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February 28, 2006


From the FAQ of a mysterious organization called Bass Truck Reactive:
* * *
Q: Where did the name Bass Truck Reactive come from?

A: It's an anagram of Starbucks Creative. Or a palindrome. We forget which. Not really, we just like saying the word "palindrome." It sounds like a delicious pastry, like a "ladyfinger" or "creme-filled bismarck."
* * *
And Jim forwards this communication from Steph:

Check out this fine t-shirt designed by me and my artistic son. He did the skeleton, I did the words. It says "Qui vit bien ne regrette rien."
* * *
I have it on reliable authority that this shadowy organization bears full responsibility for every "Black Apron", "Venti" and "Grande Macchiato" blurb that a person ever reads inside a Starbucks coffee shop.

Yet when I tried to pierce the creative veil of this organization with my own highly-imaginative proposed coffee label, I was turned away.

But I'm not bitter. No.

Posted by tplambeck at 06:26 PM

That's the way the cookie crumbles

heaney cartoon

Posted by tplambeck at 09:23 AM

February 27, 2006

Name of that Tom Waits song at the end of "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"

God's Away on Business.

movie / tom waits song [i'm feeling lucky, as usual]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:08 PM

Two hundred fifty G-A-R-D-N-E-R boards

Denying this project the opportunity to expand to fill the time available to complete it, I just finished off the last of 250 misere G-A-R-D-N-E-R boards for distribution at the Gathering for Gardner 7.

[ read about G4G6 ]


I also finished some math paper refereeing today.

But what to do about another request to review math papers? I think I should make it more clear that I'm not qualified to this kind of work...

Now I can go on to two other papers I need to write.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:44 PM

Classmate of the week


Posted by tplambeck at 04:22 PM

Overheard at Peet's coffee

COFFEE SLACKER GIRL: You're off work when?

COFFEE CUSTOMER GUY: Not until seven.

CSG: So, I can come by to pick up some of the stuff, what do you call it, Wasabi, then, at six?

CCG: I get off at seven. Not wasabi, I think you want the albacore. That's what you had last time.

CSG: Whatever. What I had last time.

CCG: OK see you then.

CSG: I won't be able to get there until 6:30.

CCG: I get off at seven.

CSG: Right, the albacore. With that sauce, just yummy!

CCG: Yes, I know how to prepare it.

Posted by tplambeck at 04:06 PM

February 26, 2006

Some notes on the Suzuki Gavotte from Mignon

I wish I'd had thought to Google Suzuki violin piece names before. This page has useful notes on the piece that Cole is playing in a upcoming recital, and sets out all the trouble spots.

THANE: [Pointing to music] See—here's a G. Your intonation is fine on it. Then, one measure later, another G—indeed, precisely the same note as before—but this one is an important G. But when you play it, it sounds like a goose is dying! "BWAAAACK".

COLE: Ha, OK. You mean this? [ Plays dying goose G ]

THANE: Yes, exactly! So? Why not play the same G, the same as before?

COLE: OK [ Does it quite a bit better ]

THANE: Yes! Another teaching moment. But with vibrato, please!

Posted by tplambeck at 10:22 PM

Misere G-A-R-D-N-E-R, revisited

With some help from Dan Hoey, I've put up an improved version of the g4g7 heptagon game analysis.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:07 PM

Some winds

The etesian

The harmattan

The khamsin

The mistral

The pampero

The simoom

Posted by tplambeck at 08:21 PM

February 25, 2006

Carl Sagan flickr slideshow tribute

Apparently this is not tongue-in-cheek, but I challenge you to watch it without smiling.

[ take the challenge ]

Posted by tplambeck at 05:17 PM

Mathematicians at an MAA book sale

MAA book sale

Hewlett Teaching Center, Stanford Univ

Posted by tplambeck at 03:39 PM

February 24, 2006

Trophy atrophy


The White Lightning* season is over, but I'm left with an extra trophy. All the kids showed up for the last game—there's no one to give it to.

It's been getting knocked around in the trunk of the car. I noticed its head was slightly askew, and brought it inside.

I can't bring myself to throw it away.

