« May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 »

June 30, 2006


"Which subject do you like the best in school?"

"I like Mathematics the best."

"Why do you like Mathematics the best?"

"Because my teacher is always absent."

HA HA HA HA HA (YouTube)

Posted by tplambeck at 10:24 PM

Easy crossword with truncated clues

I took the first puzzle from this book of "Easy" crosswords and copied it, deleting the last word from each clue. If a clue had only one word, I left it unchanged; if the last word was a blank (ie, _____), then I deleted the blank.


Give it a try (PDF)

Posted by tplambeck at 02:34 PM

The Missing Painting

Originally uploaded by thane.
Dan asked for the text of The Missing Painting.

here it is (all slides on a page); or view the slideshow
Posted by tplambeck at 10:51 AM

June 29, 2006

Word puzzle

Fill in the four blanks to spell two words with the indicated meanings.

R E _ _ I T E S, meaning breaks
R E _ _ I T E S, meaning comes together again

Posted by tplambeck at 10:20 PM

Brain freeze

I had one devil of a time thinking of the right letter to complete the "droll observation" in today's (Wednesday) NYT crossword. I'd completed the whole puzzle, except for one letter of the droll observation, the second letter:


So, what letter should go in the blank? Should be simple, right? I'll be damned if I could think of it. The crossing clue was

_______ Rios, Jamaica (4)

which I had all the letters (but one) for:


It took me a good 10 minutes to realize the answer.

Yet another reason why I'll never be a strong solver.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:34 AM

June 28, 2006

Sternest Meanings

Amusing web front-end to Anagram Genius.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:44 AM

Free access to all information

From The House at Otowi Bridge: The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos, by Peggy Pond Church, University of New Mexico Press, 1959 [I have a signed first edition that I think the (now departed) Irv gave to me [AG can comment, perhaps]:

In 1950 Niels Bohr addressed an open letter to the United Nations in which he said in part
An open world where each nation can assert itself solely to the extent to which it can contribute to the common culture and is able to help others with experience and resources must be the goal to put before anything else [...] The development of technology has now reached a stage where the facilities for communication have provided the means for making all mankind a cooperating unity [...] at the same time fatal consequences to civilization may ensue unless international divergences are considered as issues to be settled by consultation based on free access to all information.

Hell, maybe I ripped it off from Irv's house. I don't think so. I'm not much of a book thief, although I am a very weak book returner. Should I die an untimely death, Joshua has said he will loudly proclaim at the estate sale "THAT BOOK, THOSE BOOKS! ALL MINE, I TELL YOU, MINE!"

Posted by tplambeck at 12:22 AM

June 27, 2006

Brain Power!

[ Owen and I went to Target to buy a Dyson vacuum. We went by the books, and grabbed this one. He started flipping through it in the back seat as I drove home. ]


[ On the drive home ]

OWEN: There are different kinds of puzzles. Oh look—a crossword. I know one. "10 Across: Spaceman." Astronaut, right?

THANE: How many letters is it?

OWEN: Nine.

THANE: OK, that sounds good. A-S-T-R-O-N-A-U-T.

OWEN: OK, the next one. Number 13. "Obstacle." Barrier?

THANE: [ Glances backward to see if he is cheating and looking at the answers. He isn't. ] How many letters?

OWEN: Six.

THANE: No, "barrier" has seven letters. But good guess. Very good. Thought of it myself, in fact.

OWEN: "17 Across. Assignment." Four letters. I wrote in WHEAT already for one that said "Flour grain."

THANE: What? You wrote in what?


THANE: For what?

OWEN: It says, Flour grain.

THANE: OK, yes, good, right-o. Let's have another one.

OWEN: "Assignment." So it starts with a T.

THANE: How many letters?

OWEN: Four.

THANE: Let's see, "TEST," maybe, but that's not quite right, let's not put anything in there yet...

OWEN: I'm going to write in TASK.

THANE: Ah—yes...


Posted by tplambeck at 10:44 PM

Stuck on Green Earth

Originally uploaded by thane.
Full text (slideshow)
Posted by tplambeck at 10:17 PM

June 26, 2006

DPRK & Arnold

1) Emailed a friend to say that I won't be able to join him on his planned trip to the DPRK. It's too easy for me to imagine us detained as spies, then held as low-value bargaining chips in a less-than-healthful Pyeongyang prison. Not that we wouldn't be treated humanely, of course. He's going for 6 days or so, in September, and I wish him the very best.

