Monday, December 30, 2002

Waking Up Early to Go to School

I got a newsletter today from Indian Creek School, where I spent grades 1 through 8. When I left in '84, my classmates and I begged them to open up a high school so we could stay on. Better late than never, I suppose. They've announced plans for an 'Upper School' that will open in 2006.

What struck me most about the project was this part:

"[Indian Creek Upper School] has a different schedule from traditional high schools. Research shows that adolescents need more sleep and do better in school when they begin the school day later. We begin the day at 9:00 a.m and our students stay on campus until 4:50 p.m."

I have read article after article over the past ten years stressing the importance of adapting school hours to the sleep schedules of adolescents. Unfortunately, I have also read article after article of school administrators offering excuses for why they could not make adjustments – usually having to do with problems with re-arranging the bus schedules. (If there was one thing public school taught me, it was that all plans revolved around the bus schedule -- well, that and the cafeteria schedule.)

Anyway, right on, ICS! I wrote them a letter applauding their decision. 18 years later, I still know most of the people involved personally, and they really care about education. It makes me proud to be an alum.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Not Nauru!

The Washington Post has an article this morning about how Nauru is being targeted by the US for lax financial regulations. Nauru, in case you didn't know, at one point had the highest per capita in the world. Phosphate deposits (seagull crap) provided the nation's wealth, but there's only so many droppings to go around, so the country's wealth has been due to run out for some time now.

I wrote a paper on Nauru in college as part of my Upper-Level Writing Requirement. By the way, that requirement was a little bit of a joke. The class had to include a certain number of pages of writing. I was proud of myself for fulfulling the requirement outside of my major, but the class ended up counting the pages in the paper I wrote twice -- once for the writing, and once for the revision. When I submitted the original version, I was told it was good enough that I didn't need to revise it. I mean, cool, I was happy, but that seems like a weak way to satisfy the requirement.

One goal of my paper was to examine the way Nauruans were dealing with the imminent end of their resource-based economy and see what lessons that held for Middle Eastern oil-based economies. I've since become convinced that the oil will last significantly longer, but their time will come, too.

Anyway, the picture from Nauru doesn't look good. (Not that it looks great from the Middle East, either.) They've invested a lot of their money abroad, but a lot of times unwisely. I remember reading an article about Nauruans investing in a play in London, and a whole bunch of them flying out there for the premiere. Unfortuntely, most of them were probably there for the finale, as it closed within a week.

Nauru has mostly been in the news lately because the Australians stuck a bunch of asylum seekers there. I guess Nauru made out all right financially from that deal, but I don't think that contributes to their long-term financial soundness. And now this latest blow -- I guess their attempt to ride the financial-smuggling gravy train is grinding to a halt.

It's another sad chapter for them. I guess I have some sort of weird affection for trouble island nations. I'd still like to go there some day -- I wonder if tourism is their ultimate salvation.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Cute pictures of my nephews

Christina's cousin Pam e-mailed some wedding pictures. I wanted to put them up, but instead of putting them up all at the same time, I thought I could break them out into subcategories. This set is of my nephews. According to the first two definitions of "cousin", I have to refer to Pam as Christina's cousin, not mine, but the first definition of "nephew" lets me claim Witt and Luke.

They're neat kids. We got to play Risk a couple of times with Witt over Thanksgiving. Luke wanted to "play", as he's at an age where he wants in on everything his brother (and other people) get to do, but he couldn't play with his Risk pieces in a non-disruptive way, because, well, that age thing again, I suppose. I was interested to discover that Risk no longer comes with pieces shaped like roman numerals.

We were at some loss, since the Risk rules seemed to have gone missing, so, of course, we downloaded them from Italy.

That's Witt with his 2nd cousins, Emma and Lauren. Emma was the flower girl; Witt was the ring bearer.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Reunion Time

My parents and I spent Christmas 1994 on the divided island of Cyprus. One day I should scan some pictures and perhaps post memories of the trip. But that will have to wait until Christina and I sort through the possessions that have been scattered, tornado-like, through our home while the basement renovations are under way.

Anyway, an article in today's Washington Post about the country caught my eye. Cyprus is due to be added to the European Union in a couple of weeks and the Turkish part had better join up soon or be left out of the process.

