30 September 2002

Quote of the Day:

I took two quick sips and replied, "I'm drinking vodka at 11:30 on a Sunday, do you think I'm seeing anyone?"
--sarah hatter

Headline of the week: "Britney, Eminem and Madonna Unite to Fight Pirates."
Frankly, I wouldn't put it past Leah Whittington. Or Corinne Crawford, for that matter.

By the way, I'm not even touching the question of whether it's accurate to show the Romans as speaking Latin, rather than Greek, in Judea. Gibson's a devout Catholic, anyway, so I guess Latin was inevitable.
So Alec, how many people do you know who understand both spoken Latin and spoken Aramaic?

29 September 2002

Nat, you were probably kidding about that Latin screenplay, but Mel Gibson isn't:

"Mel Gibson is to return to directing, but his new film will be shot in Latin and Aramaic. The Passion, to star James Caviezel, will be a chronicle of the last twelve hours in the life of Jesus Christ and will feature minimal dialogue--in Jesus's native Aramaic, and Latin.

"'Obviously no one wants to touch something filmed in two dead languages," Gibson told a film conference in Italy. 'They think I'm crazy and maybe I am. But maybe I'm a genius. I want to show the film without subtitles. Hopefully I'll be able to transcend language barriers with visual storytelling.'"

Dammit, I knew I should have taken that Aramaic Aab class last semester...
Hullo folks. We just got a few new staffers -- they're going to help us out a lot I think, and I just wanted to report that one looks a lot like Michael Stipe and the other looks a lot like Guy Pearce. His name (he claims) is Alex Pearson, which seems close enough to Pearce to mean they might be related.

Alec, what can I say...you're a memorable guy. When she's a superstar she'll introduce you to some entertainment executives who want someone to write a screenplay in latin.
The other night I went to see the lovely Mieka Pauley play a set at the famous Knitting Factory in the Village. Bought her CD, too. (The best song, "Fate Day By Day," is playing on my computer as I write this). The best part of the evening was when I introduced myself to Mieka before the set. As soon as I said hello, she said, "Oh, that's right, we had a Latin class together." I have no memory of this whatsoever. Which may not seem all that odd, but think about it. Latin classes are rather small. And if you know me and you know Mieka, the thought that she would remember me and I wouldn't remember her seems rather...implausible. Oh well. Now at least I can credibly say "I knew Mieka back when...."
Jeez, I leave Deadly Mantis for a couple of weeks and it turns into a baseball blog? Clearly I can't leave you guys alone for a second. All right, then....

Guess who's back
Back again
Alec's back
Tell a friend....

27 September 2002

Harvard professor "proves" that Barry Bonds is having the best offensive season ever.

This guy came up with a formula that attempts to answer the question, "How many runs would a lineup of 9 incarnations of X player produce per 9 innings?" The professor states repeatedly that this formula is not an estimate. Of course it's an estimate. All of probability is estimating.

In addition, the article neglects to mention whether the stat passed the ultimate test of any runs created formula: inputting statistics for a whole team and comparing the output to the actual number of runs. (They did it for the league and said it was close.)
In Passing somehow manages to overhear a bizarre snippet of conversation every single day while wandering around Berkeley. I was starting to get disapointed that "hey, i live in Berkeley, and i never hear any of this stuff." Until today:

It's not just you. Everyone's uncultured, it's the result of bad parenting. Your parents suck! [pause] Are they dead? If so, i'll take that back. [shakes head] Your parents suck!
--One boy talking to another as they walked between classes at 11 this morning

26 September 2002

In the same game Rodriguez hit his 57th, Palmeiro hit his 43rd. I've seen no stats on teammates combining for 100 homeruns, and I can't find it on Google. Ruth and Gehrig did it, and presumably Kent hit at least 27 last year. Any others? Who was protecting McGwire in St. Louis?
In other baseball news (when did we start just talking about sports? i guess its the one thing that is guarenteed to give useless fun facts on a daily basis) A-Rod now has 57 home runs, does anyone care?

25 September 2002

Hard to follow that one, but here goes...

I went to a Twins game with my dad tonight. They beat Cleveland 7-5 in 12 innings on a David Ortiz homerun that barely cleared the fence. Some observations:

  • Cleveland has a player named Coco Crisp. Honest. What were his parents thinking?
  • A.J. Pierzynski is my new favorite Twin. How can you not love a catcher who bunts with two outs to drive in two runs?
  • During one of the inning breaks the scoreboard had a "KissCam," which panned around the stadium to find various couples who upon noticing themselves on the scoreboard would kiss. It was extremely heteronormative.
  • I don't care if he's won 15 games, Rick Reed stinks.
  • The Twins are good, but they don't have the starting pitching or the power that makes a team successful in the playoffs. Defense, doubles, and bullpens don't win playoff games. Especially against Oakland.
  • For $27 each we sat behind home plate, 20 rows up. For the same price in Boston I recall sitting way the heck out in right field, pointed at the Green Monster.

Also, it rained the whole time. Who says Minnesota needs a new ballpark?