2) Hatching a plan to make a documentary film about an 8-man high school football game to be held Friday, 22 September 2006 in Arnold, Nebraska. Arnold will be playing Thedford, and my dad and his crew are the referees. Thedford is just at the southern tip of the Sand Hills [click that link—the flickr photos are cool]. Drive far enough north, and you'll get to Valentine, where my mother grew up.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:34 PM

Practicing violin

THANE: It's still scratchy. You need to use more bow. Look—you're using about 1/6 of your bow. I could change the rest of your bow to concrete—you wouldn't know it. The staccato, it's OK. But the slurs, the crescendos. You've got to use more bow. Listen to the CD, it doesn't sound like that.

COLE: It's not easy!

THANE: [Sincerely] I know. What were the four things Denise said?

COLE: Vibrato, bow speed, crescendo/decrescendo, and flexing.

THANE: You're doing vibrato, and the flexing.

COLE: Yes.

THANE: But you're supposed to do all four!


[tries it again]


Posted by tplambeck at 12:16 AM

At the pool

THANE: You're swimming OK. Do you want to go to the deep end? You're not clinging to me like a barnacle—and besides, you can't touch the bottom here, anyway, right? Let's go to the deep end.

OWEN: Not today. Maybe tomorrow. Can we swim after the tennis lessons?

THANE: Maybe. Why not now? We could do it now.

OWEN: I don't have the courage.

THANE: Well, I could go with you.

OWEN: OK, let's go.

THANE: Oh—here comes Cole, and now it's Adult Swim. So we can do it tomorrow.

OWEN: OK—Let's do it tomorrow.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:03 AM

June 25, 2006



Time to add another McSweeney's subscription.

The world turns about 849 Valencia St.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:44 PM

30 St Mary Axe

Originally uploaded by thane.
30 St Mary Axe, London
Posted by tplambeck at 11:16 PM

El rey de la magia

Magic Shop
Originally uploaded by jovike.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:07 PM

June 24, 2006


Originally uploaded by thane.
Spent the day staring at screens full of pretending functions.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:41 AM

Oddi Printing

In Iceland.
[ They printed the Conjuring Arts publication "on Munken Pure Paper." ]

Posted by tplambeck at 01:16 AM

Conjuring Arts Research Center

Delicious mail today from the Conjuring Arts Research Center


And within?


The Table of Contents, you ask?

The Yawning Mouth (Volker Huber)

On the Prearrangement and Mnemonic Use of a Deck of Cards (Vanni Bossi)

Sharpers and their Tricks in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Times (Robert Juette)

Davenport Brothers & Fay (Ricky Jay)


Admit it—you're so jealous.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:50 AM

June 23, 2006

"We call it life"

Joshua points out videos produced by the Competitive Enterprise Institute that are meant to answer the (surprisingly excellent and informative) Al Gore politico-documentary (and world's most fantabulous Powerpoint presentation) An Inconvenient Truth. [ I attended a late night showing of Gore's movie on Tuesday at the Palo Alto Square, and people loudly applauded at the end of it. ]

Click on the video called "Energy" at the CEI site, and enjoy its punchline:

"Carbon Dioxide: they call it a pollutant—we call it life."

I like the dark, Marshall Josip Broz Tito totalitarian music that comes in at the end of the CEI video. It made me think of Gulags, show-trials, and summary executions. How dare they, those politicians—carbon dioxide is meant to save us from all that bad stuff! Arbeit macht frei!

As highbrow reading on Global Warming, I like the ICESat project, which is closely monitoring land-based ice in Antarctica and Greenland. Is that ice going to melt like the ice shelfs and glaciers and raise sea levels 20 feet (or more)?


In the Gore movie, he suffers the indignities of security checks as he bears his cross, the schlepping of his luggage and hi-fi powerpoint through airports ("I've given this presentation in thousands of places," he says). But he comes off quite well in the movie, and the scientific parts of it were well done and well illustrated. I liked the "last 640,000 years of CO2 and temperature" graph, which Gore says "Very few outside of the scientific community have ever seen." (I saw it in Nature magazine, and tore out the page for future reference, but I don't consider myself part of the scientific community, just a scientific sympathizer. When it comes to shooting the scientists, I want to be able to say, "Hey, not me!").

Posted by tplambeck at 12:03 PM

June 21, 2006

More secret decoder ring

Bruce's photos of the Secret Decoder Ring looked strangely familiar

I blogged it myself, already

Posted by tplambeck at 11:31 PM


From an article in today's NYT, "Mayor of Scandal-Weary Bridgeport Admits That He Used Cocaine," by Alison Leigh Cowan:

Dr. Berkowitz said he helped get the mayor into an outpatient treatment program and believed Mr Fabrizi was doing well. He also said he understood that the mayor had been taking Antabuse, a medication that makes a person sick if alcohol is imbibed.

