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This is my 2003 journal.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug

Also available: 2002 2001 2000 1990s 1980s

Everything on this page:
Copyright 1985-2003 by Thane Plambeck, except where obviously not.
31 August 2003
Dead Rat

Just as I was coming out of the shower this morning:
Gloria: I have a job for you. It's pretty gross.

Thane: What?

Gloria: There's a dead baby opossum outside your office door. You have to clean it up.

Thane: Are you sure it's dead? Can nothing be done? Did you attempt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation?

Gloria: You are disgusting, I am not listening to you...
It turned out to be a dead rat [photo]. I told Gloria that it "twitched a little bit" when I picked it up to throw it away (it didn't).

30 August 2003
Under Construction, III
New Facts You Must Know about Fallout:


30 August 2003
Blaster Worm "Losses"

From the arrest warrant for the computer hacker Jeffrey Lee Parson, United States District Court, Western District of Washington: "United States of America vs Jeffrey Lee Parson."

David Farquhar, an FBI special agent, writes:
I have spoken with Microsoft representatives about the losses they incurred as a result of the Blaster worm, and in particular the variant that JEFFREY LEE PARSON released on the Internet. Microsoft expended significant internal and external (e.g., contracted) resources to respond to the DDoS attack launched by JEFFREY LEE PARSON. Those resources were used for a number of different purposes related to the Blaster worm, including, but not limited to, minimizing any damage to Microsoft, conducting damage assessments, restoring full access for its customers to Microsoft resources including, in particular, the patch for the Blaster worm, and the like. The loss to Microsoft significantly exceeds the $5,000 threshold set forth in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(c)(4)(A). In addition, at least 7,000 individual Internet users' computers were compromised by the variant of the Blaster worm that was released by JEFFREY LEE PARSON. As a result, each of those users had to disinfect their systems resulting in a presently unknown, but significant aggregate loss, to them.
It's customary to beat up on the hacker weenies, but I'm sorry, in this case it seems that Microsoft suffered NO LOSSES, or at least no losses that make any difference to Microsoft, which is still deeply committed to selling crappy software, as Parson pointed out so poignantly with his worm.

Parson will presumably join other 18 year-olds such as the "American Taliban" John Walker and servicemen in Iraq in suffering for the faults of the US government and its large corporations.

30 August 2003
The Offer Arrives

From The Academic Job Search in Mathematics, by Thomas W Rishel.

Content copied from:
It is impossible to consider all the possible permutations of job offers and their consequences. We will merely suggest one completely fictional possibility—in some ways, a "worst case" scenario; in others, not bad at all—to give an idea of what can happen.

Although you said only last week that you would take "anything, anything!", a phone offer has just been extended to you, and you are very seriously considering rejecting it.

The offer is from St. Patrick's of the Tundra, a small four-year school that you and your significant other soon begin to call "SPOT", situated in Mosquito Net, Minnesota, a town of 2,300 located five miles from the Canadian border. The chair has called to tell you that you will be getting a letter in the next mail offering details of a two-year nontenurable position in the department without possibility of renewal. He says that SPOT values teaching and wants you to do eight sections a year, only four or five of which will be precalculus. He knows you will have to think it over, but he needs a decision by "early next week."

You tell the more..

28 August 2003
The Quick, the Strong, the Quiet [1950-1960]

The Quick, the Strong, the Quiet
or: Dry Ice rings the bell with industry, too
or: I had no idea ale was so wonderful
or: Doubling electricity for a new kind of living
or: Amazing coffee discovery!

28 August 2003
Under Construction, II
The Stata Center at MIT

The 430,000-square-foot Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences will foster creative collisions among electrical engineering, computer science, artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy and more...

While we're on the subject of MIT, here's what they're reading in

Does Poetry Matter?

28 August 2003
Under Construction, I
Stari Most—the bridge at Mostar [1556-1993; reborn 2003]

On November 9, 1993, during bitter civil war in the city, the bridge was shelled by a Bosnian Croat tank from Mt. Hum. One of its last roles had been to allow Muslim defenders of the "left bank" cross the river and take supplies to their supporters and the population that had remained there. It withstood many centuries, but it could not survive this concentrated effort to demolish it. After several direct hits, this magnificent piece of history crashed into the waters below.

Here's a NATO article on its reconstruction.

28 August 2003
New Kitchen Update: Rug Ponderings

Which one? (Can't decide? View them larger).

27 August 2003
The Poetry of Amanda Alvarez, with bongo accompaniment


Another page uncovered by my random person generator.

It's been turning up some good ones lately, for example, the David Perry Studio.

