Saturday, November 24, 2007

Things Seen in Kroger Two Days After Thanksgiving

Baby!! Red!! Plantains!! Organic!! Bananas!! (I didn't need any babies or plantains, but I wonder how good their red is.)

Boxes of stuffing, normally $1.79, selling at 88¢ a box. (I bought two.)

Pumpkin cake donuts on the remainder table. (I didn't buy any of those.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I Love a Good Mystery

I came home one day last week to find a notice taped up over the mailboxes addressed to residents of building # ### noting that the amount of animal feces "in front of and on the sides of the building" was getting out of control and threatening a $50 fee to any pet owners deemed to be in noncompliance etc. (I have decided that "on the sides of" really means "beside", but you never really know.)

After seeing this, I was not surprised to see a note for me rolled up next to my doorknob (our management's second-favorite way to leave us a message, after taping it to the door). I got in and unrolled it and sure enough it was the same thing, but with an addition: a handwritten telephone number 800-942-2045. What could the phone number be? The SPCA? A vet? Maid service?

Well, rather than call, I Googled the phone number. It belongs to UBS Financial Services of Stamford, CT.

The possibilities are endless.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

It Was Bound to Happen

I got a 419 e-mail the other day, from (supposedly) an American sergeant who, with his buddies, had found $63m of Saddam's money in Tikrit and wanted to get it out of the country. I don't know whether the scammers are slow, or I just hadn't got one of those until now. I've also noticed an uptick in 419 e-mails from Ouagadougou, and I am always surprised that it is correctly spelled. (They don't always get "Burkina Faso", but you can't have everything.)

I still haven't finished Making Money, since I started it on a Friday afternoon after finally getting out of the office, so I managed to finish three chapters. But I can say that, since Thud! came out, HarperCollins has hired a copy editor who is able to distinguish "1" from "I" from "l". Very exciting.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

European Online Open, Day 1


Round 1 went ok; I won three hands, but someone else won 5, so she won the round.

Round 2 I think I played ok, but I could not pick tiles for anything. Illustrative example: I had 159C 27B 38D (or something very similar) and six individual honors. Knitted (fourteen tiles out of 147, 258, 369 of different suits and the honors) seems indicated; no matter how the suits break down, I've got nine tiles, all I've got to do is match what I draw. In 20 or so picks before someone won the game, I managed to pick the one remaining honor and 3C. That's it. When you consider that 15 of the 27 ranks (six of the C, although that only became 1 once I had picked the 3C, 4 B, 4 D, and one honor) were good, that's pretty pathetic. I finally managed to win the last hand with a minute on the clock to pull ahead of the third-place player by five points.

Round 3 I wasn't getting any hands either, but I wasn't planning/taking advantage as well as I should, as I was behind early and frustrated from the previous round and trying for BIG hands. I did win the last hand here too, but I was still in last place by a good 55 points. Big goose-egg. And, even though all my teammates took second place at their tables in round 3, we (as a team) went from fourth (one spot out of the money) to eighth (just above .500). It looks like I have Things To Prove tomorrow for the last three rounds.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why Don't We Make One Page For All the Puzzle Things?

Let's! (I may note updates here on the main page, but everything will always be linked from the puzzle page.)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Crostic

Available here. Why did I do it all in raw Postscript (for the grid) and a lot of LaTeX picture commands (also for the grid)? Because I can. And also, now that I've done it once, I can automate for the future (should the future hold more of these).

UPDATE (8/11): Updated and fixed version here! The automated tools appear to work fine; I just have to come up with a typesetting style I like. (Four-column is standard, because it's the only way to go; it's dealing with the long clues/answers in a reasonably sane way that is eluding me so far -- and I can't seem to get \raggedright to work for whatever reason.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Things I Wish My Allied Health Students Wouldn't Tell Me

That a one-quart bottle of water that sells for $1.92 has a unit price of 52¢ per quart.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Analogy of the Day

Comma splices are the bad marriages of English grammar: two different sentences, yearning to be free and independent, but shackled together in an incomplete bond based on a bad decision.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Why No One Has Even Considered Inviting Me To Their MIT Puzzle Hunt Team

I am currently working through Eric Berlin's excellent Game Show Hell puzzle hunt for, ooh, a hundred minutes now. Current progress:
Jeopardy!: Know what I'm doing, stuck at three columns complete
Cross Wits: I was sure I knew what was going on, and I think I still do, but I'm not confident. I have the crossword complete, I think, but no answer yet
Concentration: I think I know what I'm doing, but missing a puzzle and the answer
Family Feud: Not a clue
Wheel of Fortune: I'm pretty sure this is straightforward and hard as, well, hell (one phrase so far)
Let's Make a Deal: I know this is not straightforward, but I don't know what's going on
The Price is Right: Yay! The answer I have might make sense, once I have the rest
Bonus Round: I can do a wordsearch. The others I know what to do, if they're straightforward puzzles, but I'm not making any progress and surely the endgame is never straightforward?

So there you have it. I will keep plugging away and will never beg for mercy! Answers, however, I may have to beg for.

UPDATE (another hundred minutes later or so): Finished Jeopardy!, finished Cross Wits. Two more lines in Wheel of Fortune. I still don't know where I'm going.