I hope it works out. I enjoyed our trip, but it is a small island, and we saw most of the Greek part. I figured I saw enough that there wouldn't be a need to go back until reunification opened up the Turkish parts. Also, somewhere in our house is a Coke can I have from Cyprus that I'm saving to drink when the two sides are made whole again. I suspect it will taste fairly awful by now, but I'm looking forward to drinking it. Unfortunately, the history of things makes me suspect the drink will stay on the shelf (or wherever it is) for a while.

Friday, November 22, 2002

Where were you?

Today is the anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I learned (or was reminded of) this while listening to the Tony Kornheiser radio show while running errands and lunch.

Tony said that the Kennedy assassination was the single most memorable news event for people of his generation, surpassing man walking on the moon or September 11.

I remember a conversation I had with people during the '80s about the fact that our generation didn't have any news event we all remembered where we were when we heard about. (Looking back on how young we were then, it seems a tad silly.) I think the best we could come up was where we were when we heard Reagan had been shot. (I remember coming home from school and my grandmother telling me that.) One guy said, "Of course, we all remember where when the Pope was shot." The rest of us looked at each other uncomfortably.

A year or so afterwards, Challenger exploded after liftoff, and I think that held the most distinct place in my memory until September 11.

What about you? What holds that place in your memory? If September 11, what was it before then? E-mail me. I asked Christina, and she mentioned (besides September 11), the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in part because it happened on her birthday. I hadn't thought of that, but I have distinct memories of my mother waking me up to tell me about that. (I had a weird sleep schedule back then, and she had a weird work schedule.) My parents' anniversary January 28, so they get to see news clips of the space shuttle blowing up every year on that date. I know somebody who has a September 11 birthday. The Onion did a funny piece about this ("Second Birthday in a Row Ruined by Terrorism"), but it appears to be on-line no longer...

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Least Exciting Inventions

I just went down to the supply room to pick up a box of Kleenex. Walking back to my office, I read on the bottom of the box that "Our SIGNAL feature lets you know when you need a box." Silly me, I always based it on whether or not there were tissues left in the old box.

Mysteriously, the feature is not described further. I was left to wonder whether a recording was activated that said, "New box needed," repeatedly until the box was replaced. Thankfully, a quick web search cleared up the problem. In fact, "different colored sheets indicate when a new box is needed." Well, that's a relief.

Of course, now I'll be over-using the tissues, just so I can find out what color they are.

Other links

Friday, November 08, 2002


Christina and I went to see the movie Frida last night. I expected to hear more about her naturally curly hair. What? Oh, wait, that's Frieda, from peanuts...sorry for the confusion.

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist, and the movie chronicles her tumultuous life, including her marriage to Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean. Wait, no, Diego Rivera, the muralist. was an enjoyable movie; it painted (no pun intended) an interesting picture of her life, and made me want to find out more. Christina found an interesting article in the Washington Monthly that explores Kahlo's life in depth. I think it's good that the article was written by someone who hadn't seen the movie (last year), but it helps sort out differences between the movie and reality, for one thing.

It's a very rich movie that raises in my mind questions about the personal versus the universal in art. Christina and I had an interesting conversation about that on the way home last night. But, hey, this format doesn't lend itself too well to pensiveness, so here are some random thoughts.

I was totally unconvinced by Geoffrey Rush as Trotsky. I didn't believe the accent, I didn't believe the age (apparently only 10 years too young), and I didn't believe the beard. In general, I thought the acting was top-notch.

The Landmark Bethesda Row is a really cool theater. In general, when you want to see an "independent" film, you have to go to some cramped and dingy theater, unless you're lucky enough to catch one in an old-style movie house. But this place is a multi-screen stadium seating modern theater that specializes in independent movies. And it's only half an hour or so from home, so I hope to see a lot more movies there.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Not Me

If you do a Google search for "Jon Grantham", most of the hits have to do with me. A few have to do with this guy in Indianapolis who plays Squad Leader. I exchanged e-mail with him around 1995; he seemed cool. Once in a blue moon, you find something about my father. But now there's an art teacher out there with my name. Weird.

Hmm, there's also a British Land Use Consultant.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Haircut One Hundred

Somehow this web site made it onto a cool hair cut web page on Weird.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Wedding Pictures

Aunt Pam sent some wedding pictures she took with her digital camera. I think they turned out pretty well.

Rehearsal Dinner

Christina's mom, me and Christina.