27 August 2003

ANT = Against
ARES = Mars

Antares is a star in Scorpio, and it's red and bright. I looked at it for a good 10 minutes, near sunset, wondering if it was Mars.

It wasn't. It's still the "heart of the scorpion," though, and it'll be bright long after Mars swings its way to the other side of the sun.

Mars seen by Hubble around 5:51 a.m. ET on 27 August 2003,
during Mars closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years.

My father called to say he had successfully pointed a telescope at Mars tonight. I didn't even know he had one.

"I balanced it on a chain link fence."

That sounds more like Dad.

26 August 2003
Yet Some Felt Joy

I'm always glad to see the summer end and the kids head back to school. It gives me more time to work uninterrupted in my home office.

After our traditional first day of school courtyard photoshoot, I took one photo of Cole in his new classroom and several of Owen as he passed the threshold into Kindergarten, where he thought the rabbit smelled bad (1.67 Mb video, 19 seconds).

24 August 2003
R. H. Bing

Content copied from:
It was a dark and stormy night when R.H. Bing volunteered to drive some stranded mathematicians from the fogged-in Madison airport to Chicago. Freezing rain pelted the windscreen and iced the roadway as Bing drove on—concentrating deeply on the mathematical theorem he was explaining. Soon the windshield was fogged from the energetic explanation. The passengers too had beaded brows, but their sweat arose from fear. As the mathematical description got brighter, the visibility got dimmer. Finally, the conferees felt a trace of hope for their survival when Bing reached forward—apparently to wipe off the moisture from the windshield. Their hope turned to horror when, instead, Bing drew a figure with his finger on the foggy pane and continued his proof—embellishing the illustration with arrows and helpful labels as needed for the demonstration.

22 August 2003
Photos of Mathematicians at Work

At MSRI, by Ed Alcock. Here's a good one.

22 August 2003
Another one from the KHM

Reserve Head
Pyramid district of GÓza
4th Dynasty, c. 26th century B. C.
H 27 cm, W 17.5 cm, D 23.1 cm
ńOS Inv. No. 7787

The Portrait or Reserve Head is one of the major works of the [Kunsthistorisches] Viennese Collection. Found in an early tomb in the burial grounds of GÓza, it was not in the aboveground statuary chamber, but below the earth at the entrance to the underground burial chamber. Of some thirty heads that have been found to date, this one is considered to be the most beautiful. The portrayal while stylized is still full of life, with idealized, very regular features. Scholars still disagree about the purpose of this type of object. Traditional explanations proffer their use as surrogate heads for the soul (mummifying having then been only in its earliest stages).
From the archives
The Great Pyramid at Kearney.

22 August 2003
Vienna viewed from the Belvedere Palace [1758/61]

Content from:
Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

In connection with the growing number of travellers on their grand tour, there developed in 18th-century Venice a special form of landscape painting that concerned itself with the exact topographical reproduction of urban panoramas. One of its main representatives was Bernardo Bellotto, nephew and pupil of Antonio Canal, both of whom were called Canaletto. As a sought-after specialist in this area, Bellotto worked at the princely courts of Dresden, Vienna, Munich and Warsaw, thereby spreading the idea of veduta (Italian: "view") painting far beyond Venice...

22 August 2003
Steel Houses in Palo Alto

People are framing new houses in old Palo Alto with steel. At first it seemed to be only a few girders in a renovation; now, entire houses are scraped, then the heavy equipment and hardhats appear.

There's one going up now on Waverly, a few blocks from our house. Here are photos and a profile of the architect.

21 August 2003
Six Rolls, Various Sizes

20 August 2003
Four Arrangements of 'Round Midnight

George Russell, Ezz-Thetics (recorded May 8, 1961)

The Bill Holman Band, Brilliant Corners: The Music of Theolonious Monk, recording Feb 11/12 1997

Kenny Dorham, The Complete 'Round About Midnight, recorded 31 May 1956

Miles Davis, 'Round About Midnight, 1956

But none by Monk in my collection? It's not on Brilliant Corners.

17 August 2003
The Gathering Traffic Storm

The new IKEA [map] opens in ten days. I took a photo from University Avenue in Palo Alto.

From the San Jose Mercury News:
The much-anticipated Aug. 27 opening of East Palo Alto's Ikea store could mean a traffic nightmare for Palo Alto as well as East Palo Alto, according to a report from the Palo Alto Police Department.

The Swedish-style home-furnishings store is near completion at University Avenue and Highway 101.

On opening day, traffic on University Avenue could be backed up all the way from the freeway to downtown Palo Alto. Frustrated downtown drivers attempting to avoid the possible traffic jam by taking Middlefield and Willow roads to 101 in Menlo Park might create yet another traffic gridlock along that path, the report warns.

