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March 31, 2006

Cafe Borrone, Menlo Park

Cafe Borrone, Menlo Park
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:24 PM


1) My DNA seems to be stalled in the stage of "DNA isolation." When will it move on to "DNA analysis"? Perhaps some kind of toxic material has been identified in the DNA, and they're not going to take any chances with it?

2) What's the best word to describe the expression one detects always in the faces of fellow motorists when driving? It's often a compound of "ennui," "anger," and "frustration," but there's still a certain sameness in all of these that remains to be named.

3) Now I look at my desk, and see that the book lying there is Ogden Nash's The Face is Familiar. So, perhaps the answer to question #2 is in the book? No ( If called by a panther // Don't anther). I need to return that book to the library.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:43 PM

Article on G4G7 by Ivars Peterson

Nice article (and thanks for the linknot that it's my content anyway, it's a NYT article by Ed Rothstein that I shamelessly archived ).

But it should have said

Where else would you find Raymond Smullyan spoiling a card trick by John Conway by palming off the top card from a prearranged deck.

"Ah, I see," Smullyan said. "It's a card you have to blow on, first."

[He blew on it, and it changed into the card Conway expected to see.]

"I should have known better than to let you deal the cards," Conway said.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:22 AM

March 29, 2006

Joshua indicates the menu for dinner tonight chez Sommer

Joshua indicates the menu for dinner tonight chez Sommer
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:40 PM

March 28, 2006

Travelator out of service

Travelator out of service

i'm feeling lucky

Posted by tplambeck at 02:13 PM

March 27, 2006

Stanislaw Lem, 1921-2006

From the deep plambeck.org archives (ca 1990 or so, "Explaining Twin Peaks")

It's risky to introduce the supernatural and UFO-ial because these are essentially proletarian concepts that when explored to any depth are revealed to be very stupid. I once read a book called by Stanislaw Lem called His Master's Voice—which the scifi-heads amongst us may have also read, and let me be perfectly clear, I HATE science fiction—but the point was this: a man, selling recorded extra-T transmissions as random numbers, is confronted by a customer who points out that these bits, put forward as random, in fact repeat themselves after some large number of gigabytes.
A Los Alamos-type effort is struck up to determine what the hell these bits are and the mathematician-narrator and indeed none of the most-qualified scientific personnel described in the book are ever able to figure out what the bits mean, although they are able to interpret some homomorphism of the bits as chemical formulas and they synthesize some sort of slime out of it that has odd properties.
Now one's interest in this story may indicate nerd tendencies but I for one found it at least mildly compelling, particularly because the right note—that of never really figuring out what the bits mean—is struck.
These outerspace phenomena, if explained, lose much of their force so that the narrative motive force eventually causes them to become, as I have already said, very stupid.

* * *
Klarner was a big Lem fan. In fact, he was the person who originally drew my attention to that Lem passage in His Master's Voice, about twenty years ago!

Posted by tplambeck at 10:57 PM

Twenty year college reunion

Two photos that Gloria dug up for the Stanford "Classmates" book (her 20th reunion is coming up):


With Kim Muth:


Posted by tplambeck at 04:10 PM

March 26, 2006

Pentakis kaleidoscope

Originally uploaded by thane.
Not Photoshopped.
i'm feeling lucky
Posted by tplambeck at 02:59 PM

March 25, 2006

Hall of Fame to induct Kearney referee

From today's Kearney (Nebraska) Daily Hub:
* * * *
Hall of Fame to induct Kearney referee
By BUCK MAHONEY, Hub Sports Editor

KEARNEY (25 March 2006)—"Longevity," Vern Plambeck says, "has meant a lot to me."

His longevity has meant a lot to others, as well.

Plambeck, who started wearing the referees' stripes and blowing the whistle in 1954, and is still at it, will be inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame at its Sept. 24 induction ceremony at the Lied Center in Lincoln.

"This is a big thrill for me," Plambeck said of his induction. "I feel very fortunate just because there have been so very few (referees) in there."

But few have had a career that rivals Plambeck's.

A retired professor at UNK, he started officiating when he was a student at Hastings College, studying to be a sports writer. A couple Hastings businessmen who needed another man on their football crew approached him. His first game was at Doniphan; now, though, he doesn't remember the other team.

