Saturday, April 27, 2013

Blogging my birthday on Facebook...

For a few months, I have been using my Facebook presence to tell people what I am writing in my blog. Today I am turning it around. For the last few days I explained on Facebook how I was celebrating my birthday. The circumstances were unusual enough to make Facebook the right place to "blog".

I am "Ravens Gift" on Facebook. And my age is now two cubed time three squared.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Local Sports Announcers can get Peevish:

I switched baseball allegiance this year from the Mets to the Nats. When the season began, the Nats were the “best team in the league” on paper. But they are only human, and yesterday I listened to their local TV announcers bitch about how to rescue the team. They sounded desperate, and they wanted a big shake up: shuffle the lineup, bring up a minor league prospect, make some trades.

In lean years when I rooted for the Mets, I heard similar desperation from the New York radio sports commentators, but they were kind enough to explain the cause of their strong emotions.

When a team is doing well, the local announcers and sports analysts make more money. (I shall call these people the “sports2ers.”) When the team goes into the pits, the same happens to the sports2ers’ income. Think of the difference it makes. When the team is going well:

The sports2ers get paid to draw customers to advertising campaigns and public events.

The local TV and radio stations get a bigger audience. Their ad revenue goes up, and the sports2ers negotiate better salaries.

The sports2ers can organize their own paying events.

The sports2ers may get to broadcast additional programs.

The next time you hear these people complaining about a bad trade or a poor decision by an owner, remember: they have a stake in these decisions. They care, not just for you the sports fan, but for themselves.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I prefer Advertisements to Silence:

This month I am using the MLB iPad app to watch Major League Baseball. I paid for a month of video that covers almost all the games. It’s a seductive pleasure: Let’s see what games are on now. Do I care about any of them? Cleveland scored 8 runs in the first inning, a few days ago. Wow, let’s watch, I want to see how they did it. (I bought the video feed for this app to help me learn about the team I’m newly rooting for, the Nats.)

But here’s the peculiar thing. In between innings, the baseball video ceases. Instead, I see a static graphic that says, “commercial break.” The iPad is silent, and there’s no indication how long this dead silent break will last.

It’s even possible to get stuck with this “commercial break” screen while the game goes on. Suppose I go away from the MLB app during a break and check my email, then return to the MLB app during the same commercial break. I’ve learned that in order to see any more of the game, I have to dismiss the video and reselect the game. That’s a bug of course, but it contributes to my unease during the “commercial break” silence.

For $25 less per month, I can follow a schematic of the game and listen to the game’s radio broadcasters. Sometimes, between innings, I’m allowed to hear ads on the radio feed, instead of silence, and that is so much more reassuring!

I always thought I would prefer to skip advts, but there I am: I’d rather have ads than silence.

My weight is wavering in the 218, 219 range. When it gets higher or lower than that, I’ll let you know. The diet continues...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Browsers need to apply more Induction:

Here’s a feature that Safari – and perhaps most browsers – don’t perform. It would make a great addition to any browser.

I use Safari to watch the Twit Network "iPad Today" netcasts. Recently I finished show 143, and I wanted to select the next show, 144. Clicking “Done” for 143 brought me back to the address bar, where I prepared to manually edit ../143 to ../144. When I touched the bar, Safari gave me a list of tappable suggestions. Did I want to watch show 143 again, or perhaps 142?

Here’s where some induction would be useful. The browser should note that it is suggesting I watch one of a sequence of shows. (The same can happen when we are viewing a sequence of pages.) It should of course offer the NEXT term in the sequence, in addition to the shows I have recently seen.

This morning my weight bounced back up over 219. I thought I was poised to go down into the depths of 217, but I’ll have to wait. At least, I am keeping off the first six pounds that I lost on this diet.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Coffee and Chinese Five-Spice Powder:

Occasionally I post a food tip here, and my closing remark is:


But I am not sure about this one. I tried it this morning, and I don't know if I like it, like it a lot, or think that it is "meh".

The only coffee flavorings I like have deep pedigrees: Cardamom (near east Asia and Greece, etc.) and anise seed (Sicily). Somewhere on the web I saw a recipe that married Chinese Five-Spice Powder with coffee. Try adding about 1/4 tsp to a six ounce cup. The subtle flavor of licorice is welcome, but it is more different from anise seed than you might expect.

Bear in mind that many compoundings can be called five-spice powder, and perhaps there exists a special one that, for coffee, is just right.

This morning I weighed 218.6, a great step in the right direction. In my case, controlling calories is THE way to lose weight, but staying quite active all day, burning many more calories, really helps.

Monday, April 15, 2013

An Excellent Nursery School Game:

When my son was three, he was one of fifteen kids in a nursery school class. The teachers played one game that the kids liked a lot. They would have all the children close their eyes. Then they would quietly take one child out of the classroom. Then the others opened their eyes, and the teachers challenged the children to figure out who was missing.

If you think about it, I'm sure you will see all sorts of benefits to making three year olds play this game. I have always remembered it, because I think the game would have been a good challenge for me, too.

