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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.

27 November 2002
Quotation of the day

"We've upped our standards. Now up yours."

26 November 2002
Desktop Photos

For the last couple of months, I've been working on misère octal games.

More photos: #1 #2 #3

25 November 2002
The Pepper Spray Gun

A sheriff's deputy sprays pepper spray into the crowd gathered beneath the goal post after Ohio State beat Michigan 14-9 for an undefeated 13-0 season Saturday, Nov. 23, 2002 in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Mark Hall)

[From the archives (1988): More on spray guns.]

23 November 2002
Last Judgement / Disco Inferno (2000)

Don't miss the details—click on the little triangles in the lower right hand corner after starting here.

Keep clicking to eventually reach "Our Lady of the Bisquick."

By May DeViney

16 November 2002
Two 2nd grade jokes

Brought to you by Cole.

Joke #1:

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"Interrupting Cow."

Joke #2:

Did you hear about the Indian who drank 50 cups of tea?

He drowned in his own teepee.

15 November 2002
Whither San Francisco's Van Ness?

Mural on Van Ness St, San Francisco

Van Ness, James P. (1808-1872) of New Orleans, Orleans Parish, La.; San Francisco, Calif.; San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo County, Calif. Father-in-law of Frank McCoppin. Born in Burlington, Chittenden County, Vt., 1808. Lawyer; mayor of San Francisco, Calif., 1855-56. Died in San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo County, Calif., December 28, 1872.

Burial location unknown.
Then at the same site:
What does "burial location unknown" mean? It doesn't necessarily mean that nobody in the world knows. All it means is that I don't have that information in my database. Since the number of politicians in my database has grown faster than the number for whom I have detailed information, there are -- inevitably -- a lot of entries with "burial location unknown." If you happen to know the burial location, do send email!

15 Nov 2002
Spectacular Attacks

"Sources suggest al-Qaida may favor spectacular attacks that meet several criteria: high symbolic value, mass casualties, severe damage to the U.S. economy and maximum psychological trauma."
—FBI terrorism warning (as communicated by Reuters)
I substitute "the Bush Administration" for "al-Qaida" here:
"high symbolic value" = US Constitution.
"mass casualties" = Iraqi noncombatants.
"severe damage to US economy" = seen, for example, in my 401Ks.
"maximum psychological trauma" = recent midterm election.
I preferred the spelling "al-Qaeda." It seemed scarier somehow to combine an "Q" not followed by a "U" with an "A" followed by an "E."

And finally, if only Gore had been selected President rather than Bush, after a simple letter change we might have opposed al-Qaeda by the even more intimidating


The FBI wants you to be on the lookout.

13 Nov 2002
Mary Poppins

Just as I was about to clean the cat box, Cole asked if I could remember the beginning of the Mary Poppins song, "Spoonful of Sugar."

"No, but I remember it's good."

"I'll let you think of it. Think really hard."

"Cole, I will never remember it. What is it?"

In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun...
"Ha. Ha. Very funny."

7 Nov 2002
The Parts Made To Name Themselves (1847)

Content from
An unusual and attractive edition of Euclid was published in 1847 in England, edited by an otherwise unknown mathematician named Oliver Byrne. It covers the first 6 books of Euclid, which range through most of elementary plane geometry and the theory of proportions. What distinguishes Byrne's edition is that he attempts to present Euclid's proofs in terms of pictures, using as little text—and in particular as few labels—as possible. What makes the book especially striking is his use of colour.
It looks like they've scanned in the whole thing.

Here are some page images:

#0 Title Page.

#1 Gives an idea of what a typical page looks like.

#2 From the Introduction: "The letters annexed to points, lines, or other parts of a diagram are in fact but arbitrary names, and represent them in the demonstration; instead of these, the parts being differently colored, are made to name themselves..."

6 Nov 2002
A Circle for Dante

This appeared in today's Palo Alto Daily News:
DEAR ABBY: I work in an office that's made up of cubicles, so there is little privacy. After two years at this job, I have, for the most part, learned to block out background noise. However, my co-worker "Gina," who sits in the cubicle next to mine, talks to herself constantly.

This woman provides me with a running diatribe of every single task she does all day long: "Hit enter, file—save—OK, done!" "Open new file," "Delete," etc. Her monologue goes on and on. It's extremely distracting and annoying. I have talked to my bosses more than once about it, and they've talked to Gina, but still she continues.

I feel like I'm slowly going insane. And now that I'm pregnant, my nerves are even more on edge. Her constant verbalizing has become to much to bear. What's the answer, Abby?

5 Nov 2002
Space Engineering Macho: MIT vs Grumman (1964)

From Moon Lander: How we Developed the Apollo Lunar Module, by Thomas J. Kelley, in Chapter 5, "Engineering a Miracle." (Smithsonian Press, 2001):
As we [at Grumman] performed comparative analyses on the [Apollo spacecraft] lunar module (LM) systems we came to doubt the reliability estimates for the MIT guidance, navigation, and control system that was provided to both the LM [lunar module] and the CM [command module]. We arrived at this conclusion while preparing our own estimates of the reliability of the backup abort guidance system, for which Grumman was responsible. This led us to challenge MIT's guidance, navigation, and control reliability estimates...

