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May 31, 2006

plambeck.org as a graph


web sites as graphs/see other graphs

Posted by tplambeck at 07:25 PM

May 30, 2006

Spelling SkiLLz

When did I lose the ability to spell (well)? Or was I never a good speller, and am only now realizing it? I'm finding that many of my renditions don't pass muster in the dictionary when I check them. There's a thin yet indispersable (undispersible?) miasma of uncertainty as I type them in. Right or wrong? Must look it up.

No good examples come to mind, except brocolli. Or maybe broccoli. Dispersible—quite possibly not even a word at all? Undispersible? The problem extends to vocabulary. And grammar.

Satzbau. Wortschatz. Maybe reading other languages is my problem.

I'm certain that the number of c's doesn't equal the number of l's. And I would bet on 'broccoli,' rather than brocolli. Ha—got it right. But I guessed.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:34 PM


Originally uploaded by thane.
Jeep on Webster St, Palo Alto
Posted by tplambeck at 03:53 PM

May 29, 2006

Memorial day—Ahwahnee report

1. No sign of the bobcat.

2. A neighbor has put up an official-looking sign near a sideroad (maybe it's been there longer than I think):

Multimedia message

3. Hiked up to Chilnualna Falls with Cole, Emma, Lloyd, Evelyn, and Colin, who wanted to do a six hour hike, instead. We got up there just as before, in just under two hours, and came down.

Cole at the falls
Cole at the summit

Near the summit, on the descent, meeting a guy and his girlfriend, I said "only 20 minutes to the top!" as we passed. The guy said "THANK GOD!!" but his girlfriend just smiled.

Cole and emma
Cole and Emma on the descent

4. Lots of deer, quail, Canada geese, and rabbits (as usual).

5. There's a Starbucks in Oakhurst, guaranteeing the availability of the New York Times in an outpost that could hardly be depended upon to sell it a few years ago.

6. Still didn't find the time to play poker at the Chukchansi.

7. On the drive home, noticed many more photoops off Highway 99. It's hard to commit to pull off the highway, circle back on a side road, and wheel into position just to get a photo of a crappy sign that looks cool (and only to me). Maybe Jim and I can go up there with our impressive Canon outfits and fully commit to prowling around there between Modesto and Merced sometime.

8. Played quite a few hands of The Great Dalmuti. With eight players, the cards deal out equally to all players. Ascending to the throne as Dalmuti, I was ejected immediately by a revolution.

Life isn't fair... and neither is The Great Dalmuti! One round you're at the top of the heap, and the next you're peasant scum in this fast-paced card game of medieval one-upmanship.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:41 PM

May 26, 2006

The Kroloff crawl off

From today's New York Times, "Bigger Houses, Longer Commutes," by Elsa Brenner:

On weekdays, Julie Kroloff sets the coffee maker for 5:45 a.m., then speeds through her kitchen in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., and grabs a cup to fortify herself for the long drive ahead. If Ms. Kroloff, a self-employed consultant, is on time, she backs out of the garage just before 6 and makes the trip from Dutchess County to her office in Midtown Manhattan in just under two hours. If traffic is heavy, Ms. Kroloff's 54-mile commute can take two and a half hours or more...


Other commuters like Ms. Kroloff who rely on their cars for the long haul to work say that the drive gives them a chance to be alone and to gather their thoughts. "I can be in my own world without anyone bothering me," she said. "Sometimes when I'm driving, I just let my mind wander. Sometimes, I listen to music. I can create my own space in the car, and that helps me prepare for the day ahead." She and her daughter, Rita, 8, and her son, Steven, 7, moved into a new five-bedroom, five-bath house last fall. It cost around $750,000.

This sounds like absolute hell to me. Why do three people need a five-bedroom, five-bath house? Is it really that nice to plunk yourself down exhausted on the sofa after five hours of driving and think, "Yes, but think—even if we have a visitor there's no way I'm going to have to wait for the bathroom?" Couldn't they find an apartment closer to where she works?