The Dress

Giving Away the Bride

After the Ceremony

(left to right) Father Ed, my mom, Christina, Jeannine Abbinanti, my cousin Sean, me, my dad and Uncle Gary.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Hugo Awards

I under-packed books for my recent trip to Britain, so when I got there I headed to a bookstore to look for something to read. I was happy to find a series of books called "Science Fiction Masterpieces". I picked up a slim volume and noticed it was priced at 7 pounds, 99 pence (around 13 bucks). Ouch!

I noticed that all the SF Masterpieces were priced at the same level, so I decided to get value for my money by getting one with a high page count. I settled on Stand on Zanzibar.

When describing to Christina my purchase, she seemed unimpressed by the pound-for-pound measure of book value. She did, however, take notice when I mentioned that the book had won a Hugo Award. The Hugos are awarded annually by a vote of science fiction writers (as opposed to the Nebulas, which are fan-driven).

The following week, I found myself in Minnesota and looking for another book to read. Sadly, the SF Masterpieces series appears to be a UK-only thing. I had the inspiration, however, to look up the Hugo-winning novels available. I bought two -- To Say Nothing of the Dog and A Fire Upon the Deep. I read the former, and it was really quite enjoyable.

I realized that I shy away from SF novels with certain topics (in this case, time travel). But for books of this caliber, it is probably better to put away my own notions of what a subject has to offer, and see what the writer has to say.

So I'm going to take a look at what other Hugo-winning novels I can find. I won't necessarily make it a goal of reading all of them, but I'll probably read a bunch.

I've already gotten a good start. Looking at the list, I've read Foundation and Empire, Starship Troopers, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Man in the High Castle, Dune, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stand on Zanzibar, Ringworld, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Foundation's Edge, Neuromancer, Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Green Mars, Blue Mars, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Wow. I am a nerd. I may have read a few others years ago, but the titles aren't ringing a bell now.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Thoughts from the UK

In London the Internet cafes never close, and my belly is full with some delicious Indian food, so here are some thoughts on life on this side of the pond...

Indian Food

I don't know why, I don't know how, but the Indian food just tastes better here. Is there some sort of sorting as they leave the country? "You cook somewhat better...go to Britain instead of the US."

Jim Thompson's Oriental Bar

According to a friend living in Cheltenham, however, the other Asian food is not up to snuff. She said the only place she'd eat it was as "Jim Thompson's Oriental Bar". Let me count the ways this didn't seem to be promising:

  • "Jim Thompson" is not the sort of name you expect to see associated with Asian food. (Although finding out who Jim Thompson was changed that view a little bit.)
  • "Oriental" is not a term (at least in the States) that is considered "proper" for referring to Asians.
  • They had 12-foot high torches out front.
  • The restaurant was decorated with Asian "artefacts".
  • Which are for sale.
  • It serves a mix of different Asian cuisines. Generally, in restaurants, it pays to specialize. ("Fusion" cuisine notwithstanding.)

Anyway, it was pretty good, though the service was laughably bad.

The Belgian Monk

OK, not as laughably bad as at the Belgian Monk. I wasn't thrilled with this restaurant a couple of years ago, but I decided to give it another shot, due to my love of Belgian food. (And its difficulty to obtain.) The beer was great, the food was so-so, and the service was pitiful. Generally, you expect a Belgian restaurant to have lambic beers. Generally, you expect the wait staff to know that they do, and not deny the existence. Etc. Anyway, I think for future visits, I would drink the beer and go some other place for dinner.

Exchange Rates

I don't know why it is, but life over here makes sense if you think 1 pound=1 dollar. Now, actually, 1 pound=1.6 dollars (or something like that). But things are more expensive here, so it evens out. Oddly enough, this also works in Canada and Australia, whose dollars are worth less than the US dollar.

The UK Thought Process

Until the other night, I had never been charged for the "mixer" when I ordered a bourbon and coke. However, when I placed that order at Jim Thompson's, I had the feeling that they were going to charge me separately for the coke. And they did. The fact that I anticipated it sort of frightens me about getting tuned into the British mindset.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

All over the world

I'm in England right now. Perhaps more on that later, but the Internet cafe closes in 5 minutes.

Christina has a review on Epinions of the Sydney Hilton.

Thursday, September 12, 2002


Here's the actual faucet:


And here's the sink:

(Although with a different faucet.)