UPDATE UPDATE (mostly Wednesday): Family Feud finished. Up to five lines in Wheel of Fortune, and I think I have the puzzle answer anyway. LMAD finished (not as non-straightforward as I was thinking). Four of the five Bonus Round answers. So I have a lot of words, which have some ... interesting ... properties, but I'm still not sure where to go with them.

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: With John identifying one of the pictures for me, and sitting here throwing ideas at each other, we now have all the words. Now to find the answer....

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: Okay, I had one answer wrong, fixing that made it all be OK. (Downloaded Tuesday at 6:30pm, finished Friday at 12:30 pm ... 66 hours ago.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Proof of Concept

I tried to host an on-line game in Four Winds Mahjong tonight. One player got in fine, one player could see that the game existed and get updates, but couldn't join, and one player couldn't see anything at all. We'll call it a .500 batting average, but at least we know that it works in theory. (And I have the saved game to prove it!)

I thought I'd put up what I did on my end to make everything work; presumably everything I've done here is both necessary and sufficient to successfully play online. And of course, this comes with no warranties, either expressed or implied; I refuse to be responsible if following these directions causes your computer to launch some long-forgotten nuclear warheads.

1. HOME NETWORK. To host a game, you need to provide an IP address to the other players; presumably you can easily find out what "real" IP address you are on. However, for most of us, that IP address does not belong to the computer you're playing on; it belongs instead to your router. When packets from other players (or from the host, if you are the other players) arrive, your router needs to know to which computer to send them (especially since, unlike HTTP packets, they're not usually sent in response to anything you did). For that reason, you should configure your router so that it sends these things to your local computer. The easiest way to get your local IP address specific to the computer on which you are playing is to run "ipconfig" from a command prompt; your local IP address will almost always start "192.168." Then open your router configuration page (if you've just run ipconfig, your router address will be listed as the local gateway)--you're going to need to know your router login and password! You're looking for something called "port forwarding" or "port range forwarding" or something similar--in my router config page it's under "Applications & Gaming". If your router knows about the CVMMON service, that might be all that is needed; otherwise, you should forward ports 2300 to 2400, 6070 to 6080, and maybe 47624 to that local IP address. (I got those ranges from the help files inside Four Winds.)

Of course, if you only have one machine and no router, then you don't care about all that. And if all that seems intimidating, and you don't have anyone else in the house to yell, you can yank the wire out of your router and plug it into your computer temporarily. I had originally thought that only the host had to bother with this, but since the one player who did get in isn't on a home network and the two players who were on a home network had troubles, I'm guessing everyone has to.

2. FIREWALLS. Firewalls vary greatly, but generally you'll need to make your firewall program aware of the application ("4Winds2") and the port ranges (above) and allow access. Setting up the port forwarding above bypassed the firewall built into my router, which you would expect. As for your computer's firewall, if you just run the application and try to connect, the firewall will usually pop up a message and ask you to give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. You should be sure to allow both inbound and outbound connections. Just to be sure, I went into my firewall program (McAfee) and specifically opened the ports under the system services setting (it asks for the program name, and inbound and outbound ports). There should be something similar in other firewalls. I do not recommend just turning off the firewall; this way keeps some control over which programs come knocking on which ports. If your firewall is cheap (or overly complicated), you may not have much of a choice, though. If you do turn it off, be sure to turn it right back on after you're finished. Also, I turned off automatic updating of my anti-virus and firewall (not the programs themselves, just the updates) because I've found those really kill my connection when they kick in and that's not polite when you're the host.

As an optional alternative, you could find the IP addresses of your other players and add them to your whitelist of trusted IPs that connect with your computer as they please. Again, afterwards you should probably remove them (with DHCP you can't guarantee those IP addresses are always going to be associated with the nice people you play mahjongg with).

3. FIND THREE GULLIBLE PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY THINK YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING. And that's really it, as far as the technical details go. That's all I did, anyway, and it worked (more or less). If all this works for you, then great! If it doesn't, I don't know, because this is what worked for me. But it shouldn't be too much more complicated than that. In theory.

Friday, July 06, 2007


There's been a radio ad playing recently for a local clinical trial for a new Pill, which is chewable. The ads very clearly and explicitly emphasize the fact that the pill is "spearmint". I wonder if it's that strong that they have to warn people away (I realize that it's Very Bad for people to ditch clinical trials in the middle, but is it really that bad?), or they just want you to know.

(PS: Is there a word for what's happening to the word "Pill"? It's the opposite of Xerox and Kleenex; a generic word that's becoming capitalized to refer to one specific thing, although not a brand name, obviously.)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Camouflage Review

Camouflage is GSN's new original. It is easily the best original GSN has put on in five years. The basic conceit is that you have a string of letters, with the answer to a clue reading from left to right, with extra letters intermingled, usually to make a bunch of words (for instance "NEXTTOPMODEL" contains the word "NOME" reading from left to right). Puzzles start at 100 points; every removed letter takes 10 points off the score. One puzzle is "Double Camouflage"; the answer contains another answer inside of it, getting the second doubles your score for that puzzle.

Round 2 contains two lines of letters (each line containing at least one complete word); puzzles start at 200 and the first two letters are free. One puzzle is Double.