(*) The NJB team of 1st and 2nd graders I coached.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:14 PM

February 23, 2006

Vocabulary I learned while reading chick lit

shiba inu


Posted by tplambeck at 12:13 PM

February 22, 2006

Cantor Art Museum

Such a serious facade—all for the dunce cap, within?

Posted by tplambeck at 09:26 PM

In the car

COLE: Dadda, change the station. That station [Sirius Satellite Blues] is horrible.

THANE: What are you talking about, this is Albert King!

COLE: I'll tell you how to make a blues song. Take a common problem, say dust in the basement. Then say you are trying to clean it up. Then you pick something in the basement, say a dusty sofa. So that's your song, "Dusty Sofa" (loudly singing in a bad voice) 'DUSTY SOFA, TELL YOU ABOUT DUSTY SOFA....'

THANE: Yes, OK, I agree, but still it's good. This is Albert King!


THANE: Quiet! This is Albert King!

Posted by tplambeck at 06:49 PM

Cantor Art Museum


Posted by tplambeck at 05:35 PM

Newspaper boy


Now I know the source of all those questions:

"When does the Palo Alto Weekly come?"

"Have you ever been in the newspaper?"

[ What are you doing for Ski Week? ]

Posted by tplambeck at 03:45 PM

February 21, 2006

Plays on Combinatorial Game Theory

Elwyn Berlekamp, Aaron Siegel, and David Eisenbud have told me about next month's Playground event [ read their mission statement ], which is going to be on combinatorial game theory (CGT).

On March 7 we're meeting with playwrights (it sounds like it's over twenty of them (!) ) to talk about CGT, and then they'll have 4 days to write 10-minute plays that somehow relate to it. The Playground judges then select their six favorites and they'll be performed on March 20 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, at 8pm.

The Playground people do this once a month, but only once a year is it a mathematics theme that is chosen. And this year, it's a math theme I happen to be working on now. So it should be interesting.

Last night I went to this month's Playground plays, which were inspired by a current SF MOMA exhibition on the 1906 earthquake (the 100 year anniversary is looming). I was very impressed by the plays and the performances—they were just great!

Posted by tplambeck at 01:52 PM

February 19, 2006

110 West O Street, Lincoln, NE

I bought the winning Powerball lottery ticket at a U-Save Market in Lincoln, Nebraska. Here's a Google map.

[And no—I didn't really win the lottery, I'm just creating this blog entry to see how many web hits I can rack up. Research reveals that this U-Save is on the "wrong side of the tracks" relative to the University of Nebraska. But it's not far from the restaurant (called Grandmother's) that was owned by Governor Bob Kerrey, if memory serves. ]

[ whoops, Mick M points out I misspelled Kerrey. fixed it. ]

Posted by tplambeck at 04:21 PM

Powerball winning ticket sold in Lincoln, NE

Lottery officials verified Sunday that a Powerball ticket sold in Lincoln [Nebraska] has the winning numbers for a $365 million prize, the largest lottery jackpot in the nation's history.

Only one winning ticket was sold for Saturday's jackpot, according to the Powerball Web site. No one had come forward to claim the jackpot early Sunday, Nebraska Lottery spokesman Brian Rockey said.

"We don't know if the winner knows yet," he said.

A U-Stop convenience store in Lincoln sold the winning ticket, Rockey said.

[ cnn story ]

[ I wonder if it is the U-Stop not far from this house on C street that I lived in in 1983. ]

Posted by tplambeck at 04:04 PM

February 18, 2006

Quality Prting

I took this one about 8 years ago. Anil suggested that I photograph it.

Quality Prting

Posted by tplambeck at 07:36 PM

Gladding, McBean

I took this photo is almost 3 years ago. It's still one of my favorites.


link (feeling lucky)

Posted by tplambeck at 06:39 PM

ewolf writes on the NPL list

In the February 17th, 2006 issue of "Entertainment Weekly", a blurb on p. 22 about director Werner Herzog contains the sentence:

Then on Jan. 26, Her[zog happened by Joaquin Phoenix's car wreck and pulled the actor from the v]ehicle.
The letters between the brackets represent a 61-letter pangrammatic window - a consecutive block which contains all letters of the alphabet...

