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November 30, 2006

Snakebite, by Arthur Bradford

I enjoyed a seemingly unassuming short story by Arthur Bradford in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern #21 quite a bit, giggling through the whole thing, without quite being able to realize why (I still don't know why). Here's the start of it:

We were riding in a car together, Clifford, his wife Jolene, and I. Clifford was at the wheel and Jolene sat next to him, up front. I was in the back. We were running late, on our way to the wedding of a friend named Margaret out in the hills of Virginia. According to Jolene, I was underdressed. I had neglected to bring a tie, and, instead of shoes, I was wearing a pair of sneakers.
"You look like a jackass," said Jolene.
"It's a country wedding," I said. "This is appropriate."

Somehow that first exchange, "You look like a jackass"—"This is appropriate" caused me to giggle audibly. Then everything else Jolene says, for the rest of story—again—more giggling.

The whole story is like that—lots of giggling. But it's not really funny, somehow. Or is it? I don't know.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:40 AM

November 28, 2006

Crow and persimmons

Crow in persimmon tree

Somehow this stark image of a crow amongst persimmons (I photoshopped it from a photo I took as I was walking the dog around the block this morning) made me wonder—was it was some kind of symbol or omen?

So I Googled 'crow persimmon symbolism' and found that there is a Chinese pun

鸦柿 ya1 shi4 'crow and persimmons' and

雅士 ya3 shi4 'men of refined taste'

Crow and persimmon

Posted by tplambeck at 03:36 PM

Persimmon tree, Webster St, Palo Alto

Persimmon tree

Posted by tplambeck at 02:18 PM

November 26, 2006

Unhashing the Charades

I found this grid at the end of a book titled A Century of Charades, by William Bellamy. [The Riverside Press (1894), p106]:


This key is not intended to divulge the answers, but to verify the correctness of a guess. Substitute for each letter of a supposed answer the figure standing over it in the table. If the number thus formed is one given in the key, your answer is correct.

* * *
On the pages following the grid (p107-108) of this online PDF version, [2.7M] you'll find the key codes. It's fun to solve these directly without reading the puzzle charades that make up the previous 105 pages of the book. I'll just type in the first 10 of these, and you can check out the other 90 in the PDF (link above).

#1 — 3 3 1 3 1 4 5
#2 — 3 3 3 5 3 5
#3 — 1 1 3 3 3 1 4 5
#4 — 5 2 5 2 1 4 5
#5 — 4 4 1 1 4 5 3 5
#6 — 4 1 4 5 4 2 1 3 5
#7 — 1 1 3 3 5 3
#8 — 5 1 3 5 1 3
#9 — 3 1 3 2 2 5 3
#10 — 3 5 1 3 5 4

Added later: I've made it easier to get the rest of these addictive (OK, maybe addictive only to me) puzzles. Here are the first and second key pages.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:23 PM


Originally uploaded by thane.
This Cassini spacecraft view of Pan in the Encke gap shows hints of detail on the moon's dark side, which is lit by saturnshine -- sunlight reflected off Saturn.

Pan (26 kilometers, or 16 miles across) cruises the Encke gap (325 kilometers, or 200 miles wide) with several faint ringlets.

This view looks toward the lit side of the rings from about 52 degrees below the ringplane. The sunlit portion of Pan is partly overexposed.

The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Oct. 27, 2006 at a distance of approximately 385,000 kilometers (239,000 miles) from Pan and at a Sun-Pan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 86 degrees. Image scale is 2 kilometers (1 mile) per pixel.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo. For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . The Cassini imaging team homepage is at http://ciclops.org .

Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Posted by tplambeck at 05:15 PM

November 22, 2006


I've been rereading 1984 and some literary criticism of it I've collected over the last twenty years. What a great book.

I thought I'd try to make a Big Brother poster. Not too bad, I think:


The black-mustachio'd face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said...

"Does Big Brother exist?"

"Of course he exists. The party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the party."

"Does he exist in the same way I exist?"

"You do not exist," said O'Brien ...

"I think I exist," he said wearily. "I am conscious of my own identity. I was born and I shall die. I have arms and legs. I occupy a particular point in space. No other solid object can occupy the same point simultaneously. In that sense, does Big Brother exist?"

"It is of no importance. He exists."

"Will Big Brother ever die?"

"Of course not. How could he die? Next question."

Posted by tplambeck at 12:19 PM

In the Mercury News

The man deported for lying about academic status apparently


raising the question, is there such a thing as a Nobel candidate? I thought everything was done in secret—there's no "Long List" for the Nobel prize, right?

He also claimed in his visa application that he had been nominated for a Nobel Prize for "outstanding research in applied economics, quantum physics and mathematical sciences," and had earned doctorates in "quantum economics" and "econo-physics" from the "University of Berkley."

I'm reminded me of another (I'll admit, not quite related) question, recently resolved to my satisfaction—how is the "Berkeley" in the old song "A Nightingale sang in Berkeley square" supposed to be pronounced? Is it BARKLEY? Apparently yes—I heard an old Bobby Darin recording on the Sirius radio just yesterday.