Round 3 contains three lines of letters (each line containing at least one complete word); puzzles start at 300 and the first five letters are free. One puzzle is Double.

Winner gets to play the bonus round--45 seconds to get as many puzzles as you can. Each puzzle knocks one letter of the Final Camouflage. Get it right, get $5000.

Host is Roger Lodge (no really), who isn't ostentatiously good, but is more than adequate. The puzzle writing is very good. (The writers are very good at occasionally putting obvious clue answers that are almost, but not quite, in the puzzle.) Unfortunately, Roger insists on explaining each clue, which he really shouldn't.

Final analysis: I now have somewhere to be at 7:00 every night.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Odds 'n' Ends

  • I've been watching videos on (apparently it's easier on Viacom to make the videos available on-line than trying to put them on TV somehow). Their list of the 100 greatest one-hit wonders has 36 videos in it. The one that always comes up when you click on the list is Deee-Lite's "Groove Is In the Heart". I've watched it a couple times to verify that, indeed, I do not understand the principle behind club music/DJs at all.
  • But they're getting better; when I first visited, the list of 100 greatest one-hit wonders had 22 videos in it.
  • Plus, they only have one commercial, for Jeep; it's not bad, but apparently they're not expecting anyone to visit more than once or something.
  • The main reason all the bullets so far are about is because it's playing on the other tab in Firefox as I'm typing this.
  • I am now half unpacked from the trip. My luggage is sitting in the living room trying to mock me. Fortunately I have nerves of steel.
  • I did some cleaning up of the computer, mostly involving cleaning up the startup programs and uninstalling some things. On the other hand, nothing helps when the antivirus program decides it needs to update itself.

In Which I Deliberately Misread a Product Name

Nestea's Lemon Sweetened Iced Tea? I don't know much about tea, but if you're using lemon for a sweetener, you're in trouble.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I Can't Make the Right Decisions When I Travel, Either

I got a cab to CPH airport Monday morning to come back home. This used up all my paper kroner, so that's good. I manage to find the Delta ticket counters, and am confronted with what appears to be three lines sticking out of the maze of those fabric strips. It turns out that the crew were busy reassembling the maze, and our three lines eventually had to merge into a single-file line; the people who were in the portion of the line to which we had to merge were not happy about that.

I had not been thinking when packing, and Tom's book was in my luggage and not in my carry-on; fortunately I had my iPod and a lot of Merl Reagle's crosswords to keep me occupied. And I knew that I had to claim and recheck my bags in Atlanta to get through Customs anyway, so I figured I would get it then.

We landed at 2; my luggage arrived on the carousel right at 3:30. After I got through customs, I checked the time; my flight was scheduled out of Atlanta for 5:20, and I still wanted something to eat. So I thought I'd save time (I knew the book was buried somewhat in my luggage) and just recheck the bag; after all, it was only a 75-minute flight from Atlanta, right?

Well, of course, there was a storm going on at the time; the approach had been rather rough, but they let us land. Apparently they were not letting a lot of other people land, and traffic was stacking up about 60 miles outside of Atlanta. My 5:20 flight, became a 6:15 flight, and then a 6:45 flight, and then a 7:55 flight, and then a cancelled flight (one of 25 that I counted on the monitors). The printer at Delta's terminal in Copenhagen was not capable of printing a readable bar code, so I had to stand in the longest line in Atlanta airport history (according to a couple of Delta crew members who walked by, who are not probably the most historically accurate witnesses) to be told that I had been confirmed for the 9:45 flight (it was then around 8:40). The gate assignment printed on the card was the gate right next to the line, so that was handy; I stayed there for a little bit, then looked at the sign on the gate, which said nothing about my flight. The monitors were right behind me; looking, I saw that my flight was now two concourses away, and the flight status was "At Gate".

Well! I usually don't bother with the train at Atlanta's airport, but I did then. By the time I got to concourse D, the flight was no longer listed on the monitors; but I went to the gate listed and it was still on the sign at the gate, still listed as "At Gate". After a bit of confusion with the "Tri-Cities" flight (I don't know where that is, other than TN), the flight boarded and took off a little after 10.

The plane landed in NN at about a quarter to midnight; I went to the baggage carousel and proceeded to dig my keys (apartment and car) out of my "carry-on" (read: backpack). My apartment keys were easily found. My car keys were not. I sat down next to the other carousel and took everything out and put everything back. I looked up and saw my luggage go around the bend on the correct carousel, so I got up and waited for it to come around and grabbed it and went out to my car. I got there (I was parked directly under a light, with great foresight) and dug through my backpack and luggage and found ... nothing. So I trudged back to the terminal and went to Avis, and rented a car to get home and to work. (I found the keys this afternoon in a pocket inside the pocket that I knew they were (supposed to be) in, behind some old pictures.)

I am still not "unpacked" as such, but that can probably wait.

Photo Set

Hey it's some pictures.

Never Has a Place Felt Such Like Home

As this place did last night when I got in. Roughly twenty-two hours from arrival at CPH to leaving PHF. Details and all the rest later when I'm not in a hurry.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

More Copenhagen

The results page are up now at the results link that I put down below somewhere. The PDF version that you are taken to only has scores from rounds 6--8 (and, of course, the totals); to see scores for the first five, change the "8" in the URL to a "5".

