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This is my 2003 journal.
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Also available: 2002 2001 2000 1990s 1980s

Everything on this page:
Copyright 1985-2003 by Thane Plambeck, except where obviously not.
29 May 2003
In the Audience

I went to the Stanford Theatre tonight for the 9:05pm showing of Road to Morocco (1942), starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour.

It's Bob Hope's one-hundredth birthday today. National Public Radio described a "birthday party" in Los Angeles, but then went on to say Hope is "not able to communicate."

In the movie, two turbanned undertakers chisel a tombstone for Hope. They need to know his birthdate and height, his death date already having been determined by an Islamic astrologer's prophesy—later to be proven mistaken.

They ask Hope his birthdate, and he says "September 13, 1913—that's a Friday." The undertakers are frightened, and run away.

I just checked—it's a Saturday.

Best moment: Hope, surrounded by a harem, discovered by Crosby, who thought Hope was being tortured by a Sultan instead.

Dorothy Lamour died 22 September 1996 at age 81 in Los Angeles.

Crosby died 14 October 1977, not far from Madrid, Spain. He was born just 26 days before Hope, on 3 May 2003.

Including the songs Moonlight Becomes You, Ho Hum, and Road to Morocco.

29 May 2003
¡Atención, arañas!

Greg Whitehead became interested in spiders on a business trip for Trustgenix. Maybe he'll send me a photo of one that I can put it up here, and it will become as popular as his chocolate martini recipe, which is currently accounting for 7.6% of the Google-directed visits to this web site.

28 May 2003
Couch Remains

I delivered one of our extra couches to Jim Hsu in Berkeley a couple weeks ago. All that remained was for Jim to dispose of his existing couch—which, I'm proud to say, Gloria and I also gave him, maybe 10 years ago.

Jim writes:
It wouldn't fit in my car so Saturday I spent some time sawing it in half with various gardening implements.

26 May 2003
Memorial Day Earthquake

Early in the morning (3:38am) at the Yosemite house, we heard a low thundering rumble and a 'bump' against the wall behind the headboards: a 3.7 magnitude earthquake, with its epicenter about 25 miles away (map, or map detail).

From the USGS web site:
Version #4: This report supersedes any earlier reports of this event.
This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.
A minor earthquake occurred at 3:38:31 AM (PDT) on Monday, May 26, 2003.
The magnitude 3.7 event occurred 10 km (6 miles) WNW of Madera, CA.
The hypocentral depth is 9 km ( 6 miles). 

Magnitude 3.7 - local magnitude (ML) 
Time Monday, May 26, 2003 at 3:38:31 AM (PDT)
Monday, May 26, 2003 at 10:38:31 (UTC)  
Distance from Madera, CA - 10 km (6 miles) WNW (290 degrees)
Chowchilla, CA - 17 km (10 miles) SSE (150 degrees)
Le Grand, CA - 27 km (17 miles) SSE (165 degrees)
Fresno, CA - 44 km (28 miles) NW (308 degrees)
Coordinates 36 deg. 59.5 min. N (36.992N), 120 deg. 9.9 min. W (120.165W) 
Depth 9.3 km (5.8 miles) 
Location Quality Fair 
Location Quality Parameters 
   Nst=198, Nph=198, Dmin=28 km, Rmss=0.28 sec, 
   Erho=0.3 km, Erzz=0.6 km, Gp=108 degrees  
Event ID# nc51128418 
"Please remain calm," this boosterish web site promoting Madera County business seems to be saying:
The San Joaquin Valley floor is the state's most seismically stable region and Madera is in the center of it. The main research study on seismic danger lists Madera in Study Zone VI, which has the lowest overall risk of the nine Study Zones. Madera County's inland location, mostly flat topography, relatively stable soil and absence of active faults are the reasons why Madera has never recorded any serious earthquake-caused damage.
Prevalence of earthquakes from 1960 to 1999 

Magnitude: 5.0-5.9 6.0-6.9 7.0-7.9 
Madera        0       0       0 
Bakersfield   1       0       0 
Fresno        1       0       0 
LA Basin      7       4       1 
SF Bay Area  11       1       1 
San Jose      2       0       0 

25 May 2003
Browsing the Encyclopedia

From Volume 18 (Taylor to Utah) of the Britannica Macropaedia ("Knowledge in Depth"):
The Great and the Little Zab: Tributaries of the Tigris.

