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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 September 2002
Always look on the bright side

From today's New York Times, "Stock Market Ends Its Worst Quarter Since the '87 Crash", by Jonathan Fuerbringer:
The Nasdaq was down 19.9 percent for the quarter, the eighth-worst decline since the index began in 1971. The one positive was that last quarter's fall was far less than the 30.7 percent plunge in the third quarter of last year, the 32.7 percent drop in the fourth quarter of 2000 and even the 20.7 percent fall in the second quarter of this year...

30 September 2002
From the Ground Up (Email with Gary Sinclair)


Is all that model rocketry equipment yours? Or do you belong to a club, the Cambridge Wernher von Braun Memorial Society perhaps?

It looks like there are three heavy duty launch pads, plus something that looks like a Minuteman mobile launcher in the far distance, on the road? It's got to be 50 feet tall.

It's good to know the skies over Great Britain are secure in these troubled times.

How high would a rocket like that fly?


Sorry about not responding earlier on this.

If you are still interested, Guy's rocket flew round 3000 feet.

Potentially a rocket like Guy's can go over 8000 feet on a J570.

With the bigger the motor comes the greater the acceleration and velocity. Interesting things happen at 30 g's and Mach 1 (the term they use when your rocket flies apart is a 'shred' and it happens at Max Q (where the aerodynamic pressure on airframe is strongest)). Properly built rockets can go Mach 2 (I use a carbon fibre and kevlar on mine). At Mach 3 your paint job just melts away and your composite skin on the airframe starts to soften from air friction. At this speed you have hit the 'thermal wall' and the heat caused by friction grows exponentially. Beyond Mach 3 is a domain for alloys (and ceramics) only.

For us mortals (i.e those without millions to burn on model rockets) it is the 3-10k ranges in which we operate (height = money, it is very difficult to increase one without the other).


27 September 2002
Electronic Journal of Combinatorial Number Theory

Integers. They have a new Combinatorial Games section.

(I should send my "Misère Multiples" paper there, should I actually write it...)

27 September 2002
The Top 10 Trees of Palo Alto

1. Magnolia (4359)
2. Liquid Amber (3231)
3. Sycamore (3158)
4. Modesto Ash (1651)
5. Camphor (1317)
6. Chinese Pistache (957)
7. Coast Redwood (943)
8. Chinese Elm (939)
9. Coast Live Oak (859)
10. Holly Oak (823)

City Pages
A Quarterly Publication of the City of Palo Alto, California
September 2002, page 3.

I wonder who did the counting?

[Note added 28 September 2002] I've started a page on Palo Alto trees.

24 September 2002
Email exchange with Jim Hsu

"Composers do not cry. Composers are made of fire." —Beethoven

From: Thane Plambeck
To: Hsu, Jim
Sent: 9/21/2002 11:11 AM
Subject: tickets to Symphony

Gloria reminded me that the tickets you gave us for the San Francisco symphony were the night of the big Berkeley fire. We watched houses going "poof" on the hillsides from across the bay.


From: "Hsu, Jim"
To: "'Thane Plambeck '"
Sent: Saturday, September 21, 2002 11:34 AM
Subject: RE: tickets to Symphony

1992-1993? Did I ever tell you I was riding my bike within 1/2 mile of it when it started to smolder—just a little puff. Then 5-7 minutes later at the bottom of the hill it was out of control.

From: Thane Plambeck []
Sent: Saturday, September 21, 2002 11:38 AM
To: Hsu, Jim
Subject: Re: tickets to Symphony

October 20, 1991

It would be interesting to know what they played at the Symphony.


From: "Hsu, Jim"
To: "'Thane Plambeck'"
Sent: Monday, September 23, 2002 1:31 PM
Subject: RE: tickets to Symphony

Here's your answer:

Cleveland Orchestra

Schubert: Overture to Alfonso and Estrella
Ran: Concert Piece (for Piano and Orchestra) - Alan Feinberg, piano
Stravinsky: The Firebird

Christoph von Dohnányi, conductor

From: Thane Plambeck []
Sent: Monday, September 23, 2002 10:11 PM
To: Hsu, Jim
Subject: Re: tickets to Symphony

Thanks. I remember the Firebird. I've been playing Schubert Waltzes on the piano. I even tried to compose one. You can listen to it as a midi file by going to January 2002 in my journal stuff at

Now there's a fire burning in the south bay that I can smell in Palo Alto as I type this message.


Sent: Tuesday, September 24, 2002 1:10 PM
Subject: RE: tickets to Symphony

Schubert piano work is just amazing. My uncle, now dead, played him very well. He also sold me on Dinu Lippatti, a pianist.