Medicine Cabinet

Here's a picture of the new medicine cabinet:

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Oh, that Osama

Web Site Apologizes for Suggesting Bin Laden Dead

OK, well that probably explains what I heard. Oh, well.


I hit the first big morning traffic delay I've seen in the four years of my commute due to a really nasty accident on Route 50 in Bowie.

I hadn't planned to listen to much of the Sept. 11 anniversary coverage, but I ended up doing so anyway as I spent an hour or so on Route 50. During the top of the hour CBS Radio News update, they departed from their usual coverage to say, "CBS television is reporting that Osama Bin Laden is dead. We have no details at the time." I was very excited and even called Christina. However, as the news continued, they made no mention of this report. When I got to work, I couldn't find anything on the Internet.

You know, if somebody was just confused, they should have gotten on the air and retracted it later. (I guess maybe they did while I was flipping channels trying to hear confirmation.)

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Conditional Tense

Perhaps I'm engaging in nitpicking here. (So what else is new?)

But the AP story on Michigan's last-second victory yesterday contains the following bit:

After the Wolverines failed to complete a pass on third-and-10 with 6 seconds left, Washington was penalized 15 yards for having 12 men on the field. Without the flag, Michigan would have attempted a 59-yard field goal.

Yeah, and without the 12th guy on the field, maybe Michigan would have been able to complete that pass for a touchdown. That's why Washington was penalized. It just bugs me to hear the flag presented as if it were a lucky break for Michigan. It wasn't. If Washington had gotten away with the violation, it would have been a lucky break for them.

Now making the field goal, that was lucky...whew.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Medicine Cabinet

I'm here at home while the contractors work on the bathroom. They're starting with replacing the medicine cabinet. One of the reasons we're having them replace it is that there is a hole in the back of the old one for disposing of used razor blades. Unfortunately, sometimes when it rains, rain water comes through the hole and into the bathroom.

They pulled the cabinet out when they got here, and what did we see, but...hundreds and hundreds of used razor blades. I don't know why I was surprised, but I guess I thought the blades would have fallen down a hole and rusted away somewhere. Anyway, it's funny what you find in an old house like this one.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

Road Signs

In Australia, we saw many signs warning us about wildlife crossings. These departed from the usual deer crossing signs you see in the States, and Christina started "collecting" pictures of them -- pictures of koalas on yellow signs, etc. The untimely malfunctioning of my camera interfered with this project somewhat, but we got a few. One sign, in particular, however, caused us to do a U-turn on our way to the airport so we could get a picture...

Monday, August 05, 2002

Big Trout

As promised, here is a picture of the Big Trout Motor Inn.

We stayed in a number of interesting roadside establishments in Australia. For less than the equivalent of $40 (US), we stayed in a four-bedroom beach cottage in Coffs Harbour. (OK, so it was the off-season.) We stayed in the Best Western Ambassador Lodge in Hervey Bay for slightly more. It was pleasant enough, if unremarkable. I've stayed in Best Westerns in a number of places, and the level of hotel varies enormously. I stayed in an absolutely stunning one in Innsbruck. This one I'll remember most for having to rouse the proprietors at the late, late hour of 9:30 PM. (People seem to turn in early in small-town Oz. Then again, it got dark at 5.)

Perhaps the best place we found was the "Pink Place" in Tenterfield (aka the Henry Parkes Motor Inn). If for some strange reason you find yourself on the New England Highway in New South Wales, definitely stay there. They had a deal on a room for around $65 (US) with a spa. The food was decent and also priced right.

The Big Trout was less exciting. Christina holds a dim opinion based on her having been woken twice in the morning by someone trying to get into the room to clean it. (Since we were only staying for one night, you think they could have let us check out first.)

Our final lodging was in the Lurline House in Katoomba. If you've stayed in a nice B&B in the UK, you know what to expect. A reasonable price, comfy rooms with antiques and breakfast made for you by the proprietor. We had a little trouble finding Blue Mountains accomodation (apparently the "Christmas in July" celebration is wildly popular) -- hence the night at the Big Trout, but the Lurline House fit the bill nicely.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Billabong Bob

On our drive up the Pacific Highway in Australia, we stopped at the Billabong Koala Park. In general, I lobbied for pushing on to our destination, and Christina lobbied for stopping to see the sights. We ended up doing a fair bit of compromising. We got where we were going, albeit a bit late some times, and we saw a number of sights along the way, albeit not all the ones we were interested in.

