>> >> journal
palo alto trees



the four universal graphs

the unseen apollo 11

post-postmodern computing

german WWI grave designs

kopfschmerzen decaf

This is my 2002 journal.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Also available: 2003 2001 2000 1990s 1980s

Everything on this page:
Copyright 1985-2002 by Thane Plambeck, except where obviously not.

23 March 2002
A possible Starbucks coffee variety?

Kopfschmerzen: headache [German].

(Note added 26 March 2002):
An attempt to parlay this creation into a marketing position at Starbucks ended in failure.

29 March 2002
Destruction of Microsoft described in a 1918 play

I've been reading the World War I-era works of Georg Kaiser, a German playwright who died in 1945.

The three plays in his so-called "Gas Trilogy" (1917-20 or so) are excellent. I bought them at Alibris (1957 printing).

I read these three plays as transliterations of the rise and (future) fall of Microsoft.

For example, in the play "Gas I" (actually trilogy play #2, published 1918), we have a climactic Microsoft engineering review. In the passage below, the "Billionaire's Son" (ie, Bill Gates—or more properly, his son) quizzes the "Engineer" (a software developer). The "Gas" is a new Windows revision the way I read them; the "formula" is the design specification. Note how the Billionaire's Son asks the same question over and over until the final result:
BILLIONAIRE'S SON: Where does the fault lie?
ENGINEER: (Shaking from head to toe) In—the formula!
BILLIONAIRE'S SON: Your formula—does not—work out?
ENGINEER: My formula—does not—work out!
BILLIONAIRE'S SON: Are you sure?
BILLIONAIRE'S SON: Have you found the mistake?
BILLIONAIRE'S SON: Can't you find it?
ENGINEER: The calculation is—correct!
BILLIONAIRE'S SON: Have the alarms been set going?
ENGINEER: (without pausing in his work): All the bells are pounding away. ....(leaping to his feet) I have done my duty—the formula is clear— without a flaw!
BILLIONAIRE'S SON: You cannot find the error?
ENGINEER: Nobody can find it. Nobody! No brain could reckon more carefully. I've made the final calculation!
BILLIONAIRE'S SON: And it does not work out?
ENGINEER: It works out—and does not work out. We have reached the limit— figures fail us—works out—and yet does not work out. The thing sums itself up, and then turns against us—works out and does not work out!
ENGINEER: It is bleeding in the sight-tube! Flooding past the formula—going red in the sight glass. Floating out the formula—taking the bit in its own teeth. I have done my duty. My head is quite clear. The impossible is going to take place—it cannot come—yet it is coming.
BILLIONAIRE'S SON: (feeling for a chair): We are helpless—delivered up to—
ENGINEER: The explosion!
(A terrible sibilance tears asunder the silence without. A grinding thunder bursts—the smokestacks crack and fall.....
Now the great thing about this trilogy is that Microsoft to-date (2002) is only treated by Play #1, which is called "The Coral." So in plays #2 and #3 (ie Gas I and Gas II), you have the predestination of Microsoft laid out very clearly.

Here is a 1941 paperback blurb on the back of my copy of "The Coral." This play treats the rise of the original "Billionaire" (Bill Gates), who rises to his wealth by the manufacturing of destructive Gas (ie Windows):
Perhaps by going back to the beginning, to the Coral, we may glimpse the answer. The Billionaire has reached his pinnacle because in his overpowering fear of material poverty he had needed to flee it more than anyone else. These plays strangely forshadow our own age....

Here is a blurb on Kaiser from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Kaiser, Georg

Georg Kaiser, c. 1928
b. Nov. 25, 1878, Magdeburg, Ger.
d. June 4, 1945, Ascona, Switz.
leading German Expressionist dramatist.

Kaiser went to Argentina as a clerk, but ill health forced him to return to Germany. During a long convalescence he wrote his first plays, mainly satirical comedies that attracted little attention. His first success was Die Bürger von Calais (1914; The Burghers of Calais). Produced in 1917 at the height of World War I, the play was an appeal for peace in which Kaiser revealed his outstanding gift for constructing close-knit drama expressed in trenchant and impassioned language.

He followed this with a series of plays in which he showed man in deadly conflict with the modern world of money and machines: Von Morgens bis Mitternachts (1916; From Morn to Midnight), and the Gas trilogy, consisting of Die Koralle (1917; The Coral), Gas I (1918), and Gas II (1920). Written in terse and fragmented prose, these plays established him as a leader of the Expressionist movement.