Arnold Ephraim Ross

Arnold Ross was born in Chicago August 24, 1906, spent his childhood in Odessa, Russia, returning to Chicago in 1922. With a 1931 Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago he taught at CalTech, People’s Junior College, and St. Louis University. During World War II he served as a research mathematician in the U.S. Navy. In 1946 he was appointed as the Head of the Mathematics Department at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Ross left Notre Dame in 1963 to become the chairman of the Department of Mathematics at the Ohio State University, retiring in 1976.

Perhaps the most notable lifetime achievement of Arnold Ross was the summer program he started at Notre Dame for high school students talented in mathematics. Professor Ross divined the need for encouraging such students even earlier than the Sputnik era. In the summer program, Professor Ross developed innovative methods to impart creativity and problem-solving skills in a manner benefiting the students throughout their lives. The Ross Program moved to Ohio State in 1964 and continues to thrive there. Ross directed and taught in that program every summer until poor health forced him to retire in 2000 at age 94. In the 1970s he carried this program to Australia, India, and West Germany, where local efforts flourished for several years. Alumni of this highly successful Ross Program at Ohio State have created similar programs at other universities in the United States and Canada.

Professor Ross also initiated innovative outreach programs (New Horizons and Horizons Unlimited) in the 1960s for inner city school children in Columbus, and served on several national committees concerned with mathematics education. He received many academic honors including national awards for teaching and service in mathematics: the OSU Distinguished Teaching Award (1974) and Distinguished Service Award (1981), the Mathematics Association of America Award for Distinguished Service (1986), the American Mathematical Society Citation for Public Service (1998). The American Math Society established the “Arnold Ross Lecture Series” in his honor (1993). Professor Ross also received an honorary Doctoral Degree from Denison University (1984).

Arnold Ross married Bertha (Bee) Horecker in 1931. Although they had no children, they had a long and happy marriage until her death in 1983. Professor Ross was fortunate to find love again. In 1990, he married Madeleine Green, who remained with him in a close, loving relationship for the rest of his life.

In lieu of flowers please send a donation to the Ross Mathematics Program, Department of Mathematics, the Ohio State University.

I had the honor a year ago of attending a reunion celebrating Dr. Ross's 95th birthday and the program's 45th anniversery. Hundreds of people came from accross the country to see him one more time and to let him know how important he was in their lives. I watched 5 decades of his students stand up and tell him what he'd done in their lives. There were half a dozen of his students who had gone out and started their own programs to give back to others what Ross had given to them. Its hard for me to imagine what he saw in his 96 years, but I know his was a great life, and I know that if I had 300 years I still wouldn't leave the mark on the world that Dr. Ross left.

24 September 2002

Honorary Alec Posting:

If Alec were still posting he would link to this article in the onion and say something witty and succinct.
More fun useless facts from espn:

Stuck in the middle (and everywhere else). Finally, there's something about the AL East that looks familiar. The standings, for instance. At the top, the Yankees and Red Sox are guaranteed to finish 1-2, in that order, for the fifth straight year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's never happened -- in any league, any division, any season. But that's not all. Unless the Orioles get real hot this week or the Blue Jays forget to win again, the entire division is going to wind up in the exact same order again, too -- for the fifth straight season. Obviously, that's never happened, either. So ... anyone want to place a wager it won't happen again next year? Not us.

23 September 2002

Stat of the day (from espn)

If you don't think Barry Bonds should be the National League MVP, consider this stat: If you took away all of Barry's hits, he still would have a higher on-base percentage (.337) than American League MVP-candidate Alfonso Soriano (.335).

22 September 2002

Silly me, i could have sworn your post was centered on whether a wildcard with a better record played at home or on the road, but looking back i'm clearly delusional.

I guess blogging is no longer worth the amount of time it takes alec to do it, now that his time has jumped so much in worth...
Where's Alec?
Question of the day:

"Can someone remind me again what exactly Iraq did to us?"

[Noah, feel free to not respond.]
Noah, I'd advise that you read my post again, since everything you said I said as well. However, my question was answered this morning, as the paper tells me that the Twins will be opening the playoffs on the road, and thus I won't be able to go. Rats.

21 September 2002

Fun google search watch:
is a sperm count of 2 million enough for attaining pregnancy
Page 2 hits the jackpot once again. They're even funny when it has nothing to do with sports.
Dave, it seems to me that the twins will in fact be playing the AL west winner, and not the wildcard. According to this site the wild card plays the division winner with the best record who isn't in their division. In this case that is the Yankees and not the Twins. Thus it seems to me that the Twins will be playing without homefield advantage against the winner of the division (probably the A's).
I dunno about the four man rotation. I'll buy the argument that maybe you should do it in the minors to protect prospects, but having 8 starter-like pitchers isn't feasible in the majors for obvious reasons.

Also, he argues that the best pitchers need to pitch deep into games that aren't close just so they can get to 220 or 230 pitches for the season, but number of innings pitched isn't what's important -- it's number of wins. I'd pitch Randy Johnson into the 8th, even in a blowout, and that way 1) I'm assured a win this game and 2) I have a fresh bullpen for next game.