The Billabong Koala Park was one sight we did see. It appeared to be some sort of private nature preserve with a bunch of native Australian animals, including koalas, kangaroos and wallabies. It was neat to be able to see those animals up close, especially on our first day there. On the other hand, we felt kind of bad to see these animals cooped up like that.

While waiting for Christina to freshen up, I read a bulletin board with articles about the park and testimonials from visitors. I discovered that the proprietor, "Billabong Bob," was a fashion designer who had won Australian Gown of the Year in the 1960s. I thought this was an interesting, if specialized, piece of information, but was suprised to read about the 2002 competition in the next day's paper.

I also read a testimonial from a couple in New Jersey. As I said, it was really cool seeing these animals. But this couple described the visit to Billabong Koala Park as the best part of their trip to Australia. Unfortunately, this colored my impression of the whole place. I mean, the best part of their trip? What else did they see, the Big Banana? Australia is really an amazing place to visit, and I feel bad for them if seeing a koala was the highlight of the whole trip for them. I mean, it was in the top 10 or 20 things I saw.

Anyway, we stuck around until feeding time, which was a good thing, because we were able to pet the koala and the baby koala. I mean, when I think about it, it is pretty amazing. And a trip where that was the best part could still be a pretty good trip. This one was even better, though.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Big in Australia

One of the charms of driving around in Australia is the Australian penchant for building big versions of everyday things and putting them by the side of the highway. While there, we photographed the Big Banana and the Big Prawn. We even stayed at the Big Trout Motor Inn (picture soon to be developed).

Friday, July 26, 2002

World Heritage: Australia

Last summer, I mentioned that I had been to 7 World Heritage Sites. Since then, I've been to the University of Virginia (which I've changed my mind and decided to count even without Monticello) and last fall I visited the Tower of London.

In Australia, we made it to three World Heritage sites. One of these, as mentioned Wednesday, was the Great Barrier Reef. But before that, on the drive up, we stopped at Bundjalung National Park. Bundjalung contsists of littoral (coastal) rainforest, which is coastal rainforest. Because it's built on sand, it's fairly rare, and fairly fragile. Bundjalung National Park is part of the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves. We also visited the Greater Blue Mountains Area (more on that later when the pictures come back).

So that's twelve World Heritage sites.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Hat Head

Sadly, my hair was not long enough to produce good hat head for this picture.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002


Here's a photo from the plane we flew into Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef. You can see the island itself (composed of dead coral) surrounded by a reef. The strip going all the way across the island is the "landing strip". It's not paved or anything; just clear of trees and stuff.

It was fairly amazing landing on this dot in the Pacific, tens of miles from any other land (except other reef islands). I was really amazed to get out of the plane, look to my left and see the Pacific, then look to my right and also see the Pacific. I don't think I'll soon forget that feeling.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Blogger Woes Solved

OK, I fixed the most recent problem with my weblog, so I hope to resume posting soon. The archives may be messed up for a while, though.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Sydney Observatory and other things

We went to the Sydney Observatory Tuesday night. They had a nice little evening program. It wasn't nearly as nice as the one at Kitt Peak, but it did provide the opportunity to look at Alpha Centauri through a telescope, something you can't do up north.

By the way, if you're ever in Australia, it appears that you can't buy cold medicine from a convenience store; you have to buy it from a "chemist" (pharmacy). You can, however, buy "Panadol", a pain reliever. I thought I was doing well by looking at the generic name, "paracetamol," to figure out the US equivalent, but I've never heard of paracetamol. Turns out it's also known as acetaminophen -- Tylenol. So don't go asking for Tylenol, look for Panadol.

Last night, we took the ferry to Manly for dinner. We ended up there at around 9:30, but we found a place that was still serving food (Australia seems to roll up its sidewalks early) and had some reasonably good food and an absolutely great passionfruit tart.

There's much much more, but I'm a little bit overwhelmed at describing it all, and I have a cold (see above). Certainly more to follow from me and also from Christina.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Sydney Harbour Dining

Well, the publishing didn't work yesterday, but so far it's working today. Once again, I only have a little bit of time during the conference's lunch break. I'm chairing an afternoon session, so I probably shouldn't be late.

After the conference yesterday, we walked down to the Rocks, which is where the convicts originally landed in 1788. It's been turned into sort of a touristy restaurant and shopping district -- it reminded Christina of Georgetown.