A few pages before that, in the entry for Tiberius:
Though Tiberius had left Rome for Rhodes of his own free will, daring the Emperor's wrath, he could not return without Augustus's permission. Augustus withheld that permission for the better part of a decade. Tiberius has no history during those years, for he had nothing to do. He walked and talked with his astrologer, Thrasyllus, and with other guests, servants, and clients of his estate. He read Greek poetry, Egyptian pornography, histories of warfare, and treatises on science. He bathed, dined, and grew older.

23 May 2003
Lupine at the Yosemite house

Click the photo for a bigger image, here for a huge one, or here if you simply can't get enough lupine.

20 May 2003
The Stickup

From Armed Robbers in Action: Stickups and Street Culture, by Richard T Wright and Scott T Decker, Northeastern Univ Press, 1997, in Chapter 4, "Committing the Offense":
Having settled on a specific robbery target, the next job for offenders is to commit the stickup. This is a complex undertaking, involving a set of actions that have to be performed in the face of a "problematic outcome and potentially serious consequences" (Shover 1991:103). Not only must offenders compel inherently reluctant victims to comply with their demands, but they must do so under considerable emotional pressure in an environment fraught with potential hazards...

...Unlike most sorts of crime, successful armed robberies are never secret or ambiguous. By definition, they require offenders to confront intended victims directly, letting them know in no uncertain terms that a stickup is in progress. As such, armed robberies invariably include a strong interactional component; offenders must develop "a common definition of the situation" and co-orient their actions to meet the demands of the offense (Luckenbill 1981:25). This does not happen automatically. After all, why should stickup victims willingly participate in their own fleecing? Offenders typically must employ threatened or actual violence to induce cooperation...

The offenders in our sample employed two different methods to approach would-be victims without arousing their suspicion. The first method involved using stealth or speed to sneak up on unwitting prey:
You just walk up to [intended victims]. You creep up on them [and] when they turn their heads, you just hurry up and run up on them, put the gun to their head and tell them, "If you move, you dead. Freeze up!" (Swoop—No. 50).

[Whomever I am going to rob, I] just come up on you. You could be going to your car. If you're facing this way I want to be on your blind side. If you are going this way, I want to be on that side where I can get up on you [without your noticing me] and grab you: "This is a robbery motherfucker, don't make it no murder!" I kind of like shake you. That's my approach. (No 82).
The second method used by the offenders to approach intended victims involved "managing a normal appearance" (Luckenbill 1981:29). The aim was to fit into the social setting such that the victims saw their presence as normal and non-threatening...
Most of the time...we just go up to [the victim], "What's up, man? Do you know where so-and-so street is? Soon as the victim] turns around I'm gonna bust him, just hit him... (Cooper—No. 24).

19 May 2003
Fangs: The new letter of the alphabet

14 May 2003
Everyone has the obligation to ponder well his own specific traits of character. He must also regulate them adequately and not wonder whether someone else's traits might suit him better. The more definitely his own a man's character is, the better it fits him.

14 May 2003
Emerson: from Self-Reliance
Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated by beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.

14 May 2003
Yet: A question

Why are the poems that precede each of Emerson's Essays so horrible?

13 May 2003
Dr. Johnson on Milton

This is from The Lives of the Poets:
The want of human interest is always felt. Paradise Lost is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. Its perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read Milton for instruction, retire harassed and overburdened, and look elsewhere for recreation; we desert our master, and seek for companions.

13 May 2003
The Downer Cow

From a textbook Molecular Virology, by D. R. Harper, in Section 1.8.6, "Prions":
It should be noted that while some countries are 'free' of BSE [bovine spongiform encephalitis, the 'mad cow' disease], related conditions exist, notably 'downer cow syndrome' in the United States, although this is a much less well defined syndrome...
Fill-in-the-blank exercise:
Mad Cow / Downer Cow
Mad Hatter / [what?]
Mad Dog / [what?]
Queen Mab / [what?]

