Browse Month: January 2011

01/31/2011

New toy just arrived.

I’m no Apple fanboy, but I must admit their packaging is pretty sweet. Simple, not overstated, compact, nothing wasted.

Now we’ll see if this little box lives up to the hype. It’ll replace my aging hacked Xbox and hopefully give us some nice HD video capabilities, optical-quality audio, etc. Oh, and something new to hack.

01/28/2011

Cell phone carrier: 1, Terrorists: 0

Of course terrorism and suicide bombers aren’t funny, but I can’t help but chuckle at this:

An unexpected and unwanted text message from a wireless company prematurely exploded a would-be suicide bomber’s vest bomb in Russia New Year’s Eve, inadvertently thwarting a planned attack on revelers in Moscow, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The would-be suicide bomber was planning to detonate a suicide belt bomb near Red Square, a plan that was foiled when her wireless carrier sent her an SMS while she was still at a safe house, setting off the bomb and killing her. The message reportedly wished her a Happy New Years. Cell phones are often used as makeshift detonators by terrorist and insurgent groups.

If true, the SMS might be the only time that a wireless carrier’s SMS message has ever been useful.

01/24/2011

At 6am this morning Zack ran into my room shouting, “Dad, I don’t feel very good!”

My response was sort of a mumble, since I had been fast asleep. I sat up in bed and asked what was wrong…

… whereupon he bent over and threw up all over the carpet.

Being the sensitive, caring dad that I am, I immediately started shouting at him to run into the bathroom, for crying out loud. He did his best, leaving a trail behind him, took a second to toss his cookies all over the bathroom rugs, and finally managed to maneuver above the toilet where he finished his work.

Ahh, the joys of parenthood. The dark stain on my carpet will remind me of this day for the next few years.

01/21/2011

Seen on Slashdot:

Dear Everybody,

You’re not us. That means you’re either a pirate or a pirate pretending to be a consumer. That includes ICANN. That includes the Vatican. That includes OPEC. That includes the United States government.

You want to use the word “music?” Only if you pay royalties to us. And right now all we see is people profiting off of our artist’s copyrighted works (i.e. all music) that we broke our backs locking down with crippling contracts.

Remember our motto: “If you’re not us, you’re against us.”

Sincerely,
The RIAA

01/18/2011

Kyra’s rat, Bella, died today.

She had a weird inflammation in one of her paws last night, and was limping around pretty badly. She died in her sleep sometime in the night, and while that was probably a good way to go, it was pretty tough on Kyra when she woke up in the morning to find Bella cold and stiff in the cage.

(Yes, Kyra looks like some kind of zombie. It’s because she’d been crying on and off pretty much all day.)

We buried her in the back yard, next to Pumpkin (Kyra’s gerbil).

01/17/2011

I taught the kids how to play Risk today, so we’ve been locked in an endless battle for world domination. The game’s two hours old and still going, as we each turn in sets for 20+ armies and wrest control of each other’s continents to avoid the bonus armies each turn.

I’d forgotten how much fun Risk is. Oh, and how much depends on the roll of the dice… strategy isn’t a big factor around here.

01/16/2011

I just found out that later this year, they’re going to remake the 1984 classic Red Dawn.

But this time the bad guys are going to be… Chinese.

Uhh. Is nothing sacred?

01/14/2011

Once again, the PATRIOT Act is up for renewal. Back in 2001 when it was proposed and signed into law, it was pretty shocking all of the things it would do, and all of the liberties it would strip. But Congress assured us that it was a temporary measure, and it would need to be renewed annually in order to remain in force.

Not surprisingly, Congress has renewed it every year. In fact, in 2010 it was renewed as part of a bill called the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act. As if that’s not underhanded, right? Now it’s up again, and despite Obama’s repeated campaign promises to stop this sort of thing, close down the Guantanamo Bay prison, and make the government more transparent, I don’t think anyone is shocked that he allowed the renewal last year and won’t do anything to stop it this year. (Remember the President has veto power, if only he’d use it.)

What keeps most Americans from being shocked by the shredding of the Bill of Rights is that they have yet to feel the consequences, either personally or through someone close to them. It would appear, however, that they only have to wait.

— William Blum

The waiting continues. Things ain’t getting better over in the marble halls.

01/13/2011

Funny bumper sticker on the way home today:

True, dat.

