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March 31, 2007

Two from Owen

At the airport bagel store:

STORE PERSON: You want a schmear, or a lox schmear?
OWEN: A what?
SP: A schmear.
OWEN: No, no schmear. I just want a bagel with cream cheese!

* * *
In DC:

OWEN: Who's that in the photo?
THANE: President Clinton. Hillary is the one on the stage.
OWEN: Who is she?
THANE: She's running for President!
OWEN: Hilary Duff is running for President?

Posted by tplambeck at 07:03 PM

March 30, 2007


The arXiv just got a facelift.

for example

Posted by tplambeck at 10:42 PM

Hear Dutch Here

"heten heetten laden laadden" (MP3 audio, but wow—I can't hear a difference at all).

Hear Dutch Here

Posted by tplambeck at 03:51 PM

Clapper rails on parade

Owen's cameo comes right at the beginning, so look sharp.

still photo

Posted by tplambeck at 12:24 PM

An innovation that came too late for me

The Cube Door.

Rethinking office interiors—a worthy goal...

These products were designed for office professionals that value their time and wish to maximize their contribution to the company


Posted by tplambeck at 12:26 AM

March 28, 2007


Originally uploaded by thane.
Pattern on one of Gloria's T-shirts
Posted by tplambeck at 11:32 PM

March 27, 2007


Originally uploaded by O6scura.
The aftermath of a riot in Dublin (Feb 2007, I think). I don't know what the riot was about, but I wondered about that incredibly pointy monument in the background.

It's something called the Spire of Dublin
Posted by tplambeck at 03:29 PM

Tax preparation: honoring None Noted

Looking over our charitable contributions, I found a letter to Gloria from the National Foundation for Cancer Research:

Thank you for your kind gift of $100.00 in honor of None Noted. If requested, a commemorative card has been sent in your name...

This raised the question of whether there is anyone whose last name is NOTED. It's difficult to bring Google to bear on a question like this since even if you guess the first name of a Mr. or Ms. Noted, Google coughs up lots of sentences such as

"Michael noted that..." or "Amy noted this..." etc.

Searching California telephone directories on the last name Noted, I found none.

I mean, I didn't find None Noted.

You know what I mean.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:33 AM

March 26, 2007

Using Google

Me: define:exiguous

Google: Did you mean: define:ambiguous?


Posted by tplambeck at 11:02 PM

March 25, 2007

Lessons learned

1) I can't just wing it on the Suzuki violin vol 4 piano accompaniments. No—must actually practice. And I hardly have the discipline for that. Upside—piano has its solo parts too. But that's no upside if I can't play them.

2) How to turn off the insistently overyacking GPS navigator in the Audi after I've reached my "destination" and it insists on redirecting me back to it, again and again? Step one—press "NAV". (That's right—to initiate turning it off, select it—it's not relevant that I'm already f**king around with the NAV screens (!)). Then select "Stop route guidance." Done. Why was this so hard?

3) Mysterious cell phone behavior? Turn the phone off. Then turn it on. Problem solved. Why was this so hard?

4) Another kid, to Owen, as they both awaited their violin assessments: "You're not nervous?" Owen: "No." Kid's parent: "Wow, I can't believe that." Me: "Yes, I don't get it either. My older son, he's the same way. I hated taking tests, giving recitals. My kids, it's like they're from some other planet or something." Other kid: "Right, anything with the word 'test' in it, and I'm sick to my stomach." Me, to other parent: "Sometimes, I wonder, why am I nervous, when my kid isn't? Seems kind of stupid." Other parent: "It must be genetic or something. Is your wife some kind of supercalm person?" Me: "No." [added later: Gloria: "Yes."] Owen, on coming out of his assessment: "That was fun." Me: "So, you did everything perfectly, or what?" Owen: "It was OK. I messed up on one arpeggio, the A major subdominant. But fun." Me: "OK."

Before a violin recital

What is the lesson here?

Posted by tplambeck at 11:51 PM

March 24, 2007

Meet the NEOs

I've been browsing a NASA report given to Congress this month titled Near Earth Object Survey and Deflection Analysis of Alternatives.

The report lists the pros and cons of various ways stopping gigantic rocks from falling from the sky and either ending life "as we know it" (how *do* we know it, anyway, I've always wondered?), or if not that, causing so much damage as to render moot this (and every other) question that might come to mind.