I played with actual tiles, against people in the same room, for the first time ever in the hotel Thursday night before the tournament (I've been telling people here that it had been "several years" since I had a group of people to play with, which I suppose is true). I think I was consciously playing a part on the first day as the person who was not at all scared mindless, whereas on the second and third day I was feeling more myself. It is probably not a coincidence that on the first day I scored eight points (of a possible twelve) and on the last two I scored three (out of a possible twenty). There is a lesson here somewhere. I don't think the lesson is particularly politically correct, but there it is.

There were other lessons learned as well, namely that I still cannot understand spoken German very well at all; that apparently I'm the last person on earth with neither business cards nor a cell phone; and that everyone, even the Danes, know Monty Python. (We had a midsummer night's bonfire on Saturday night with the traditional witch-in-effigy on a pole, and there were several shouts of "Burn her anyway!" and "Churches!" and the like.)

There were six Americans there in total; the four of us on the Mahjong USA team, one guy who showed up with Ben who ended up being a Russian for the tournament, and a professional from Japan who didn't play, but who was there for moral support and pictures and whose link is now embedded in the sidebar. Obviously we were there to mingle, and we did, but none of the team had met each other before, so we were mingling as much with each other as with everyone else (with the added advantage that we all spoke English). But they are all good people, all one hundred thirty-odd of them, and we are all pretty damn odd.

When I get back, the pictures I have will get posted somewhere, but don't expect it before the weekend.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Copenhagen so far

I have my camera, but not the cord to tie it to my computer, so no pictures for you.

Currently I have eight table points (last, first, and first) for 26th out of 136, and the team is in 14th place out of 34. (They don't seem to have updated the results page, so I will do their work.)

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I should have a camera with me; maybe I should set up a Flickr site or such before I leave. On the other hand, maybe I'll make you all beg instead.

You'll be able to follow along with the official scores here. I may post commentary about my hands, if I think I have anything insightful/interesting/witty to say, and if I can bother. The site says that scores are updated 30 minutes after the end of a round. Rounds last from 9:30-11:30 am, 1-3 pm, and 3:30-5:30 pm Copenhagen time, which is six hours ahead of Eastern time, seven Central. So you should see something there starting Friday morning.

My Ipod is charging. I think I have everything printed. I've found a place in the airport that should sell power plug-in things. I'm still panicking anyway.

I Love Danish

Reading at
Sweetheart Skat (which also means sales tax)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Travel Checklist

Tuesday is the day to fly away to Copenhagen. The lists:

Things I have (done):
  • Passport
  • Danish currency (in very new and crisp banknotes)
  • Reservations
  • A map of Copenhagen that's kinda small, but that has the playing venue, my hotel, and all the places to meet guided tours 'n' things marked on it
  • Set up my college algebra class for next term (syllabus + online stuff)
  • A camera
Things I don't have (done):
  • Laundry
  • Packing
  • A Danish power converter thing for my laptop
  • The algebra final exam set up for students
  • The statistics final exam completely written
  • The statistics projects graded
  • My medical class syllabus for next term
  • Calculus tests and quizzes
  • Algorithm analysis (anything at all--eep)
  • A working knowledge of the Danish language

Saturday, June 09, 2007


I'm aware that I'm just a dilettante when it comes to statistics (it not being what I do for a living, etc.), but I've always wondered why there aren't religious wars about SPSS-vs.-Minitab like there are about emacs-vs.-vi. Or maybe there are, and I'm just not in the loop enough to know.

In Which We Discover Whether I Can Still Write Dialogue

Inspiring photo here. Fortunately, I was able to get the voices of "Pinky and the Brain" out of my head long enough to do this.

"What do you think it means?"
"I don't know. Probably some kind of experiment."
"I hate experiments."
"As do we all. But the experiments provide nobility and purpose to lives that might otherwise be misspent, lives that would know no meaning, lives that would be thrown away in---"
"Shut up."
"You did take your medication today? I don't want you to start preaching through the halls again today."
"Of course I did. Don't you trust me any more?"
"You remember what happened three weeks ago. Seeing such a powerful voice coming out of such a small body---there was panic all over the building."
"I can't help the way I am. Sometimes I hear the voice and I just get carried along."
"You and your voice. Why doesn't your internal radio ever play any good music, or maybe some gardening tips?"
"Please don't start. You know how hurtful that is to me when you start talking like that."
"How do you think I feel, having to explain to people the way you get. The neighbors haven't spoken to me since that disaster last Christmas; all the women give me these half-sympathetic looks as they cluck about you and ask me when I'm going to leave. What does that do to me? What kind of mockery of love makes me do all this?"
"Love is a gift from---"
"I don't want to hear what the voice thinks, I want to hear what you think. What is love, except physical closeness? Isn't that what the sign is telling us? Look at these rats that `are in love.' What can they possibly share with us but being together? Can they fight? Can they argue? Can they get frustrated with each other, then get frustrated with themselves for getting frustrated? Can they devote their lives to making sure the other is taking care of themselves and getting through life? Are they stupid enough to care about someone else so much that they can't bear to stay and watch him sink and strive to keep him afloat, but yet they can't bear to let that person destroy himself? Or are they just in it for the snuggling? Is that love?"
"I think it's cute that the white one is trying to eat the gray one's shoulder."
"Shut up."

