a dummy," Cornwell said.
Gothenburg Volunteer Fire Department rescue captain Kent Kline said the Zoll defibrillators are designed to correct the two most lethal kinds of cardiac arrest.
During training, Cornwell said she learned that the defibrillator won't shock the victim unless it's neededknowledge she said was helpful when she and the others hooked pads to West as he lay on the floor.
After they placed the defibrillator pads on his upper and lower torso, a voice from the machine told the women the patient was being analyzed.
"Treatment advised," the voice then said.
"So I pushed the button," Cornwell said.
* * *
Google summit reachedthe descent begins
With the exception of Microsoft, every technology company that gets $1 billion in cash seems to find some way to waste it.
From today's AOL-Google press release, in which it was revealed that Google will pay $1 billion for 5% of AOL, with my bold emphasis added:
Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt said: "AOL is one of Google's longest-standing partners, and we are thrilled to strengthen and expand our relationship. Today's agreement leverages technologies from both companies to connect Google users worldwide to a wealth of new content."
It's the old flaccid hyperbole, warmed overEric is "thrilled,"we're already "partners"technologies will be "leveraged." And like romancing mononucleatic teenagers, they sweetly coo that this is really about the "relationship."
Alsoperhaps I'm wrong, but if so, please tell me the the 'wealth of new content' isnt going to prove to be the very same detritus that circulates on the AOL home page like so many back issues of Oprah magazine.
State Farm knows what to do with $1 billion:
1) Buy US treasuries
2) Raise insurance rates
Sunday crossword reinking
Sore throat remedy (8): L _ _ _ N _ E _
* * *
I wrote in LOZENGES, but had to scribble over it to make LEMONTEA
December 19, 2005
[next quarter's excuse for study hall, chez Oasis]
Not far from the leaves accumulating on our front walk, a moth tries to blend in (unsuccessfully) at the edge of our front door.
* * *
Added one day later: Since this moth hadn't moved for 24 hours, I touched it lightly to see if it would fall dead on the bricks below. Instead, it fluttered away. It's not the greatest weather for moths I thinkmid fifties during the day and low forties at night. Right at our front door is probably the warmest spot outside, because it faces the southern sun and has multiple reflecting white surfaces around.
math.CO paper on "hexagonal tilings" without any hexagonal tilings; paper on "colored posets" in black and white
[those are bricks, not hexagons...]
[cmon guys, let's let loose on the illustration here!]
Type http://blank into Firefox
You're redirected to
Q: Real web site, or local only?
A: Real, but it kind of defeats the purpose of setting "blank" as a home page if you don't want network traffic on starting a browser...
December 17, 2005
Jingle Bells Lyrics, second verse
Included in the program for the Peter and the Wolf concert in San Francisco this afternoon:
* * * *
A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot
* * *
I thought this must be a joke, but apparently it's genuine.
FEAR NO PIANO
December 16, 2005
Overheard outside Jing-Jing restaurant, downtown Palo Alto
CHINESE GUY: Why not?
AMERICAN GUY: Because 'Surprise' is not a word you want to use in a restaurant name. See, say you name it "Chinese Delight." That's OK; everyone likes "delight," OK? But "Chinese Surprise," no.
CHINESE GUY: Why not?
AMERICAN GUY: Because a 'surprise' can be a good thing, or a bad thing. No one wants to say, "Say, this is a surprise" in a restaurant...
December 15, 2005
William Jennings Bryan
The big kahuna.
From some web pages about the year 1896, at Vassar:
* * *
He is a man of considerable personal magnetism and fine presence.... He is about 5 feet 10 inches in height, weighs 180 pounds, and has dark hair and dark eyes. His jaw is heavy and square, and he is smooth shaven. His cheekbones are prominent and his forehead square.
He is an exceedingly pleasant talker, and is fond of dealing in well-rounded phrases. His speeches abound with poetry. He is of Irish extraction, but his people have lived in this country for more than a hundred years. In religion he is a Presbyterian, but believes in an entire separation of Church and State. He steadfastly opposes bringing religion into politics or politics into religion. He is a teetotaler.
Mr. Bryan lives well in a commodious dwelling in the fashionable part of Lincoln. The study in which both Mr. and Mrs. Bryan have desks is a very attractive room. It is filled with books, statuary and mementoes of campaigns. There are busts or portraits of noted men....
Bryan in personal appearance is the picture of health, mental, moral, and physical. He is a pronounced brunette, has a massive head, a clean-shaven face, an aquiline nose, square chin, a broad chest, large lustrous dark eyes, a mouth extending almost from ear to ear, teeth as white as chalk, and hair--what there is left of it--black as midnight. Beneath his eyes is the protuberant flesh which physiognomists say is indicative of fluency in language and which was one of the most striking features in the face of James G. Blaine.
