Archive for Random

Turtles Live Forever!

Turtle with long neckI think this story in the NYTimes has made me just a little bit fonder of turtles. It’s standard elementary school trivia that turtles and tortoises can live well beyond us, but this article points out that in fact scientists don’t observe any aging at all.  As far as we know they die only as a result of predators, accident, or disease.  Even with my new found appreciation I’m still not about to have one as a pet, frankly, they are very dull (not to mention the 100 year commitment!)  But, maybe when I stroll past a pond and just catch one slipping off a floating branch I will take the moment to appreciate my brush with immortality.


An American Gang in London

I hear Giuliani really cleaned up New York.  I wonder if that process involved any shipments to London.


Crime and Baseball

This is a cute correlation: Just as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit tigers in the “World” Series last week, St. Louis also beat Detroit in a slightly more unpleasant pasttime: killing people. The Associated Press reports that St. Louis has been named the country’s most violent city by Morgan Quitno Press. The rankings are based on a combination of factors, but it’s hard to argue with St. Louis’ murder stats, which show 16% growth. And who ended the “season” in second place? Detroit! One has to admit that Michigan, as a state, is still a powerhouse though: with the addition of Flint the state dominates the top three. Ha ha, take that Missouri!


Man and Mud Don’t Mix

New information on the Icarus front: just as you shouldn’t fly too close to the sun, you should also take care not to dig too close to the center of the Earth. The NY Times reported today that a company drilling for natural gas did not take appropriate precautions and ended up opening a portal to a muddy and unforgiving world. Now thousands of homes have been destroyed by mud that continues to flow out of “mud volcanoes” unleashed from 6000 feet deep by man’s hubris. Will anyone ever be held responsible? “My sources say no.”
Mud in Indonesia covers factories to the roofs.


Trolli Sour Cherry Bombers

Trolli Sour Cherry BombersTrolli makes some good stuff, and the new sour Cherry Bombers are certainly among that stuff. But, please, I beg you, don’t buy a bag and eat the whole thing in a few minutes. Why would you even do that? I know, they are cherry flavored; and of all the artificial flavors cherry is probably the best. And, yes, I know that they are sour, or more accurately the liquid center that oozes out moments after you roll one around in your mouth is sour. But, you just had lunch! There’s no call for that.

Now you’re going to have to live with that sugar shocked stomach while you try to do something productive like teach a next leading order Monte Carlo generator to sing and dance. How’s that working out for you? Not well, I’d say, not well.


Fruit Snack Jackpot

Two Fruit SnacksI won the Fruit Snack jackpot! Last week, when Monica and I were studying in my office, we got the munchies and since all the businesses were closing early for spring break she suggested a vending machine. Though I knew there were some in the physics buildings I’ve rarely thought of them. Though Monica showed distain for my gummy fetish, I went for the gummy fruit, “made with real fruit juice” just the way I like it. Well, the money went in, the proper buttons were pressed, and the corkscrew turned and turned. Down fell one Farley’s Fruit Snacks and then… miraculously… a second one teatered on the brink, quivering with fruitiness, yearning to leap free! Their was a moment of hushed anticipation from the gathering crowd (Monica, two ion trapping experiments, and me), I gave the machine a few good whacks and down tumbled the fruitiness to a roaring crowd (except the ion traps, they have to say very, very quiet, ions are fickle creatures). Sometimes life is a glorious thing.


Time Marches On

birthday cake
Today I ate fresh strawberries and put 30 years behind me.

Tomorrow I will eat more strawberries and consider the next 30 years.

Who knows about the 30 years after that, maybe by then the strawberries will eat themselves.

And time
Is still marching on.


Life, the Universe, and Pasta Salad

I like the following question and answer because it reminds me of one of human nature’s most pernicious observational failings:

My mother used to make this dish with dinner. It consisted of spiral noodles, artichoke hearts, olives, and peas, plus enough olive oil to coat everything. After everything was stirred up, every single olive would have one or two peas in the hole. The peas barely fit and were hard to get out, why do the peas end up inside the olives?!?