...This breaks the current known record of 62 letters, discovered by Dan Tilque in an online music review and reported in a 2004 Word Ways article. In 2002, Mike Keith had reported a 64-letter window, breaking by 1 the long-time record of 65, discovered in 1907 by A. Cyril Pearson in Sarah Grand's 1897 "The Beth Book". This record stood for a supra-Maris-like 95 years until Keith's discovery. Computer search tools of ever-larger bodies of text will surely allow the record to be broken again, though the current example I found purely by chance (my brain usually scans subconsciously whenever I see a promising start like "Joaquin Phoenix").

Posted by tplambeck at 06:24 PM

February 17, 2006

Elwyn Berlekamp in his office on Shattuck

Elwyn Berlekamp in his office on Shattuck

[Photo #3 in this series of "not-so-high-quality photos of mathematicians in interesting places." I need to get in the habit of carrying a real digital camera around again, not just the cellphone. ]

Posted by tplambeck at 07:05 PM

David Gale in the amazing new MSRI auditorium

David Gale in the amazing new MSRI auditorium

[ Note to self: buy his book ]

Posted by tplambeck at 07:01 PM

February 16, 2006

Persi Diaconis in the puzzle shed

Persi Diaconis in the puzzle shed

Posted by tplambeck at 10:57 PM

February 14, 2006

At the orthodontist's

You wouldn't believe how I lost my retainer, a story collection by patients, mostly handwritten.

DESK HELPER: You don't want to be published in that.

COLE (examines book): I've broken one that way, by biting on it.

Moral of the first story—Do not wrap retainer in a napkin at a restaurant.

Many of the stories were written as apologies—"I'm sorry," was a common start.

Others read like disaster accounts—"It started like any other good day..."

I'm going to want to read it more carefully next time I'm in the office waiting for the kids.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:25 PM

Plane Plambeck

On a receipt for a gift certificate to greens restaurant:


[ More misspellings ]

Posted by tplambeck at 06:59 PM

Chuck Close

Originally uploaded by thane.
From the Chuck Close exhibition at SF MOMA. They almost kicked me out for taking this photo.
Posted by tplambeck at 01:34 PM

February 12, 2006

Plaskett almost becomes a millionaire

At chessbase.com, the British chess Grandmaster James Plaskett writes:

* * *

I first tried to get on to this show Who Want To Be A Millionaire (WWTBAM) in 1999. My first hit got me on, but I got the first two Fastest Finger First trials wrong, and the third FFF, which was "Starting at the fingertips, put these parts of the arm in the sequence", saw me, indeed, get Knuckle, Wrist, Elbow and Shoulder in sequence... but

1. a policeman did it faster, and
2. there was a fault with several of the consoles, including mine, and so my effort did not even register as one of the accurate ones...

* * *


Posted by tplambeck at 09:04 AM

Prison Break

From the Associated Press:

* * * *
CHICAGO (AP) -- Six inmates, including two who are charged with murder, escaped from the Cook County Jail during the night by taking advantage of short staffing, authorities said Sunday.

Two escapees were captured in suburban Oak Park, police said.

The inmates escaped around midnight from a special housing unit for inmates with disciplinary problems, where only one guard was on duty instead of two, said Cook County Sheriff's Department spokesman Bill Cunningham.

One inmate threw hot shower water on the guard and held him at bay with a homemade knife, then handcuffed the guard and put on his uniform, officials said.

That inmate opened doors to let six other inmates out. One immediately was caught, but the other six got over a barbed wire fence and onto the streets.

The jail break was the second since Friday. An inmate facing armed robbery charges broke out Friday by apparently slipping into a laundry truck, but he was arrested Saturday at a suburban motel, authorities said.

* * * *
[ Note to self—need to add that "short staffing" excuse and "X were captured" possibility to my prison break story generator. I think I already have "laundry truck" logic in there, somewhere. Must check. This story violates convention by not naming the escapees. ]

Posted by tplambeck at 08:46 AM

February 11, 2006

Best space photo ever taken

On May 19th, 2005, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit captured this stunning view as the Sun sank below the rim of Gusev crater on Mars...