We stopped in an Aboriginal restaurant, which had kangaroo and other sorts of interesting meat. The sign said that it had traditional dancing, but the place was empty. So we stopped in to ask when they would have traditional dancing. The woman explained that they only brought the dancers in when they had at least 25 bookings. We asked when that might happen, and she told us last Saturday they had 40 people, but none of them had booked in advance, so there was no dancing. Christina took a card, and the woman wanted to know if we were really going to call to make a booking.

She seemed bitter, and I guess if your people's land is stolen, you have a right to. But my ancestors didn't steal her ancestors' land -- they were busy stealing somebody else's. All we wanted to know was when they might have dancing. We'll probably go back later in the week, and we may even make a booking -- in case there happen to be 24 other bookings (as now seems rather unlikely).

We walked some more until we got to the water, and we eventually selected Italian Village, which offered us a nice meal, washed down with a nice Australian wine.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Down Under

I've only got a few moments here...this is the first time I've had Internet access I could publish from.

Random thoughts:

  • The water really does go the wrong way 'round down here, but I've never really paid that much attention to it going the right way up there.
  • Australia is cheap. You get about 2 Australian dollars for one American, and a lot of times the prices look reasonable even before you divide them in two.
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road isn't as hard as I thought it would be. Driving in Syndey, on the other hand, is ridiculous. Lots of one-way streets, lots of no-right-turn signs. The GPS has been a lifesaver.
  • The Southern Cross is really quite striking, and I can see why various countries use it on their flags. The Milky Way is amazing...I can't believe I had to come down here to get away from the light pollution.
  • A lot of times when Christina was driving, I'd look for the wheel, the brakes, or other things I expected to be on the "correct" side of the car. Last night when I was driving by myself, I got into the car, sat down, and then had to get out and get in the driver's side.
  • This is a really empty country. It's the size of the continental US with 1/15 the population. And parts of the US are really empty. We've been travelling in the more populated part (east coast), and it's been at times like driving through rural Colorado.
  • Australia is a relatively wealthy country per capita, but not per mile. So the roads don't seem to be as wide as we're used to. Except near major cities, you don't see anything bigger than two-lane roads.
  • Australians don't seem to speed very much. I guess when you can get caught behind somebody doing 30 kph under the speed limit until you get to an overtaking lane, you have to have a relaxed attitude towards travel time.
  • More later

Friday, June 28, 2002

Contraction Tour, Part Two

OK, so the Twins aren't really going to be contracted any time soon. Still, the second leg of my contraction tour continued with a visit to the Metrodome, which was much livelier than last time I visited. Attendance was around 29,000, rather than 9,000 like a couple of years ago. They seemed to have spruced up the place, too.

One feature they had added was Twins Bingo. The goal is similar to regular bingo, except each square has a particular baseball play (e.g., double, strikeout, 3-6-3 double play). The first so-many fans to get bingo get something like Twins tickets. It seemed to be a good way to get people into the game, moreover it was a good way to get people to learn the scoring system. Seemed like a neat trick to convert casual fans into fans who knew something about the game (like the scoring terminology). I saw two downsides. One, you start rooting for the bingo rather than the team. ("C'mon, HBP!") Two, once the maximum number of prizes was awarded, they stopped telling you what the score was. That frustrated both people who were playing Twins Bingo for fun, as well as those who wanted to keep learning the system. (Also, the already-keen baseball aficianados among us were disappointed not to find out how plays were being scored.)

Oh, and the Twins won, 6-5.

Monday, June 24, 2002

Mammoth Family

In yesterday's entry, I talked about our visit to the La Brea tar pits and showed some pictures. In one of them, a woolly mammoth is shown sinking into the tar. I should take pains to point out that the mammoth is not, in fact, real, but rather a replica.

In a supreme display of pathos, the city of Los Angeles (or whoever runs the park) has chosen to display a mommy mammoth (if I recall correctly) sinking into the tar while her mate and children watch helplessly. Really quite sad.

At the time, I thought that the fake mammoths were fairly cheesy -- after all, this wasn't Universal Studios...this was science. But I think it actually looks pretty good in the picture.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Tar Pits

During our recent visit to LA, Christina, Janie (Christina's sister) and I went to the La Brea Tar Pits. They're located in a park right in the middle of LA, which seems a little odd. Anyway, there they are, bubbling pits of tar.