Votes (about whether or not I can still write dialogue, or for that matter, whether I ever could) in comments.

Monday, June 04, 2007

New Toys

So I got the HP 48GII the other day. Rumor has it there's a GNU gcc compiler for it somewhere (that would be the reason to get the 50g, I guess: way more memory). I was inputting some data about my students' last quiz to see what my calculator could tell me about it (answer: the best fit between time spent on a problem and getting it right is logarithmic, and yes, that's one of the options (linear fit, logarithmic fit, power fit, exponential fit, and "best fit" that returns one of the other four)). I couldn't find the H.MS conversion thing, but I did discover that when you're in spreadsheet view you can type in "37 [SPC] 60 / 2 + [ENTER]" and the right thing happens. (The really cool thing is that until you hit enter, you see "37 60 / 2 +" as the entry.) Unfortunately, I also found out that if you just miss the + key, and hit "37 [SPC] 60 / 2 [ENTER]", it will add two entries in your list, 37/60 and 2, which you then have to delete.

More updates as events warrant.

UPDATE: Found it. It appears to be C, and not C++. There's also an emacs for the HP (shudder).

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Tabstop's Second Rule of Politics

The rule: If group X does not believe they can be adequately represented by their elected Congress-critters unless they are "one of us", then group X does not really deserve representation anyway.

[The first rule? Is obvious: "Anyone who wants political office should be automatically disqualified."]

Saturday, May 26, 2007

There Goes the Neighborhood

When I first got here, the building next to the local Wendy's was a thrift store run by the local children's hospital. They've had signs up for almost a year now threatening to move down the street, and now they have finally done so. The new tenant of the building? Priscilla's.

All Car Repairs Should Be This Easy

I was going to work earlier this week when I noticed my right-turn blinker going at double speed, and sure enough, when I got to work I discovered my right-hand tail light was out. Friday afternoon after work I stopped at AutoZone and bought the bulbs that my manual said were the right size. This morning I got into my trunk and pulled out the bulb, and immediately I knew I was in trouble. I knew this because I pulled out the bulb, but the bulbs I had bought were clearly screw-ins. I put the bulb back in, put the socket back in place, and got in the car to go shopping again.

It took a couple right turns before I realized: "Hey, my right turn signal works again." And in fact, when I pulled into the AutoZone parking lot, I left the engine running and put on my right blinker, and it was blinking. So I got back in and left. (I'm sure AutoZone is used to it by now.)

Friday, May 25, 2007

I teach medical students

Or at least I did. The contrast was interesting: I could hear the students in the day classes learning to count to 30; I was teaching them that if you knew the concentration of the drug in the IV bag (in g/mL), and the prescription was for so-many mcg/kg/min, and the microtubing provides 60 gtt/mL, and you knew what the patient weighed in kg (and you had better know the conversion for mcg to g), then you could arrange to multiply those numbers in such a way that all the units canceled except for the ones you wanted (gtt/min for a drip rate).

Still, the students were pretty good; they worked hard, for the most part. I think they would have liked me to not emphasize thinking so much over memorizing formulas, but oh well. And those who stuck it out all got through, even with the crazy medical grading scheme (where 75% is not a success).

The textbook we have was extremely basic, which is why I decided to use a bunch of other books instead. It certainly made the class more useful.

Reading Spec Sheets

In preparation for my upcoming trip to be humiliated in mahjong, I went and purchased a digital camera online. I read some spec sheets, and tried to find the mix between not-sucking and not-expensive that I wanted. Anyway, I ended up getting an HP model, and not reading the spec sheets carefully enough. I didn't get any accessories, but the camera itself has enough memory for ... 9 photos. Looks like I'll be buying a memory card.

In other HP news, I knew that they had fobbed their calculator-making off on an OEM (Kinpo, specifically), but I hadn't realized that it was so separate from everything else; I was unable to put an HP calculator and the HP camera in the same cart. Two completely separate systems! And I think they're both in the "HP home and home office" division, too. But this way I can use the $10 coupon I got with the camera to buy the calculator (I think I may fall in love with the 48gs); although I doubt that I'll be able to put the memory card and the calculator in the same cart either.

Which reminds me that I never mentioned (here) the story about my 33s. My first real HP/RPN calculator that I bought last year; I bought it online (I went to the HP "find it in person" link for the list of stores that carry HP things; they had printers, ink, etc. but no calculators) and waited patiently for FedEx to deliver it. Of course, FedEx delivered it to the main office of the apartment complex, so I had to wait to get it. The next afternoon (it was a Friday, so I got off work early), I went in, got my box, opened it up ... and found an HP inkjet cartridge. The invoice was correct, so I called up HP, and got them to get FedEx to come back and take it away and then re-sent my calculator. (I don't remember the part number for the inkjet cartridge, but it was not particularly close to "33s".) (And I kind of feel bad that it's taken me this long to start programming the thing.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

End of an Era

James Lileks' last column in the Minneapolis paper went up last Friday. In some sense, I'm glad; the column was a tiny little thing that I didn't like and consequently didn't read very often. And presumably his column had gone down in readership (if it was the most visited item on the Star-Tribune site, they wouldn't have cancelled it), so he's got the freedom to find a more congenial format. [And on a related note: I don't have the numbers, but I imagine that his column took a hit upon the transformation from the Backfence to the Quirk. There are two possible interpretations: the problem is because of the new format imposed by an idiotic editor, or the problem is because Lileks can't write anymore. They appear to have gone for option #2.]