He still doesn't address the simple argument that a lot of normal pitchers might get hurt with one fewer day of rest. You put a lot of stress on the bullpen when you need to stick to low pitch counts, and it's nice to be able to have your pitcher go the distance now and then to help the bullpen out. My guess is that in real game situations the bullpen flexibility lost when you go to the four man rotation and the importance of keeping starters healthy overcome the greater pitching quality among starters you get with it.

Lastly, teams used to use four man rotations and now they don't -- I don't think they're as stupid and stubborn as this guy suggests. Managers have reasons for the things they do and even though very few teams have quality fifth starters, they all see fit to give them starts. Just saying "this is the way things worked in the 80s" isn't much of an argument because nowadays the reality is that you're gonna have weak pitchers somewhere, and you don't want them to be stuck in there for three innings because you don't have anyone else to bring in.
Dave, to answer your question about the voting screwups, I don't know why the counties with the optical scan systems had problems. That's what we have in Citrus County and it's a really simple system. My guess is that most of the problems arise from poll workers who don't know what they're doing, but I don't know why it should be any different in this state than it is anywhere else. As far as the 2000 election goes, there where really bad things that were done statewide by the Secretary of State's office that seriously messed up the election (such as purging a lot of people from voter rolls who shouldn't have been purged) but I don't think those things happened this time around. We'll see if there's any funny business for the general election. Luckily the counties in our district are pretty competent when it comes to elections.
That page two article is a perfect example of what ESPN has done for sports -- it's created a whole medium where literate (yet non-elitist) and funny analysis happens. It exists somewhere between the radio shows (which I don't think of as literate) and the real sportswriting. I love these articles.

On the sports note, I knew who the "worst shooting night" quote was about but I forgot to guess what the story was about. If I had actually sat down and thought about it I should have gotten it. It's right up there in the recognizable sports cliche book along with "[he] was actually a good player for the Red Sox..."

20 September 2002

wow, i don't think i'll even try to explain...
Here's a nice article on Bledsoe's first two games with the Bills. I'm thrilled that things are going well for him, because, although the Patriots made the right move in going with younger and cheaper, after the way he helped his team last year and after seeing his ad in the Globe i realized he's one of the classier athletes out there and i wish him all the best.
Check out the story on Rachel Vessey in yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune. In the print version there was a cute picture of her in a Harvard shirt waving around some kitchen implements.
Question of the day: The Twins are guaranteed to play the AL West champion (Anaheim or Oakland) in the first round of the playoffs, and they are guaranteed to have a worse record than said champion. The series is scheduled for October 1-2 and 4-6. Where will the series be on what dates?

This is relevant because my dad was selected in a lottery for four playoff tickets (for a mere $800 per seat; you get refunded for games that don't get played), and the only day either he or I will be in town is October 1. Will the Twins be at home that day? I want to go.
Patrick Ewing went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin???? Who knew?

18 September 2002

Here's a cool article on why baseball should go back to the four man rotation.
I hate the reporting on today's hearings into the 9/11 intellegence reporting. See this, this, or this, for examples. All of them are based on the premise that intellegence agencies failed to realize despite a few clues that a hijacked plane attack plane attack was a possibility. This is just silly, EVERYONE knew it was a "possibility," it was in a Tom Clancy novel for heaven's sake. The whole point is that its hard to sift the possibilities to find the likely ones. And there's certainly nothing in these few small clues which makes one think that this particular form of attack was any more likely than any one of a million possibilities. For every clue that these articles point out there were thousands and thousands of clues that other attacks were possible, and none of those happened.
Wow, here's an amazing story (link via Nancy Nall):

When police demanded a correction in 1995, Broward Managing Editor Joe Oglesby obliged: ``A Nov. 18 story about the firing of Oakland Park police officers Brian Rupp and Jay Santalucia incorrectly reported that they allegedly engaged in oral sex with juvenile prostitutes for 23 minutes during a videotaped sting operation. In fact, the tape is 23 minutes long, but the sex act lasted only part of the tape.''
I'm quite amused by the fact that I can take the following quote completely out of its context and you (by whom i guess i mean nat) will still know who it refers to:

"[name] had perhaps the most dreadful shooting day in basketball history"

You can probably even guess what the article is about.
Hey Nat, what's up with your state?

The problems here involved not only the new touch-screen machines but also optical scanners, which "read" marks on paper ballots and which some counties had used in previous elections as well. In Union County, an optical scan system registered all votes as Republican. In Duval County, the ballots jammed in the machines. In Orange County, the machines shredded the ballots.
"All things being equal" was meant to be the former -- if you have two teachers with the same looks, will they look more attractive teaching subject A or subject B. Admittedly, though, stereotypes of what various subject teachers usually look like creep into our ratings. I know attractive romance language teachers; I don't know any attractive chemistry teachers.