I had no idea such drugs existed. I guess we have Professor Calculus to thank.

Tintin and the Picaros

From a web page at mentalhealth.com, I found this delightful description:

Disulfiram [ie, Antabuse] plus even small amounts of alcohol produces flushing, throbbing in head and neck, throbbing headache, respiratory difficulty, nausea, copious vomiting, sweating, thirst, chest pain, palpitation, dyspnea, hyperventilation, tachycardia, hypotension, syncope, marked uneasiness, weakness, vertigo, blurred vision, and confusion. In severe reactions, there may be respiratory depression, cardiovascular collapse, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, acute congestive heart failure, unconsciousness, convulsions, and death.

Where's the fun in that?

Posted by tplambeck at 10:58 PM

June 20, 2006

3D photos from the Gathering for Gardner

Photoset (Bruce Oberg)

Posted by tplambeck at 09:51 AM

Secret Decoder Ring

Bruce took some cool photos of the Secret Decoder Rings he gave to us Team Purple members.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:37 AM

June 19, 2006

Frederick Busch

In working my way through some old puzzles in Harper's magazine, I found an article in the Nov 2005 issue by Frederick Busch—"Don't Watch the News: A Marine Family Lives from Phone Call to Phone Call". [NPR audio]

So I Googled him, cautiously wondering whether his son had been blown up by an improvised explosive device and found that he (Frederick, the father) died, instead.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:42 PM

Once more, Median Croquet

Originally uploaded by thane.
I'm sorry I didn't introduce myself to these guys, the island croquet players. They were very intent on their game though, and didn't notice me at all as I took these photos. Also, I would have had to brave the traffic to reach the field of play. Oregon Expressway is a busy road.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:49 PM

Median Croquet

Originally uploaded by thane.
Intersection of Oregon Expressway and Webster, Palo Alto
Posted by tplambeck at 05:58 PM

Packet problem

In cleaning my office to archaeological depths this morning I turned up these packets, which I'd saved:


Question: "Which one is the sugar?"

Answer: "It has the green dot."

Everything reminds me of Wittgenstein nowadays. Not a healthy thing, surely.

For example

* * *

524. Don't take it as a matter of course, but as a remarkable fact, that pictures and fictitious narratives give us pleasure, occupy our minds. ("Don't take it as a matter of course" means: find it surprising, as you do some things that disturb you. Then the puzzling aspect of the latter will disappear, by your accepting this fact as you do the other.)
((The transition from patent nonsense to something which is disguised nonsense.))


526. What does it mean to understand a picture, a drawing? Here too there is understanding and failure to understand. And here too these expressions may mean various kinds of things. A picture is perhaps a still-life; but I don't understand one part of it: I cannot see solid objects there, but only patches of color on the canvas.—Or I see everything as solid but there are objects that I am not acquainted with (they look like implements, but I don't know their use.)—Perhaps, however, I am acquainted with the objects, but in another sense I do not understand the way they are arranged.

* * *
[ From Philosophical Investigations ]

Posted by tplambeck at 04:28 PM

WILLz on the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle tournament

From "The Enigma," May 2006 [ puzzlers.org ]

The final crossword, by Manx, had some unusually devious clues, including the memorable "Count of Monte Cristo" for UNO DUE TRE. The funniest wrong answer resulted from the clue "Hides in the closet." Intended answer: FUR COAT. Working off the O and T, Kray momentarily filled in: ISNT OUT.

[ crosswordtournament.com ]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:02 AM

From the description of a recent high school scholarship winner

Her AP language teacher wrote that "her ability to produce an artistic backdrop for a book review and her flair for expression stood out head and shoulders above other students." [She] has been active in the InterAct club and the Club for Invisible Children and sings in an a capella group [...] Her GPA is 4.27 and she received a 5 on the English literature test.

The Club for Invisible Children? I'm fascinated. But Google doesn't know anything about it.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:29 AM

June 18, 2006

Spoonerism Shiloh Pitt

google search

It's a great day for the word "Spoonerism."

Posted by tplambeck at 10:23 PM

Full text of Victory

owen-2nd-grade-books 001
Originally uploaded by thane.
Dan asked for Victory.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:45 PM

June 17, 2006

Clues I couldn't solve, 5 Jun 2006 Nation cryptic

This blooming thing goes on and on (10). I had filled in the letters

I_M_R_E_ _E

Answer: IMMORTELLE. Never heard of it. I'm weak on flowers.