The answer and more.

That crazy things such as peas sticking in olives happen so regularly should not be so remarkable in light of the magnitude of unremarkable events in the world that go unnoticed (peas bumping into pasta). Given enough time even subtle selections processes (peas enter olives more easily than they leave) can yield dramatic results.

Shift all the parameters to their most extreme and consider the most dramatic of issues: human existance. Some may argue that human existance is a marvel and point to the emptiness of the heavens as evidence. Others will be dumfounded by those details that are as yet inexplicable. They might even argue that only intelligent design could produce such results. I say that does not give enough credit to time, space, magnitude, and the dumb little bumping around that things do everyday. Though peas finding their way into olives is orders of magnitude more likely than the creation of life, do peas and olives beget more peas and olives? If so, we would be overrun! Self-replication may be difficult to acheive, but once it has been, it is strongly favored. It is safe to say we all understand the relationships between peas and olives a whole lot better than the process by which inanimate becomes animate; but who among us would have expected the pea-olive result before the mixing began? So is this “miracle” a product of intelligent design? Of course not! So why does anything have to be?

It’s ok, though. Even if life is just blobs bumping into blobs, what does it really matter? Who needs higher powers and divine purpose when you’ve got a mom that loves you and makes you tasty pasta salad?



After hearing Pascale mispronouce “Closer” for the twentieth time I stopped snickering and started to think about those crazy words that are spelled the same but have different meanings associated with different pronounciations. They are called heteronyms (check out the link for an interesting additional definition). Each one typifies the vagueries of pronounciation rules in a way that deeply offends my precision-based aesthetics. I am outraged that such words exist! (At least that is my formal statement, off the record I might admit to a little thrill.) Strangely, homophones, the words that sound the same but are written differently, don’t bother me as much, and yet it is my impression that they get more play in popular culture. Life and language are so unfair.

Here are a few of my favorite heteronyms. Usually one meaning/pronounciation is more common and it is fun to try to quickly recall the other. There are a few heteronyms for which one meaning/pronounciation obviously comes directly from another language (such as “resume”); they don’t impress me in the slightest.

closer polish tear bass invalid
intimate number lead object pussy

(I didn’t think of all of these myself, once again the internet is my friend.)

Further reading: a Google search for heteronyms gives some good results. The top hit right now comes from a dermatoligist at the Univ. of Michigan: The Heteronym Homepage.


Unsolved Codes

Oh, the heady days of elementary school, when finding frogs in ditches was all the rage and I was at the peak of my clerical skills! Each day brought a new filing technique more unstoppable than the last, and for a time it all had a point, of sorts. I started producing what I hoped would be an exhaustive lists of interesting ciphers. (To the ignorant people who might think I mean “codes”: I look down upon you! Feast on my smugness and contempt! …then get educated.) Each cipher, though an utter triviality, was technically different on some extremely superficial level, thereby justifying a new delightfully colored notecard. Among the ponderings that might have stalled my Cherrio® consumption were “Hmm… should I translate all the ‘a’s to ‘f’s today, or maybe to ‘g’s?” and “Does this diagonal squiggle best misrepresent the word ‘the’ or is the article more poorly indicated with a solid hexagon?” All this was maticulously filed away in a box of color coded notecards, which were carefully notched and labeled by hand like notebook section dividers. This was of course fueled by grandious fantasies of self-importance and impending intrigue. Only the security that comes with the two-character transposition cipher pastelorange-5 is good enough for arranging meetings down by the creek and choosing which Transformers™ to bring along.

Anyway, what I’m getting at, very indirectly, is that there is a whole lot of sweet unsolved ciphers/codes out in the world, and I’m pretty certain I would have come up with them given enough monkeys, typewriters, and colored notecards. But of course it would be shame about all the colored trees that would have to be felled, so I have left some for others. One aestheticly pleasing example Kryptos, hidden deep in the heart of spy-land.