I've had a bit of difficulty, conceptually, with the term NEAR EARTH OBJECT, since it suggests something that's always lurking in our Earthly neighborhood, maybe hiding behind the moon, or tracking our planet like a malevolent highwayman, hiding in the Earth's penumbra. Surely these NEOs just swing by occasionally in the elliptical fashion, and are only truly deserving the NEO name when they've got a chance to hit the bulleye? That's got to be the case, right?

Or maybe some of these giant rocks are even in orbit around the Earth? Or whipping around the moon in an unstable, numerically threatening orbit?

This report seems to say no, the rocks of interest are on orbits that correspond roughly to what I'd imagined. This diagram helped clear up the situation for me:

Near Earth Asteroid Orbit Types

So there you have it, four possible horsemen of the apocalypse: Apollo, Aten, Amor, and Apohele.

I'm not surprised to find these devils all have names that start with "A".

Posted by tplambeck at 09:17 PM

March 23, 2007

Tennis fans, Miami, Florida

Tennis fans, Miami, Florida
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:29 PM

The Frog and the Fox

A story by Owen (3rd grader)

The Frog and the Fox

* * *
Once there was a frog who liked to trick animals. One day a fox was walking along the river when he saw [the] frog. Frog said, "Fox, why don't you come and visit me on the water?" He was [on] his lily pad. The Fox said, "How am I supposed to visit you on the water?" The frog said coolly "why don't you walk on some lily pads?" So the fox jumped and fell and drowned and the current dragged the frog under and he drowned [too].

MORAL: Never trick somebody. It might backfire on you.

* * *

Posted by tplambeck at 04:16 PM

Mathematical name of the day: Fokko du Cloux

From a page ostensibly explaining what the E8 computation is all about (I'm still confused and unworthy):

Making this into explicit algorithms was a major achievement of Fokko du Cloux.

[via graham]

Posted by tplambeck at 02:18 PM

Donald Byrd: A New Perspective


Recorded 12 January 1963


Posted by tplambeck at 01:27 PM

March 22, 2007

Cole's Starbox on The Wapshot Chronicle

Cole's Starbox

It got crushed under The Mathematica Handbook on my desk, but I rescued it.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:44 PM

Cole's Starbox

COLE: You fold it over like that, then you do a lot of tweaking.

OWEN: Tweaking?

COLE: Yes, tweaking.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:31 PM

March 20, 2007

gold is approximately equal to duck

gold is approximately equal to duck
Originally uploaded by Corx.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:42 PM

Portrait Enhancement software

Portrait Professional

I downloaded a trial version of software called Portrait Professional, ("The world's first touch up software that actually knows about human beauty.") It's meant to automatically "enhance" a photo of a person's face.

I took a photo of myself and then set all the sliders ("Face Sculpt", "Skin", "Eyes", "Teeth", "Lighting", and "Picture") to their maximum settings, reckoning I could surely use all the help I could get.

I also set the "Spot Removal" control to "LEVEL 10: MAXIMUM SENSITIVITY".

Scary stuff!

Posted by tplambeck at 10:24 AM

March 18, 2007

SUV rollover, reprise

SUV rollover, reprise
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:29 PM

Refrigerator of Honor

Over two years ago, I explained to (then 4th-grader) Cole that if he ever made the Honor Roll in middle school, I wasn't going to put a bumper sticker on my car.


It's on the refrigerator instead.

Posted by tplambeck at 07:19 PM

SUV rollover

SUV rollover
Originally uploaded by thane.
My father and I came up on this accident as we were driving to the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, NE.
Posted by tplambeck at 06:55 PM

March 17, 2007

Facing Life with a Lethal Gene

The gene that will kill Ms. Moser sits on the short arm of everyone's fourth chromosome, where the letters of the genetic alphabet normally repeat C-A-G as many as 35 times in a row. In people who develop Huntington's [disease], however, there are more than 35 repeats.


Posted by tplambeck at 11:55 PM

S&P 500, year to date

S&P 500, 2007 YTD

Back near the turn of the year, I bought an 18-month barrier option that returns the absolute value of net change of the S&P 500 at expiry provided that index neither rises nor falls 20% before expiry. If the barrier is reached above or below at any time before expiry, it returns the principal I paid, no matter what the S&P 500 is at expiry.