[This has to be the best space photo ever taken. ]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:23 PM

CLK Cabrio rides



Posted by tplambeck at 09:36 PM

February 09, 2006

More #'s

Roy Leban writes:

* * * *
Not counting the hundreds of -miles, -villes, -Acres, -Forks, -[trees], and -Corners, here are the numerical place names that I know of (in the US only):

Six, WV
Nineteen, KY
Twentythree, AR
Twentysix, KY
Thirty, IA
Forty Four, AR
Forty Five, TN
Seventy Six, KY
Seventysix, MO
Eighty Four, PA
Eighty Eight, KY
Ninetyfour, CO
Ninety Six, SC
Hundred, WV
Million, KY


Zero, IA, MS, and MT

The following numerically-named places no longer exist:

Seven, TN
Forty, MS
Seventynine, MT

Posted by tplambeck at 11:35 AM

88 and 84

John McNeill points out that there's an Eighty Eight, Kentucky.

And here's a little page on the schools in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:04 AM


I wonder if there are any other places whose names are natural numbers?

Posted by tplambeck at 09:12 AM

February 08, 2006

Pucker up

Lizzo (glamour shot / paintings) took a sexy photo of a tadpole:


She writes:

Yes, they're very kissy.
I took the pictures. We secreted the eggs out of Edgewood park and it's been fun to watch them grow. I feed them boiled lettuce (read about that in a cool nature book about frogs written in the 70's). I have them in a big vase. Pretty soon I'll release them back to the "wild."
Posted by tplambeck at 03:21 PM

February 06, 2006

Sentences often directed toward kids

1) "Don't piss me off."

2) "Are you trying to be nice? What you said didn't sound so nice to me."

3) "I don't know. Good question. If I had to guess, I would probably say A, for reason B. On the other hand, it might be that C, because of D. I'm not sure anyone knows the answer to that question. We should Google it. It's so hard to remember to do that though."

4) "Your mother and I will confer on this issue."

5) "How was school? And no, you can't say 'Good.' Ha, ha—yes, I know, you said 'Good.' "

6) "Why don't you scamper over to X and do Y?" [ unexpected sideffect: kids that use the word "scamper" too much ]

7) "There are no kid coaches on this team."

8) "Do we have any kid coaches? No."

9) "Start trying to find your shoes. We are going to go."

10) "I am not your personal servant or slave."

11) "Be quiet, he is answering your question right now!"

12) "I won't do that until you practice violin."

13) "When I say, 'in your class,' that means, 'the same grade as you.' Yes, I know that you're thinking 'is that kid in my classroom,' but no, that's not what I mean, instead, I mean, "is that kid in the same grade as you.' OK?"

14) "Raisin toast?"

15) "Have you done your homework?"

16) "Get ready."

17) "Yes, that is a very great mystery. Why is it that a kid that doesn't want to get into the bath, once put into the bath, suddenly won't get out of the bath?"

18) "Your comments are interesting, but we are still going to do Z, nevertheless."

19) "That's a bunch of crap. Straighten up."

20) "You are tired and melting down. Go to bed."

Reading over this list, I sound like a real hard ass. Is this why everyone says our kids are so nice and well-behaved? We get this feedback from parents all the time, and I've always found it a bit puzzling—you mean that little stinker? You are so, so, wrong...
Posted by tplambeck at 11:36 PM

Misere play of G-A-R-D-N-E-R

I spent most of the day putting together this handout (PDF) for the upcoming "Gathering for Gardner" (G4G7) conference, next month. I spent about 45 minutes worrying that this thing wasn't going to work out the way I had planned. But I was just confused—the solution that I'd obtained out using Aaron Siegel's MisereSolver program worked after all.

[ Tomorrow—proofread! ]

Posted by tplambeck at 10:16 PM

February 05, 2006

Moments in Last Year at Marienbad when that weird character plays misere Nim against the other hotel guests

Last Year at Marienbad is a 1961 French movie directed by Alan Renais. It's mostly annoying to watch, but it has the benefit of having the game of Misere Nim played several times in the movie.

The starting position is always four heaps of cards (more often, matchsticks). The heaps have sizes 1, 3, 5, and 7. A move is to take some number of cards from one heap only, removing them from play (including the whole heap, if desired). Play ends when the last card is taken, and the player who takes that card loses the game. This starting position is a forced win for the second player to move (ie a P-position) in best play.