Movements headed by Mr Reagan, with the grass pulled up—and give short notice to a soldier who has nothing (6)

RONDOS, which is OK if you drop the part after the dash. I think it was a typo to include it.

* * *
I was proud to get the following one, almost immediately

Short-long, again and again and again and again! (6,10)


Posted by tplambeck at 09:12 AM

A word I learned at YouTube


Posted by tplambeck at 09:04 AM

June 16, 2006

Plambeck Rock Lighthouse

AG asked for the text of Plambeck Rock Lighthouse, so here is the manuscript.

If you don't want to look at the original, here's the complete text (it's the shortest of the stories, by far):

* * *

Plambeck Rock Lighthouse

Plambeck Rock Lighthouse is red with black stripes. Plambeck Rock Lighthouse is located in Hawaii. It is 50 meters high and has a light green light. A man and a monkey live there. It was built in 2005.

One day there was a huge storm and the monkey had to save a whole ship by boat. He was honored at the White House.

* * *
And yes, I agree—it does have a startling resemblance to the Great Pyramid at Kearney. And weirdly, that story mentions the President of the United States in passing (then Bush The First).

I guess all paths lead to the monkey in the White House.

I need to photograph Victory next.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:01 PM

June 15, 2006

Book covers

Today was the last day of school, so at last Owen brought home the results of the coolest project they do in 2nd grade—every student writes, illustrates, and binds their own books.

I had a glimpse of this oeuvre at the parent-teacher conference, but they're not allowed to bring any of it home until the end of the year. After months of waiting, I've now had the chance to sit down and savor these first editions:

owen-2nd-grade-books 009
We Lost Pearl!

owen-2nd-grade-books 008
Vampire Attack

owen-2nd-grade-books 007
The Penguin's Adventure

owen-2nd-grade-books 006

owen-2nd-grade-books 005
The Missing Painting

owen-2nd-grade-books 004
Stuck on Green Earth

owen-2nd-grade-books 003
Plambeck Rock Lighthouse

owen-2nd-grade-books 002
Foot ball game

owen-2nd-grade-books 001
Space Story

Posted by tplambeck at 10:06 PM

Sentences extracted from a brochure from "The Teaching Company"

"the finest achievements in human endeavor, thought, and expression—yours for the sheer joy of learning."

"transform time spent listening to mindless drivetime radio or watching often less-than-prime-time television into extraordinary moments."

"the perfect anytime, anywhere intellectual indulgence."

"fulfill your intellectual desires."

"why should you care about these landmark theories? because relativity and quantum physics are not only profound in their own right, they are also the gateway to understanding many of the latest science stories in the media."

"establish a firm foundation—based on a real and deep understanding of the basic concepts."

"this broad and panoramic series will help you pull an enormous sweep of history together into one coherent—although by no means closed—framework."

"the quality of the lectures is so great as to defy description."

"far from being bad for civic harmony, says Professor Zarefsky, a healthy culture of argumentation is something we should celebrate in an uncertain world where we must strive to make the best decisions we can despite imperfect knowledge. "

[whew, I almost lost the thread typing that one in, but the runner came back to home in the end after all]

Posted by tplambeck at 08:29 PM

Football seats

Stanford is hurriedly building a new football stadium that needs to be ready for play 93 days from now. The athletic department offered pretty inexpensive tickets to families to make sure it fills up. We ordered season tickets for four people. Here's the "virtual view" from our future seats


They're in the end zone and pretty low down, but it looks like the grass is green. I think it's going to be a grass field, not artificial turf. It looks like grass, at least.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:32 PM

Shaquille O'Neal's shoe

Multimedia message
Originally uploaded by thane.
COLE: That's a joke, right? There's no way his foot is that big.

THANE: No, I'll bet it's real. Look at my shoe, it's maybe half the size, at least. He's a huge guy.

COLE: Do they make shoes that big?

THANE: Uh, well there's one right there.

COLE: I mean, can you go into a shoe store and say, "I want a pair of shoes this big?"

