October 31, 2007
James Webb Space Telescope
A Team Purple operative is working on the software for the James Webb Space Telescope. It's to be launched in June 2013 according to this page.
Klingon cruiser or Hubble successor?
THANE: When's a good time to come down and see the telescope? You're still working on it, right?
PURPLE OPERATIVE: Yes. It does not yet exist. We do have a full scale test article of the sunshield. They are practicing folding it. Not that exciting. There is a full scale model that travels around, but it's packed up right now. There really won't be hardware to see for 3-4 years.
Now it turns out that there's lead in Chinese-made Ugly Teeth.
Where's the fun in that?
Anyway, I have a question about all this Chinese lead.
Isn't lead a sort-of valuable metal? I just checked, and the price of lead per pound (about $1.67) is more than the price of aluminum ($1.13). [Source: Kitco Metals.]
Admittedly, lead can't hold a candle to nickel ($14.37), but it does hold up well against zinc ($1.26).
Sowho's the Chinese guy who says, "Hey macthrow some lead into those Ugly Teeth, and then ship it" (?). Wouldn't it be simpler (and cheaper) to just not throw in the lead?
Maybe lead is hard to get out of the constituents of paint?
And what's paint made out of, anyway?
I'm clueless, as usual.
October 30, 2007
Shock and aftershocks
Most recent aftershock at the top:
1.4 2007/10/30 21:38:50 37.412N 121.763W 7.3 7 km ( 5 mi) NE of Alum Rock
1.4 2007/10/30 21:30:51 37.426N 121.772W 7.5 8 km ( 5 mi) NE of Alum Rock
1.2 2007/10/30 21:23:39 37.413N 121.756W 9.8 8 km ( 5 mi) NE of Alum Rock
2.1 2007/10/30 20:41:31 37.397N 121.747W 8.7 8 km ( 5 mi) ENE of Alum Rock
1.7 2007/10/30 20:39:29 37.427N 121.770W 9.1 8 km ( 5 mi) NE of Alum Rock
1.3 2007/10/30 20:35:02 37.345N 121.705W 8.9 11 km ( 7 mi) ESE of Alum Rock
1.8 2007/10/30 20:31:57 37.430N 121.772W 9.5 8 km ( 5 mi) NE of Alum Rock
1.4 2007/10/30 20:26:53 37.404N 121.749W 8.4 8 km ( 5 mi) ENE of Alum Rock
1.3 2007/10/30 20:26:18 37.493N 121.758W 24.9 14 km ( 9 mi) ENE of Milpitas
1.3 2007/10/30 20:22:44 37.428N 121.777W 8.9 8 km ( 5 mi) NNE of Alum Rock
1.6 2007/10/30 20:16:12 37.404N 121.750W 8.2 8 km ( 5 mi) ENE of Alum Rock
1.3 2007/10/30 20:13:48 37.403N 121.749W 8.2 8 km ( 5 mi) ENE of Alum Rock
1.5 2007/10/30 20:12:55 37.419N 121.745W 11.1 9 km ( 6 mi) NE of Alum Rock
1.4 2007/10/30 20:12:23 37.409N 121.675W 7.3 14 km ( 9 mi) ENE of Alum Rock
5.6 2007/10/30 20:04:54 37.432N 121.776W 9.2 8 km ( 5 mi) NNE of Alum Rock
The USGS just put up the number5.6 on the Richter scale. Close to Alum Rock, in the south bay.
An earthquake just rumbled through Palo Alto.
It lasted for at least 5 seconds.
Must be a reasonable size to last that long!
I left my office, went into the house and everyone but Norbert (Gloria, Cole, Owen, and Pearl) was just coming out from under the kitchen table.