Kind of a funky investment, but it's fun to watch in an irrational sort of way.

The diagram shows the YTD S&P 500 average. When the graph seemed to be on an inexorable upward wave-like track for several weeks after I bought the option, I thought—yuck, what a bad idea—this thing is just going to run up 20% in a few months, then break the barrier, and Deutsche Bank is going to calmly collect interest on my principal for 18months and return it to me. Might as well have bought a CD, or bought the stupid S&P myself in a mutual fund.

Then came the cliff, and the average returned back to roughly the level of the starting price at the time I bought it, and in fact even 1% below it. So now I'm happy with this little investment curio again. "Maybe it will close down 15%, and they'll have to pay me that 15% after all," I think, gleefully, ignoring that I'm also long equities in other parts of our portfolio.

It's hard to be rational about this stuff. I just like watching it in a lava-lamp kind of way.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:29 PM

March 16, 2007

Don Knuth

From Pre-Fascicle 1a: Bitwise Tricks and Techniques (version of 03 Jan 2007) of Volume IV of Don Knuth's Art of Computer Programming:

A trick is a clever idea that can be used once, while a technique is a trick that can be used at least twice.

This raises the question—what's a trick that has been used at least three times?

Two possible answers:

a) Homework
b) The "Research Publications" portion of a curriculum vitae

Posted by tplambeck at 10:40 PM

March 14, 2007

Shavontae Samuels

Shavontae Samuels, Devaney Sports Center, Lincoln, Nebraska

From the Omaha World Herald, March 8:

* * *
Shannon drove Shavontae [from inner-city Chicago] to St. Edward, a central Nebraska town of about 750 some 30 miles northwest of Columbus.

"I told him, 'This is country. Things are a lot different here,'" Shannon said.
"I told him that I started a life here, and that it's beautiful out here - that I love it in Nebraska."


Posted by tplambeck at 10:52 PM

After the concert

COLE: What was the name of that song they sang from the Sound of Music? Alpha Dredl?

THANE: Edelweiss.

COLE: Right.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:43 PM

March 12, 2007

Buick wildcat

Buick wildcat
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:28 PM

March 11, 2007

The Middle of Nowhere Carnival

Looking up Ainsworth, Nebraska after watching their boys basketball team play in the state tournament, I discovered that they hold a yearly Middle of Nowhere Carnival.

This year it's June 8-10.



Posted by tplambeck at 05:38 PM

March 10, 2007


A mysterious symbol I found in advertising for the state basketball tournament in Nebraska.



1) Fuel-efficient tractor?
2) Non-deterministic programming language?
3) Neo-Conservative recruiting emblem? ... or ...
4) Vistive SoybeansTM and Triple-trait corn genetics?

Welcome to NC+

Posted by tplambeck at 04:55 PM

March 09, 2007


Alain Connes:

The set T of all tilings of the plane by the above two [Penrose] tiles is a very strange set because of the following: "Every finite pattern of tiles in a tiling by kites and darts does occur, and infinitely many times, in any other tiling by the same tiles''. This means that it is impossible to decide locally with which tiling one is dealing. Any pair of tilings can be matched on arbitrarily large patches and there is no way to tell them apart by looking only at finite portions of each of them. This is in sharp contrast with real numbers for instance since if two real numbers are distinct their decimal expansions will certainly be different far enough. I remember attending quite long ago a talk by Roger Penrose in which he superposed two transparencies with a tiling on each and showed the strange visual impression one gets by matching large patches of one of them with the other... he expressed the intuitive feeling one gets from the richness of these "variations on the same point" as being similar to "quantum fluctuations". A space like the space T of Penrose tilings is indeed a prototype example of a noncommutative space. Since its points cannot be distinguished from each other locally one finds that there are no interesting real (or complex) valued functions on such a space which stands apart from a set like the real line R and cannot be analyzed by means of ordinary real valued functions. But if one uses the dictionary one finds out that the space T is perfectly encoded by a (non-commutative) algebra of q-numbers which accounts for its "quantum" aspect...

Sure would be nice to understand this stuff.

Posted by tplambeck at 08:12 PM

More on the Value Place

1) It required me to post a $100 deposit at check-in against damages.