Why do people need/want such big houses? I'm scared of a big house—it would be almost impossible to find my car keys. It's got to feel like being in an airport, strolling from one wing to the next in these architectural megaplexes. We live in a small house, but it's giant by Tokyo standards. When it seems cluttered, I always think—now's the time to throw all this junk out!

Posted by tplambeck at 09:11 AM

May 24, 2006

Isn't this not to be done before they hatch?

Originally uploaded by brandon is a ninja.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:22 PM

The Lost Numbers, found

Bumper sticker on car in the parking lot of the Cubberly Community Center, Palo Alto.

Multimedia message

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42

OEIS explanation

Posted by tplambeck at 09:27 PM


Originally uploaded by thane.
People were playing berimbaus in the gym last night. I had never seen one before. This guy showed us how it works and carefully spelled it out for me as a typed it in to the cellphone message. He also was a beautiful singer. At least it sounded good with the berimbaus.

[ Flickr knows about the berimbau ]
Posted by tplambeck at 09:21 AM

First doubles, Stanford vs Miami, 2006 NCAA team championship

First doubles, Stanford vs Miami, 2006 NCAA team championship
Originally uploaded by thane.
Gloria and I watched most of the Stanford - Miami NCAA women's tennis championship yesterday—then we had to leave to pick up the kids from school.

From a San Jose Mercury News article about the match shown in the photo:

* * * *

Stanford's No. 1 doubles team of Alice Barnes and Anne Yelsey (ranked No. 1) rallied from a two-service-break deficit to beat Audra Cohen and Melissa Applebaum (ranked No. 2) 9-7.

"At 7-3, we just decided that we were going to go for it,'' Barnes said. "If you feel that you sat back and let them dictate and you lose 8-3, our attitude going into singles would have been so much worse.''
Posted by tplambeck at 09:16 AM

May 22, 2006

4-4, 6 cryptic

* * * * - * E A *
* * * V E R

I wrote in FOUR LEAF CLOVER, without much reading the clue.


Posted by tplambeck at 09:29 PM

Barry Bonds ties Babe Ruth

SJ Mercury headline—FLIGHT 714

Posted by tplambeck at 09:23 PM


I got one of these things for Cole to help him with retainer/braces cleaning.


We charged it up and he gave it a go. Seconds later he was spluttering and half the bathroom was covered with water droplets.

I regained control of the apparatus. "No, let me show you..."

I put the thing in my mouth and turned it on. The water went down my throat, I instinctively pulled the thing out of my mouth and sprayed the remainder of water all over the countertop.

How do you use these things? In the dentist's chair, it seems so easy, although admittedly I'm not operating the damn thing—I'm merely doing the turning and the spitting.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:20 PM

Content in the continent continent

* * *
Mar. 22, 2005
Mexico Makes Major Water Transfer

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry made the following statement concerning the major water transfer initiated by Mexico over the weekend:

"The large water transfer made by Mexico over the weekend is a tremendous victory for Valley farmers whose livelihood is tied to Mexico living up to its water treaty obligations. More than half the water debt is now paid off, and we look forward to Mexico transferring every drop owed in a few short months as they agreed to do recently. We look forward to closing this contentious chapter with a happy ending for people on both sides of the border."

Posted by tplambeck at 09:11 PM

May 19, 2006

What comes after the comma

As usual, I'm the only person attending a math meeting who has no "affiliation" (PDF list of Canadian Math meeting attendees).

At least the registration screens didn't demand that I fill in the Affiliation field. I had a response planned for that, and I guess I'm a little disappointed that I won't have a badge reading

Thane Plambeck, Nonesuch University

Posted by tplambeck at 03:36 PM

May 18, 2006


Even though he's on his last legs with renal failure, Norbert still has the swagger that caused us to pick him from amongst his (many) mewing siblings back in 1990, at the Palo Alto animal shelter.