Doomed: Meyer Library
I noticed that nowhere in that Stanford Daily article do they name the architect of the building, the "Internationalist" John Carl Warnecke, who is also responsible for the Stanford Bookstore, the Stanford Post Office, and (farther afield) the truly weird AT&T Long Lines Building, a apocalyptic and windowless skyscraper designed to "protect the valuable equipment within." It looks like something you'd see looming in the background of a Terminator movie. I don't know much more about that building, but I wonder what's in it today. Who has the corner office in that building, I wonder?
Back to Meyer Library. From the Stanford Daily article:
* * *
"Meyer Library is essentially doomed," said Andrew Herkovic, director of communications and development of libraries. "The building has not aged very gracefully, it needs millions of dollars worth of seismic upgrades and it's not cost-effective to keep it in the long term. It's also, in my opinion, an eyesore."
A second reason for the library's demolition is its violation of previous plans for campus layout.
"The original campus master plan wanted that area to be a corridor, not a building," Herkovic said. "Today it is very much in the way of traffic, and it also stands out oddly as a building larger than those around it. Architecturally, that's considered a defect."
* * *
In this way earlier painstaking debates about Stanford architecture are swept away.
I don't really like the building, either, and I'm glad to see it go, I guess, but it makes me wonder whether it's worth thinking about architecture at all in a serious way. Particularly on university campuses, all it takes is a few administrators to throw out the word "architecturally" and "violation," and that's it.
Yet there are some buildings is hard to imagine Stanford ever blowing away. The Quad, for example, and maybe Hoover Tower. Everything else could easily get ripped down I think. They're doing it already, in a big way, on the west campus.
Queen of the Night aria, III
Queen of the Night Aria, II
Queen of the Night Aria, I
From Raph Waldo's Religion
The church at this moment is much to be pitied. She has nothing left but possession. If a bishop meets an intelligent gentleman, and read fatal interrogations in his eyes, he has no resource but to take wine with him. False position introduces cant, perjury, simony, and ever a lower class of mind and character into the clergy: and, when the hierarchy is afraid of science and education, afraid of piety, afraid of tradition, and afraid of theology, there is nothing left but to quit a church which is no longer one.
October 29, 2007
Interesting CGT paper in the arXiv
Abstract to Doron Zeilberger and Aek Thanatipanonda's new paper, "A Symbolic Finite-state approach for Automated Proving of Theorems in Combinatorial Game Theory":
We develop a finite-state automata approach, implemented in a Maple package ToadsAndFrogs available from our websites, for conjecturing, and then rigorously proving, values for large families of positions in Richard Guy's combinatorial game ``Toads and Frogs''. In particular, we prove a conjecture of Jeff Erickson.
Fill-in-the-blank and complete the pun
Via Scot Morris:
* * * *
WITCH PARKING ONLY
October 28, 2007
So, it occurred to me that I should see how many Facebook THANEs there are, too.
Facebook says "500+", which I read as "You might as well count the stars, there's one hell of a lot of THANEs, and sorry to disappoint you."
It turned out to include some THANEEs and THANESANs, and a THANEEYA, amongst other variants, but most of them were straight-up THANEs like me.
I scrolled through them page by page, finally reaching the P's.
Not even myself.
October 27, 2007
The unexpectedly large number of Plambecks on Facebook (a Facebook login is required to view that pageanyway, it's almost 100 of them) raises the ugly possibility that the world might actually contain more than one THANE PLAMBECK.
There's even an ALASDAIR PLAMBECK. He plays volleyball somewhere in the Bay Area, it looks like. Where there's an ALASDAIR, could a THANE be far behind?
I'm thinking the chance that there is already another THANE PLAMBECK is maybe a coin flip. And if I go out and win the Nobel Prize or receive some other undeserved recognition, I'll bet the chances will only improve.
It's a disturbing thing to think about.
October 26, 2007
1) When will the machine serving these plambeck.org web pages finally roll over and die?