* * *
Bryan "won" the Scopes Monkey Trial then died shortly after that, in 1925.
You couldn't get out of the blocks without knowing this answer. Oh no.
The answer to many a political quiz in my grade school days.
Two McSweeney's books
The last two books that have come via my McSweeney's subscription have been excellent:
#1) Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated
#2) The Riddle of the Traveling Skull
From the introduction (Paul Collins):
There are mystery writers, and then there are writers who are themselves a mystery. Harry Stephen Keller is truly and gloriously both. Born the same year as Agatha Christie, Keeler (1890-1967) was for a time an even more prolific writer of mysteries, publishing from the 1920s to the late 1940s over fifty of the most eccentric novels ever written. In a Keeler novel, you're liable to find yourself tracking an escaped lunatic alongside a narrator who constantly shifts identities (The Mysterious Mr. I, 1937), solving a murder with a Sherlock Holmes-like detective who is in fact a retarded janitor (The Green Jade Hand, 1930), and pondering a suspect in the form of the "Flying Strangler-Baby" (X. Jones of Scotland Yard, 1936)...this being a midget who, dressed as an adorable tyke, swoops down to garrote his victim from a miniature helicopter.
December 14, 2005
Turing Machine Tattoo
I guess I find the purely symbolic representation a bit unsatisfying.
Where is the explicit, ever-advancing input-tape reading head under finite state machine control? Why none of the old input and output?
[OK, I can think of worse jokes, but I'll just let google turn them up"I'm feeling lucky"]
Lucent lesion, acetabular region
Not the MRI machine I was in today, but it looks like it.
Playing on the headphones: light christmas jazz.
MRI GUY: "Can you hear it?"
THANE: "Just barely, but that's OK."
MRI GUY: "I'll turn it up."
Misere pretending function and indistinguishability quotient Q of 0.123:
In email, V.X. Sterne, aka Vito Esterno (of Outer Life) suggests DENSA as a name for a new organization with membership drawn exclusively from those with IQ's in the bottom 98% of the population:
Densa for the rest of us.He writes:
Surely intelligence was more varied, more multi-faceted, vastly more complicated than anything represented by a triple-digit (or double-digit) (or, I suppose, single-digit) number. I had similarly scoffing views when it came to the PSAT and the SAT and each of the other bubble-filling exercises in quasi-intellectual standardized achievement that punctuated my academic career. Squeezing the vast universe that orbits around broad concepts like "intelligence" and "scholastic achievement" into multiple-guess and true-false questions was the ultimate reductio ad absurdum. Bringing up IQ in a conversation would be like earnestly discussing astrology or Uri Geller or UFO abductions or blogs, a total faux pas in any triple-digit IQ crowd, so I never did.
[More Vito on IQ].
December 13, 2005
Aaron spoke on misere games today at the Berkeley Commutative Algebra Seminar
December 12, 2005
The restive monoid of order 14
From the curious clemency denial letter of A. Schwarzenegger
Let's come together, pop open a vial of sodium pentathol, and enjoy tonight's installment of the creepy, pseudo-medical execution ceremony up at San Quentin. That's right, it's time for justiceserved out on the gurney for all those who enjoy itfriends, family and the press are all invited!
The dedication of Williams' book "Life in Prison" casts significant doubt on his personal redemption. This book was published in 1998, several years after Williams' claimed redemptive experience. Specifically, the book is dedicated to "Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Ramona Africa, John Africa, Leonard Peltier, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the countless other men, women and youths who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars." The mix of individuals on this list is curious. Most have violent pasts and some have been convicted of committing heinous murders, including the killing of law enforcement. But the inclusion of George Jackson (a militant activist who founded the Black Guerilla Family prison gang and was charged with the murder of a San Quentin prison guard) on this list defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems.
What an idiotic chunk of crap. This paragraph finds support for the idea of strapping a helpless, healthy person on a gurney and poisoning him to death with chemicals in a list of people named in the introduction to one of the person's books.
The whole Schwarzenegger writing reads like a conservative blog (written by an aspiring 12th grader, sayGeorge Will comes to mind).
What the hell is "personal redemption" supposed to mean, anyway? Selling yourself to the devil? I haven't been to church lately, and would like to know.
* * *
Added later: The Terminator's thoughts, with lawyerly footnotes.
December 11, 2005
Fill in the blank
Americans owe ________ in credit card debt, more than triple the amount from 1989, and a 31 percent increase from five years ago, according to a recent report, "The Plastic Safety Net," by the Center for Responsible Lending, and Demos, a research group based in New York.
A) $800 million
B) $8 billion
C) $80 billion
D) $800 billion
E) $8 trillion
[answer. (Got to be an arbitrage opportunity here; credit card lending is the most profitable part of US banking...)]