This morning, after a BIG eating weekend, I weighed 219.6.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Elderly do not need Vitamin D3:

Elderly people in this country, and I am one of them, apparently do not need vitamin D3. I say this, although my own doctor told me to take the vitamin. My evidence is based on the pill itself. Now a number of companies make this pill, and I believe that they do not all have the same point of view.

My pill manufacturer's D3 pills are tiny, and do they roll! They are almost round, and the "almost" factor makes them unpredictable in motion, like an American football or a rugby ball. They are hard to pick up, and super-hard to pick up when one is trying to grab several pills at once. When they escape and drop to the floor, they travel. Their ideal customer must have sharp eyes, be flexible and good at crawling under tables.

Today I weighed 218.6 pounds plus one vitamin D3 pill. Not bad.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Those Threatening French:

I present to you an anecdote about an accusation that was outrageous on its face, almost laughable, that seems to have come true.

In 1998, I worked for a consortium of rich people who wished to develop accounting software that was capable of tracking the values and assets of unusual kinds of capital. One of the things we did was to develop concise descriptions of how private banks for rich clients actually worked. One of our banks was a Swiss bank. I had several discussions with the bank’s two owners.

You cannot imagine how upset they were when they discovered that we were going to send a team of French Systems Analysts to learn and document their procedures. One of the owners explained to us that anything the Frenchies learned about their bank would inevitably be passed on to the French government. Here’s how they said it would work: the government of France would find some trumped up, terrifying charges to bring against our analysts. They would be blackmailed into spilling proprietary information about the Swiss operation to avoid going to jail for a long time.

“They could even make the French analysts steal information from us!” The Swiss bank owners insisted that the French routinely did that sort of thing.

We were sure that no such government blackmail would ever happen. But we treaded carefully in this case, nominating a team of people to study the Swiss bank that its owners found acceptable.

Now perhaps you have heard that the French military told Wikipedia to delete an article that has been on their site since 2009, an article that appears to contain publicly available information. The Wikipedia people asked the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Interieur what, specifically needed to be removed. They got no response, so they left the article up. (And of course, the article has now experienced the Barbra Streisand Effect.)

The French have arrested (I’m now quoting the fine writer Cory Doctorow from his detailed explanation at BoingBoing) “a random volunteer Wikipedia admin living in France -- a person who had never had anything to do with the post in question -- and threatened him with jail unless he used his admin privileges to delete the post.”

I must apologize to those Swiss bank owners for being – I thought – so paranoid.

This morning I weighed 218.8 pounds. I need to get back to 215 (my diet began at 225). I'm concerned right now that my appetite is not adequately under control.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Freudian Slip:

I forgot to weigh myself this morning. I hope that wasn't a Freudian Slip; but it reminded me of a good Freudian Slip.

Even way back in the 1950's, there were talk radio shows. The host on one show was interviewing a Hollywood personality, and he asked the guest about a couple who were rumored to have a rocky marriage. "Didn't they argue and shout a lot?"
"Oh, no," the guest said. "They're a very combatible couple."
And then after a pause, he added, "I guess that was a Freudian Slip."

Thursday, April 04, 2013

April Foolery at

I subscribe to's product listings, and occasionally I even buy something. I was busy this week, so I did not peruse their current catalog, which apparently was salted with April Foolery. Here are my favorites among their offerings:

I still dismayingly weigh over 219. Today should be a good day.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

I Discover APL, and I am embarrassed:

In 1966, Kenneth Iversen came to New Jersey to give some lectures about his programming language called APL, which was causing a small sensation. This programming language required a large symbol set (the sort you found on a fine IBM typewriter rather than an ordinary card keypunch machine). It was, I think, one of the first programming languages to define operations in turns of the data to be processed. For example, the same symbol for summation could cause two numbers, or two vectors, or two matrices to be summed. The language used terse symbols to invoke powerful operations on data, and consequently, very powerful programs could be written in just a few abstruse symbols.

I went to one of the lectures on APL, examined the handouts, and hung on Mr Iversen’s every word. In the Q&A session, I asked a question. The handouts suggested that there was no way to call a subroutine in APL. How in fact, would I create APL functions and subroutines?

Kenneth Iversen frowned at me. What in the world made me, a young software punk, think that his elegant language required subroutines? Subroutines were old hat; no modern software system would ever require them again. Clearly, my question marked me as a slow-footed relic of the past.

My remark did more than annoy Iversen. A number of other people in the audience, well-dressed professors, agreed with him and expressed their annoyance in angry stage whispers. How could anyone think that APL, with all its concise power, might require subroutines?

I felt awful. I think of myself as a quick thinker, and here I was revealed as a dumbhead. All those important people agreed. No one defended me. And I felt even worse, because, well, I was sure that in order for APL to be useful, the language would need functions and subroutines.

The ability to write functions and subroutines was added to APL a year later.

After two days of banqueting, my weight has jumped to an alarming 219.4. I expect it to get back to 217 pretty soon.