25 March 2002

This short course employs two directed readings and a flowchart.

21 March 2002
67 Across: Trumpet Blast (seven letters: _AN_AR_)

This is a clue from today's (Thursday) New York Times crossword.

No problemo. I'll just write in
fan·fare noun Pronunciation: 'fan-"far, -"fer Etymology: French Date: 1676 1 : a showy outward display 2 : a short and lively sounding of trumpets
But no!
tan·ta·ra noun Pronunciation: tan-'tar-&, -'tär- Etymology: Latin taratantara, of imitative origin Date: 1584 1 : the blare of a trumpet or horn

After I had filled in about half the grid, I noticed that all the vowels in all the words I had filled in so far were A's. So I went back and scrawled TANTARA over FANFARE.

Even so, I still managed to mess up 65 Across: Kigali resident. It should be RWANDAN. I wrote RUANDAN for some reason. I even wrote that after I knew that all the vowels were likely to be A's.

It's a mysterious topological law—the dumbest error will be found nestling in the closest proximity to the truth. Once such a mistake has been made, a blindness sets in. It becomes impossible to see the correct answer. The glaring error obscures the truth, as the Sun obscures Mercury.

18 March 2002
The Web Site Just Across the Street

David Cortesi lives directly across the street from us in Palo Alto.

He has just published a book: Secular Wholeness: A skeptic's paths to a richer life.

I preferred his draft title for the book, Unbelieving.

His website is

Us it fights, us it fights, us it fights, it continues
18 March 2002

Joshua Sommer suggests:

Use Babelfish to translate from English to X and then from X back to English. Very amusing. For example, take...

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

...and translate it to Japanese and then back to English. You get:

As for those perhaps cost with anything as for us with strength and the sea and the ocean of confidence and growth of growth of the air in France in field with the beach, us it fights to the edge with the land of landing, us it fights, us it fights, us our islands which are protected namely us it fights, us it fights, us it fights, it continues, with sort, fights with the hill; We hand never, become equal, I do not believe just a little between, this island is hungry or the part subjugated where that is large, our empires exceed the sea, you have armed and it was protected, to, in the time when God is good, the world where all powers are new, it keeps continuing struggle, with the English fleet to rescue and release being old, without the causing ?, it walks.

This is what I tried (Thane):


I don't care what kind of cat you say it is, I say it is a dog!


As for me to whom you say the cat of some type a certain thing, as for me it means that that is the dog!

Care what cat class you say you are not, I say that it is a dog!

I do not care about what type the cat you said it are, I said this is the dog!

I do not worry what a kind about cat you say it is, I say that it is a dog!

I am not interested, which you say type of the cat, it am, legend I that it is a dog!

I do not preoccupy myself that cat kind you say is, I say that it is a dog!

I to which you talk type of cat not worrying and, I talk the fact that it is a dog!

I do not import that type of the cat you says is, I say that it is a dog!

11 March 2002
Say Your Prayers, Crispus Attucks

The three clues I couldn't solve in today's cryptic crossword in The Nation magazine:

24 Down In Samoa, the mixed type has both a beginning and a conclusion (4).

APIA. Apparently it's the Samoan capital. I've never had the pleasure to visit.

20 Down What comes from the tree, with one that lays eggs on a vein near the surface. (7)

SAPHENA. "Either of two large superficial veins of the leg," according to the Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology. That's SAP + HEN + A.

Really, I might have been reasonably expected to guess this one, especially given that I had S_P_E_A already filled in. Oh well.

12 Across Sort of ride up, i.e., something to kneel on for one in the service. (4-4)

PRIE DIEU. There's a certain Catholic (big C) tilt in Frank W. Lewis's cryptics. Were I not from the reformed tradition, I might have gotten this one.

Prie Dieu
I thought (correctly, it turns out) it was an anagram of "ride up ie" or "of ride up", but still couldn't get it. I did get as close (far?) as "DROP FIEU?" which I scribbled somewhat half-heartedly in the margin.

Also: from the previous week's (4 March 2002) puzzle:

1 and 5 Across: A casualty of the Revolution, like an autumn day to you and me, near the Friar's. (7,7)

CRISPUS ATTUCKS. That's CRISP + US + AT + TUCKS. Now this is a guy I had never heard of. A web page at Bridgewater State College explains:

Crispus Attucks
Crispus Attucks, one of the first men to die for American freedom, was a fugitive slave who had escaped from his master and had worked for twenty years as a merchant seaman...he was the first to fall in the celebrated Boston Massacre of 1770.