Context: The web server that's just delivered this web page to you is an extremely old Gateway PC, originally manufactured in 1993 or so and consigned to the garage about 1997 as useless techno-garbage, but then reawakened and called to duty suddenly like some mouldering two-star general in moment of national crisis (roundabout 1999), and now sitting high over Silicon valley in a Google-friend's luxurious "machine room" like some unlikely pasha. I like to think of it enjoying the view below. About 2 years ago its network card died, but I just put a new one in there, and everything suddenly sprung back to life. Greg helped me turn off all the services on the machine except httpd so that it's basically hacker-proof, or at least seems to be.
2) When it dies, what will I do with what's here? I have something like a backup, but not really. It would take a lot of work to resurrect all the spaghetti content that's entangled on this web server. Is it worth resurrecting? And what about the stupid company name generator page, on which I decided to run Google ads and keep making more and more money, without my lifting a finger?
October 24, 2007
words not worth it
"Move along, son. These aren't the words you're looking for."
October 22, 2007
Not a Scrabble Bingo
DIMBOID ... perhaps it's an unintelligent robot? [ No, too bad ]
BaD IDIOM, I guess.
October 21, 2007
CINNABAR is kind-a, sorta, RABBINIC spelled backwards
October 20, 2007
Atom @ TAK
It took forever to arrive, but finally came today.
The cards represent chemical elements, and you score points by forming ionic compounds (maybe that's what they're called, I don't knowI'm no chemist).
For example, if you have two H (hydrogen) cards and one O (oxygen) card, you can form H20. Laying that compound on the table causes an explosion that destroys the most-recently formed compounds your opponent(s) may have formed already.
Only have the two "O" cards? If you have an "Energy" card, you can combine them to form O2. But there's no explosion.
HCl and O2
Radioactive compounds irradiate your opponents' most recently-played cards for two rounds, sending them irrevocably to the "graveyard", unless the opponent is able to form a lead "Shield" (Pb + shield card).
Your score is the sum of the atomic numbers of all the elements appearing in your surviving compounds after all the cards in the deck have been exhausted.
You don't need to know any chemistry along the way, and you learn the identities of some poisons alsofor example, CN- (cyanide).
The "Antidote" card can be used to protect yourself from a cyanide attack.
NB: Of course, this still does not mean I'm a nerd.
October 19, 2007
Somewhere in Islamabad
At CNN, in a story titled Bhutto: Attack won't stop democracy:
After the blast, police retrieved the head of a possible suspect, which was being analyzed at a forensics lab.
let the forensics begin
1) The activities of religious leaders (Pope, Dalai Lama, Christian right)
2) Brian Eno, Nancy Pelosi
3) This week's "highest earning" movies
4) Biofuel, green construction, recycling, solar energy
5) Arnold Schwarzenegger
October 18, 2007
Self portrait in mirror, holding digital camera over my head
Self portrait in mirror, holding digital camera over my head
Originally uploaded by thane
Social networking seems to draw me inevitably toward people I consider nerds.
Yet I don't consider myself a nerd. Oh, no.
"Ha-HA-HA-HA-ha-hehe-HAH!!!" I can hear Gloria saying, even as I type this in.
October 15, 2007
Helen Simpson, Robert Nozick, and the Unanswered Spores
The second paragraph of Helen Simpson's story "Scan," in the Summer 2007 Granta (pg 86):
Perhaps this was what it was like, being born, the claustrophobic tunnel; you were being squeezed by the passage walls themselves, with no inkling of the future but that far gleam of light. What about before you were born, though; before you were conceived? Well, you can't remember it so it can't have been too bad, she told herself; presumably it will be the same after you've died. The trouble with this idea was, before you've been born you've not been you; but once you've been alive you definitely have been you; and the idea of the extinction of the you that has definitely existed is quite different from the idea of your non-existence before you did exist. Why were they stuck here? Had the train broken down?
At last, a reply to Nozick (bear with me, see below), although it does not answer the Question of the Spores. I've treated this before in ancient, pre-blog software blogging (why wasn't I smart enough to start a blog company back then?), and on the Usenet before that, but here we go again:
From Thomas Nagel's Mortal Questions, Cambridge Univ Press, 1979, from a footnote to a chapter entitled "Death."