Here's a closeup of some bubbles from a picture Christina took:

It's a nice enough 15 to 30 minutes walking around the pits -- you can see where they're still excavating. Unfortunately, you can't see the excavation itself, but maybe we were there during the wrong time of year. We were warned off the museum, but we ignored that advice. I'm glad we did. It's pretty neat. You learn a lot about what North American mammals were like before man came over and wiped out most of the bigger ones (they even had horses). You get to see some the phenomenal number of skeletons they pulled out of the tar. We got to see a chunk of tar they hadn't processed, and it looked absolutely full of bones and petrified wood.

OK, so they're celebrating their 25th anniversary, and there was a note that they were updating their displays. So this is more of a 1977 museum than a 2002 one. But given that, it was a pretty cool visit.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Monsieur Smoked Meat

Here's a picture of my fellow number theorists and me in Montreal last month at the Expos game.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Pay attention, ESPN

Of the 32 teams that began play, Spain was the only one to finish the first round with a perfect 3-0 record.

--Greg Garber, "Some players keep eye on World Cup",

That must be news to Brazil.

Back in the early 1950s, when Eddie Martin left his segregated high school in Roswell, Ga., a half-hour north of Atlanta, I-75 was a 700-mile pipeline out of purgatory.

--Chad Millman, Fab Friend, ESPN the Magazine

Interesting, since the Interstate highway system was created in 1956.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Not So Fast, Howie...

"Get ready for reeallly long profiles of the former Jose Padilla, a la John Walker Lindh. At least there won't be any neighbors saying he seemed like such a nice young man, since he started getting arrested at 13."

--Howard Kurtz, A Quick and Dirty Story,, June 11.

"Jose was a nice kid," said Nelly Ojeda, a neighbor in Chicago.

--Michael Grunwald and Amy Goldstein, An Unusual Odyssey, The Washington Post, June 11, Page A1.

Saturday, June 08, 2002

In the Getty

Christina and I went to LA last weekend with her sister. This trip was as a result of a contest Christina won last fall. I went out Saturday-Tuesday, and the two of them returned yesterday.

Sunday morning, we headed out to the Getty, Los Angeles' newest and most impressive art museum. The collection is funded with the fortune of the late J. Paul Getty, builds on his collection, and reflects his tastes. His tastes aren't exactly mine, which is just as well, since there's a lot to see there. We never would have managed to see everything even if we had wanted to.

Appropriately enough for LA, getting to see the museum revolves around parking. During the week, you have to make a reservation to park. For whatever reason, that isn't the case on the weekends. After parking, you ride the monorail to the museum. They seem rather proud of the monorail -- Christina was looking for a magnet in the gift shop, and the only ones she found featured the monorail. That seems a little odd for an art museum.

The only 20th century or American art they feature is in the photography collection. They have so many photographs, the only ones that are on display are a part of whatever exhibition they have going on. When we visited, it was "Railroad Vision". The exhibit was an interesting collection of photographs done for early railroads. The exhibition was perhaps more interesting as a history exhibit than an art exhibit, though the pictures were attractive. The railroads hired photographers, and the photographs they took encouraged people to ride the rails to scenic destinations. There was one interesting picture of Lincoln and a couple of generals or aides. Lincoln was clearly the only one who had difficulty standing still for the whole exposure, as he turned out a little blurry.

We looked at one part of the permanent collection -- the late 19th century paintings on display. They had some nice selections, such as the above Van Gogh, as well as works by Monet and Cezanne.

We also saw "A Treasury of 15th-Century Manuscript Illumination". The illuminated manuscripts were beautiful, although there was not a lot of descriptive text in the exhibit. There were a few entries keyed to the audio guide, and that was a little helpful with understanding the context.

Thursday, May 30, 2002


I wasn't writing this weblog in 1999 when I went to Winnipeg for a conference. But I was going through some old files and came across some notes I made on the city. I thought I'd share them here.

Winnipeg is a fairly dull city compared to, say, Toronto, but on the other hand it's exciting when compared to...Minneapolis. Their primary attraction seems to be "The Forks" which is an Inner Harbor-style tourist trap. It can probably be skipped unless you like overpriced, mediocre food.

For something better, get in your car and drive to Alycia's for some really good Ukranian food. Winnipeg is apparently a hotbed of Ukranian food, and this was an excellent place to sample some.