After further discussion with people, I feel I need to defend my selection of English as an attractive subject. I chose it because I have heard of a lot more english teacher-student romances (most with a male teacher) than I have with other subjects. I think english is especially attractive in high school, where these innocent teens have the opportunity to talk about love and whatnot in class for the first time.
Sea Change Watch:

Well it looks like Beck's new album is named, you guessed it, "Sea Change."
What does "all things being equal" mean? Is the question, if you have identical twins and one teaches math and the other English, which will be more attractive? Or if you have an average math teacher and an average English teacher who have no particularly distinguishing characteristics, which is more attractive?

17 September 2002

My thesis advisor is the new Dean of Undergratuate Education. I'm sure this will be wonderful for the school, but the math department will certainly miss his full attention.
I agree with putitng romance language proffessors first in attractiveness potential. After that its not nearly so clear.
darn it i hate being absent minded. i just burnt myself in the following way: i open the oven and take out the pan with a hand in a pot holder, i close the oven after i take it out, leaving me with a free ungloved hand which i proceed to attempt to hold the pan with, thus burning myself.
Sigh, look what Joy posted in the middle of the night... Its hard to suddenly lose two places you feel at home at the same time.
So Almea's shopping classes, and she wanted to take Econ (they call it econ everywhere except Harvard, I think). She ended up not taking it because she's writing a thesis, but she told me that she thought her TA was Julie-caliber. She couldn't say for sure because, well, the TA is female, but apparently this TA is French, which is something. I'm still skeptical, though, because a lot of Julie's je ne sais quoi (wow! a perfect use for that phrase) was that she was a french teacher, and she could spend all of class giggling at us stumbling over french. Now, I have a hard time believing that she would have been so endearing if she were giggling over a Hicksian demand curve.

Which brings me to the discussion question: which teachers are most attractive? I will refrain from the obvious math teacher jokes. I vote that language teachers (specifically French and Italian) and English/Lit teachers have the most attractiveness potential, all things being equal.
So Noah, were you really surfing the internet at 4:20 am, or did you just forget to change your time zone?

Yom Kippur was interesting. I went to my synagogue for the first time in four years, and it was nice to hear all the familiar tunes. The choir, however, was dreadful, and poorly miked on top of it. For the concluding service my mom and I went to my grandfather's synagogue, where the choir (and the cantors) were much better but I didn't know any of the tunes.

I don't know if your theory holds, Noah, since the holiday is about asking God for forgiveness, not people against whom you've sinned. Basically you get to wipe the slate clean of all the sins you've committed against God in the last year. People you have to deal with them on your own, and there's no specific holiday for that.

Rosh Hashana last week was also interesting...I ended up going to services at Stanford Hillel, which is much less hard core than Harvard Hillel. I volunteered for an honor in the Torah service, and I had to give them my father's Hebrew name, since they announce me as "David son of ---." However, I didn't know his name, so I made something up, and gave them my mother's name as well, which I did know. They didn't give me too many dirty looks...

That first first line isn't really one line. But I am jealous of the fondue.

Another problem with remaining subscribed to Adams-Schmooze, besides the fact that you get a thousand messages about used futons (including Flora asking for a frame to go with our mattress), is that it can quickly put you over quota, and since our accounts are expired you can't delete anything. This is my current problem. And help@fas is ignoring me, probably because I'm not a fas address.

Now I get to unpack all of my stuff and decide what I'm bringing to England. The fun never ends. Oh, and there is some kind of justice in the world: my room is about as far east of the center of campus as the quad is from Adams, and the math building is equally far west. Looks like I'm going to need a bike. And some good rain shoes.
Great quote:

From the letters from people your age I have recently received, it has become clear that your generation lacks clear dating protocols. It's not your fault. Nobody taught you. So keep that in mind as you navigate this thing: He probably has no clue what he's supposed to do. He doesn't know how his behavior is affecting you. It doesn't mean he doesn't like you. It just means he's not sure what to do.

16 September 2002

I had lunch today with a Harvard alum who's studying logic here (Maryanthe, she used to have a crimson column) and she mentioned this weird graduate school in Switzerland which I though alec might find fascinating. It really reminds me of that weird Jackson Hole event. You might want to check out the film theory class.
I'm making fondue, and after cutting the Gruyere into little pieces and then spreading the side of the pot with garlic, I can assure you that just because something tastes great does NOT mean that it smells good on your fingers... Now where is Lionel with that bread and corkscrew...
Okay... Top 5 list of first lines of songs:

1. "Slip out the front door like a ghost, into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white. In between the moon and you, angels get a better view of the crumbling difference between wrong and right." (Counting Crows, Round Here)
2. "The concrete broke your fall" (REM, why not smile)
3. "Even if I am in love with you, all this to say, 'what's it to you?'" (Suzanne Vega, Marlene on the Wall)
4. "Its a one time thing, it just happens... alot" (Suzanne Vega, Cracking)
5. "Turn down the lights, turn down the bed, turn down these voices inside my head" (Bonnie Raitt, I can't make you love me if you don't)
There's a funny comment on Oregon's football team in ESPN's page two:

Side note: What is up with Oregon football? Since when did this place decide that it was going to turn its college football program into Notre Dame plus Alabama plus Oklahoma? These tree-huggers are getting cocky on us. They post the billboard in Times Square, which was written off to a Phil Knight bender that got out of control when someone opened his checkbook and handed him a pen. Now, they've got billboards right near the USC campus in L.A., and just off the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, sort of an equidistant in-your-face on Stanford and Cal.