...I suspect that something essential is omitted from the account of the badness of death by an analysis which treats it as a deprivation of possibilities. My suspicion is supported by the following suggestion of Robert Nozick. We could imagine discovering that people developed from individual spores that had existed indefinitely far in advance of their birth. In this fantasy, birth never occurs naturally more than one hundred years before the permanent end of the spore's existence. But then we discover a way to trigger the premature hatching of these spores, and people are born who have thousands of years of active life before them. Given such a situation, it would be possible to imagine oneself having come into existence thousands of years previously. If we put aside the question whether this would really be the same person, even given the identity of the spore, then the consequence appears to be that a person's birth at a given time could deprive him of many earlier years of possible life. Now while it would be cause for regret that one had been deprived of all those possible years of life by being born too late, the feeling would differ from that which many people have about death. I conclude that something about the future prospect of permanent nothingness is not captured by the analysis in terms of denied possibilities. If so, then Lucretius's argument [(Thane): that because being dead is like being not born and you dont regret when you weren't born, you shouldn't think being dead is so bad, either] still awaits an answer....
Sodoes Simpson answer the Question of the Spores?
[I'm still confused.]
October 14, 2007
From The Archimedes Codex
On pg 76 of [this book]:
* * *
The Byzantine Renaissance
On Saturday, 26 July 811, Krum, the Bulgarian Khan, slew Nicephorus, the Byzantine Emperor, at the battle of Pliska and turned his skull into a wine cup. Not a good start to the ninth century for Constantinople. On the surface, things didn't look much better thirty years and six emperors later, when Michael III, `The Drunkard,' ascended the throne. But in fact the intellectual climate was improving, and it got even better when Basil I assassinated Michael in 867. Under Basil I Constantinople quickly became the capital of the greatest empire in the Mediterranean world. The Macedonian dynasty that he founded could boast both scholarship and mettle. While Constantine VII wrote a book on the administration of empire, Basil II took 14,000 Bulgarians prisoner in 1014, and blinded 99 out of every hundred. The lucky one in a hundred got to guide his fellows home. Constantinople had entered a golden age, if not an enlightened one.
* * *
Ahthose were the days!
Easterday Co. Furniture.
Then I thought, "why bother---someone's probably already done it and posted it to Flickr." I was right.
In the Palo Alto Daily there was an article that suggested this sign was probably painted around 1918 and that the business had failed before 1920.
Mr. Easterday was originally from Lincoln, Nebraska.
Sam Goldburg's Bar Mitzvah
We attended Sam Goldburg's Bar Mitzvah this afternoon at Temple Beth Jacob in Redwood City.
It's the first bar mitzvah I've ever attended, and perhaps the fourth or fifth religious ceremony our kids have ever attended of any kind (Nebraska Cornhusker football games excepted).
Owen and I arrived first, and Cole and Gloria came later, since Cole had diving practice. The ceremony lasted 2 1/2 hours.
On entering the temple, Owen and I decided to sit at the edge of the pews, on the far left side. But then the sun shone brightly into the particular pew we'd chosen, and I found myself having to shield my eyes to see the action at the front of the temple. I suggested to Owen that we simply get up from the pew we were in, and move to another pew (I had already observed a certain unexpected mobility in the congregation, with people entering and leaving the ceremony at random points, as if they were at a basketball game rather than a "church" service. As a child in Presbyterian services, I considered a seat in the sancutary as a sort of one-hour terminal life sentenceI wouldn't have dreamed of asking to be excused for 5 or ten minutesit was unthinkable).
At the front of the temple, instead of a cross, a huge box, somewhat shaped like a coffin propped up on its end, but also very much a part of the architecture of the building itself. The box was no prop.