01/12/2011

I cried on the inside when I saw the latest picture of my baby from the body shop…

01/08/2011

I figure all of the Christmas cards have finally arrived, so it’s time for me to take a picture of our Wall O’ Cards. It’s fun having so many people send us their annual updates and photos.

01/06/2011

Snow ultimate today. Always an adventure.

01/05/2011

Last night I found a puzzle. Here goes:

Two people are playing a game. The first says “January 1”. The second must say another day later in the year by changing either the month or the day, but not both. The goal is to say “December 31” to win. Given these rules and the first player’s choice of January 1, what should the second player do?

When I read the puzzle, Laralee rolled her eyes and grumbled about how she doesn’t like these sorts of things. But I started thinking about it (talking aloud as I did so) and before long she had a pencil and paper and was writing down my strategy. Spoiler alert ahead.

Since the winning move is December 31, we know that anyone who picks a day in December that’s not the 31st will lose. The next player will simply change the day (remember, only the day or month can be changed– not both) and score the win. That means all days in December except the 31st are losing moves.

Let’s step back a month. If I choose November 30, the other player can’t pick anything in November (since there are no days after the 30th) and must choose to change the month. That gives December 30, and my choice is then December 31. Thus November 30 is a winning move. It’s important to note that all other days in November are losing moves, because the other player simply chooses the 30th for the win.

Going back another month, consider October 31. That’s a losing move because the other player goes straight to December 31 for the win. Now consider October 30. Again, that’s a loser because the next move is November 30 which we’ve shown is a winner. How about October 29? If I choose that, you have four moves: you can then choose the 30th or 31st– both of which are losers. You could also choose November 29, again a loser. Finally, you could pick December 29, a loser. So we see that October 29 is a winning move. Any day in October after that is a loser, and anything before it means I choose the 29th for the win. So again, we’re left with a single day in October that’s a winner.

You can see the pattern. We step backward through the calendar, subtracting one each time, to find the winning days for each month. It’s important to note that every other day in the month is a loser, meaning these 12 days are the only winning days (assuming perfect play). Our list of winning moves looks like this:

December 31 (duh)
November 30
October 29
September 28
August 27
July 26
June 25
May 24
April 23
March 22
February 21
January 20

In that we have our answer. If the first player selects January 1, the second player selects January 20 and is guaranteed a win. After some thought, Laralee and I determined that leap years don’t change anything– choosing February 29 will lead to October 29 for the win.

The funny thing is when we were finished, Laralee (grudgingly) admitted that solving the puzzle was, in fact, kind of cool.

01/04/2011

I came home from work this evening and Kyra immediately attacked me and said, “Can you help me with my math homework? There’s this one problem that I can’t figure out, and mom’s no help.” Of course she’s been on vacation for two and a half weeks and hasn’t done this homework, and the night before she goes back to school suddenly it pops into her head. But that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, I sat down with her to see what I could do. The problem was to write a function that would tell you the number of dots in a square or a triangle as you added dots to the bottom. In other words, two horizontal dots makes a square of four dots, three makes nine, and so forth. Obviously the function for that is y=x^2, easy cheesy. But the triangle one was a bit harder: two horizontal dots is a triangle of three, three is six, four is ten, etc. Each time, for a row of x, you add the number x to whatever your last number was. It’s easy to see the pattern but I couldn’t figure out the function for it.

I told her the answer was y=sigma(1->x) x which is technically correct… but I suspect summation notation is beyond seventh-grade math. I scribbled a few equations but didn’t have an answer. Dang.

Enter a YouTube video about the 12 Days of Christmas, which Mel sent to me today. It explains about halfway through how to sum the so-called “triangular numbers”. After some scribbles in her notebook, the narrator Vi demonstrates that the equation is (x^2+x)/2. And she does it in a way that’s simple but elegant. Nice!

So I thought that was pretty cool. I watched a few other videos from Vi’s collection and they’re fun. I think I like them because that’s exactly the way I was as a kid… I would play with numbers and graphs and my calculator and find all kinds of fascinating patterns and rules. I found stuff like the base of the natural logarithms and the relationship between odd numbers and primes and even the spatial dimension where the volume of a hypersphere is maximized in relation to its surface area. I’m not even kidding.

Once a math geek, always a math geek.

01/01/2011

Today’s scary economic fact:

The U.S. federal debt grows by $4 billion per day.

That’s a lot of interest.