Wait a minute: Shouldn't these guys be making me a Frappucino, and not worrying about running trips right? What in this world can you have faith in if you can't count on Oregon to be a place where the co-eds' armpit hair outmasses the male students' armpit hair, and where football is sneered at as the fascist glorification of mindless competition?

Memo to Oregon Duck fans: Drop your season tickets. Come out with your hands up. Grab the nearest acoustic guitar, and sing the first James Taylor song that comes to you.

So my one Oregon football story is that I happened to be in Eugene this past year when Oregon was playing in the runner up bowl. At home or at school I'd have very quickly found out the outcome of any game this important. However, since I was surrounded by non-sports people I ended up not knowing for several days who had won the game despite being there.
Job Posting

Wanted: Supervisor of Elections

Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade Counties

Job description:

Organize and supervise elections; maintain list of eligible voters, recruit and train poll workers, and devise ballots.

Skills and qualifications:

Must be a halfway competent person who can count. Must be able to deal with old people, most of whom can't do anything without it being spelled out in 50-point font and thrust right in front of their faces. Even then they'll have lots of questions so you need to have a lot of training for them. All the voters are old people and all the poll workers are too, so this is why dealing with them is so important. Must have a semblance of technological aptitude and the foresight to test machines before election day.

Send resumes to the voters of Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties. Also send a copy to Jim Smith, acting Florida Secretary of State. Bonus points for ability to say you made a mistake.
More on atonement from Matt Yglesias.
Jeff Cooper of Cooped-Up writes:

In many ways, I'm not a particularly good Jew. Sure, I don't eat ham and cheese sandwiches or shrimp cocktail, but on the other hand I set foot in synagogue perhaps two or three times per year. But Yom Kippur, which starts tonight, is one of the times when I make a real effort. From sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow, I'll be fasting and seeking forgiveness from those I have wronged in the past year.

And it really got me thinking, Yom Kippur is a darn good idea for a holiday. If all of us had times when we spent a lot of time thinking about who we've wronged and asking those people for forgiveness than the world would be a much much better place.

15 September 2002

For those of you who didn't set up your mail forwarding or unsubscribed to Adams schmooze (our house mailing list), you've been missing out on the usual delluge of futon sellings and movie watchings and whatnot. But today a more amusing item came through:

Encourage your friends to shower together ...

Just think of all the water they'll save.

Join the new campus Resource Efficiency Program as your House
representative make a difference and make $9.55/hr!

Work for four hours/wk to help make Harvard residential life more
ecologically efficient. Duties include educating about and monitoring
water use, energy use, and waste disposal; conducting a resource use
audit; attending biweekly meetings to share ideas with other Reps; &
participating in interhouse projects.
You will receive extensive support from the Environmental Action
Committee, the Office of Physical Resources, and Harvard Recycling.

For a detailed job description and to apply, visit
www.hcs.harvard.edu/~eac or email Emily (Emily_sadigh@harvard.edu).
Well Dave, you might not have had 20 friends during college, but at least your team clinched a pennant.
Wish the Onion published daily? Well now it does, sort of. Check out Scrappleface (link via How Appealing).

14 September 2002

Today's Laura's (my sister's) birthday. Twenty of her closest friends threw her a surprise party. She's been in college three weeks; I don't think I had twenty friends after four years.
You should all check out Asparagirl's assassins theory of crisis events in America.
So cnnsi mentions in this article that the lack of black quarterbacks in the NFL has been reversed:

My how times have changed. For the better. Fully one-fourth of the league's 32 teams feature black starting quarterbacks: Carter, Dallas; Kordell Stewart, Pittsburgh; Aaron Brooks, New Orleans; Rodney Peete, Carolina; Vick, Atlanta; Steve McNair, Tennessee; Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota; and Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia.

But they fail to point out the more important fact. Of those quarterbacks, at least 3 (Carter, Brooks, and Peete) really aren't very good. I mean any racist would still start Donovan McNabb, you'd have to be an absolute moron not to, but the fact that a bad black quarterback is starting in Dallas is an actual sign of progress.

13 September 2002

So if our life during college were actually a sitcom and alec was currently living in the spin-off ("i mean, i thought haiwen was funny and all, but i don't think he can carry his own show. i mean who wants haiwen in every episode?") my question is, what would the themesongs be for the two sitcoms?

Why did this question come to mind? oh, no reason...
Wow, the trailer for Adaptation, new movie by Spike Jonze and Charlie Kauffman, just appeared on apple today. (If you don't know who they are, you should.) Although the trailer doesn't quite have the same "bowl you over with its amazingness"-affect as Being John Malkovich did, it still makes me really look forward to this film. Furthermore the choice of music is impeccable.
Here's a good new yahoo search for our site: sexual older women trailers.