I wondered what the box might contain. Certainly not a cross, and certainly not a body. What then? By careful, slow-witted contemplation, I came to be convinced that it might contain a copy of the ten commandments, or the Torah, or some other holy text.
I was rightlater in the ceremony, the box was opened, and was revealed to contain several scroll Torahs. There was a small one, which Wes (Sam's brother) held, a medium one that Sam's grandfather held, and a truly large one only suitable for Paul Bunyan or some other heroic figure.
When the box was opened, I noticed Owen squirming next to me. We were too far to the left to have a clear view of the contents of the box. "Let's move, to that pew over there," Owen said. He pointed to available seats much near to the center of the action.
"Let's stay here, for now," I said.
Later, I asked Sam's grandfather Victor about the big Torah scroll. "How much did that weigh?" I wondered. "It was plenty heavy, but OK," he said. "Well, you looked OK carrying it, but it sure looked heavy to me," I said. "Thanks for that," Victor said.
I enjoyed the cermony a lot, despite its length and general incomprehensibility, but had to take Owen back to Palo Alto for a baseball game before the party ended. There was an excellent Klezmer band at the reception.
I did achieve one goalto get photos of Cole and Owen wearing yarmulkes in the temple:
I would have liked to have had one of myself, too, but forgot to ask someone to take the picture.
At the reception, two different people identified themselves to me as "atheist," pretty much without my prompting them. I don't recall anyone ever volunteering information like that in the many Presbyterian events I attended as a child and young adult.
Perhaps it's becoming OK to be an atheist?
Maybe at the Temple Beth Jacob, but I doubt that it's catching on elsewhere.
All of the readings and songs were in Hebrew, and I found myself stupidly following the Hebrew-to-English transliterations rather than reading the English translations in the column opposite. Yet when I read the translations, I found in them the same monotony that I naturally associated with Christian liturgy.
I'd hoped there would be a sermon, and there was, and I liked it.
I love sermons.
October 12, 2007
Through the viewfinder
I took this photo of Cole by pointing a Canon Powershot through the viewfinder of a 25 year-old Minolta XG-A SLR.
Walter Cronkite Interview with JFK, 2 September 1963
Thelonious Monk, Blue Monk, Oslo, April 1966
hmmmno Wikipedia page on Larry Gales (bass)?
Bing Crosby & Dinah Shore, 1963
October 11, 2007
Humble prayer offered to the Gmail spam filter
I can't read Cyrillic
I'll mark yet another as Spam
Hear my cries oh powerful one!
With deep respect, I am ...
Awaiting the Prion
Like Ulrich Graf von Brockdorff-Rantzau at Versailles, I surrendered an important German asset a few days ago:
two year leases come up faster than you'd think
We're replacing this car with a Prius. A nice, 2008 Prius, but stilla Prius.
Fortunately, it's hard to come up with just the Prius we want ("Only 1 out of 25 Priuses (Prii?) come in that color (red) with that package," dealers keep telling me), and I've managed to secure Greg's Z3 as a loaner for a few final moments in the sun. He's in Austin, so he doesn't use his Menlo Park car very much.
After that, I'll join the grim ranks of the energy-efficient, excitement-challenged masses.
"I'm sure you'll like it," Greg says.
* * *
THANE: Gloria! Look! It's a Honda minivan, just like ours!! In Palo Alto!!! WHAT A COINCIDENCE!!
GLORIA: I'm not listening to you.
THANE: Oh My GOD! Look over THERE! It's a PRIUS, just like the ONE WE ORDERED!
GLORIA: Is someone making a buzzing noise, or is that you talking?
Presented for your Consideration
The publications of Hans Zassenhaus (all 188 of them).
How many of these can I access via the Internet, for free?
I think I know the answerNone of them.
Why doesn't some billionaire step forward, buy out the stupid copyrights of all the lame mathematics and physics publishers, and put all scientific publications of the 20th century on the web?
