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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.

30 October 2002
Photo taken by Jim Hsu

I'm working on a clue in The Game, near midnight, at our house in Yosemite.

For an earlier game: see my August 2000 journal entry.

29 October 2002
A book

The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back, by Carl Sandburg.

I can't believe I had never heard of this book, which is on a recommended list in Mortimer Adler's "Junior Great Books" program.
Taken in its entirety from Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories, this delightful tale introduces the resilient Huckabuck family: Nebraska farmer Jonas Jonas Huckabuck, his wife Mama Mama Huckabuck, and daughter Pony Pony Huckabuck. Small's detailed watercolors portray the proud family through their ups, downs, and eventual return to the farm. The story was published in 1923, but Small sets his visual interpretation during the Depression, as indicated by a 1935 wall calendar. As the family moves from town to town and job to job, Papa Huckabuck continues to smile, putting his best face on things. The farm animals are even more expressive than the Huckabucks, sometimes alarmed, occasionally disgruntled, and often indignant.

21 October 2002
From Arrowsmith, by Sinclair Lewis (1925)

Martin realized that he was likely to be the next Director of the Department. Pickerbaugh had told him, "Your work is very satisfactory. There's only one thing you lack, my boy: enthusiasm for getting together with folks and giving a long pull and a strong pull, all together. But perhaps that'll come to you when you have more responsibility."

Martin sought to acquire a delight in giving long strong pulls all together, but he felt like a man who has been dragooned into wearing yellow tights at a civic pageant.

"Gosh, I may be up against it when I become Director," he fretted. "I wonder if there's people who become what's called 'successful' and then hate it? Well, anyway, I'll start a decent system of vital statistics in the department before they get me. I won't lay down! I'll fight! I'll make myself succeed!

17 October 2002

This classified ad appeared in today's Palo Alto Daily News.

Here's an article on a big hole in an asteroid.

16 October 2002
Not so dense

I just read this news fragment:

Star in galactic heart confirms central black hole
By Richard Stenger
Wednesday, October 16, 2002 Posted: 4:51 PM EDT (2051 GMT)

(CNN) -- Observations of the star closest to the heart of the Milky Way confirms the existence of a colossal black hole there, astronomers announced Wednesday.

The star passes within 17 light-hours of a compact radio source known as Sagittarius A, pegged as the galactic center, and completes an oval orbit around the super hot spot every 15.2 years.

The orbital attributes mean that the entire mass of the interior object, between 2.6 million and 3.7 million times that of the sun, is crammed within a space about three times the size of our solar system.

The staggering density could only result from a supermassive black hole, according to physicist Rainer Schoedel, who with colleagues published the findings in this week's journal Nature....
This started me thinking. I wonder how many solar-sized "balls" will fit, roughly speaking, if you cram them in, side by side, in the disk defined by the orbit of Mercury? How about between the Sun and the Earth? Or within Saturn's orbit? In the entire solar system?

Here's what one web site had to say:
One way to help visualize the relative sizes in the solar system is to imagine a model in which it is reduced in size by a factor of a billion (1e9). Then the Earth is about 1.3 cm in diameter (the size of a grape). The Moon orbits about a foot away. The Sun is 1.5 meters in diameter (about the height of a man) and 150 meters (about a city block) from the Earth. Jupiter is 15 cm in diameter (the size of a large grapefruit) and 5 blocks away from the Sun. Saturn (the size of an orange) is 10 blocks away; Uranus and Neptune (lemons) are 20 and 30 blocks away. A human on this scale is the size of an atom; the nearest star would be over 40000 km away.
Using this information, I obtained an estimate that 25 million suns would comfortably fit in side by side in the disk defined by the orbit of Neptune. That's assuming that the CNN "solar system" is interpreted to be a 2 dimensional volume. If it is instead (more naturally) interpreted as a sphere, tack on another dimension and millions of additional suns.

In other words, cramming in CNN's 3.7 million suns is no problem at all, even within one solar system, and even if it is interpreted as a disk.

So much for staggering density.

16 October 2002
"Jurassic-Park"-like Winged Creature Sighted Several Times in Alaska

(flight cancelled)

I sent a pointer to this obscure news story to Matt Drudge yesterday morning.

He used it on his Drudge Report web site today.

A link to it still there now, on his web site, one day later.