"I told myself when I was 20 years old that I had to be involved in athletics. Many times I would go out and work a game and come back and write a bylined story for the Hastings Tribune," he said.

But he learned that he didn't like the hours, working at the paper well into the nights after the games.

He took a teaching job at Fairbury and tried coaching. But that wasn't for him, either.

Except for a call to active duty in the military in 1957, he kept officiating.

"I like to be on the field. I feel on Friday night, that's where I belong," Plambeck said.

He officiated seven state basketball tournaments, including the 1973 Class A boys championship game. He's worked 33 football playoff games since 1976, including Nebraska's first overtime game—Wheatland 38, Hampton 32 in 1976.

He's refereed the Coaches Association All-Star Basketball and Shrine Bowl All-Star Football games.

He's even worked one of the few 9-man games in Nebraska, an experimental game between Ruskin and Dannebrog—an experiment that didn't catch on.

He's reffed games everywhere from Scottsbluff to Humboldt, from Norfolk and Springview to the Kansas border.

"I've had some big games, but not as many as you might think," Plambeck said. "I haven't had that lustrous of a career. But, I've kept going. I have enough friends hiring me to keep me going."

He gave up basketball in 1989, and has since worked as an observer of officials for the Nebraska School Activities Association.

But he's still on the field in football season.

"I wanted to work six decades, and that would have been in 2000," Plambeck said. "Then I wanted to work 50 years, and that was 2004."

He saw an article about an official in Kansas who worked for 50 years.

"He was 75 and I'm 70," Plambeck said.

He is contracted to work games this fall and next fall, too.

"And I don't know if I'll quit then. I feel good. I really do. My legs feel better. I do more now, and I'm always walking," Plambeck said.

But his long career has given him respect for many other nameless officials who have worked countless games. He watches officials, like Joe Wells of Grand Island, with admiration for their longevity and activity—referees who work three, four or five nights a week.

"I have to speak for all of them who had better schedules and maintained them better than I have. I have to speak for the group," Plambeck said of his induction ceremony speech. "They've had state tournaments since 1911, and who were those guys who did those tournaments? Who's the Joe Wells of the 1920s? Who's going to nominate them? There are so many out there who never had the chance to get the recognition I'm getting."

Posted by tplambeck at 04:37 PM

Madeleine Olnek

article about the director of hold up

Posted by tplambeck at 12:00 AM

March 24, 2006

What JHC had

Just after I finished my Advances in losing presentation at the Gathering for Gardner, John Conway gave me a sheet of paper (on the Atlanta Ritz-Carlton stationery) on which he described what he knew about the indistinguishability quotient construction in misere impartial combinatorial games, as early as the 1960s and 1970s.

I thought I'd lost the sheet of paper, but now I just found it again.

"The way this stuff works, you get the credit, since you published it," he said. "But I wanted you to know what I had in case you write one of these history kind of things..."

Posted by tplambeck at 11:07 PM

Stanford Computer Science Dept 40th year anniversary


Bertrand Meyer took this cool photo of me standing amidst Whitfield Diffie (left), Ron Rivest, and Don Knuth (far right).

Posted by tplambeck at 06:56 PM

The Mosquito

The Mosquito ultrasonic teenage deterrent is a solution to the eternal bane of shopkeepers and mall owners around the world who are troubled by small crowds of anti-social teenagers who have nothing better to do than loiter outside their shops and stores deterring older customers who want to go into the shops to purchase goods...

[ link—apparently the noise The Mosquito makes is inaudible to almost everyone over the age of 30. So, if you were born prior to 1976 or so and are looking for a storefront to loiter in front of without anti-social teenagers getting in your way, look for The MosquitoTM... ]

Posted by tplambeck at 03:08 PM

March 23, 2006

From The Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy, by Fulvio Melia:

The Milky Way and Andromeda, the two dominant spiral galaxies in our Local Group, are falling toward each other at 300,000 miles per hour. Our descendants eons from now will see Andromeda gradually grow in size until, some 3 billion years hence, the two sister galaxies begin to tear at each other's fringes. Eventually, stars from both doomed spirals will plunge past each other, driven by the gravitational force of the two gargantuan galaxies. The Sun itself, together with our planet, will either spin completely out of our galaxy altogether, traveling on a long, desolate path with very few other stars visible in the night sky, or it may plunge toward the center of the newly formed structure where a cacophony of activity will greet it. Since the Sun is expected to burn and sustain life on Earth for another 5 billion years, intelligent life here will see all of this unfold, albeit at a very slow pace. A billion years later, the two beautiful spiral galaxies will have merged into a giant elliptical spheroidal mass of aging stars. Ironically, though, very few stars will actually collide with each other during this encounter, since most of space is filled with wispy gas. Aside from dramatic changes in the appearance of the night sky, our descendants will continue to live on a planet peacefully orbiting around the Sun.

link (feeling lucky)

Posted by tplambeck at 09:51 PM

March 22, 2006

My DNA has moved on to the next stage


The cells are broken open by incubation with a protein-cutting enzyme overnight. Chemicals and the samples are transferred into deep well blocks for robotic DNA isolation. The blocks of chemicals and samples are placed on the extraction robot. The robotic DNA isolation uses silica-coated iron beads. In the presence of the appropriate chemicals DNA will bind to silica. The robot then uses magnetic probes to collect the beads (and DNA) and transfer them through several chemical washes and finally into a storage buffer, which allows the beads to release the DNA. At this point the beads are collected and discarded.

Only "DNA analysis" and "Quality Control" to go!

[ National Geographic DNA project ]

Posted by tplambeck at 06:43 PM

Overheard at a violin lesson

Put the dots in—get the bowing also—good job—let's do it one more time—let's go on to the B flat one...good. Again.

Try it now—OK—stop—look at your notes again.

Ready, OK? Better that way. Back to the first A, G, F natural—look at your violin now, not the notes.

Yes, yes those three again. It's wild—sometimes it's a high two, sometimes a low two. That's why I suggest looking at it—high third.

Are they any high twos in here? No? Yes. That's the way I think of it, they're all high twos.

Easy? Let's go on—those two have twos even on the A string. These groups and markings.

Nice! Good. But you have to reach. Higher. You're flat on that!

No, you have to start reaching sooner. Again. No—you're still flat on that.

Are you ready? You could say that in there you got all possible groupings. It's tricky. Not the hardest one in this book, but tricky. Good.

Posted by tplambeck at 06:00 PM

March 21, 2006


Cole (age 10) has been reading a book of Edward Lear limericks. He composed this one

* * *
There once was an old man of Turkey
Who wasn't quite that touristy.
When it came to Thanksgiving
He just started singing
Now why can't we just visit Donkey?
* * *

Posted by tplambeck at 09:24 PM

Don Knuth, Ron Rivest, Oren Patashnik

Don Knuth, Ron Rivest, Oren Patashnik
Originally uploaded by thane.
Stanford Computer Science Dept 40th anniversary
Posted by tplambeck at 04:33 PM

Bruce contemplates the mystery of the sea


Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, GA

Posted by tplambeck at 12:31 AM

What's the collective noun for rays


[ I suggested a "pencil." Or how about a "Charles." ]

Posted by tplambeck at 12:15 AM

Roger Penrose


Gathering for Gardner

Posted by tplambeck at 12:02 AM

March 20, 2006

Raymond Smullyan playing a Schubert piano sonata

Smullyan plays Schubert

Gathering for Gardner G4G7

Posted by tplambeck at 11:53 PM

March 19, 2006

Flying saucer toy approaches tweed obstacle

Originally uploaded by thane.
Gathering 4 Gardner, Atlanta, GA
Posted by tplambeck at 09:14 PM

Red Pirahna, Georgia aquarium

Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:34 PM

March 16, 2006

Tom's puzzle collection

Tom's puzzle collection
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:35 PM

Bathsheba Grossman's talk on 3D symmetry groups

Bathsheba Grossman's talk on 3D symmetry groups
Originally uploaded by thane.
She's partial to the tetrahedral group
Posted by tplambeck at 09:35 PM

Raymond Smullyan

Raymond Smullyan
Originally uploaded by thane.
Gathering for Gardner, Atlanta GA
Posted by tplambeck at 09:32 PM

Bruce's hexagonal Sudoku puzzle

Bruce's hexagonal Sudoku puzzle
Originally uploaded by thane.
Gathering for Gardner 7
Posted by tplambeck at 09:27 PM