In subdued language, the report, released Thursday, concludes that ``the number of vehicles coming into the area will far-exceed roadway capacities....''
Maybe sending bilingual postcards will help?

17 August 2003
Emergencies on Main Street

I took a six second video (MPG, 574K) of a fire engine as we walked to a restaurant in Redwood City.

We ran into Marc, Lizzo, Sam and Wes there. Wes took a few bites, paused, then threw up a few minutes after this photo was taken. He made it to the bathroom first.

Come to think of it, his Dad looks like he's about to hurl, also.

Later, Wes contemplated an elaborate ice cream dessert.

16 August 2003
The House Next Door

The house next door went up for sale today.
I picked up the realtor's flyer:

Nestled on a leafy street in one of Palo Alto's most desirable neighborhoods, this charming 30's cottage offers the following:

Three bedrooms
Gracious living room with cozy entry and fireplace
Separate dining room with curved galss windows and view of garden
Enchanting, romantic garden with meandering pathways
Sunny, spacious kitchen with lovely views
Hardwood floors, two car garage
5000 sq ft lot, 1226 sq. ft. home per metroscan county records
Excellent Palo Alto schools
A wonderful opportunity to buy a home in a prime location

Offered at $969,000

16 August 2003
The Art of the Escape

In today's Omaha World Herald newspaper, Paul Hammel reports:
LINCOLN - Byron Johnson was no Harry Houdini.

The prison fugitive who had eluded authorities in the capital city since Wednesday made an error just prior to being captured early Saturday.

He walked up to two men on a Lincoln street and asked them for help in obtaining a gun, telling them he was "Byron Johnson," the man who had escaped from the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

"Prove it," they responded.

Johnson said he would, and he walked to an all-night supermarket nearby to buy a newspaper with his picture.

Meanwhile, the men walked to a telephone and called the local Crime Stoppers tip line.

Two Lincoln police officers captured Johnson a half-hour later, about 12:10 a.m., after a brief chase near 20th and Garfield Streets, about a dozen blocks from the State Capitol. No one was injured.

The bizarre sequence ended a tense couple of days in Lincoln.

It began on Wednesday when Johnson, who had been sentenced that day to 18 to 22 years in prison on robbery charges in Saline County, managed to unlock his handcuffs and leg shackles and run away from two unarmed sheriff's deputies in the State Penitentiary's unfenced parking lot.

He sprinted to a nearby vehicle. An ignition key and a change of clothes were inside.

Investigators on Saturday said that while Johnson's initial escape had been well-coordinated - he had two handcuff keys when captured - his later plan to flee Lincoln had been frustrated by an all-out search, aided by several tips from local residents.

The investigators had no idea why Johnson identified himself as the fugitive to the two men on a Lincoln street at about 11:40 p.m. Friday.

"We're not dealing with Harry Houdini here," said Lt. Mark Funkhauser of the Nebraska State Patrol, referring to the late famed magician and escape artist.

"Maybe he thought he could trust them," said Capt. Jim Thoms of the Lincoln Police Department.

Johnson, 25, of Scottsbluff is now being held at the State Diagnostic and Evaluation Center awaiting transfer back to prison. The Lancaster County Attorney's Office is reviewing the case and may file charges in the escape.

Funkhauser said the investigation will now turn to determining who helped Johnson escape.

"Obviously, there were other people involved," the investigator said.

Before his new sentencing and escape on Wednesday, Johnson was serving a seven- to 12-year prison sentence for possession of a firearm by a fugitive, third-degree assault and escape in Scotts Bluff County. He had briefly escaped from a deputy there last December during a visit to a mental health center.

Johnson fled on Wednesday in a Mazda sports utility vehicle registered to an ex-girlfriend. She told authorities she had recently sold the vehicle.

Just before noon on Friday, the fugitive was spotted in central Lincoln when a landlord checking on a house that had been rented by the ex-girlfriend saw him on the living room floor.

Johnson fled and eluded an extensive search. He told investigators he ran to a vacant home nearby, in the 33rd and A streets area.

Thoms said he did not know how Johnson spent the rest of the day, and he expressed relief that no one was hurt.

"This is not someone you want in your community," he said. "Catching him was priority one."

The names of the two men who called police were not released because of Crime Stoppers confidentiality rules. They probably will share the $2,500 reward that had been offered through the tips program, officials said.

"Money talks," Thoms said. "Time and time again, the Crime Stoppers program has proven to be worth its weight in gold."
More art of the escape, or read the theory.

16 August 2003
Cole climbing rocks at the Yosemite house

Photo: Marc Goldburg 2002

2 August 2003

When the student is ready, the teacher arrives.