Gloria said:

"Why not that one? He seems a bit livelier than the others. Look! He's trying to bite my finger! How cute!"

"Cute"—right. One time I tried to capture him and bring him in from the backyard, despite his obvious wishes that this not take place. He bit me in the finger so hard I almost passed out. Later, my hand swelled up like a balloon from some sort of feline-specific infection, and I was prescribed an apocalyptic antibiotic that killed the bacilli but also triggered a visit by the municipal Animal Control Police.

"If he bites someone else, we may have to take him in,"

the animal guy said. Since then, we keep him mostly inside. Like federal detainees, he's confined to one secured location while receiving periodic exercise, medical supervision, and his meals in a controlled environment.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:20 PM

May 17, 2006

NJAS has a great list of G4G7 links


Posted by tplambeck at 11:22 PM

confusing the enemy

confusing the enemy
Originally uploaded by flickrwegian.
Signs produced to be deployed in the wrong locations to confuse a [WWII?] invasion force.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:10 PM

Palo Alto Apple computer store

New Left
Originally uploaded by kbibb.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:05 PM

Nebraska State Capitol

Nebraska State Capitol
Originally uploaded by kcbob.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:00 PM

Pearl loses her ball under the oven, but looks for it inside the oven instead

Originally uploaded by thane.
"Not the smartest breed of dog," Gloria observed.

[View the slideshow]
Posted by tplambeck at 09:54 PM

May 16, 2006

Bob vs bobcat

Bob (shown here on video in the Topsoil, bark, compost, rock found poetry slam) has arrived at the Yosemite house. As he promised, he's bravely investigated the possibility that this bobcat has taken up residency under the house.

"I took a gun with me when I crawled under the house," he said, "but I didn't see him. There's a lot of floor insulation pulled down, and a few of the ducts need to be repaired. I also found the bobcat's access point under the house, and have boarded it up."

Bravo! I'm still a bit sad I didn't get to my camera in time to take photos of the bobcat kittens.

Posted by tplambeck at 05:08 PM

May 14, 2006

Graduation photo

My nephew Nick is graduating from high school this month. Along with an invitation to the graduation ceremony and party, he included this excellent photo.


That's a paintball gun, and a studio prison door—right? Looks scary. On my last visit to a photography studio I didn't see the "Jailhouse" set, but maybe I didn't know to ask.

I think he plays on a team that's named the Expendable Heroes? Or something like that? Alison? Nick?

Posted by tplambeck at 08:01 PM

May 12, 2006

How many pennies can 5th graders float in a boat crafted from a 3x3 square inch piece of aluminum foil?

Twenty-seven pennies (enough to win the elementary school division).

THANE: Maybe you should make the sides higher?

MICHAEL: I don't think so. It would reduce the surface area of the bottom too much.

THANE: Ah—OK. [Note to self—don't debate nautical designs with 5th graders that talk about accelerometers and angular momentum when they're discussing roller coasters].


Team C.E.M. [Cole, Eric, and Michael] watches the twenty-eighth penny sink the boat:

Buoyancy team

The boat at the bottom of the competition pool:


They won backpacks, water bottles, and three free tickets to Great America.

"You grade school kids—you're not supposed to be here," summarized the person running the contest (Team CEM play two violins and a cello in the middle school honor orchestra).

Posted by tplambeck at 09:19 PM

Carousel horse

Carousel horse
Originally uploaded by thane.
Wasn't expecting me to take a photo.
Posted by tplambeck at 09:02 PM

Stuffed animal atrocities


Posted by tplambeck at 08:36 PM

May 11, 2006

Water main break

I was out walking the dog this morning and saw water bubbling up from the ground ahead of me like Poseidon was about to explode up through the pavement.

Pearl barked and sat down decisively. "I'm not going near that thing, whatever it is," she seemed to be saying. We went over to the other side of the street, but it was pretty slippery and muddy already by the time we crossed over.