I think if you actually played your composition on a real piano and made it into an mp3 it'd have much more impact. BTW, MTT has software for his mac/piano that reads his grandfather's compositions and plays it back on his Steinway beautifully.

From: Thane Plambeck []
Sent: Monday, September 23, 2002 11:11 PM

Yes it sounds cheezy, I agree. I'm probably going to buy a new digital piano (a Yamaha Clavinova), maybe I can get an MP3 from that more easily.


22 September 2002
German Political Parties

Rot-Grün bleibt

Gerhard Schröder wird vier weitere Jahre an der Spitze der
Bundesregierung stehen. Dank des guten Abschneidens der
Grünen, der herben Niederlage von FDP und PDS und mehreren
Überhangmandaten kann sich die rot-grüne Koalition auch im
nächsten Bundestag auf eine Mehrheit stützen. (

Schroeder wins second term

BERLIN, Germany (CNN)—Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has secured one of the narrowest victory margins in German election history.

Schroeder declared victory in front of cheering supporters at the Social Democratic Party headquarters in Berlin on Sunday night at the end of a day of polling in the general election.

Schroeder, appearing with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of the Greens party, the partner in his governing coalition, said: "We have hard times in front of us and we're going to make it together."

The full result will not be final until they are certified on October 9.

But his conservative rival, the Christian Democrat leader Edmund Stoiber, predicted the chancellor's new mandate would not last a year.

Stoiber, who had earlier prematurely declared victory after early returns, told his supporters: "Should the result not allow us to form a government, then I predict before you that this Schroeder government will rule for only a very short time.

"Perhaps there is a piece of universal justice there that Mr. Schroeder will be able to live through the results of what he has brought upon us. Just give him a few months to go through that."

He added: "We will continue to state: This (Social Democratic-Greens) coalition will not heal our country's economy and further there will be no release from the isolation from Europe and the United States."

It was estimated that about 80 percent of Germany's 61 million voters turned out to cast their votes -- one for a local candidate and one for a party.

Some reports said the final difference between the Schroeder and Stoiber results may be less than 9,000 votes.

Official results showed the ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition parties squeezed through with a combined 47.1 percent of the vote, giving them 306 seats in the new 603-seat parliament.

The Christian Democrats and Free Democrats polled 45.9 percent of the vote, giving them 295 seats.

Schroeder's victory was so slim that he stopped short of making a definitive winner's speech and Stoiber never formally conceded.

Schroeder and Fischer said they would start coalition talks soon.

"We will lead the coalition negotiations," said Fischer.

"This will be a cooperation built on a common foundation. It will be fair," Schroeder said.

Schroeder has drawn criticism from the U.S. administration for opposing a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq, although the stance gained him support among German voters during the campaign.

Content below taken from:
Facts about Germany.
Published by the German Federal Press and Information Bureau.
Societätsverlag, Frankfurt/M. 2000, page 171-177:
Since the first general elections to be held in the whole of Germany in 1990, there have been six parties in the Bundestag:
the Christian Democratic Union (CDU),
the Social Democratic Party (SPD),
the Free Democratic Party (FPD),
the Christian Social Union (CSU),
the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), and
and Alliance 90/the Greens.
The CDU has no party association in the Free State of Bavaria, while the CSU puts up candidates for election in Bavaria only. In the Bundestag, however, CDU and CSU have a joint parliamentary party.

The SPD, CDU, CSU and FDP were formed in the western states between 1945 and 1947. The SPD was a re-creation of the former mainly labor-oriented party of the same name which had been outlawed by the Hitler regime in 1933. The other parties were completely new. The Christian CDU and CSU parties, in contrast to the Catholic Centre Party of Weimar days, drew their support from both of Germany's two major Christian creeds, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The FDP adopted programmes in the tradition of German liberalism.

In the time that has elapsed since they were established over fifty years ago, these four parties have undergone significant changes. At the federal level they have all formed coalitions with one another once or been in opposition. Today they all see themselves as "popular" parties representing all sections of the community.

The Greens, who were also represented in the Bundestag from 1983-1990, were established on a national level in 1979. Their roots lie in a radical ecologist movement which initially embraced factions opposed to nuclear energy as well as pacifist protest groups. In 1993, the Greens merged with the party Alliance 90 and won seats in the 1994 federal election. In the 1998 election, Alliance 90 / the Greens was the fourth largest party and formed a coalition government with the SPD; the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs - who also serves as Deputy Federal Chancellor - is a member of this party.

The PDS is the successor of the former Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED), the communist party which ruled the former German Democratic Republic. It has not been able to establish itself as a major political force in united Germany.

