« November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 »

December 29, 2007

San Francisco Zoo, RIP?

It's looking like the well-publicized tiger escape and killing at the San Francisco Zoo might deal a death-blow to the zoo through lawsuits.

I'm not sure how I feel about that—on the one hand, I like going to the zoo, occasionally.

But the idea of a zoo seems like a creepy anachronism, nowadays. I never leave a zoo without thinking—well, that whole thing must suck for the animals.

I've been to that tiger exhibit many times, and also to the enclosure where the tiger mauled a zoo employee a few years ago. When I read in the paper that the height of enclosure wall was 18ft, I remember thinking, "wow—I guess it is much higher than I remember" (I've always had a good ability to judge distances in the 0 to 500 ft range. I summon images of basketball hoops, distances from the pitching mound to home plate, football fields, and other mental constructs, and interpolate. I'm never off by too much.)

I wasn't surprised to learn later that the wall was 4 ft shorter (12 1/2 ft) than previously described in news articles.

I've got a vivid picture in my mind of the tiger, jumping out of the enclosure, following a blood trail to the cafe where I've enjoyed poor hotdogs and fries with my children. The doors and walls of that cafe are mostly glass, and there's a miniaturized train that runs by there. So I'm thinking, when the tiger crossed the railway tracks, was she careful to not step on the rails?

Cole (or maybe Owen) wondered why the tiger, having escaped, didn't just stroll around at leisure—why did it have to kill somebody? I remembered reading that escaped zoo animals are typically aggressive—they can't really fathom the FLIGHT option, so there's only FIGHT instead.

"A tiger—well, it's got a few million years of evolution behind it that says, 'I am the biggest and meanest thing in this particular jungle.' So, a tiger's natural instinct is to kill something that's causing it difficulty. You can hardly blame it," I said.

"Well, that's too bad."


Posted by tplambeck at 01:09 AM

December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto

I was a big fan. Too bad.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:07 AM

December 27, 2007

d nurske's The Copyists

We duplicate the Word.
We begin at lauds, first watch,
black sky, Polaris receding:
torch-flame bows, rights itself,
and fixes us in the scriptorium:
each monk at his hinged desk,
sinister panel for the doctrine,
dexter for the blank page.

With a pumice shard
we abrade the text
to the correct resistance—
vellum of stillborn calves
that will take ink
as an incision, not a stain.

The novices settle
to nib-carving and ruling lines.
Their tongues stick out
in that absurd concentration
that will enchant them
and lead them to hubris.

We veterans begin inscribing
with one eye on the window-slit—
we glimpse the Levant, Flora,
Philomel returning
shyly to the forest,
Brutus hauling his great load,
Jean-Luc and Paquette
slipping hand in hand
into the lilac bushes.

In the corner of the eye
we watch great armies muster and decamp,
bonfires, stakes, gibbets,
the Inquisitor's wheel.

At last we catch ourselves
gazing rapt at our hands
as if we were nowhere,
absent from this world like God,

and it is then we draw
a bud, a bird's deft flight,
a noose, an old man
hunched in a torn cloak,
eyes dim with longing,
writing desperately, safe
in the narrow margin of the law.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:46 AM

December 26, 2007

Animated New Yorker cartoons

I just came across these animated New Yorker cartoons at YouTube.

Each video has two cartoons.

The second one in that video reminds me of The Cask of Amontillado.

More at ringtales.com.

Posted by tplambeck at 11:25 PM

December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas from a can goes viral

After languishing for almost one year with fewer than twenty views, my video of a Diet Coke can saying "Merry Christmas" has suddenly gone viral on youtube (250,000+ views and counting):

Added later: OK—it's not quite viral—it's just on the YouTube "featured videos" page. There are over 1500 comments, with many proposing conspiracy theories (electronic device in can, sound played from hidden speaker, etc).

But there's no trickery involved: it's just a simple, run-of-the-mill talking can.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:35 AM

Thomas Little Heath vs the Archimedes Codex

Having finished The Archimedes Codex and curious to read more on the subject, I bought T. L. Heath's 1897 book The Works of Archimedes (Dover paperback), and added it to the bathroom bookstack to ensure a periodic look-through.

The more I flip through the Heath, the more I think—uh—what exactly was new about the Archimedes Codex? Not so very much, it seems to me.

I'm no expert, but I'd recommended Heath's book before the Archimedes Codex. He must have put one hell of a lot of effort into that book!

Posted by tplambeck at 02:11 AM

Japanese notebook covers

Cole and I went to Daiso in the San Antonio road shopping center, where pretty much everything costs $1 or $1.50.


I bought a couple of notebooks.

Written on the outside of #1:


BILLIARDS. Welcome to the country of the fruit. What do you see in this fruit?

Written on #2, under "notesbog":


Have you ever been to Scandinavia? There you'll see a lot of beautiful scenery and people living in lifestyles surrounded by their favorite things.

Posted by tplambeck at 01:38 AM

December 23, 2007

Marketing blurb inside a little notebook I bought

Moleskin is the legendary notebook used by European artists and thinkers for the past two centuries, from Van Gogh to Picasso, from Ernest Hemingway to Bruce Chatwin.