They were still working on it at 8pm tonight. "We've fixed it," a utilities guy told me. "Now we're pumping chlorine into the water and testing it downstream—and waiting for the test results to come back on contaminants."

Nobody on the street lost water because the pipe that broke was carrying water to some more distant neighborhood.

"We got a clean shutdown," he said. Then I took the photo.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:25 PM

May 10, 2006

Driving back from the doctor's office

THANE: Oh—gross—there's a crow eating that dead squirrel that's in the street.

GLORIA: You know, you don't need to share things like that with me.

THANE: I couldn't even if I wanted to—the crow is taking all the best parts...

Added later: From the archives (August 2003)—the dead rat.

Posted by tplambeck at 03:39 PM

Opening the box

I checked out Pandora and was pleasantly surprised that by just typing in "Lee Morgan" as a hint it immediately created a "Lee Morgan Station" that streamed a nice series of hard-bop numbers from multiple artists. It closely approximates what I painstakingly assembled myself from hundreds of CDs last year.

But what about classical music? I typed in "Mozart."

Is this the name of a song, or an artist?

I gulped and answered "artist." Then another question:

We found several: Which "mozart" did you mean? 1) Mozart Rottweiler; 2) Bizzart.

Hmmm—still not there on the list...

Then I asked for "Bach" and got something called B.A.C.H. It played ethereal-sounding tech music that I associate with movies that show lots of people being killed by machine guns (in slow motion),—or perhaps background music in a Monterey souvenir store that sells plastic dolphins.

Added later: Here's the apology:

Our music library contains approximately 400,000 songs from over 20,000 artists. The collection is amazingly diverse and covers every type of music except classical and world. It's great music from all sources: the big record labels, the indies, and musicians recording and self-publishing from their garage. We think of it as the very best music from the last 100 years.
Posted by tplambeck at 09:09 AM

May 08, 2006

Misere & other math miscellany

1. Decided to go the Canadian Math meeting after all, where Aaron is speaking on the Misere Mex Mystery. He's discovered quite a bit about it—so much so that what he's calling the mystery is a different mystery than what I had in mind about a year ago. Even though he knows a lot more, it's even more mysterious than it was then.

2. Aaron has also found a birthday five misere game with misere quotient of order 200 and element x satisfying x6 = 1 (and no simpler relation). In particular, put y = x2, et voila, y is an element of order three! This blows away the "1, 2, infinity" conjecture that I spoke about in Banff last year (amongst other conjectures, also disproved by Aaron). I need to stop calling these things "conjectures," but instead "things that I can't prove, and would like to be reassured that this is only because they are false." At the Gathering for Gardner, I mentioned some of these conjectures to Conway and he said, "Well—if you can't prove them, I suspect they are probably false—it's not like this is Fermat's Last Theorem, or anything!" [ This opinion I discounted immediately—just because I can't prove something, that's very weak evidence indeed that the statement is false, at least in my opinion. But now Aaron has shown that Conway was right, and I'm wrong, as usual, and on multiple levels; again, hardly surprising. ]

3. In San Francisco, I met (in person, for the first time) Graham and Moira, who are getting married in June. Joke—why are they exchanging semilattices and not wedding rings? Answer: they're commutative bands! HA HA HA.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:17 PM

Fish sheets in the washing machine

Originally uploaded by grwster.
via greg
Posted by tplambeck at 08:18 AM

May 07, 2006

Not the tightest bound possible

From the CBS news web site:

Bonds Hits No. 713


San Francisco Slugger Moves Within Five Of Babe Ruth's 714 Home Runs
Posted by tplambeck at 09:31 PM

May 04, 2006

inside the dell backoffice

We want to let you know we value you as a customer and, at your request, have removed your email address from our email marketing list. You were opted out from: thane@best.com. This change may take up to 10 business days to process. In the interim, you may continue to be included in marketing emails you were previously signed up for.