There's no doubt it will happen eventually. Why not now?
I guess Google is sort-of trying to do it, but they're getting beaten down.
October 10, 2007
It's 12:16am, and it's raining in Palo Alto on 10 Oct 2007.
(Emerson, of course)
Comme il faut is the Frenchman's description of good society, as we must be. It is a spontaneous fruit of talents and feelings of precisely that class who have the most vigor, who take the lead in the world of this hour, and, though being far from pure, far from constituting the gladdest and highest tone of human feeling, is as good as the whole society permits it to be. It is made of the spirit, more than of the talent of men, and is a compound result, into which every great force enters as an ingredient, namely, virtue, wit, beauty, wealth, and power.
As usual, the Great Emersonian Question arises: Is this just BS?
Merely a nice turn of phrase?
Vacuously boring? Why does it seem so significant, then?
Too vague to be judged?
(...got to stop obsessing over Emerson...)
October 09, 2007
Grapes? What grapes?
I washed two big bunches of grapes, and left them in a big bowl on the kitchen "island."
Gloria and I then went to lunch.
There was only one bunch of grapes when we got back.
added later: Say "bad dog" all you like, I'm not giving up the grapes.
October 08, 2007
Mitt Romney aftermath
Just yesterday, I received an invitation to attend a "Private Dinner" with Arnold Schwarznegger and Maria Shriver in San Francisco. All I've got to do is cough up $5,000 (for me) or $10,000 (for me and Gloria), and my seat at the dinner is secure.
For $25,000, I can sit with the Guv and Maria at the "head table."
At first I thought, "how ridiculous!" Then I thought again, and realized that I might recoup the investment, somehow, given how the world works.
I don't think I'm going to go, though.
October 07, 2007
Great America roller coasters
I took Cole and Varun to Great America today. Once there, we met up with Lucas, who came with some other kids.
I don't ride roller coasters anymorethe shoulder harnesses meant to protect less statuesque riders crush my collarbones instead. Cole reassured me that some rides don't do that, but somehow traveling at high speeds upside down has lost its natural attractiveness over the years, anyway.
So, I brought two distractions:
sunday nyt crossword
Cole and Varun are natural upside-down flyers: I've watched them both do giant circles in high-bar gymnastics routines capped off with "flyaway" dismounts. Cole is now a diver, and enjoys doing a handstand at the edge of a 5-meter platform, with one flip on the way down.
But I found a kindred spirit in Lucas.
Lucas, Cole and Varun ponder Invertigo
"If you two guys say a roller coaster is good, that means it's bad," he said. "That ride is like a torture chamber."
[ added later: that's right, statuesque ]
It makes a good argument that Stanford's win over USC is the greatest upset in college football history.
Added later: College Football News agrees.
Nice amateur video by a fan:
October 06, 2007
Pete Carroll on the USC sidelines
photo: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times
Returning from the Applewood Inn in Menlo Park, we listened to the 4th quarter of today's Stanford USC game in the minivan, tuned to Stanford student radio station KZSU.
I fully expected to be able to drive directly home, pronouncing Stanford dead sometime as we neared our house. Instead, we had to circle Palo Alto neighborhoods repeatedly until the Cardinal amazingly scored the winning touchdown.
October 05, 2007
Chatting on the National Puzzlers' League mailing list: Found flat
Endgame: From an article about Sen. Larry Craig's decision to remain in the Senate until the end of his term (and however tempting, I won't go into my views on the whole sordid subject):
FIRST-TO-SECOND CHANGEOVER (6)
" 'He gave us his word that he would ONE,' said Sen. John *TWO, R-Nev. ..."
* * *
Nick R: I didn't realize he'd changed his stance.
* * *
Thane: Sometimes you have to put your foot down.
* * *
loquacious [aside to Thane]: Don't get them started.
* * *
Chainsaw: I'm sure he'll be tapped for another position soon.
October 01, 2007
Words that look wrong
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