And yes the person went all the way down to the 45th link.
I think my last post illustrates why I will never be a good blogger. I don't write short snappy thoughts. I have too many asides and tangents. Ah well.
So, I was getting annoyed at the LATimes in correct spelling of the word "blogosphere" as "blog-o-sphere" (in this article) and i got to wondering how on earth do you pronounce that word. So, as far as I can tell, the origin of the term "blogosphere" has to do with it containing the words "sphere" (meaning a space of some sort in this context, (which reminds me of poor mike hill having to explain repeatedly that his thesis on "homotopies of spheres" had nothing to do with queer spheres and was a math thesis)) and also the words logos (meaning truth) and blog (a shortening of weblog). (Thus "blog-o-sphere" is completely rediculous, and it makes you wonder where the editor came up with that spelling.) At any rate, "logos," if i remember correctly (Alec help here), has its first vowel a long O, while the O in blog comes from the O in log and is a short O. So how does one pronounce blogosphere? With a long or a short O for the first vowel? Incidentally, the stress is on the first syllable, right?

12 September 2002

Yesterday I ate lunch at the resteraunt where in passing found her quote for the day. Perhaps I have hope yet of saying something weird enough and loud enough to end up on that site...

11 September 2002

I've seen the trailer for Punch-Drunk Love a few times in the theater (at Road to Perdition and One Hour Photo), and while I find it charming and intriguing, I'm not sure how theatergoers will react if they're expecting the preview to a typical Adam Sandler comedy: it's too low-key and strange for that, and the audiences I've seen it with have seemed more confused than anything else. For some reason, too, the sound is awfully muted whenever I've seen the trailer in an auditorium.

That said, I love the song "He Needs Me," featured at the end of the trailer, as performed by Shelley Duvall in the movie Popeye. I haven't been able to find it online, but if any of you Kazaa-wired types could track down an MP3 for me, I'd be forever grateful.

10 September 2002

So i played cylindrical chess with Lionel tonite. Yes that's exactly what it sounds like, chess played on a cylinder. So a piece can go out the left or right side and come out on the other. It makes openings bizarre because moving pawn to g3 suddenly pins blacks d pawn with the bishop, while moving the c pawn suddenly pins the f pawn with the queen. Certain affects of this rule change are obvious: bishops are much more powerful than before (in particular more powerful than knights), castling is less obviously good, rooks can connect easily, etc. But all this is relatively tame compared to the end game. Suddenly a rook and a king no longer checkmate. Furthermore getting perpetual check is much easier. Anyway its a fun twist on an good old game.
No matter how many times i hear it, "Link you're the hero of Hyrule" never looses its charm.

Yes I beat the original legend of zelda again. More importantly, I finally found the red ring, and i beat my new roomate lionel through level 9 in a race.
The P.T. Anderson/Adam Sandler film's trailer is up. What do you guys think?
I ran accross this post of Jane Galt's which had the following quote:

It's an odd truth known among grammar school teachers that you can't get little boys to read books about little girls, not even well-brought up little boys with feminist moms. They'll sit still while the teacher reads A Little Princess out loud, but they aren't interested in childhood classics like "Little House on the Prairie" or "Anne of Green Gables", even though those books surpass the inferior, boy-centered ones they choose by almost any measure. And this dichotomy holds throughout life: women read books, watch movies, etc. that are aimed at women, but not the other way around. And it is easily possible to segment one's audience to be comprised of either all women, or mostly men, by the subject matter you choose.

Now i must say that i really enjoyed the "Anne of Green Gables" series quite a bit. I guess i was in 9th grade so I wouldn't count as a little boy, but still, the above observation doesn't seem true to me. I also liked "little house" when i was younger, although not as much. Does this make me really that unusually for a boy? Or is it just that I read Anne old enough to develop a minor crush on her?

09 September 2002

So tomorrow is the Florida primary, and I'm looking forward to voting at the Ted Williams museum. In one race, however, I won't have much of a choice -- one of the school board candidates dropped out of the race after reporters learned of an embarrassing past. This candidate, who had just sent out a fundraising letter saying that he needed support so the "God guys" can win and who made headlines for insisting on christian prayers at school board meetings, was arrested in 1994 for indecent exposure. He apparently motioned for a man to approach him in a parking lot, and when the man did approach he found that Bates was masturbating in his car. When questioned, Bates said that the incident occurred during a dark time in his life when he was abusing pain medication and had lost his job, I believe. He also said that he thought the record had been expunged and he wouldn't have run if he knew it hadn't been. Well, it turns out that it should have been expunged, and there was an error in the police station! I guess you really can't escape your past.

08 September 2002

There's something really comforting in sitting down to play solataire and winning the first game. Whatever else happens that day, at least you know that something is going your way.

07 September 2002

Uh oh, nat... This can't be good for the incumbent...
I'm also going to try my hand at estimating the number of gas stations in the country:

270 million people in the country. 1 car per 3 people, makes about 90m cars. Each filled up about twice a week, makes 180m fillups per week. Each station on average does about 12 fillups per hour for about 12 hours a day. So in a week each station does about 1000 fillups per week. Thus there should be about 180,000 gas stations in the country. This comes out to about 1500 people per gas station. Thus my home town would need about 40,000/1,500 = 28 gas stations serving my home town. This seems a tad on the high end, but still reasonable.

