I finished "Digital Fortress", and resisted the temptation to go
into any really detailed criticisms in the
It's basically just junk-food; no point in analyzing exactly
which artificial colorings make it so orange.
Bill points out
Mayfly Hatch Caught on Radar (definitely worth looking at), and comments
"Now I wonder what the weather radar looked like during the 10 plagues."
Indeed! What color would they use for frogs?
Web geekery: I got tired of big letters and blueness, so I changed
the CSS on the Sims Stories
(just the stories, not the index page) to involve smaller letters and
And I developed the (possibly short-lived) intent to upgrade my
ancient syndication feeds (currently in RSS 0.92
and Atom 0.3) to modern versions (probably RSS 2.0
and Atom RFC4287 (which seems to oddly lack a notion of version, tsk)).
We'll see how that goes.
Amazing Mathematical Fact o' The Day (from a footnote in a recent
J. Phil.): the sum of an uncountable number of numbers, all
of which are greater than zero, diverges!
This surprised me.
The sum of a countably-infinite number of numbers >0 doesn't have
to diverge, as in 1/2 plus 1/4 plus 1/8 plus 1/16 and so on forever
adding up to 1 and all.
But if you have an uncountable number of them (if you have, say, one
corresponding to every real number between zero and one), then the
sum eventually gets bigger than any limit you might pick.
This seems at first glance to have consequences.
For instance if we were in a simple Newtonian universe, and I put into
a box a pencil and told you that it was between two and three inches
long, it'd be nice to say that there's a nonzero (greater than zero)
probability associated with every possible length of the pencil, and
(in a simple Newtonian universe) that means a number >0 associated
with every real between two and three.
And since they're probabilities they have to add up to 1 or less.
And by the previous paragraph they can't (they add up and up forever,
getting as much bigger than 1 as you like).
There are various ways out of this.
One is to admit that things whose probability is zero can still
happen; that's a bit uncomfortable.
Another is to note that because of Quantum Mechanics and all there
are only a finite number of lengths that the pencil can actually
have (something to do with the Planck Length; I dunno), so the
problem doesn't arise; this is a bit uncomfortable (and/or pleasing)
because it suggests that all that there Quantum stuff, or at
least something like it, had
to be true of the universe, for what smells like a
non-contingent mathematical reason.
Which is all pretty cool.
(Preternaturally attentive readers may have noticed that we don't
really need the fact that the sum of uncountable numbers >0
diverges to get a problem here.
Even if there were only a countably infinite number of lengths
the pencil might have, we'd probably want to give them (or at
least some infinite subset of them) the same >0
probability, and if you add up even a countably infinite number
of the same >0 number, you diverge.
And etc etc.)
How are you?
de facto schadenfreude au jus
Windows is the Final Boss. You died.
Sore. One and a half cubic yards of concrete should be left
to the professionals, not mixed in small batches in an electric
mixer from 60 lb bags. And how come it looks weird if I write
"60 pound bags"?
How am I? Well, when a man loves a woman...yadda, yadda, yadda...
and the doctor slapped me on the ass.
Probably because it might mean "60 one-pound bags", which
wasn't what you meant.
(Now use de facto shadenfreude au jus in a sentence...)
A little thing I forgot to mention yesterday: on Wednesday we
big freaking tornado
come through the office park that contains the lab.
It was pretty unusual.
The whole story in great detail:
there've been lots of storms lately, and at around 3:30 post-emma
on Wednesday M called me up at work
to say that the garage door opener wasn't
working and the non-opener door was stuck and so the car was
stuck in the garage.
I said that the weather was looking pretty bad and I didn't have
any more meetings that day so what the heck I'd come home and
see if I could get the car out of the garage and then work from
home for awhile.
I closed things up, and was just leaving the office at around
3:45 when M called me on my Cellular Phone to say that the
Garage Door Guy was coming in half an hour and I didn't have
to come home if I didn't want to.
I was just saying that since I was all closed up anyway
I might as well come home, when all the lights went out
(it got pretty dark in the hallway there) and it got
very quiet (except for people making "hey, the lights
have gone out!" sorts of sounds), and then five seconds
later the lights came back on and the machines all started
back up again (the building's backup generator had cut
in, I think), and I said bye to M and said I'll see you
in half an hour or so.