And in the short term, the news pages will get a lot more hits, since I doubt I'll be the only one over the next week poring through the articles to see which ones he wrote, and to see if he's any good at reportage. (He says no, but he'd say that anyway.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Things I Hate About the new Chain Reaction, part 437

This is where the incompetent staff and the incompetent contestants work together to make something truly awful. In the bonus round (at least in season 1--I haven't watched enough season 2 to tell), when a player gets cuckooed for using two words in a row, they make the contestants play the freaking word instead of going straight to the next word. Consequently, the contestants never seem to realize that using two words in a row is, in fact, illegal. The re-run I just watched right now had one of the players use "a lot" as a clue twice, get cuckooed each time, and everyone on stage got confused the second time because they didn't get a point even though the middle player guessed the word correctly at the end of the question. It almost makes me wonder if they can even hear the sound effects in studio, or if they're dubbed in later. (Given the speed of judging in all the other aspects of the bonus round, to wit none, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the live judges weren't able to catch an illegal clue as the word was being played.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Night Scorecard

It's good to know that Boston doesn't need to rely on home runs to put runs on the board. But it's a unique game all the same.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Royals Elimination Watch

Here we are on April 20, having just finished a six-game losing streak. The Royals are now 4-11, the only AL Central team under .500 and six games back of Minnesota, with an elimination number of 142. At this rate, the Royals will be mathematically eliminated from the pennant race on August 10. Further updates to come.

EDIT: I inadvertently double-counted the already-played games; the actual expected elimination date is August 26. It's still before Labor Day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Lyrics Quiz

Which of these is from a "real" song, and which from a "fake" (i.e., parody) song?

(A) "And the candle burned low as we talked of the future Underneath the ceiling"
(B) "For your thighs were the cushions Of my love"
(C) "Anyhow it's not just doorknobs That come off in your hand"
(D) "I believe in believing I'm deeply concerned"
(E) "For I've never loved in a cage Or talked to a friend or just waved"

No fair Googling! (And I must admit to finding it ironic that Blogger (owned by, well, we know who) thinks that Googling is misspelled.)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunday Night Scorecard

No Sunday Night Scorecard tonight, since the computerized scorer doesn't quite know how to handle an entire team all with the same number.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Royals' elimination watch

After 10 days of the major league baseball season, the 3-5 Royals are a mere two games back in the AL Central, with an elimination number of 155. At this rate, the Royals will be mathematically eliminated from the pennant race on September 28.

More updates as events warrant.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's Tuesday!

Well, at least according to the Times, anyway. My applet says 2:39, but my time was recorded as 2:40! I wuz robbed! Of course, it's a moot point in several dozen senses of the word, so whatever.

Clicky for details

A theme! It's all right, I guess. THEAMAZINGRANDI didn't fit, hence out came the second-stringer AMAZINGKRESKIN. No really ugly fill, except maybe "INE" (Like Chopin's "Tristresse" etude) or "ABRA" (Magician's start); I liked "LOCKLET" for no very good reason, although the double-clue with 8D seemed unnecessarily annoying (especially when you don't actually have 8D filled in). I was wondering if that answer started life as "LOCKLEY", but on further consideration I think it's Robin of Locksley. And any puzzle with "TSHIRTS" in it is a good puzzle (he says, until Tim Parker uses it).

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I listen to Joe Morgan so you don't have to

You should see a link over on the right to the Sunday Night Scorecard. Hopefully I'll be scoring along with all the ESPN Sunday night games. The scorecard comes from Christopher Swingley from Baseball Scorecard (I think), although the computerized bit was done by Chris Nandor (which I found somewhere on

Saturday, April 07, 2007


28:58. Never have I gotten a theme so early, to have it help me so little.

Let's try this spoiler thing again

(For a crossworder, I suck at anagrams.) It didn't help that there was no way to get the long theme entries without the short theme entries (except a lot of crossings + some guessing), and I went a long time without any of those theme entries. Looking back, "SECRETADMIRERS" was the only long entry I got after the short ones.

It's Byron, don'tcha know, so there were some clues-that-you're-not-going-to-get-'til-later-but-you-like-anyway, like "EIGHTH" for "Like Van Buren's presidency", "THRICE" for "How Peter denied Jesus" (on Easter!), "DOGIT" for "Loaf", "TBAR" for "Boarders board it", "AITCH" for "It starts here", "PASSFAIL" for "Course option" (I actually got that one right away, but still). And of course, there are answers that make no sense: "BGIRLS" for "Saloon habitues, slangily" (does anyone say that? really? I assume the B stands for bar), "DISARMER" for "Peacemaker" (it makes sense, but I don't like it. Waah!), "MONOSKI" for "Snowboard alternative" (ditto).