David (Speyer) mentioned the following microsoft interview question a friend mentioned to him. There is a mouse in the middle of a circular lake. There is a cat on the shore. If the mouse reaches the shore and the cat isn't waiting then he escapes safely into the high grass. How fast does the mouse need to be able to swim relative to the walking speed of the cat to be able to reach the shore safely?
David (Speyer) pointed out an interesting wrinkle that first appears when there are 6 pirates. Recall that the 5 pirate game has the solution that the 5th pirate offers (1, 0, 2, 0, 97) or (0,1,2,0,97) (both are equally good, and by the preferences given there is no way for him to decide). Now the 6th pirate needs to buy off 3 other pirates. Clearly he can buy off pirate 4 for just 1 coin. However, since neither pirate 1 nor 2 knows for sure that he'll be getting 1 coin, he can in fact buy off both of those for 1 coin each. Thus the 6th pirate offers (1,1,0,1,0,97).

On the other hand, if, for example, pirates would rather give money to older pirates than younger ones, then the 5th pirate would always offer (1,0,2,0,0,97), forcing the 6th pirate to offer (2,1,0,1,0,96).

This is when things start getting complicated. Suppose that the 6th pirate does offer (1,1,0,1,0,97). Then pirate 5 has a huge incentive to promise pirate 1 that he'll give him a coin in the next round, and no incentive to ever break that promise. Thus if one's word has even completely negligible value 5 can throw a wrench in the system and convince 1 to vote pirate 6 off the island so to speak. Hence, if one's word has negligible value and the pirates are allowed to make offers, pirate 6 can be forced to offer (2,2,0,1,0,96).

Time to leave Stanford for John's friends' pool in Cupertino. Maybe we'll have sushi for dinner. I like being on vacation.
Noah, if I were interviewing you for a job, I'd either toss you out a window, or make you president of the company.

Nice work.
So I've been thinking about the pirates for a minute or two, and although i haven't seen it before, the method of solution is the same as many similar problems. That is to say, the question is only hard because there are 5 of them. So you solve the puzzle by starting with 1 pirate and making it successively harder.

If there's 1 pirate he clearly get's the whole pile. If there are two pirates the second pirate can't give the 1st pirate more than 100 and so no matter what he says he dies. If there are three pirates he thus doesn't need anything to buy off pirate 2 (who just wants to live), and can keep the remaining 100. If there are four pirates, the fourth one can buy off the first pirate's vote for 1 coin and the second pirates vote for 1 coin and keep the remaining 98. Finally the littlest pirate can buy off the first pirate's vote for 2 coins and the third pirate's vote for 1 coin and keep the remaining 97.

However, pirates are clearly NOT rational in this manner. Take the 3 pirate case for example. If the third pirate offered to take all the money himself, I can assure you the second oldest pirate is going to kill the annoying little cheap bastard. The first pirate out of gratitude will thus be willing to take the vast majority of the money instead of all of it, since he'd have gotten nothing if the second pirate hadn't helped him out.

Furthermore, how do you think the oldest two pirates got to live that long? They've clearly been playing this little game with all their new pirate buddies and must have some trick up their sleeve. So the point is, unless they get a great deal from pirate 5, they'll kill him. Since pirate 4 thinks he's about to win he won't be bought off and that leaves 1,2,4, vs 3,5 and 5 dies. But then 1 and 2 have a majority and can kill 3 and 4 and then split the treasure 60-40.
Alright, we're down here in Florida, and it's a weird state. It has giant predatory reptiles, hurricanes, floods, panthers, Miami, and a whole hosts of other threats to humans. However, people around here have a tendency to exaggerate (in line with what one might find in, say, Texas) about things. I got into a surreal argument last week with several of my co-workers who appear reasonable to the untrained eye. It began when one coworker's son asked me what the fastest land animal was. I replied, it was the cheetah. He said no, everyone says that, but the correct answer is the alligator. Since they aren't technically land animals, they are sometimes overlooked, but they can actually outrun cheetahs. Now, this is a twelve year old who's telling me this, so I said no, I think cheetahs are faster. Then it got weird. His mom said, well, they are only faster over a short period of time, maybe 30 seconds. And another coworker of mine said yeah, alligators are faster than cheetahs.

I sat for a second, dumbstruck. What was I to say? That there is no way, biomechanically speaking, that an alligator (an animal that is basically a huge pair of jaws attached to a huge tail) can cover any distance faster than a cheetah, an animal that's basically 4 really powerful legs? Well, I did say that. My coworker insisted that alligators are faster. He said, "have you ever seen one of those things run?" I said no but that I'd be surprised if they went 60 mph. I'd be surprised if they went 30 mph. Finally we dropped it and I said I'd look it up online.

So I did. And who won, the cheetah or the alligator? I'll let you see for yourself. 11 mph seems about right, seeing as they can't really flex their back on the forward/backward axis (it's called dorsal ventral flexion, according to Almea) which is necessary for real galloping.