John Conway & Wei-Hwa Huang

John Conway & Wei-Hwa Huang
Originally uploaded by thane.
Gathering for Gardner, Atlanta, GA
Posted by tplambeck at 09:13 PM

Bill Gosper and his lucite packing puzzle

Originally uploaded by thane.
Gathering for Gardner 7, Tom Rodger's house, Atlanta, GA
Posted by tplambeck at 09:11 PM

March 15, 2006

Team captain Nick Baxter just got back from the World Sudoku championships in Italy

...and he's got a cool vest to show for it.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:52 PM

Bar bets & cons

Gathering for Gardner 7


Posted by tplambeck at 08:46 PM

In the mail

A postcard from the good people at teardowns.com, who suggest that perhaps "a builder might be the best buyer for your property."

I knew the were a few issues with the pillar near the front door (it's got water damage near the place where it meets the ground), but still...

Posted by tplambeck at 01:59 PM

March 13, 2006


[ i'm feeling lucky ]

A nice word to work into conversation sometime.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:41 AM

March 12, 2006

Sculpture outside the Palo Alto main library

Sculpture outside the Palo Alto main library
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:38 PM


[ i'm feeling lucky ]

I had never seen this word before.

There it was in chapter 3 of The Middle Moffat, a kid's book I was reading to Owen.

Added later: How to pronounce it.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:58 PM

"Your status: Kit received"

The process of analyzing my DNA has begun!

The kits are received at the Houston office of Family Tree DNA and checked in. All of the kits are assigned to a batch and shipped to the Arizona Research Labs at the University of Arizona. The samples are received at the university and the orders are transferred to a computer system. The computer sorts the orders and assigns each sample to a specific location in one of many sample grids As the barcodes on the samples are read the computer directs the researchers where to place each sample (which tray and which coordinates).

[ "What if you're a Neandertal?" someone asked me—perhaps I shouldn't be so enthusiastic about this stuff. ]

Posted by tplambeck at 02:45 PM

March 10, 2006

Stata Center from above, under construction

Google satellite image of the Stata Center at MIT. I guess it's done now?

Posted by tplambeck at 04:50 PM

Allan Jacobs, from an article by Alison Hicks in the Loma Prietan

It's no big mystery. The best streets are comfortable to walk along with leisure and safety. They are streets for both pedestrians and drivers. They have definition, a sense of enclosure with their buildings [...] usually with trees.
For at least 60 years, city engineers have been anti-urban, anti-pedestrian and anti-mixed use. As a philosophy, they moved to segregate people and and cars under the guise of safety, with an emphasis on size—wider, larger—and this is anti-pedestrian. Existing standards are not even based on research [...] We're told by traffic engineers that intersections where pedestrians and drivers get together are dangerous, but this is the exact opposite of what real research and observations of great intersections tell us.

It's hard to disagree with this, but it would be interesting to see some examples of "great intersections." To me, the great intersections are the ones where the cars have no cross-street visibility—due to large objects (hedges, buildings) at the corners—and a four-way stop sign. They stop, then must slowly peep around a gigantic hedge at the corner before they get the "all clear" to roar away in their SUV. There are some great intersections like this in Palo Alto. I should photograph them...

Posted by tplambeck at 04:28 PM

Another talk

I'm going to be speaking on April 4 to Terence Parr's software engineering class at the University of San Francisco on the topic

The Model: How to quit your software job and become a millionaire instead

I also want to attempt to answer the question posed by his personal motto:

"Why program by hand in five days what you can spend five years of your life automating?"

but I'm going to have to think about it first...

Thanks to another T.P. for the invitation!

Posted by tplambeck at 12:12 PM

From Blue Limbo by Dean Young

The lightning forks indecisively,
the road not taken is the one we took
ending up in the same darn place anyway,
the mall of course, in quest of coasters,
sugar substitutes, prefab rugs, crystals.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:09 AM

March 09, 2006

From To the Lighthouse

[My favorite VW passage...]
* * *
It was a splendid mind. For if thought is like the keyboard of a piano, divided into so many notes, or like the alphabet is ranged in twenty-six letters all in order, then his splendid mind had no difficulty in running over those letters one by one, firmly and accurately, until it had reached, say, the letter Q. He reached Q. Very few people in the whole of England ever reach Q. Here, stopping for one moment by the stone urn which held the geraniums, he saw, but now far far away, like children picking up shells, divinely innocent and occupied with little trifles at their feet and somehow entirely defenceless against a doom which he perceived, his wife and son, together, in the window. They needed his protection; he gave it them.