22 September 2002
That certain look

17 October 1448: Murad II defeats the Hungarians at the second Battle of Kosovo.
3 February 1451: Dies in Edirne (age 47)

20 September 2002
A location

Eek, AK—an Alaskan town [Photo] [Map].

[ Output from my Place Name Generator ]

15 September 2002
From Littlewood's Miscellany (1953)

From the chapter entitled "Cross-Purposes, Unconscious Assumptions, Howlers, Misprints, Etc:"
I once objected to an apparently obscure use of the phrase, "Let us assume for simplicity." It should mean that the writer could do the unsimplified thing, but wishes to let the reader off; it turned out that my pupil meant that he had to simplify before he could do it.
A minute I wrote (about 1917) for the Ballistic Office ended with the sentence "Thus σ should be made as small as possible." This did not appear in the printed minute. But P. J. Gregg said, "What is that?" A speck in a blank space at the end proved to be the tiniest σ I have ever seen (the printers must have scoured London for it).
The spoken word has its dangers. A famous lecture was unintelligible to most of its audience because "Hárnoo", clearly an important character in the drama, failed to be identified in time as hν.
A recent (published) paper had near the beginning the passage "The object of this paper is to prove (something very important)." It transpired with great difficulty, and not till near the end, that the "object" was an unachieved one.
From an excellent book on Astronomy: "Many of the spirals (galaxies), but very few of the ellipsoidals, show bright lines, due, no doubt, to the presence or absence of gaseous nebulae." (This rich complex of horrors repays analysis. Roughly it is an illegitimate combination of the correct 'spirals show bright lines due to the presence...' and the incorrect 'ellipsoidals don't show bright lines due to the absence...').
"We all know that people can sometimes do better things than they have done, but X has done a better thing than he can do." (An actual case, with agreement on the point among experts).
And from the Chapter entitled "People", a note on a meeting between Bertrand Russell and G E Moore:
Moore and Russell (c.1896?) were having a philosophical discussion in Hall. Russell suddenly said: "You don't like me, Moore, do you?" Moore replied, "No." This point disposed of, the discussion proceeded as before.

15 September 2002
An identity theft resource, courtesy Uncle Sam

Let's say you want to confirm that you've got the right Social Security Number and birthdate for a male victim (born after 1 January 1960) before attempting an identity theft.

The United States Selective Service System provides this convenient web resource and helpful explanatory text:

The United States Selective Service System would provide manpower to the US military by conducting a draft using a list of young men's names gathered through the Selective Service registration process. Virtually all men—ages 18 through 25—must register. Only if there is high compliance with this law, will a future draft be fair and equitable. The obligation of a man to register is imposed by the Military Selective Service Act, which establishes and governs the operations of the Selective Service System...

...This [web] service allows you to look up a man's Selective Service number, as well as the date he registered. Enter a last name, Social Security Account number, and date of birth for the registered man, and click on "Submit."

Only registrations of men born on or after January 1, 1960, can be verified through this system.

9 September 2002
Castle Rising

1. Castle Rising is an English village in Norfolk [Map]

2. There's a castle there. Its location, including both the castle itself and all its surrounding lands, is Castle Rising Castle [Photo]

3. The castle is elevated from the surrounding lands. An aerial photo shows the topography pretty clearly. This bump in the land is the Castle Rising Castle Rising.

4. If you make your way onto that bump in the land, you might as well visit the castle itself. In order to distinguish the building from the elevated lawn around it, the preferred term is Castle Rising Castle Rising Castle. Here is a smallish photo of the building taken from the gatehouse.

5. Once inside the building, you'll want to go to the top. The stairs inside, the Castle Rising Castle Rising Castle Rising, will take you to the top.

6. Although the stairs are spectacular, don't forget the big picture. After all, those stairs belong to Castle Rising Castle Rising Castle Rising Castle.

Thanks for visiting!

9 September 2002

From the Encyclopedia Britannica:
Junker (German: “country squire”), member of the landowning aristocracy of Prussia and eastern Germany, which, under the German Empire (1871–1918) and the Weimar Republic (1919–33), exercised substantial political power. Otto von Bismarck himself, the imperial chancellor during 1871–90, was of Junker stock and at first was regarded as representing its interests. Politically, Junkers stood for extreme conservatism, support of the monarchy and military tradition, and protectionist policies for agriculture. The German Conservative Party in the Reichstag, or Imperial Assembly, and the extraparliamentary Agrarian League (q.v.) represented Junker interests throughout the imperial era. Because the Junkers staffed the Prussian army, which had brought about Germany's unification, they were accorded great influence, particularly in Prussia, where a highly illiberal constitution remained in force (1850–1918). During the Weimar period, Junkers were continuously hostile to the republic, the collapse of which contributed to the rise of Adolf Hitler.