2) At check-in, they told me that linens would replaced only if I took them down myself to the laundry room, where they are exchanged. "There's no limit on the number of times you can change your sheets," the person at the front desk added helpfully. "Even on the same day, we'll keep changing them for you." [Nice to know should I start hemorrhaging or decide to start a brothel during my stay].

3) It's "not allowed" to have any "police matter" involving my studio.

4) The Internet connection is a bit dicey, but "there's free WiFi from the child care center next door." I've had sporadic success connecting to it.

5) From the table of replacement costs for items in my studio: Headboard, $75; Drywall repair, $50 (min); Door lock, $175; Mirror, $100.

6) They require me to submit "24 Hour Move Out Notice" if I'm to get my $100 deposit back. Complete list of choices for "Reasons for Departure": Job Finished, Home Finished, Out of Funds, Unsatisfied Resident, Vacation Over, Apartment Finished, Eviction.

Outside the motel—a police car parked discreetly at the end of a cul de sac.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:39 PM

March 08, 2007

State basketball tournament

I'm in Lincoln, Nebraska through this weekend to watch the boys high school basketball tournament with my Dad. He has excellent tickets.

Basketball tournament

It was hard to find a hotel room in Lincoln, I guess because of the tournament. I'm staying in a place called the "Value Place."

Since there's a microwave, two burner stovetop, and full size refrigerator, I went to buy some food.

When I got back, I realized there were no plates or silverware or cups or anything in the cabinets. So—back to HyVee for paper stuff. There's not even a coffee-maker, which is a serious hardship. There's also no shampoo (can't seem to ever remember it on trips).

I bought too much food because I was hungry when I shopped.

Posted by tplambeck at 09:31 AM

March 06, 2007

Once more into the Mega Millions Lotto breach

My lotto ticket tells me it's National Problem Gambling Awareness Week.

It coincides with tonight's $360+ million jackpot.

I visited the web site and found this 30 second radio advertising script:

* * *
The game is just a game, it's how you play that makes the difference.
It's true for all types of games -- including gambling. If someone you
know is gambling for more than fun, they may have a problem.
Warning signs include:
Being preoccupied with gambling,
gambling to escape, and
lying to cover up gambling.
If this sounds like someone you know, call the problem gambling help line at
1-800-522-4700. Treatment is confidential and it works.
* * *

Hey—gambling is only a problem if you lose. And I'm not doing this for "fun." What fun is there in buying a lotto ticket? It's just a piece of paper. No sir—I'm in this drawing for one purpose, and that is to WIN. The biggest "problem" I've had is picking the wrong numbers. Or in trusting computers to pick the right ones (they don't, in my experience). But that's all in the past. And I don't plan to lose this week—oh no. I'm confident in my set of numbers, and in my MEGA number, which is 2. You should probably write that down, like this:

The 6 March 2007 Mega Number will be TWO.

Just trying to help. This time I'm not going to tell everyone my other numbers, because I'm confident I've got a winner here, and if you pick them too, well, that just means we'll have to share the jackpot. Don't even bother—after I win, there will be plenty of money to go around, and I'll be sharing it liberally with the readers of my blog.

There was a bit of a misunderstanding last time, when my numbers were not drawn, but that's all forgiven.

Posted by tplambeck at 04:01 PM

Black Goldfish, GuangZhou Zoo

Originally uploaded by chi liu.
The Intelligent Designer omitted a brain case for this fish I guess.
Posted by tplambeck at 01:13 PM

March 04, 2007

Guatemala sinkhole

Originally uploaded by jonathan.moody83.
This photo gives a good idea of the thickness of the sinkhole before it drops off into the void.
Posted by tplambeck at 11:40 PM

Two papers by Aaron Siegel

Aaron Siegel's put up two new papers on misere games on his web site.

I've updated my Advances in Losing blog and miseregames.org with pointers to them.

They're both great contributions to the misere game theory, but they're not for those uninitiated in its mysteries, I guess.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:53 PM

Steve Jobs talking on an iPhone tucked in his front pocket

Steve Jobs talking on an iPhone tucked in his front pocket
Originally uploaded by thane.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:48 PM

March 03, 2007

old helmet, after

old helmet, after
Originally uploaded by Jef Poskanzer.
"After receiving an impact this helmet should be destroyed and replaced."

Posted by tplambeck at 10:31 PM

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