There's a certain category of old standard that is mostly boring and dumb as a written, but only comes to life when a performer takes it and morphs it into something better. "When the Saints Come Marching In" is a good example, and "A nightingale sang in Berkeley square" is an even better one. I can't even think of the melody of that song, except the "in Berkeley square" part, right at the end.

The man who lied about his academic status was just improvising, in my opinion. I wish him well back in Pakistan.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:32 AM

November 21, 2006

Clifford Brown on a Soupy Sales TV show

Jazz trumpet genius killed at age 25.

Quoth the wikipedia:

In June, 1956, Brown and Powell were being driven from Philadelphia to Chicago by Powell's wife Nancy, for the band's next appearance. While driving at night on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a few miles west of Bedford, she lost control of the car on a wet stretch of the road, and all three were killed.

In my mind, I'd always pictured him as a tall man. But he seems to be short compared to Soupy Sales.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:39 AM

November 20, 2006

Test of the LibraryThing javascript

Posted by tplambeck at 10:50 PM

The deceptive Colonel Mustard

From this interesting paper by Tom Jagatic (et al) on fine-tuning phishing attacks to use information collected from social networks:

The figure [ a 72% success rate in a social-network-based phishing attack ] is, however, consistent with a study conducted among cadets of the West Point Military Academy. Among 400 cadets, 80% were deceived into following an embedded link regarding their grade report from a fictitious colonel.

Somehow, I'd really like to know the name chosen by the West Point researchers for their fictitious colonel. Maybe it's because I've always wanted to be a fictitious colonel myself?


I don't know.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:02 PM

November 18, 2006

Notes on the Saturday NYT crossword

Interviewer in some mock interviews (8)

It seems to fit!

added a few minutes later

In a moment of irrational exuberance, I scribbed in INCHONNORTHKOREA as the answer for

Earthquake Park setting (15)

Hey—what else could it be? I had _NCHO as the first five letters. Yes, there is the little matter that my answer was one letter too long, but that didn't stop me, I just collapsed the two middle N's to one. I had to reink to ANCHORAGEALASKA.

Able to draw (11) FASCINATING doesn't quite work for me, and

Captain's charge (8) JETPLANE caused some grief, too.

Goal-oriented activity (6) SOCCER

Kudos to Victor Fleming!

Posted by tplambeck at 09:47 PM

Kearney High School wins state football championship

Back in Nebraska last night, my old high school won the state Class A football championship for the first time since World War II. They beat Omaha Westside 41-21.

They played the game in Memorial Stadium, in Lincoln:


Not quite a sell-out, but it must have been fun.

kearney football 2

Did they dye their hair gold?

[Photo credit: Kearney Hub]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:42 AM

The War on THE BOOKS

I've decided all the books in my office are going to get kicked out and stored in various boxes at distant, somewhat inaccessible locations. I'm going to try "managing" them using the library thing. Each book is going to have to earn the right to come back into my office. I'm going to have to go get it.


1) Too many books—already they're scattered between my office, the house, the attic in the house, the San Francisco loft, and the Yosemite place, and I don't really know what I've got any more.

2) I really want a clean office, and it's only by kicking out all the books that I think I can achieve that.

[Aside: There's the little matter of notes, files, and papers. What to do with them? ]

3) I've always wanted to see a proper organization of the books in a "card catalog" format.

4) I've got to get this stuff out of my office anyway, if I want to have it repainted.

Anyway, I've already started throwing books into boxes, and archiving their identities in my LibraryThing account. It's a modest start, not even 100 books so far, but I'm going to press on.

Progress is slow, for all the usual reasons. There's hardly any book that I can pick up and say, "well, well, this is not an interesting book...I'll just put it down." No, no. Instead each and every book I own carries the implicit threat to seduce me for 1/2 hour or more, maybe even a full day. This is why I got the damn things in the first place, but it's also why they need to go.

Driving Lenny to physics class, he told me, "If it weren't for my wife, I suspect I might live in absolute squalor." I said I thought I was doing a good job in my office, already. He said he's sure his office is worse than mine. Maybe. I told him my plan to consign all books to boxes but he said, "But I like having lots of books around." "It's getting ridiculous for me, though," I said, "I can't even move...". And he's not going into his office, anyway, he said, he's writing more books...

A typical problem case, and next in the stack for my consideration: a 1983 book called On Nineteen Eighty-four, part of the (perhaps now defunct) "Portable Stanford" series, ISBN 0-91638-10-8, but unknown both to Amazon and the LOC (Library of Congress) LibraryThing interfaces. Just chuck it? No, no, no. Let's just open it, and darn it if I don't see an interesting looking essay by Elizabeth Closs Traugott, Newspeak: Could it really work?, with Orwell lead-in quotation:

It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.

Ha! Orwell had no idea.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:39 AM

November 17, 2006

Oil Trough, AR


Posted by tplambeck at 11:59 PM

Ack—maybe it's not a great idea to move all my books into boxes and keep track of them in LibraryThing

Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_VARIABLE in /home/tspalding/live.librarything.com/data/inc_magicDB.php on line 325
Posted by tplambeck at 01:13 PM

13 Nov 2006 Nation cryptic

1 Across: He is in the process of getting a leg rub—which is enough for a painter! [8]

Not a tough one...but how to spell BRUEGHEL? BREUGEHL? BRUGHEUL? WTF?