But after Q? What comes next? After Q there are a number of letters the last of which is scarcely visible to mortal eyes, but glimmers red in the distance. Z is only to be reached once by one man in a generation. Still, if he could reach R it would be something. Here at least was Q. He dug his heels in at Q, Q he was sure of. Q he could demonstrate. If Q then is Q—R—Here he knocked his pipe out, with two or three resonant taps on the rams horn which made the handle of the urn, and proceeded. Then R... He braced himself. He clenched himself.

Qualities that would have saved a ship's company exposed on a broiling sea with six biscuits and a flask of water—endurance and justice, foresight, devotion, skill, came to his help. R is then—what is R? A shutter, like the leathern eyelid of a lizard, flickered over the intensity of his gaze and obscured the letter R. In that flash of darkness he heard people saying—he was a failure—that R was beyond him. He would never reach R. On to R, once more, R—

Qualities that in a desolate expedition across the icy solitudes of the Polar region would have made him the leader, the guide, the counsellor, whose temper neither sanguine nor despondent, surveys with equanimity what is to be and faces it, came to his help again. R—

The lizard's eye flickered once more. The veins on his forehead bulged. The geranium in the urn became startlingly visible and, displayed amongst its leaves, he could see, without wishing it, that old, that obvious distinction between the two classes of men; on the one hand the steady goers of superhuman strength who, plodding and perserving, repeat the whole alphabet in order, twenty-six in all, from start to finish; on the other hand the gifted, the inspired who, miraculously, lump all the letters together in one flash—the way of genius. He had not genius; he laid no claim to that: but he had, or might have had, the power to repeat every letter of the alphabet from A to Z accurately in order. Meanwhile, he stuck at Q. On, then, on to R. Feelings that would not have disgraced a leader who, now that the snow has begun to fall and the mountain-top is covered in mist, knows that he must lay himself down and die before the morning comes, stole upon him, paling the colour of his eyes, giving him, even in the two minutes of his turn on the terrace, the bleached look of whithered old age. Yet he would not die lying down; he would find some crag of rock, and there, his eyes fixed on the storm, trying to pierce the darkness, he would die standing. He would never reach R.

He stood stock still, by the urn with the geranium flowing over it. How many men in a thousand million, he asked himself, reach Z after all? Surely the leader of a forlorn hope may ask himself that, and answer, without treachery to the expedition behind him, `One perhaps.' One in a generation. Is he to be blamed if he is not that one? provided he has toiled honestly, given to the best of his power, till he has no more left to give?

Posted by tplambeck at 12:55 AM

The old VW

Elizabeth Tallent, writing in the Spring 2006 Three Penny Review:

I do not mean to suggest that my mind is anything like [Virginia] Woolf's, only that while reading her I could not manage to sustain any awareness of how our minds were different. I was lost, and this was a relief, because I had not been alive enough. As if an old wrong had been set right, I was relieved to possess, by way of a stolen paperback, life so beautifully seen. It had been waiting for me to see it thus—life—just as Woolf had always been waiting for me to read her. I did not know then that in trying to find out who she was I would discover not one VW but hundreds belonging to other people, all jealously defending their status as her only real reader. To fall for Woolf is like ducking from a storm into a godsend taxi, only to find you're shut in with lovers who at each other's throats, so tense, so intertwined, that anything can trigger a resumption of hostilities, even something as small as a phrase, a word.
Posted by tplambeck at 12:49 AM

March 08, 2006

Zero Sum Games

The playground has chosen the topic for the game theory plays.

[Previously blogged].

From the email sent to the (thirty or so) playwrights, who have 4 days to write their 10-minute plays (six will be chosen to be performed):

There will be a pre-show panel discussion beginning at 7:00 [March 20; Berkeley Repertory Theatre] on "Game Theory and the Theatre" led by Garret and with special guests Elwyn Berlekamp (UC-Berkeley professor of mathematics), Aaron Siegel (MSRI postdoctoral fellow), Thane Plambeck (mathematician and computer scientist) and MSRI Director David Eisenbud.