So I got in my car and drove out of the lab lot, and
looking down toward 9A it looked like there were cars
backed up down there and I thought maybe a pole box
down there had blown or something, so I went the other way,
north up Skyline Drive, toward the traffic light.
All along Skyline there were branches down (and I thought
whoa, must have been windy), and then near the light there
were two, no three, or actually more like five or six,
trees down (one halfway across the road so I had to
drive around it), and a couple of lightpoles down
(and I thought whoa, must have been real
windy), but the traffic was flowing, so I got onto
9A at the light and turned north and drove home.
I got the garage open by pushing out the plexiglas that
I used to fix the window that the little boy broke
with a basketball the other year, and the Garage Door
Guy came (about an hour later than he said he would)
and replaced the (rather expensive, sigh) circuit
board (again; the first time it blew I put it on a
surge suppressor, but that didn't help this time, and
the Garage Door Guy said it was probably fried by a
"brownout" rather than a surge, which seems like a
thing that really shouldn't happen),
and all was fine and I got some work done.
And, as I eventually gathered from the TV news and talking
to other people, the reason the lights went out while
I was on the phone to M at the lab was that a
big freaking tornado
had been passing by knocking down trees and lightpoles and a
tire truck, and lifting up a state trooper in his cruiser and
spinning it around, and blowing the walls off of the
California Closets warehouse, and if (say) M hadn't called me
about the Garage Door Guy I might have left five minutes earlier
and have been out there driving more or less right in the
middle of it.
And (somewhat less frighteningly) if I'd left about fifteen
minutes later than I did it might have taken me hours to get
home, because 9A and the Saw Mill Parkway and various other
routes were closed down shortly after I drove up them.
It's time to make fun of Dan Brown some more.
his "Angels and Demons" I said that
"he has supposedly wise and prominent people thinking and saying
things at a People Magazine depth of understanding" (as in
the physicist who's all "wow, you've converted matter to energy?
That's amazing! Maybe the Bible is true!"),
and the same emphatically applies to "Digital Fortress";
his ultra-smart super-educated elite characters don't
seem to know very much.
Hale nodded thoughtfully. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
Susan looked puzzled.
"It's Latin," Hale said. "From Satires of Juvenal.
It means 'Who will guard the guards?'"
"I don't get it," Susan said, "'Who wil guard the guards?'"
Now his character Susan here is
like the NSA's best cryptographer, and she's engaged
to this amazing Professor of All Possible Languages, and she's
smart and educated and generally 133t, but not only has she
never heard "quis custodiet ipsos custodes?", but even after
someone's translated it for her in the middle of a conversation
in which the meaning is blindingly obvious
she doesn't get it.
It's not like Brown had to do it that way for the benefit
of non-133t readers who might not be familiar with the phrase.
He could have written, say:
Hale nodded thoughtfully. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes: who will guard the
A piece of wisdom or a cliché, depending on how
you looked at it; and one that superficially educated people
always brought up at this point in the argument.
"It's not that simple," Susan said, "and you know it."
So it's hard to imagine why Brown did it this way.
Maybe he thinks the phrase really is an extremely obscure
piece of Latin arcana that both Susan and the reader should
be grateful that he's revealed?
Or maybe he wants to comfort us that even his smart
133t characters don't know lots of stuff.
Or maybe he was just in a hurry.
But it's annoying.
a wonderful page of Classic Texts In Computer Science
(Hoare's "An Axiomatic Basis for Computer Programming", Iverson's "The
Design of APL", Hughes "Why Functional Programming Matters", and so on
and so on); great rainy-day reading.
a disturbing Daily Kos story
I mean yeah Godwin's Law and all, but still, this is nasty stuff.
FROM: OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA.
SUBJECT: FUNDS DELIVERY.
THIS INTERVENTION IS AS A RESULT OF NUMEROUS APPLICATIONS AND
ATTEMPTS BY SOME GROUP OF PEOPLE HERE AND OTHER PARTS OF THE
WORLD TO ABUSE THE INTERGRITY AND REPUTATION OF OUR APEX BANK,
THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA. HOWEVER, IN ORDER FOR THE BANK TO
PROTECT HER IMAGE AND THAT OF THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE, THE
MINISTER OF FINANCE AND THE GOVERNOR OF (CBN) HAS BEEN MANDATED
TO INFORM YOU THAT WE ARE IN RECEIPT OF AN APPLICATION FOR FUND
RELEASE/DELIVERY TO YOU.