It's probably adding quite a bit of traffic to the "Knox Studio" web site.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Thane Plambeck 
Sent: Tuesday, October 15, 2002 8:29 AM
Subject: Super sized alaskan bird
Thane Plambeck
650 321 4884 office
650 323 4928 fax
----- Original Message ----- 
[Note added 19 October 2002]
Now even David Letterman is talking about this.


16 October 2002
Wildlife Safari

Owen stayed home from preschool today.

We photographed his animal toys.

14 October 2002


The great geniuses of the past still rule over us from their graves; they still stalk or scurry about in the present, tripping up the living, mysteriously congesting the traffic, confusing values in art and manners, a brilliant cohort of mortals determined not to die, in possession of the land.
Wyndam Lewis (1915), in quotation in "The Artist as Prophet and Jester," by Jacques Barzun, The American Scholar, Winter 2000, pg 20.

10 October 2002

All those individuals who have secured a hasty wealth by the chances of speculation; all children of fortune; all victims of inheritance; all social sponges; all satellites of the court; all beggards of the market-place—all these are living and unlying witness to the unalterable retributions of parasitism.

Henry Drummond, Natural Law in the Spiritual World (1883), quoted in Carl Zimmer, Parasite Rex, The Free Press (2000)

7 October 2002

800-Mile-Wide "Object" Found in Solar System

John Roach
for National Geographic News
October 7, 2002

Astronomers announced today the discovery of the largest object in the solar system since Pluto was named the ninth planet in 1930. The object is half the size of Pluto, composed primarily of rock and ice, and circles the sun once every 288 years.

Named Quaoar (pronounced KWAH-o-ar), the object resides in the Kuiper belt, a region of the sky beyond the orbit of Pluto and about 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. The Kuiper belt is chock full of remnants from the planet-formation era of the solar system...

What a stupid name. Clearly it should be PLANET X.

6 October 2002
The Alien

Cole found a toy this morning at a park in Menlo Park but then left it on the ground.

(life size)

Owen thought it was worth bringing home.

3 October 2002
Beethoven or Mozart?

I was listening to a piano concerto on the radio yesterday without knowing what it was, except that I had heard it before, and I knew it was either Beethoven or Mozart.

How to decide which?

I thought, if Mozart, then Beethoven didn't really add anything to Mozart, everything in Beethoven is already present, here, in this music.

But Beethoven did (must have) added something to Mozart, right?

So it must be Beethoven.

It was Piano Concerto #4 (Beethoven).

To put it another way, what I thought was

"If this is Mozart, then there is really no point in buying or listening to Beethoven, because Mozart subsumes even Beethoven."

But that is absurd, surely.

So this must be Beethoven.

2 October 2002
The Faculty Emeriti

This current list of Faculty Emeriti at the University of Nebraska at Kearney contains many names familiar to me from my childhood (including my father!).

They were my parents' friends and acquaintances when I was growing up.

1 October 2002
Man vs Machine, Part II: Deep Fritz 7 vs Vladmir Kramnik

I found this interview with the current World Chess Champion, Vladmir Kramnik, on a web site called "Brains in Bahrain." Kramnik has just arrived in Bahrain to play the World Computer Chess Champion Deep Fritz7 in a match that begins 4 October 2002:
CHESSBASE: Kramnik vs Fritz in Bahrain is seen as the revenge match of Kasparov vs [the IBM supercomputer] Deep Blue. Are you avenging the defeat of Kasparov in 1997?

KRAMNIK: Naturally the match has the character of a revenge. After all the world champion is facing the strongest chess program. If I too should lose then the people will believe that chess computers are really superior to human beings. Top players are very ambitious. It is also a matter of honour. Believe me, to lose to a computer is twice as painful as losing to a colleague.

CHESSBASE: How does the playing strength of Fritz7 today compare with that of Deep Blue in 1997?

KRAMNIK: I spent some time last summer studying Fritz because the match was originally supposed to take place in October 2001 and had to be postponed because of September 11. I was testing Fritz on a Notebook with a 600 MHz processor. I let Fritz replay the games of Deep Blue in 1997. It was a great shock! In almost every position Fritz was suggesting objectively better variations. The program is clearly stronger than Deep Blue, whatever the hardware. The developers have done some excellent work in the past years. The special version that will run on eight processors in Bahrain I think will definitely be over 2800 in its Elo performance. Everybody can imagine what a difficult job it will be for me. In order to have chances to win I have to be mentally and physically in top shape...

1 October 2002
Quercus Lobata

I've made some progress toward identifying the oak tree across the street from our house in Palo Alto.

See also my 22 August 2002 journal entry.