8 September 2002
Another definition

Queen Mary I ("Bloody Mary") 1553-1558

A metaphor is an alternation of a woorde from the proper and naturall meanynge, to that which is not proper, and yet agreeth thereunto, by some lykenes that appeareth to be in it.

Thomas Wilson, The Arte of Rhetorique (1553)

6 September 2002
Google Completions

Think of the beginning of a simple narrative sentence (4-7 words). Put them in quotation marks. Let Google tell you the rest of the story.

In my first experiment, I chose the phrase:

"I was amazed to discover..."

...that there were some who did not absolutely LOVE the idea of a circus."
...that one student, a senior in her final semester, had never activated her library card."
...some of Chihuahua's lesser-known geological wonders: the Samalayuca sand dunes." was a trillion-dollar market with no one having major ownership."
...books in the library that optimistically predicted we might land on the moon by 1975."
Two more examples:

"It was so long that I..."

...had to move the tape 3 times to measure the whole string."
...could not see its end."
...was lonely, wondering if I'd ever find a love that could match my passion inside."
...dare say fewer than 1% even bother to skim it over before clicking the accept button."
...wasn't feeling so good at races."
...could wrap it around myself and tie myself to the bull, so that no matter how much the bull jumped, it could not get rid of me."
...blew a fuse."
...spent almost no time going over it to make sure it made sense."
...actually had to fold it up onto our ceiling."
...hesitated putting it on your message board."
...already reauctioned the cards and mailed them out to a legit bidder."
...was in college when I began to realize how she impacted my life."
...couldn't finish it."
"The explosion threw..."

...a nearby manhole cover about 20 feet in the air." all to the ground, and covered us with dirt and debris."
...him back into the tent, and ignited the tent fabric!" rocks which became the moon."
...the Audi across the street and ripped a gaping hole in the road."
...the US space program into doubt."
...the vehicle into a fast flowing stream, police said." pieces of the old lava plug of 'Matupi'—now known as 'Tavurvur'—more than 35 miles away."

6 September 2002
The Gold Coin

Cole was willing to forgo all other gifts for his 7th birthday, including from the kids invited to his birthday party next week, if only he could have a real gold coin.

So this afternoon he and I went to Mish International, Inc., a Menlo Park coin dealer. We decided to buy a 2002 American Eagle. I wrote a check for $368.05 for it. I decided to think of it not as a father spoiling a son, but rather as a strategic asset transfer from cash to bullion.

When we got home, Cole's friend Haley took a picture of us using my digital camera.

Because Cole wasn't holding the coin straight up in the first picture, we decided to take another picture. It came out better, except perhaps for my slightly maniacal expression.

But immediately after the second picture was taken, the coin slipped out of Cole's hand and bounced around on the bricks of our sidewalk.

So the coin has a little dent on the edge, close to Lady Liberty's foot.

5 September 2002
A Book Recommended by my Father

The Specialist, by Chic Sale (1929)

From a web site:
Charles "Chic" Sale was a forty-five year old stage actor and comedian when he wrote a book entitled "The Specialist" in 1929. This book of fewer than 3,000 words was inspired by the antics of a local carpenter named Lem Putt from Charles' hometown of Urbana, Illinois, who specialized in the building of outhouses...
Chic Sale died in 1936.

I just bought a copy at Alibris.

1 September 2002
Murky Days at Fidelity Investments

Did you realize that if you have a Fidelity 401(k), 403(b), or other Work Savings Plan, 529 College Savings Plan, or annuity assets, you may be able to combine those accounts to form a household relationship, for commission and service level considerations?
I didn't.

1 September 2002

Progress on the Banach-Tarksi Paradox
Understanding Your Misbehaving Sphere

The text below is taken from the paper [PDF]:

Non-amenable finitely presented torsion-by-cyclic groups
A.Yu. Olshanskii and M.V. Sapir

Posted to on 30 Aug 2002

Hausdorff [16] proved in 1914 that one can subdivide the 2-sphere minus a countable set of points into 3 parts A, B, C, such that each of these three parts can be obtained from each of the other two parts by a rotation, and the union of two of these parts can be obtained by rotating the third part. This implied that one cannot define a finitely additive measure on the 2-sphere which is invariant under the group SO(3)...

...Von Neumann [25] was [the] first who noticed that the cause of the Banach-Tarski paradox is not the geometry of R3 but an algebraic property of the group SO(3)...


We construct a finitely presented non-amenable group without free non-cyclic subgroups thus providing a finitely presented counterexample to von Neumann's problem. Our group is an extension of a group of finite exponent n >> 1 by a cyclic group, so it satisfies the identity [x,y]n = 1.