13 May 2003
Entomology Etymology

I found this at, after Cole made fun of my pronunciation of "pupae" as "pyoo-pee" as I read one of his books:
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I was surprised yesterday to hear, in a video, a Ph.D. entomologist pronounce "pupae" as "pyoo-pay" instead of "pyoo-pee," the way I've said it for as long as I can remember. My online dictionary confirmed my version, but I'm wondering if the other is an acceptable alternative.

My understanding of the rule is that, when two vowels come together like that, only the second is pronounced in the long form.

Lane Lester / / Athens, Georgia USA
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It looks like the person on the video is using an ecclesiastical pronounciation (although I think it should be "pooh-pay"), and you are using a classical or academic pronounciation.

In my opinion, your pronounciation is preferable, but both are acceptable.

Most of us get our 'correct' pronounciations as you did—from our professors. I particularly like some of the differences between American and British scientists.

Doug Jensen
Berea College
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11 May 2003
From Morris Goes To School, by Bernard Wiseman, Weekly Reader Books (1970)

10 May 2003
In today's (Saturday) New York Times crossword

3 Down: That special introduction

The answer had four letters. What to do?

The answer turned out to be:


The Church Lady

8 May 2003
M&M Statistics

Cole complained that his bag of M&M's had "all browns, and no blues."

His evidence being unavailable (he ate it), and suspecting exaggeration, I bought two bags at different locations with these results:

Two Milk Chocolate M&M's bags, 1.69oz (47.9g) each, 240 calories:

6 May 2003 10:30am—Safeway, Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
20 red
16 brown
5 orange
7 yellow
6 green
4 blue
58 Total

6 May 2003, 11am—Long's Drugs, downtown Palo Alto
21 brown
12 green
11 orange
6 yellow
4 blue
3 red
57 Total
Henry Baker commented on Hershey's published color frequencies on the math-fun email list:
    Hershey's is obviously trying to rediscover Zipf's Law:

    BRN   YEL   RED   ORG   BLU   GRN
    30%   20%   20%   10%   10%   10%  According to Hershey's
    31%   21%   16%   13%   10%    9%  True Zipf's Law %'s

    Zipf's Law is "satisfying" to humans, because it has just
    the right combination of comfort and surprise -- the words
    of languages occur in an approximation to Zipf's Law.  The
    popularity of TV channels is an approximation to Zipf's Law.
    The popularity of web pages is an approximation to Zipf's

7 May 2003
Letter to the Reader (1845)
My dear reader, if you in any way are of my profession, you will immediately perceive that the character conjured up here is a demoniac character in the direction of the religious—that is, tending toward it. How honestly, how amply he does his part by talking so that you can see him (loquere ut videam) [speak so that I may see], no one knows better than I, who, often exhausted, often wearied, have been tempted to abandon him and give up patience, which amounts to the same thing, which is also why, by heeding the stars and by reading coffee grounds by virtue of my scaldic vision and eagle eye, I pronounce the prophesy that two-thirds of the book's few readers will quit before they are halfway through, which can also be expressed this way—out of boredom they will stop reading and throw the book away. Since he is standing on a dialectical pinnacle, one must be able to calculate with infinitely small numbers if one wants to observe him. For a round sum, be it ever so large if it nevertheless is round, one does buy admission to his dialectical performances, and thus one would be better off not finding it worth the trouble to observe such a puppet. Yet it may well have importance to pay attention to him...
From Stages on Life's Way, by Søren Kierkegaard (as Frater Taciturnus), 1845

3 May 2003
Gladding, McBean: Architectural terra cotta

In 1873, the Placer [California] Herald announced "Coal in Placer," referring to the coal 60 feet below the surface near 7th and G Streets in Lincoln. The bed was 13 feet thick and by the end of the year coal was being shipped to Sacramento. But soon high quality clay was found above the beds of coal. In 1875, the California Clay Manufacturing Company was founded by Charles Gladding, Peter McBean, and George Chambers, all of Chicago. The first products were water and sewer pipes. By 1884 architectural terra cotta was added and eventually brought fame to the pottery. The architectural department grew to 200,000 square feet by the 1920's. By the end of the 20th century, Gladding McBean was the last remaining large-scale producer of decorative architectural terra cotta in the United States.
We visited and I took some photos (click the Blue Man). There's also this book.