[The Apollo spacecraft program manager] Joe Shea convened a meeting of all interested parties in early January 1964 to find the truth and punish the guilty. We gathered in the well-appointed Apollo program conference room in Houston [...] Shea warned everyone that the meeting was being tape recorded...

Shea glowered under his black eyebrows and hunched forward toward his microphone, his hands knotted tightly together on his desk, his gold MIT ring visible:
Gentlemen, we have a serious problem. The problem is that Grumman believes that the MIT guidance system is two orders of magnitude inferior to other available systems, and that the Apollo program is being jeopardized by this choice. The issue centers upon the evaluation of the data used in drawing this conclusion and establishing its validity.

I intend to force a black-and-white conclusion as a result of this meeting. Either there is or there is not a significant basic difference in the inherent reliability of the MIT system and other comparitive data. Someone, Grumman or MIT, will have to leave this meeting admitting he was wrong—mea culpa, mea maximum culpa...

4 Nov 2002
Einstein Summation Convention

I just got back from the first meeting of a physics night class at Stanford. It's being taught by my next-door-neighbor-but-one, Leonard Susskind.

I learned that all those confusing (to me) missing summation signs in physics papers are just examples of what Susskind called "Einstein's great achievement," the Einstein Summation Convention:

From MathWorld:

The convention was introduced by Einstein (1916), who later jested to a friend,"I have made a great discovery in mathematics; I have suppressed the summation sign every time that the summation must be made over an index which occurs twice..." (Kollros 1956; Pais 1982, p. 216).


Einstein, A. Ann. der Physik 49, 769, 1916.

Kollros, L. "Albert Einstein en Suisse Souvenirs." Helv. Phys. Acta. Supp. 4, 271-281, 1956.

Pais, A. Subtle is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 216, 1982.
More on Susskind; Littlewood on notational difficulties.

4 Nov 2002

Paul Klee, Runner at the Goal, 1921

From today's New York Times:
Rop Ignores Pain, Glides to Victory
By Jere Longman

In the 25th mile of yesterday's New York City Marathon, Rodgers Rop of Kenya grabbed his right side, feeling a stitch. He grimaced. Two countrymen sat on his heels, and his elegant stride seemed as if it might abandon him.

Last year, Rop hung for 20 miles with the eventual winner, Tesfaye Jifar of Ethiopia, until the muscles in his legs seized. He dropped off of a hammering pace to finish third. This would not happen again, he promised.

"If the leader pushes, I will go with him, even if I die by the roadside," Rop said before yesterday's race...
From the Encyclopedia Britannica:
Marathon: long-distance footrace first held at the revival of the Olympic Games at Athens, Greece, in 1896. It commemorates the legendary feat of a Greek soldier who, in 490 BC, is supposed to have run from Marathon to Athens, a distance of about 40 kilometres (25 miles), to bring news of the Athenian victory over the Persians.

And from another web site

Following the heroic victory, an Athenian soldier was dispatched to bring the good news to the city. He ran all the way from the battlefield to the Athenian Agora. He collapsed and died immediately after he delivered his one word message:

"Nenikikamen." (We have won).

3 Nov 2002
Toy cars

Owen provided the vehicles for today's digital photoshoot. The background in the first picture is from an advertisement supplement in the 13 October 2002 (Sunday) New York Times Magazine.

It's called Great Places to Learn in New England: Curriculum + Connections = Job.

See also our Wildlife Safari.

2 Nov 2002


2 Nov 2002
Satterfield's Tomb

I made these paper models earlier this year when I was trying to understand the mysteries of David Klarner's research into Satterfield's Tomb.

They're on my desktop now in the home office.

[This is not related to the Great Pyramid at Kearney].

2 Nov 2002
Combinatorial Games

I've been messing around with misère octal games again.

I also resurrected notes on Hackendot from my copious collection of unpublished mathematical scribblings.

2 Nov 2002
Another tree from the Top Ten

I've bagged the Modesto Ash. It's #4 in the top ten.

1 Nov 2002
Joshua Redman Quartet: MoodSwing (1994)

Recommended to me by Steve Kaish.

From the liner notes, written by Redman:
According to popular notion, jazz is something which you research and study, inspect and dissect, scrutinize and analyze. Jazz twists your brain like an algebraic equation, but leaves your body lifeless and limp. In the eyes of the general public, jazz appears as an elite art form, reserved for a select group of sophisticated (and rather eccentric) intelligentsia who rendezvous in secret, underground haunts (or inaccessible ivory towers) to play obsolete records, debate absurd theories, smoke pipes, and read liner notes...
Darn! You mean jazz is not those things?

1 Nov 2002
Chinese Pistache

After weeks of indecisive encounters, I've located a Chinese Pistache.

Number six in the top ten.

Now I'm seeing them everywhere.