[Thanks to Mia Chung for forwarding this!]

[Hmmm—maybe I should be getting some of my own work done by March 12, too...]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:44 PM

The Structure of Complex Words


[ Empson—again. He knew how to choose a catchy title. That one is right up there with Seven Types of Ambiguity. Then there are essays, for example "Obscurity and Annotation" (1930 or so). Or how about "Donne the Space Man". Must read this stuff, even if it means—gasp—going to a library to do so... ]

Posted by tplambeck at 04:39 PM

March 07, 2006

Friend or Foe?

Safeway had an aisle display and two-for-one sale on "Peaberry Especial":


It looked like a good deal, but was it decaf? I hate decaf. There's nothing more crushing than to buy a bag of coffee, get home, and realize it's decaf. These bags bore the internationally recognized DECAF ADVISORY color—and prominently. Together, all the bags stacked in the box in the aisle looked like something I might encounter in a nightmare—a fully mobile, intelligent decaf display automaton on wheels that repeatedly interposes itself between me and my favorite brands. Yet in scrutinizing a bag, I couldn't find the fatal DECAF letters anywhere.

So—maybe I'm supposed to know that 'Peaberry' means DECAF? It sure seemed possible. Or—I could also imagine myself seated in a cafe in Barcelona or Mexico City, stammering out a coffee order to a waiter. "Would you perhaps like the Especial?" "Sure, OK, the Especial," I would say, only to suffer severe caffeine withdrawl because I didnt know the entire Spanish-speaking world calls Decaf "Especial." "The gringo is stupid—he orders the Especial when he wants un cafe con crema!"

Anyway, I haven't tried it yet, so I don't know...

Posted by tplambeck at 09:27 AM

March 06, 2006

Whatman OmniSwabTM

And to think they could have called it the "Perpetrator:"


Posted by tplambeck at 02:51 PM

DNA testing kit arrives!


Now—I must study the Quick Start Swab Instructions:


Posted by tplambeck at 02:42 PM

"You're so Thain..."

...you probably think this mocha's about you...don't you..."


Posted by tplambeck at 02:14 PM

March 05, 2006

A single twig

A single twig of a tree, perfectly positioned so as to scrape against the 2nd story window outside our bedroom with every minimal puff of wind, was the *sole source* of all the irritating fingernails-on-the-chalkboard suffering we went through last night.

At least that's the conclusion I drew this morning. Last night, it sounded more like a two-foot branch being dragged across a metallic grating.

I've trimmed the twig so I'm hopeful it won't bother us tonight.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:43 PM

Robotic Mule

Not the quietest mule, but it's got good balance, even when the engineers give it a shove in the ribs to try to make it fall over.

Some prankster in the lab turned one pair of legs around.

I guess we're all looking forward to the day when we'll be sharing the sidewalks with stuff like this. I found myself wondering—suppose they had slapped a non-functional neck and mule head atop the thing at one end, with a big goofy smile painted on it; would the video be less disturbing?

"This? Oh— don't mind him, that's just my mule."

Posted by tplambeck at 08:47 PM

March 04, 2006

Violin Assessment

Originally uploaded by thane.
Slideshow of photos from Cole and Owen's violin assessment in San Mateo this afternoon.
Posted by tplambeck at 06:48 PM

Gavotte from Mignon


Posted by tplambeck at 06:31 PM

Crossword clue, 2 March 2006 NYT

Message not left after the beep? (9): EXPLETIVE

Posted by tplambeck at 04:43 PM

In a chat room

CHATTER ONE: For the love of Christ people! It's spelled YOU'RE. It's not that hard, people!

CHATTER TWO: Careful—your going to pop a blood vessel in your eye.

CHATTER THREE: Correction—your going to pop a blood vessel in you're eye.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:10 PM

Reversal of fortune

Playing White (and losing badly) on the Internet chess club, I waited for Black to swing the axe through my neck in this position


Black played the expected Qxh2 check, and I had to play the (forced) Kf2, leading to this position:


But here was a chance—would Black play the essential Kd8 to protect his King, or would he make a big mistake and play Rf8+?