1) Hemingway was European?
2) I'm sorry, but who is Bruce Chatwin?

Posted by tplambeck at 04:54 PM

December 22, 2007

Red Prii, Part [insert large number here]

Originally uploaded by thane
Red Prius Zip Car, Stanford campus
Posted by tplambeck at 07:05 PM

Handle of a player on the Internet Chess Club


Posted by tplambeck at 05:43 PM

Unread magazines and journals

Unread magazines and journals
Originally uploaded by thane

Posted by tplambeck at 01:50 AM

December 20, 2007

285-285 Scrabulous game vs Matt Jones

I'm locked in a close Scrabble game with Matt Jones at Facebook.

The score is 285-285, it's his move, and I have one tile left. He has 3 tiles left (I suppose if I were I real player, I would figure out what tiles those are).

In trying to decide if my most recent play TUTOR was a good one, I realized I don't even know the correct ending condition for Scrabble. I didn't let that ignorance either motivate me to learn the rules, or stop me from considering my move carefully.

I think he'll play his final three tiles, and then I'll lose, with my final tile charged against me.

If that's how it works, that is.

Added later: Just when I thought I'd lost, I won instead, due to this rule:

The player who goes out first gets the point values of all remaining unplayed tiles added to their score. Players with tiles remaining on their rack have their equivalent point values removed from their score.
Posted by tplambeck at 11:18 PM

December 18, 2007


From section A of today's NYT:


Posted by tplambeck at 11:02 AM

December 17, 2007

From the Essay on Criticism

Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.

—Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, 1711

[It's hard to decide whom I would like to meet in person more—Swift, or Pope. I'm leaning toward Swift, but then I read more Pope, and I think, well...]

I've got a good idea what Pope might be like. But Swift—no. I would really, really, really like to get a glimpse of Swift. Not to say, "well, hello, mr swift," but instead to just have a glimpse of the living person. I don't need to "have lunch" or "meet" him—no, I'd just like to have a glimpse.

Most decidedly a stupid desire, but there you are.

Posted by tplambeck at 02:21 AM

December 14, 2007

Just passed the Google mapping car

Coming back from a restaurant in midtown Palo Alto, driving a red Prius, I just drove by a Google streetview mapping car that had paused awkwardly in traffic at the intersection of Middlefield and Moreno.

Here's the current Street View image (the car had paused at the corner visible in the foreground of this photo):

View Larger Map

Maybe it will be updated to show me driving the Prius (from right to left, ie northwest).

Posted by tplambeck at 02:27 PM

December 13, 2007

interview with d nurkse

BT: What do you think of Poetry magazine recently being given a $100 million dollar donation, with no strings attached?

DN: Possibly the only good news of this creepy century.

BT: If you were given the same amount, how would you spend it?

DN: Rapidly. Gleefully. Unwisely.


Posted by tplambeck at 12:15 PM

December 11, 2007

From a Bruce Bawer review of the 49 Up documentary series

Indeed, as I re-viewed the series, I found myself thinking not of Big Brother but of Proust, who sought to capture all of life in one comprehensive work. And I found certain lines of poetry running over and over through my mind, especially these two: "The bell tolls for thee" (Donne) and "It is Margaret you mourn for" (Hopkins). Why these lines? Because to watch the Up Series is, ultimately, to gaze into a mirror—especially, perhaps, if the subjects are are one's own age. At age seven, even the they're British and you're American, they look very much like kids who might have been your second-grade classmates. You recognize the way their parents dress them and cut their hair; there even seems to be something indefinitely period-bound about the way they move and talk and gesture. To watch them live through the same decades you've lived through, their clothing and haircuts and language adjusting to the passing fashions, may be as close as you'll ever come to watching a film tracking you through your own life. To re-view the whole thing in the space of a few evenings, moreover, is to see the period in which you were first conscious of the world withdraw with terrifying speed into the mists of history.

—From the Autumn 2007 Hudson Review, "The Way of All Flesh," by Bruce Bawer.

Added later:

Feeling lucky link to Up Series.

Link to whole review.

Posted by tplambeck at 10:59 PM

The Wrong God crossing


In today's easy Tuesday NYT crossword, for Greek war god (4) and fill _ _ _ S, I wrote in MARS.

For Couples' destinations (6) [crossing MARS at the A] I wrote in ALTARS, only to get wedged when finishing things off in that general area, later.

But they were

ARES and ARARAT, instead.

I think this is at least the third time I've had to reink a MARS into an ARES (or the reverse).

Posted by tplambeck at 09:02 PM

December 09, 2007

Chalk drawing, downtown Palo Alto

Originally uploaded by thane

Posted by tplambeck at 09:54 PM

December 07, 2007

Joslin Hall Rare Books

I'm on the snail mail list for a bookstore in Northampton, Mass called Joslin Hall Rare Books (as usual, that's a Google-redirected "I'm feeling lucky" link—I sure hope it lands you at the bookstore if you click it).