Recalling paintings didn't help. Neither did missing the fact that it was HE + LEG + RUB.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:09 AM

November 16, 2006

Today's SF Chronicle front page headlines

You couldn't make this stuff up and convince anyone it was real...





Not to mention...


...but since I'd already heard about that one, it didnt strike me as surprising.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:56 PM

Secrets of the Alchemist Dar

Secrets of the Alchemist Dar
Originally uploaded by thane.
Cole takes notes on the Secrets of the Alchemist Dar.

Thanks to David for sending the book!

[ Previously blogged: David's story about finding a ~$45,000 prize in South Dakota after solving a puzzle in the first Treasure Trove book. ]
Posted by tplambeck at 11:20 AM

November 12, 2006

The sporting life

Fri 6:30am: Animals basketball game, (Team Fitness, Burgess Gym, Menlo Park), Thane

Fri 4:00pm: Fall baseball practice, Owen

Fri 5:30pm: Gymnastics practice, Cole

Fri 7:00pm: Stanford vs USC women's volleyball, Gloria & Cole

Fri 7:00pm: NJB boys basketball practice, Thane (coach) & Owen

Sat 11:00am: NJB boys basketball practice, Thane & Owen

Sat 1:00pm: Stanford vs Siena (Men's basketball. Everyone goes.)

Sat 4:00pm: Stanford vs Washington football, @Washington (Gloria listens to it on radio in between the Siena men's basketball game and the UCLA women's volleyball game).

Sat 7:00pm: Stanford vs UCLA women's volleyball (Everyone goes.)

Sun 12:00pm: Fall baseball game, Newts vs Burlingame (Owen)

Sun 4:00pm: CYSA soccer game, Union Football Club vs Menlo Park (Owen)

[Did I forget anything?]

Posted by tplambeck at 09:23 PM

November 10, 2006

Great Entrepreneurs

A slide from Wade's talk (the only one I took a photo of, but that's just a coincidence):


Posted by tplambeck at 11:19 PM

November 09, 2006


Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins each have a Presidential Medal of Freedom, but Buzz Aldrin doesn't?

And—when will Rumsfeld get his? [ so to speak ]

* * *
Added later:
OK, that Wikipedia page is just wrong I think. Buzz has one after all

Posted by tplambeck at 05:05 PM

November 08, 2006

Wednesday NYT crossword reinking

Something in the air (5)

I had

_ _ _ O R

written in already. I completed it to RUMOR. What else could it be?

Well—it turned out to be VAPOR, and I had to scribble over it.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:53 PM

Our house termite-tented


Posted by tplambeck at 04:37 PM

Termite Fumigator Truck

Termite Fumigator Truck
Originally uploaded by thane.
We've moved back in after the termite fumigation.
Posted by tplambeck at 03:58 PM

November 05, 2006

Stop Arnold

Originally uploaded by thane.
Gloria and I mailed our "Permanent Absentee" ballots this afternoon.

I think Arnold's not to be stopped, however.

Of Angelides (what does that last name mean? "of the Angels" or perhaps something else?) I can only think of what George Lakoff said at dinner with Aaron and Olya a few short weeks ago—"when he's not shooting himself in the foot, he's shooting himself in the head."
Posted by tplambeck at 12:01 AM

November 04, 2006

NYT Saturday crossword

Today's (Saturday) NYT puzzle was quite a bit easier than Friday's, I think.

Working from the bottom right hand corner

58 Across: Nobel Prizes, e.g. (10): GOLDMEDALS, which somehow I got immediately, with a confirming

60 Across: Geometric figures (10): ELLIPSOIDS, immediately underneath it,

I finished the right lower corner pretty quickly after

54 Across: Man on the street (10) AVERAGEJOE.

I like to solve crosswords methodically, one clue after another, filling the grid like water fills a basin. So starting at that that bottom right-hand corner, I was happy to only get

1 Across: Words accompanying a flash (10): THISJUSTIN

as the (almost) very last thing I filled in.

Nice clues:

11 Across: Dickens's pen? (4) GAOL

17 Across: "Huh?!" (10) IDONTGETIT

Somehow the careful consideration of the ?! got me the correct answer.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:40 PM

November 03, 2006

Street sidewalk near Golden Gate park, San Francisco

Street sidewalk near Golden Gate park, San Francisco
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:14 PM

November 02, 2006

Wade lecturing at USF

Wade Woodson
Originally uploaded by thane.
Joshua, John, and I went to see Wade's lecture on entrepeneurship to Terence Parr's software engineering class at USF

After that, the five of us went to Zuni Cafe for dinner.

Exercise: find the Zuni Cafe web page (not the many restaurant review or directory web sites), or show that it doesn't exist. [I couldn't find it.]
Posted by tplambeck at 09:49 PM

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