FURTHERMORE, BE INFORMED THAT COMMERCIAL BANKS IN THIS OUNTRY,INCLUDING
OTHER OFFSHORE FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS WHO CLAIM TO HAVE THE MANDATE OF
THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA TO TRANSFER FUNDS TO HER BENEFICIARIES
ARE NOT AUTHORISED TO TRANSFER ABOVE TWENTY MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND
DOLLARS OUT OF THIS COUNTRY WITHOUT DUE CLEARANCE FROM MY OFFICE IN THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA.SO IF EVENTUALLY YOU ARE IN CONTACT WITH SUCH GROUP OF PEOPLE YOU BETTER STOP FURTHER COMMUNICATION FOR YOUR OWN INTEREST. ALSO, TO ACOMPLISH THE ABOVE,I HAVE STARTED UPDATING YOUR FILE/APPLICATION FOR THE RELEASE/DELIVERY OF YOUR FUND TO YOU. MY OFFICE IS WORKING ON THE INSTRUCTION FROM THE PRESIDENCY, FEDERAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL,AND THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR BANKERS FORUM THROUGH MY OFFICE TO DELIVER THE FUNDS IN CASH DIRECTLY TO YOUR DOORSTEP BY DIPLOMATIC MEANS YOU HAVE ENDORSED THE PAYMENT DELIVERY ORDER (P.D.O) THE MONEY WILL BE CONCEALED IN TWO METAL BOXES AND WILL BE LABELED AS PERSONAL BELONGINGS SO AS TO OBTAIN FULL DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY COVERAGE TO ENSURE A HITCH-FREE DELIVERY. THIS ARRANGMENT IS BEING IMPLEMENTED IN ORDER TO BEAT THE ACTIVITIES OF FRAUDSTERS. I SYMPATHISE WITH YOU FOR THE DELAY IN RECEIVING YOUR MONEY DUE TO YOUR INABILITY TO LOCATE THE PROPER INSTITUTION RESPONSIBLE FOR SUCH SERVICES IN THIS COUNTRY.
THE MODE OF OUR OPERATION IS AS FOLLOWS:-
1.YOU ARE TO INFORM THIS OFFICE THE NAME OF YOUR NEAREST INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TO ENABLE US ENROUTE THE DIPLOMATIC TICKET CORRECTLY, YOUR CURRENT ADDRESS ANDYOUR PERSONNAL TELEPHONE NUMBERS [CELL PHONE].
2. YOUR PRESENCE WILL ALSO BE NEEDED AT THE AIRPORT TO RECEIVE THE DIPLOMAT ON ARRIVAL SO THAT BOTH OF YOU WILL MOVE STRAIGHT TO YOUR NOMINATED BANK TO LODGE THE FUND INTO YOUR ACCOUNT. ALSO YOU WILL BE REQUIRED TO ENDORSE CERTAIN VITAL DOCUMENTS CONFIRMING THE INTACT RECEIPT OF YOUR FUNDS, AS THIS WILL ENABLE US TO WRITE REPORTS BACK TO THE OFFICES INVOLVED IN PASSING THE BILL THAT HAS RESULTED IN YOUR BEING PAID. MY OFFICIAL I.D SHALL BE SENT TO YOU FOR DOUBLE ASSURANCE OFTHE SOURCE OF THIS LETTER.FINALLY, UPON CONFIRMATION OF YOUR READINESS TO RECEIVE YOUR MONEY, WE SHALL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE START PROCESSING THE NECESSARY DOCUMENTATION TOWARDS THE SAFE DELIVERY OF THE CONSIGNMENT TO YOU IN YOUR COUNTRY ON RECEIPT OF THIS MAIL
AWAITING YOUR PROMPT RESPONSE ONLY ON THIS EMAIL ADDRESS : [redacted]@yahoo.gr
KEVIN C. OYIBO
THE GOVERNOR, CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA
Unusually long, but I really like the touch in the second paragraph
there where it says that if I'm dealing with any other
419 scammers, I better stop further communication with them for
my own interest.
A feature I haven't seen before; I wonder if it confers any extra
(I was tempted to write back, but I resisted.)
I also went into the Big Tub of Water this evening, which was
It's all cleaned up and cleared up and sparkling and lethal again,
and I spent a nice half an hour in the cool water netting out
a few leaves and a bunch of pine needles and stuff, and watching
the sun set.
And that was nice.