I just checked out their web site, possibly for the first time, and it looks like they sell a broader variety of books than the ones that are reported in the catalog I receive periodically. It's called "A Grave Affair: Old & interesting books on gravestones, cemeteries, epitaphs, mourning customs, funerals & funeral customs."

Anyway, I look forward to browsing this catalog quite a bit. Long ago, somewhere, sometime, in that ancient age of pre-blog software blogging, somewhere on this web site [OK, where the f*** is it? OK...I found it...right here], I put up some images from a booklet I purchased from Joslin Hall on a competition held in Germany for WWI grave designs.

I've been mighty tempted to purchase further books from this outfit, but have always been able to resist the temptation when I looked at their prices. I'm not a rare book collector at all. Instead, I'm just interested in old and rare books. If something can be found online or in a reprint, I'm perfectly happy—I don't need the crumbling original.

The book descriptions in the GRAVE AFFAIR booklet are very carefully written. A typical one describes a 1843 book by John Thomas Walters titled A Tract upon Tomb-Stones: or, Suggestions for the Consideration of Person Intending to Set Up That Kind of Monument to the Memory of Deceased Friends. From the catalog:

The Reverend Paget [1806-1882], rector of Elford, did not care for much of what he saw in mid-19th century churchyards. Among the things that disturbed him—epitaphs made up of too-effusive flattery & "lies" meant to gloss-over the reputations and deeds of disreputable characters; epitaphs that ask the reader to pray for the souls of the deceased which bear a "a reference to the Popish doctrine of Purgatory" (no praying for the souls of deceased, if you please); eptitaphs declaring the deceased to be "worthy of Heaven or an innocent (as in a child), because all Men are sinner in the eyes of God; epitaphs that declare the deceased t be in Heaven—this is a problem because, well, hey, you never know, do you?

Wonderful stuff—lots more to be said about it, but it's time for bed.

[Not quite yet— here's a (somewhat old) issue of A GRAVE AFFAIR online!]

Posted by tplambeck at 01:25 AM

Something I learned from my iPod

AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" is not 90's Music.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:51 AM

December 02, 2007

Hell is sitting on a hot stone reading your own scientific publications

Because science ought to be fun and attractive, particularly when many months of hard work with grant applications, data collections and calculations are over and everything is ready for publishing the wonderful results, it is most unfortunate that the final reading and writing phases are so tiresome.
Hell—is sitting on a hot stone reading your own scientific publications.

[Kaj Sand-Jensen: How to write consistently boring scientific literature]

I also recommend that these studies be reported with no sense of excitement or enthusiasm. Nowhere in the approach, analysis and writing should there be any mention of the personal reflections leading to this intensive study that robbed five years of the author's youth. This is beyond boring; it is truly sad.
Posted by tplambeck at 11:56 PM

Fifty years of Charlie Starkweather

It was 50 years ago yesterday that [Charlie] Starkweather murdered his first victim—the shotgun killing of a gas station attendant on Dec. 1, 1957—and the case continues to engage our collective consciousness.

Starkweather's lasting impact on society and pop culture (Steve Jordon, Omaha World Herald)

Posted by tplambeck at 09:37 PM

December 01, 2007

Once more, the Red Prii

Red Prii, continued
Originally uploaded by thane
5SQS734, parked in the Safeway parking lot next to my car.
Posted by tplambeck at 03:40 PM

Cabo Junk Fax

I normally don't have the telephone cable plugged into my fax machine unless I'm expecting something, but lately I've been receiving more faxes from various people, and have had to leave it plugged in long enough to start receiving junk faxes (again).


I'm getting one for a decidedly bogus-looking vacation to Cabo about once every twenty-four hours.

I decided to call them up on their 800 number and have some fun.

THANE: Hi—I received a fax about a Cabo vacation?

PERSON: Yes! Have you ever been to Mexico before?

THANE: I'd like to have my fax number removed from your dialing list.

PERSON: Oh, absolutely. What is your fax number? We'll take care of it immediately.

THANE: Have a pencil ready?

PERSON: Yes, go ahead.

THANE: OK, here's my number. Ready?


THANE: (slowly and clearly) 6-5-0

PERSON: 6-5-0, yes...

THANE: 3-2-3...

PERSON: 3-2-3...

THANE: 4-9-2-8. Got it?

PERSON: 4-9-2-8, OK. Yes. I'll take care of it immediately.

THANE: Well, anyway, I am curious about the vacation...what does it cost?

PERSON: Well, it's a combined package, and you'll want—

THANE: Oh, wait a sec---could you tell me my fax number again? I'd like to confirm you've got the right number.

PERSON: Ummm....

THANE: You know, the number I just gave you?

PERSON: Umm...650, uh 322, 4792?

THANE: Hmmm—I think I caught you—you never even wrote it down, right? You're not going to do a single thing to remove my fax number, right? Let's just drop the pretending and be honest with each other, OK?

PERSON: [Long pause]. (Hangs up)

* * *
A small pleasure, yes, but I enjoyed it.

Posted by tplambeck at 12:00 AM

« November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 »