Things I screwed up: NAIROBI for ENTEBBE; CIELA for CIELO; RAISETHE for UNDERONE (raise the roof just seems more Byron's style than under one roof), RKO for MGM (so I don't know my movie history). And I didn't get ELEVEN until *way* after I finished the puzzle (and got onto Google).

Found Art

Go to Google Directions, start at Boston, and end in London.
(Hat tip: Eugene Volokh)

Hey ... What?

I think this is the first snowfall we've had in NN since I've moved here.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Back from ACF Nats and the delightful city of Nashville. I thought with two rounds to go that my throat was going to split apart, but it got better. Obviously I slept in a bit this morning.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

And the laundry goes 'round

A tick (three ticks, actually) over four minutes is good for a Wednesday. Raise your hand if you saw the answer to 61-A coming. OK, I don't believe you.

I could get behind this sort of schedule: laundry and internet in the morning, get to work at lunchtime, stay till 10:30. This probably means I'm guaranteed to teach morning classes next term.

Does anyone understand Mika's "Grace Kelly"? I keep hearing this song on the radio, and it's certainly got the catchiness it needs to succeed, but some of the choices seem a little bizarre. Not early-Bernie-Taupin-bizarre, but ... odd. "I could be brown, I could be blue, I could be violet sky" alright, I can see that those differences go together. I don't know whether we're talking eye color, LSD moods, or what exactly, but I can deal. However, we go on: "I could be hateful, I could be purple"? You couldn't find just one more color to round out the set? Is purple supposed to be the opposite of hateful? I'm confused. And don't get me started on that "Ka-Ching" at the end.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

2008 ACPT Practice, Day T-339

Just kidding. My time was not fabulous today, but I blame the cold medication. (I'm supposed to read for ACF Nationals this weekend---it had better be over by then, or I'm going to be angry.) It took me a long time (well past actually finishing the puzzle) to accurately parse "4-Her" as a member of a certain organization, and not some rock band or magazine aimed at women or something. Which is sad, because I think I must have seen that clue a good hundred times already.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Excel laughs at you!

I don't know how much Excel is used behind the scenes at ACPT, if at all other than making the output all neat'n'such for output, but look at this year's results for "January" Marks and Judy "May" (who, coincidentally, is therefore first in the alphabetical list). I could have sworn I'd seen Marc Maximov listed as "3/1/2007 Maximov" as well, but that appears to have been corrected.

UPDATE: Fixed! Never mind, now.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sometimes winds from the North are good

Getting everyone on the plane early + tailwinds = starting my car at the original scheduled time of arrival.

Other things from the weekend: NOTE WELL: Making no mistakes = tied for the last spot in the B finals (but not getting in on a tiebreaker, and it was really a tie for 4th place anyway). Making one mistake=all by myself in 13th.

Goal: top 5% (with 704 contestants, = 35th place). Actual finish, 39th. Without mistake: 25th.

Puzzle closest to the gods: #5 (!), only two minutes behind the pace. And (I think) the best puzzle of the tournament too, so only fitting.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

ACPT practice, days 4 and 5

I was covering another instructor's class this morning, so it was a big long day today. I had a time of 8-and-a-half for Thursday's puzzle, although I claim that I was distracted by the fact that I was in class, though on break, at the time, and I had to tell students that the reason they were having troubles drawing a line is not that the computer system was wrong but that they had, in fact, only managed to find one point on the line, and you can't draw much of a line with just one point.

Read more, rather spoilery, so don't read it

We'll see if I've got this spoiler thing down.

My official time on Friday's puzzle was 9:12; I forget how many times I submitted it until I got the NE corner right. It's not as though the clue for 6-A (or, for that matter, the answer) could in any way assist in solving the puzzle. I know I had
NESTED rather than MESHED at first, and it gradually got changed bit by bit, but that N didn't change (what's wrong with WHIMWHAN that isn't wrong with WHIMWHAM?)

Clues/answers that made me happy: 6-D, 34-A, 58-A; clues/answers that made me unhappy: 6-A, 26-A, 57-A.

I know that on Friday you shouldn't be scared of the long entries, since they're "straight"--no letter substitutions etc.--but I usually don't get them all right first try (since there's usually a lot of 15-letter phrases that have the one T, the E, and maybe the R that I've usually managed to fill in). So I was pleased.

Fast Food

There is currently a space race in the fast food industry: who are the spaciest people, the people taking the orders or the people giving the orders. I learned tonight that it takes far longer than it should to convince people that in order to acquire a soft drink from Burger King, one must, in fact, order a soft drink from Burger King (and pay for it, of course).

I'm all for "have it your way" and the like, but people, please recognize that there is a menu out there, and try to order things that could at least reasonably be considered to be on it. I have been behind a family ordering breakfast at McDonald's who apparently gleaned nothing from the menu board except what basic ingredients were there. Standing behind a family of five, each of whom orders something bizarre and outré (bacon and sausage, wrapped in a pancake, topped with egg) is an experience. When I came up and ordered "a #6", the manager (who was, by that time, working the cash register himself) gave me two free apple pies, just for ordering something actually on the menu.