Incidentally, in the drawing of the galloping croc on the website has its back bending at the neck and the tail, because it has ribs all along its torso.

Concerning the pirate scheme, how did the young one talk the rest of them into this? If I were them I'd just kill him for tricking them, rationality be damned.
So here's the brainteaser I was asked to solve at a recent interview (at a company that shall remain nameless):

Five pirates discover a treasure of 100 gold coins. They decide to divide up the treasure as follows: the youngest pirate will suggest a scheme for dividing the coins, and all five pirates will vote on the proposal. If the youngest pirate gets the approval of the majority, his plan for dividing the coins will be adopted. If his plan is rejected, then the youngest pirate will be killed, and the next-to-youngest pirate will suggest his own scheme, with the same conditions (and possible punishment) as before. And so on down the line. (Note that if a tie vote results, the proposal is considered to have failed.)

The question is, assuming that all the pirates are rational, and that their preferences are 1) to stay alive, 2) to get as much treasure as possible, and 3) to kill other pirates, how will they end up dividing the treasure?

(I got the right answer, but only after several wrong turns and quite a bit of prompting from my interviewer. Got the job, too.)

06 September 2002

Dave, John, and I hung out in San Fransisco today, mostly walking around parks (and eating blackberries). It was great fun. Quote of the day:

"We'll be waiting outside in a red BMW convertible"
--Dave Freeman

05 September 2002

Sigh, why is it so hard to write about mathematics for a general audience? Here's Salon's attempt at reporting on the Fields medal winners.

03 September 2002

I had a "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Harvard anymore" moment this morning. We were playing hangman in german, and people just weren't that good at guessing letters. A few people were, but on the whole the letter guessing was surprisingly bad. It just wasn't like the intense but good natured competition in French A.
Part of what TMQ does in his predictions is cheating by mathematics. By taking predicting one of a large number of unlikely outcomes he manages to make predictions that look unlikely but are actually quite good. On the other hand many of his points do not involve such cheating. For example predicting the way sporstcasters do the superbowl winner is in fact worse than randomly choosing. Similarly, over the past several years, picking the division winner to repeat gives you 1/8 odds, while randomly picking another team gives you better than 1/5 odds (7/32 to be exact).

However, TMQ then proceeds to precisely ignore all the predictions which he has made. In his yearly Haiku predictions he predicts scores. From these scores you can see who he is predicting to win each division: Eagles, Bucs, Packers, Rams, Patriots, Titans, Steelers, Oakland. Notice that he has thus prdicted that 5 of last years 6 division winners will repeat. Although he might be saying he only predicts one of these to actually win but he doesn't know which one, this prediction itself runs against his numbers. As I explained above, he should actually just be picking random non-division winners and he'd do better than his own predictions.

Consistency people, consistency... Is it too much to ask for?
Tuesday Morning Quarterback is back, but now at ESPN. He's back on a typical TMQ topic: "All NFL predictions are wrong." Of course he's right. As you heard right here several months ago you can make money betting on the worst 5 teams in each conference winning the superbowl.

However, TMQ raises an even more damning point:

All told, of the roughly 300 Super Bowl predictions tracked by TMQ through this period, two were right -- a one-in-150 performance. If you simply placed into a hat the names of the 31 NFL teams that existed in those years and drew a name at random, your odds of predicting the Super Bowl winner would be 1-in-31. This mean that in the past three years, professional sportscasters and commentators, possessed with their incredible insider knowledge, have proven themselves five times less likely than random chance to predict the Super Bowl winner.

So anyway, TMQ's predictions are (just as last year, when he proved completely correct): "the team goin' to Disney World next winter will come from among those that did not make the "Monday Night" cut: Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Minnesota, New Orleans and San Diego... of last year's division winners -- New England, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis -- only one will repeat... "

And such is life in the NFL. On the other hand I would give 2 or 3 to 1 odds on the bet that the Lakers or the Kings will win the NBA finals, and take even money on the Yankees winning the world series.

02 September 2002

One of my new roomates plays chess and so we've been playing quite a bit. I just found myself in the following position playing black and played one of the coolest combinations i've played in many a year:
White: Pawns on h4 and f6, knight on e4, king on e6
Black(to move): Pawns on h6, d5, and b4, Bishop on f7, king on b3.

(The king on b3 has just eaten up whites queenside pawns, while white has been counterattacking with the knight attacking f7.)
The obvious attempt to simply queen the b-pawn results in both pawns queening and a likely draw. However, I played:
1. Be8
2.f7 Bxf7
3.Nxf7 Kc6
4.Ne5 b3
5.Nd3 d4+!
6.Ke4 h5!

Now white cannot move anywhere. If the knight moves, then the pawn easily queens (for example, 7. Nc1 b2 8. Nd2+ Kd2 and the pawn will queen). If the king moves then the knight falls. This was the first time I played a zugzwang in a game where pieces are still on the board...

Of course its nothing to compare with the greatest zugzwang ever in Samisch-Nimzowitsch (Copenhagen, 1923).