I've prepared a slideshow illustrating how this ten-day "email opt-out" works in the dell backoffice.


Posted by tplambeck at 10:19 PM

May 03, 2006


One of the disadvantages of rarely watching TV or listening to the radio is that one doesn't assimilate information such as this—how is a person supposed to pronounce MOUSSAOUI?

Reading the newspaper, I mentally say "Moose-SOW-wee" (with "sow" pronounced like the female pig).

Those last three letters just cry out for a Francophile flourish. Not that I'm a Francophile, of course. Early in my studies of foreign languages, I had an important realization—wait a minute—why am I struggling to learn how to talk to people in foreign languages? I don't even like talking to people in my own language!

Pronunciation has taken a back seat to comprehension, ever since.

But is my pronunciation correct?

Posted by tplambeck at 11:27 PM

May 02, 2006

Gauchos, Banana Slugs, Tritons


Posted by tplambeck at 10:00 PM

The fallen marker

I've been reading this book about the fall of Berlin in 1945. I used to be able to read WWI and WWII books the way Gloria reads mysteries, just gliding through them for entertainment. But in the last few years I've found I can't just float over the carnage in the same way, blithely extracting additional trivial information to add to my WWII knowledge—[ "ah—so that was the location of Laval in February 1945!" or, "Interesting, the Soviets didn't know about the SS tattoos!"— ] instead, I'm finding the books upset me a bit. I find myself brooding about Soviet casualties on the Seelow front, or children starving in central Berlin, instead. Not so much fun when all you're doing is driving the kids to the next sports practice.

So when I saw this shattered pen in a Menlo Park parking lot this morning, I immediately thought "Yes, you thought you were a permanent marker...and now, we see what has become of that—Sharpie no more!"


Posted by tplambeck at 07:55 PM

Uncooperative flags

The wind was blowing hard as I waited to pick up Cole from his orchestra rehearsal. I noticed this flagpole and thought it would be easy to take a photo with both flags reasonably well extended and the CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC words clearly visible on the state flag.

Instead, I found myself taking thirty (maybe closer to forty) photos before I got this one (and it's still not that great):


Here's a typical failure photo. If you look at it closely, you might think that it depicts the California State Anteater—and it's walking the other direction!


Posted by tplambeck at 07:02 PM

May 01, 2006

It's such a bummer when robots choose the links

From an article in today's NYT, "Black Holes Collide, and Gravity Quivers," by Kenneth Chang, with the original link (presumably automagically inserted by a robot—click it!) in the article preserved:

Einstein's theory of general relativity changed the idea of gravity from a simple force dragging apples from a tree to a puzzle of geometry. Imagine a rubber sheet pulled taut horizontally and then tossing a bowling ball and a tennis ball onto it. The heavier bowling ball sinks deeper, and the tennis ball will move toward the bowling ball not because of a direct attraction between the two, but because the tennis ball rolls into the depression around the bowling ball.
Posted by tplambeck at 07:02 PM

Bill Gosper's quincunx Sudoku


Bruce says—"cool! the center is doable... the corners are harder."

[(Latin, "five-twelfths"): An arrangement of five objects in a square or rectangle, with one at each corner and one in the middle, like the five spots on dice. Prunts and other motifs are sometimes arranged in a quincunx pattern ]

Posted by tplambeck at 02:02 PM

Martial May Marching Music

Like the unfolding agapanthus, the Jordan Middle School marching band reappears on our street yearly. They're practicing for the May Fete Parade.


Added later: The band two years ago (with video).

* * *
I set off the anti-theft alarm everytime I go into (or out of) a Walgreen's drugstore. I suspected my cellphone, or perhaps my car keys. But on two trips on Sunday with Cole, I sent him in first ahead of me, first holding only my keys, and next holding only my cellphone. He passed through silently both times. And then I set off the alarm when I went in. Must be something in my wallet?

Posted by tplambeck at 01:49 PM

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