There is a difference between not having them put onions on your sandwich, and ordering a "Big Mac, but without the extra bun, oh, and make it chicken instead of beef." Worse, the person behind the counter wasn't really listening, and so called the manager when he got stuck. I don't know exactly what buttons that manager were pushing, but there were a lot of them; and at the end, the customer had a pretty good approximation of what a Big Mac with chicken instead of beef would be. And then, the most amazing thing happened: the customer (an elderly gentleman whom I had opened the door for, not that I'm stereotyping) started trying to bicker about the price. He made a counter-offer to the manager at McDonald's! I have never seen anything like it in my life, and I don't think the manager had either; you could see the look on her face change from 'this person is a customer" to "this person is not a customer" just like that. And let me tell you, I never let old people get between me and the counter at McDonald's any more.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ACPT practice, day 3: Wednesday

A smidge under six minutes today, nearly double the pace of the leaders. Mmm. Found it hard to get started; my first pass of Across clues gave me answers on the top two lines and the bottom two lines, with only "TCU" entered in between the two 15 theme entries. But we got there in the end, no thanks to "famous" pianists.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ACPT practice, day 2: Tuesday

A theme flub, and a typo when reaching for the tab key (I hit "A" instead, which of course killed the letter I had just put in), for a disappointing time of 3:42, a full minute off the pace. I don't think, upon further review, that all the theme entries were clued appropriately, but that's probably just sour grapes. (Although Crossword Fiend does agree with me.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

ACPT practice, day 1: Monday

2:20 in the applet online. ! Fourth person to finish (since on weekends, the puzzle opens up at 6pm rather than 10pm). Had to look back to find the theme, since by the time I got to the theme answer (bottom left-hand across) it was filled in by the downs. Oh well. 2:20!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

We All Saw That Coming

There was a big hubbub about Friday's J! game in the online game-show-nut world, set off by J!'s publicity people sending out PR about how the show was a must-see. "We can't tell you what's going to happen, but it's never happened before!" Everyone immediately said, "Oh, it's a three-way tie", and we were all right. It required stupid betting on the champion's part, but you can't blame him for seizing the opportunity. And since he was reasonably dominant through the show on Friday, he probably thought he could then win outright on Monday. If he doesn't, he's never going to live it down at Stamford this weekend, that's for sure.

When you tell us it's the season finale of "1 vs. 100", with no announced return date, and you start a game with 12 minutes left in the show, well, you know the $1M isn't going to go to *that* person, now don't you.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

One month

to Stamford. I've got my kitchen timer and my book of crosswords (remind me never to get a normally-bound book (as opposed to a spiral-bound) of crosswords again, especially if it has 250 puzzles. That thing hurts to hold, if I'm doing it anywhere other than a table. Or perhaps my hands have become useless appendages, what with the whole typing thing.

But it's paying off; I think it's a personal record, my time of 2:40 on tomorrow's NYT puzzle. It is that easy, but that was still good for 4th at the time....

More Weekends

My hole in the next five weekends was filled with more geekery, but at least it's not my geekery. I've been roped into helping with our video game tournament for charity that we are holding on St. Patrick's Day. So all I have to do is write a C program that will randomly seed and rank people, then re-seed and re-rank, etc.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Weekend plans

Weekend plans for the next three Saturdays, and four of the next five weekends. Granted, two are quizbowl and one is crosswords, so my geek quotient is in no danger of falling.

"Semi" "Weekly" Word Division #3

Due to the clamor about this one being late, I'm starting to think you guys aren't even doing these things.












Monday, January 22, 2007

"Semi" Weekly Word Division #2















TV Review: Dresden Files

I saw an ad for the show, which made it sound like the SciFi version of CSI. CSI + SciFi should = a good show, right?

Well, it's not very much CSI. One "crime", which he was able to immediately solve, or at least identify what was going on. As a means of learning about Dresden's world, it's not a bad method: we went straight to commercial break and I spent the entire break assimilating the information into the plot to figure out what was going to happen next. On the other hand, if we meet a new monster every week, we're going to have a lot of monsters pretty quickly. SciFi is really pushing the crime scene analysis angle, for no good reason that I can tell, since it doesn't appear to exist. Maybe the next episodes.

But still, the backstories are pretty good: we've already met the big bad villain; whether we're going to deal with him every week or just on special occasions remains to be seen. We'll see if they revisit the woman problem. Bob looks familiar, but I never saw him in any of the things listed in his cast biography, so I don't know.

It's going on my schedule to watch for the next few weeks at least.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Semi Weekly Word Division #1

All the letters below represent a different number between 0 and 9, and every number from 0--9 is represented. Your job is just to find out what ten-letter word or phrase is spelled out by the letters 0--9.












(This spacing isn't perfect, but I want to keep it all HTML.)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A practical application of graph theory

I created a directed graph out of the 32 NFL teams, with an edge going from Team A to Team B if Team A defeated Team B during the regular season. So there are 2 edges coming out of Oakland (Arizona and Pittsburgh), and 2 edges coming in to San Diego (Baltimore and Kansas City). Given this season, it is not at all surprising that there is path leading from any team to any other team. (For instance, to get from Oakland to San Diego, you need a three-step path, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, San Diego.) What might be surprising is that you can get from any team to any other team in just four steps. (The six pairs that require four steps are: OAK-HOU, OAK-IND, TEN-SD, ARI-SD, CHI-SD, and DET-SD.) There's an extra credit assignment in here somewhere.