THANE: You could do that, but I doubt they would have any shoes that big. It's probably a special order.
Posted by tplambeck at 10:25 AM

June 13, 2006

Map of residential burglaries, theft from auto, and auto burglaries [PAPD]

I guess "auto burglary" means stealing a car? This map covers Jan 2006 to June 2006, but now they need to add a dot on our street:


Posted by tplambeck at 11:32 PM

Burglary chez Tasso St

Our friend's house down the street was burglarized this morning, probably about 10 or 11am (paweekly article on the crime wave). Strangely, I had memorized the license number of a car on the street that morning, for a reason I cannot remember, for the life of me. "Something drew my attention," was all I could tell the (frustrated) police officer. The license plate turned out to be the car of the nanny who works at the house next door. I probably saw someone unfamilar—not the nanny—and then memorized the next unfamiliar license plate I saw, promptly assigning it a mnemonic "Fire Jesus Christ" (5JCR...something). I could easily remember the license plate 7 hours later, but why did I memorize it?—forget it! I guess I'm no Sherlock Holmes.

There were magazine subscription solicitors on the street this morning, although they didn't come to our house.

I need to put out a "Beware of Dog" sign. Pearl will be so proud.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:09 PM

June 12, 2006

The King of Shred and Patches

More Brewer

* * *

In the old mysteries, Vice used to be dressed as a mimic king in a parti-coloured suit. (Shakespeare, Hamlet iii. 4). The phrase is metaphorically applied to certain literary operatives who compile books for publishers, but supply no originality in thought or matter.


[ Gotta like that phrase, "certain literary operatives." ]

Posted by tplambeck at 11:57 PM

Two faces

To face it out: To persist in an assertion which is not true. To maintain without changing colour or hanging the head.

A rebec face: (French, visage de rebec). An ugly or grotesque face, like that which used to be cut on the upper part of a rebec or three-stringed fiddle.

Dead is the noble Badebec // Who had a face like a rebec [Rabelais, Pantagruel]

* * *
From the eminently browsable Brewer Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:51 PM

Guess the suggested alternative

From The Associated Press Stylebook

hillbilly Usually a derogatory term for an Appalachian backwoods or mountain person. Avoid unless in direct quotes or special context. ___________ is a suggested alternative.

Try to think of the word that goes in the blank.

Stumped? Click here for the answer.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:33 PM

Bungalow-Style Substations

In 1987, Canadian photographer Robin Collyer began documenting houses that aren't houses at all—they're architecturally-disguised electrical substations, complete with windows, blinds, and bourgeois landscaping.

Cool photos at this link [BLDGBLOG]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:24 PM

June 10, 2006

Rockslide on highway 140

Yosemite National Park
Originally uploaded by YAHQQLIGAN.
There's a big rock slide blocking one of the main roads into Yosemite. I went to flickr.com to see if there were any good photos of it (it's 600ft long, 600 ft wide, and 300 ft deep). I didn't find one, but I did find this photo of a perhaps similar slide in 1982. Click the photo to get an idea of the scale of the boulders (there are little cars on the far left side).
Posted by tplambeck at 09:44 AM

June 09, 2006


Originally uploaded by thane.
She's relaxing after getting in trouble for eating the money.
Posted by tplambeck at 08:17 AM

June 07, 2006

Taste of Money

Originally uploaded by thane.
Pearl the dog has been misbehaving and trying to get at food on our kitchen countertops. This morning she couldn't find anything. She ate most of $20 instead (Canadian).
Posted by tplambeck at 01:54 PM

June 06, 2006

email problems

If you've tried to send email to me at thane@best.com, you're probably getting bounces. I'm not sure what is going on yet.

Another address (it works): tplambeck@gmail.com

Posted by tplambeck at 08:44 PM

June 02, 2006

Calgary customs interview

CUSTOMS GUY: What's the purpose of your visit?

THANE: It's a math meeting.

CUSTOMS GUY: Where is it?

THANE: I think it's at the hotel I'm staying at.

CUSTOMS GUY: (Inspects declaration card) Math. I'm going to change this checkbox from "Pleasure," to "Business." Unless you do this for fun.

THANE: Yes, that's why I checked "Pleasure." I do it for fun.

CUSTOMS GUY: Likely story. OK, you can go.

Posted by tplambeck at 04:58 PM

June 01, 2006

Other people's maps

I made this map of a 8.1+ mile run around the periphery of Stanford (gmap-pedometer.com). It starts and ends at our house in Palo Alto.
It's not such a great course—too many cars & busy intersections.

It's fun to try changing the number after the "r=" in that URL. You'll turn up some other random person's gmap pedometer map. Quite a few of the ones I tried landed me in England.

For example, http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=210899 looks like someone's improvised marathon course (it's just over 26 miles long—zoom it out) that starts in Hartford, CT, and goes southish toward New Haven.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:56 PM

« May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 »