Last night, I suffered through the whole movie, keeping track of when Misere Nim is played.

#1) Elapsed time: 15:11 (roughly): Misere nim with cards. Best view of play in the movie. As always in the movie, the strange-looking guy who proposes that the game be played wins. He lets the other guest move first. The actor playing the Guest does a great job of looking disgruntled as he is forced to take the last card (and loses the game).

#2) Elapsed time: 20:56: Misere nim with matchsticks. "What if you play first?" The weird guy obliges, and makes a (losing) first move, but the guest makes an error and the weird guy wins again.

#3) Elapsed time: 37:00: Misere nim with matchsticks, set up for play only.

#4) Elapsed time: 1hr 13:00: Misere nim with matchsticks. This is the best part, with the highly amusing speculation on the part of the guests—"I think you should always take an odd number." "He's using the theory of logarithms." [In translation to English on my DVD, that is "It is a type of logarithmic series." "How does he always win?" This last scene is the best one for commentary by the guests.

I like this review of the movie at Amazon, by Jack Walter:

I am an avid fan of foreign, avant-garde, bizarre, challenging and/or enigmatic films, but this one is just plain agonizing to watch. The photography and the characters are beautiful, but I had to view this film in two sessions, both of them tormentingly slow. At first I thought it was some kind of variation on Sartre's "No Exit," but if it was, I was the one in the waiting room in Hell! This movie is pointless, vapid and pathetically pretentious. I hope God adds ninety-four minutes onto my life as a reward for sitting through Last Year at Marienbad!
Posted by tplambeck at 09:29 PM

February 04, 2006

registration sticker project


flickr gallery / flickr slideshow

Posted by tplambeck at 10:47 AM

February 03, 2006

Pear tree blossom—herald of the flying ant

With the first blossoms of spring (yes, it comes early here in Palo Alto) come the flying ants.

"Flying ants?" you ask. Well, yes. I need to take a photo of them. I do have a photo of the pear tree blossom, from our front yard:

I copied someone else's flying ant photo:


OK—I'll admit that's not a flying ant, but instead just an ant with wings. But trust me—they know how to use those wings. Yesterday, the flying ants were everywhere. That's "everywhere" as in "ants in my pants" everywhere.

The next day, I noticed several exterminators parked around the neighborhood. Most people think the flying ants are swarming termites. But I don't think the flying ant is a threat to wood structures, unless you're tempted to set your house on fire just to kill the little bastards.

I wish them all ugly deaths.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:16 PM

The night before Good Friday

From this CNN article, "Christian group angry over Britney 'Will'"

* * *
According to NBC's initial synopsis of the episode, Jack's fictional TV network, Out TV, is taken over by a Christian broadcaster, leading Spears' character to do a cooking segment on his show called "Cruci-fixin's."

The American Family Association immediately raised objections to the planned episode, saying it "mocks the crucifixion of Christ" and will "further denigrate Christianity" by airing the night before Good Friday.
* * *

1) Nice article—it's got bad puns, christian fundamentalists, TV stars, gays, cooking, Easter, and even BRITNEY SPEARS [the old PRESBYTERIANS anagram], all in one short read!

2) Still—why the "night before Good Friday"? Let's call it Maundy Thursday instead. It might be nice to introduce a corresponding anagrammatic character—perhaps the SHAMAN RUDY DUTY? Got to be something better here.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:16 AM

February 02, 2006


This photo of Owen scootering to school is over 2 years old, but I still like the way the flowers, his "pushing" leg, and the immediate foreground are blurred. I took it as I rode a bicycle in the street.


Posted by tplambeck at 08:48 AM

February 01, 2006

A ten-year old's food review

"Inedible. This is like eating wet fabric."

"I can't even bite this."

"I have to spit this out, now."

collard greens [i'm feeling lucky]

Posted by tplambeck at 08:35 PM

Someone at Chez Panisse has interesting handwriting



Posted by tplambeck at 05:35 PM

Personalized licence plates of Old Palo Alto

I run into these cars fairly frequently when strolling around the neighborhood. I don't know any of the owners.




PC 104

STDIO.H (with the dot added with tape)

Posted by tplambeck at 12:49 PM

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