Best movie I've seen in quite awhile
I didn't know
1) Harper Lee accompanied C to Kansas and was so closely involved with In Cold Blood (she's omnipresent in the movie)
2) C got a job at the New Yorker at age 17.
3) C wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's.
December 10, 2005
Instant Messaging Worm that chats with its intended victims
According to IMlogic, the worm, dubbed IM.Myspace04.AIM, has arrived in instant messages that state: "lol thats cool" and included a URL to a malicious file "clarissa17.pif." When unsuspecting users have responded, perhaps asking if the attachment contained a virus, the worm has replied: "lol no its not its a virus", IMlogic said.
December 09, 2005
Turning the Tables on the f**king Texas Hold-Em Robots
It's taken me awhile, but after roughly $325K in cumulative losseslet's call them learning experiencesagainst the poker robots, I've turned the corner and am now kicking some silicon butt, big time.
The last seven rounds vs 10 robots, I finished first 6 times. I've cut my cumulative losses to $125K. And let's not forget...most of that $125K I was just messing around. Oh noI wasn't serious.
"Bottom 37% ranking," the robots say.
HA! I'M COMING TO GET YOU, YOU SILICON BASTARDS
1) Pot odds are my friend, but the robots bitch.
2) Folding is a great way to not lose money.
3) Poker makes me curse.
Needless Formality Dept
Carrie Kennedy, the daughter of Bobby Kennedy, has asked the governor for compassion. As painful as her father's murder was, she sought no revenge on her father's killer, Sir Hahn Sir Hahn, who was never executed. She says California should do the same.
December 06, 2005
Man-vs-Machine ambigram face-off: Scott Kim wins
Scott Kim radically improves on that computer-generated ambigram of my name:
December 05, 2005
Learn about Nobel prize research via flash web games
Are you familiar with the organelles in the cell?
Play the Incredible Megacell game and find out! Three scientists were awarded the 1974 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries concerning the structural and functional organization of the cell...
2nd grade spelling test words
Somehow O's printing reminds me of my own scrawling.
BANK PERSON: "That's not a signature."
THANE: "What do you mean, I signed it, didn't I?"
BANK PERSON: "You printed your name. Printing is not a signature."
THANE: "But that is my signature. It's sort of printing, but you now, it's a little messy, so surely that qualifies? What do you want to me do, make something up?"
December 01, 2005
A modest proposal concerning Stigler's Law
Stigler's law of eponymy, that "no scientific discovery is ever named after its original discoverer," was formulated by Stephen Stigler ("Stigler's Law of Eponymy" (1980), reprinted in Stigler (1999)).
It's just wrong that this law, if indeed originally discovered by Stigler, should be named after him.
Let it be called Plambeck's Law instead, since I just heard about it.
Kearney High School basketball
When I was in high school, my principal concern could be simply statedwould I make the basketball team?
I did make the team, but we never equalled the achievements of the teams that had come before us (4 or five years previously).
Now, 25 years later, someone organized a reunion basketball game in Kearney, Nebraska (my hometown). We didn't go back to Nebraska this Thanksgiving, but I got this full report from Mike M on the outcome of the game, the first to rematch people roughly my age with the greater players of the immediate past:
* * *
We lost to the older timers by 12.
We started out in a 2-3 zone, due to their frontline of Gibby at 6-8, Reiners at 6-4 and Scorin' Loren. Ironically, Rossco and I were able to have our way inside, but in the 2-3, Hansen and Loren lit us up. Down 19-6, we switched to a 3-2 and played them even the rest of the way. The closest we came was six in the second half.
They had the entire '78 team (Markus, Hansen, Reiners, Ringenberg, Gabby, Mitch Elliott, Rocky Keen, Archer) sans Rosenlof, and Loren. We had Rossco, his brother Phip, Joe Mendoza (class of '84), Rad, Mark and Dan Fong, Me and Mike Keehn, who just happened to be in town.
Our MVP was John Ross, without a doubt, with honorable mention to Keehn and Dan Fong. JR is in great shape, by the way.
We could have used you, Doc, Carpenter and Jeff Norblade. With those additions I think we would have stood a decent chance. Spike was on injured reserve and was our coach.
Personally, I was in decent cardio shape, but not basketball shape. After about three trips up the court, my legs felt like rubber and I effectively had no jump shot (very disappointing). I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was able to competently rebound and defend. Gibby and Loren didn't want to mix it up inside much, and I could jump over Reiners. Rad and Archer each pulled something in the first few minutes. I believe they were the only casualties.
They plan to make this a semi-annual event. My plan is to make sure I am in decent basketball shape. Regardless, it is definitely a young man's game.
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