Well—he did play Rf8+, and I was quite pleased to reply Bf4! discovered check:


Now it's White who's completely winning. Black plays Kd8, but it's too late:


White mates in three.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:52 AM

March 03, 2006



DAD: How do you teach that?

THANE: I don't—I mean, I couldn't; I wouldn't know how.

DAD: No. I don't believe you.

THANE: OK—he was in preschool, maybe two years old—I'm going there to pick him up. There's no parking close, so I have to park about two blocks away. As I'm walking to the preschool, I keep hearing these distant cheers—YAY!—ALL RIGHT!—and I'm wondering—what's going on? Then I get about a block away from the preschool, and another parent comes out with his kid, and he stops me and says—"I just want to tell you, I saw him doing it, remember that..." I still don't know what is going on. Then I get closer and I see a toy basketball flying up toward a little rim, and it goes in (I can't see who's throwing it, because there's a wall in the way)...then another cheer. So, still, I'm thinking, what the fuck? And then I get around the corner, and there he is, Owen throwing a toy basketball into a miniature hoop, from about ten feet away. Finally I get up there to pick him up and take him home, and the daycare person tells me—that's 60 in a row. Oops, there's 61.

DAD: Oh.


Posted by tplambeck at 11:10 PM

Couldn't have said it better myself

At the Internet chess club:

{Game 498 (NoLuckOnlySkill vs. plambeck) ... NoLuckOnlySkill resigns} 0-1

Posted by tplambeck at 09:06 PM

Xemu writes on the NPL list


I was much saddened to hear of the passing of your beloved Uncle Fernik last Tuesday....

OK. I know you don't even have an Unclue Fernik (and my sincerest apologies to any of you who do). Also, my apologies to any of you who don't read your email using Google's gmail (which, I know, is most of you).

But for the handful of NPLers who do use gmail, I just wanted to demonstrate what I think is an interesting feature of their sponsored advertising--you know, that column on the right with little blurbs and links to web sites that are supposed to be somehow relevent to your email message. These ads are bought by hopeful merchants who purchase certain key words that are matched against your message, and they pay Google more whenever anyone clicks on one of the ads that come up (I don't really know the details, but it's something like this).

Anyway, I'm betting that right now those of you using gmail to read this message don't get any sponsored ads in the column on the right. It seems that Google has some kind of filter that tries to detect if an email message could possibly be a death notice (or perhaps on some other suitably somber subject), and when it senses such a message, supresses its commercial urge to show ads, which might be perceived as crass.

* * *
[ If someone is reading this and wants to try this out, I'll send you the Uncle Fernik message... ]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:42 AM

March 02, 2006

5th grade homework consultations

1) How to compute the median of an even number of numbers?

2) What's a good word to rhyme with nonchalant? If 'non' is no in French, what is 'chalant'?

3) On a long-division assignment with a section on computing means, is it OK to add the list of numbers with a calculator, provided the long division step is carried out by hand? [My pupil was not interested in methods that avoided long-division entirely]

4) If 'beret' is the hat, how to spell the thing that girls use to hold back their hair?

5) Is Ticonderoga the name of an Indian chief, or merely a pencil? If a chief, then is it the same 'Big Chief' that appears on those old-style school paper tablets?

Posted by tplambeck at 09:50 PM

Don Knuth writes at his web site

Sooner or later every true hacker discovers the INTERCAL programming language, introduced by Don Woods and Jim Lyon, and I got hooked too.

link (scroll down a bit)

Posted by tplambeck at 01:05 PM

March 01, 2006

Advances in Losing

I just put this preprint on misere games into the arXiv.

It's eventually going to be in this book, tentatively entitled Games of No Chance 3, edited by Richard Nowakowski and Michael Albert for the Cambridge Univ Press.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:13 PM




Posted by tplambeck at 07:03 PM

New Man vs Machine chess match

At chessbase.com:

At the end of November this year classical chess world champion Vladimir Kramnik will take up the challenge of facing a computer program in a six-game match, to be held in the very prestigeous Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn, Germany. Kramnik stands to win one million US dollars if he beats the opponent, Deep Fritz.
Posted by tplambeck at 11:46 AM

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