As far as tourist attractions go, the Canadian Mint was pretty interesting. The most interesting thing I learned is that they make coins for other countries under contract. I suppose it makes sense...and if the US ever offered to do that, the countries would probably worry that every time someone in Congress got upset, we'd cut off their coins.

The biggest complaint I have about Winnpeg is how much everybody smoked. As a Marylander, I almost fainted when I saw people smoking in the hotel lobby. Also, the non-smoking section in restaurants is about 4 tables shoved at the end.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Contraction Tour, Part One

Last week in Montreal several of us number theorists went to Olympic Stadium to watch the Expos play the Braves. The Expos won in extra innings. I don't know if I've ever been to an extra-inning game before. I went to an overtime Canadian Football League game once...

The stadium was nice enough, but they spent over $1 billion on it. (Even Canadian, that's big money.) They should have gotten more for that. The announcements were all in French, which was sort of a waste, since I think most of the people there were the few remaining Anglophones in Montreal. Actually, that and people who had come up to root for the Braves. I saw plenty of signs from people wanting to get on TBS, but of course none from people wanting on Montreal TV -- the Expos don't have a TV contract. I considered a sign that said "DC Loves the Expos" -- but then realized I might run afoul of the language laws. So I considered "DC L'Expos". But then I didn't want to get thrown out of the stadium -- well, to tell you the truth, I was just too lazy.

Anyway, it was fun. The Metro went right to the stadium -- we didn't even have to go outside. We gathered our meal at "Monsieur Smoked Meat" and headed to our seats -- around $26 Canadian, which weren't bad for lower deck seats between home and third. The game, as often happens with MLB these days, went on too long -- by the end even some of the Braves partisans were hoping the Expos would score and get the game over with. And the attendance was, of course, pitifully low -- in the 5,000 range. Here's hoping I see the Expos again soon -- in DC.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

A Concise History of Australia

During my trip to Montreal, I finished reading Stuart MacIntyre's A Concise History of Australia. I had earlier read The Fatal Shore, and Christina is currently reading Syndey: The Story of a City, in preparation for our upcoming trip.

A Concise History of Australia is exactly what the title advertises, and exactly what I was looking for. It seems to be a very modern telling of the country's history. It acknowledges that the continent's human history goes back tens of thousands of years, not hundreds. But at the same time it recognizes that non-Aboriginal history is all we've got records of and concentrates on that. In general, where there's an attempt to dip into revisionist history, it mentions the new interpretations while recognizing the traditional view. One thing that I found interesting was the idea that as Australia becomes more diverse through immigration, its people are turning to Aboriginal history as a unifying factor to replace the Imperial history that is meaningful mostly just to the shrinking Anglo-Australian portion of the population. I recommend the book for anybody wanting a historical background before traveling to Australia (or for those who are just curious about the land Down Under).

It even finds time to mention the "dingo ate my baby" story.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Back to Canada?

Having just returned from Canada, would I go back? Of course! In fact, I'm scheduled to give a talk at a conference in Banff next May.

Guess I'll have to figure out something to talk about.

Thursday, May 23, 2002


Christina has a new post on freelancing, identity theft and other topics.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Pavillon Principal

The meeting that I'm up here for has been held in the Pavillon Principal of the University of Montreal. Oh, excuse me, the Université de Montréal. Anyway, the Pavillon (shown above) is this monstrous building. My theory is they decided that students shouldn't have to go outside during the winter, so they'd put all the classes in one building. Of course, these things never work, so there are other buildings, but the great mass of the university is in this one. Of course, that's just a theory I have.

There are many weird things about this building.

  • As you enter from the Metro, you have to travel up to the building. You do so via a moving ramp. Like an escalator, but without the stairs. You know, so if you fall, you keep tumbling to the bottom. I'm amazed they're able to get away with this. Their lawyers must not be as good as American lawyers. Especially with college students around, that seems like the type of thing that gets turned into a ride.
  • As noted above, the corridors are labeled A-Z. Except O, Q and W. I don't know why those letters got left out.
  • I wish there were a 3-dimensional model of the place available, but not all the corridors go on all the levels, and some are blocked off, so it's difficult to get around.
  • The rooms aren't numbered; the doors are. So E-315 and E-325 might lead to the same room. Which can be annoying, I suppose, if you have a class in room E-315, because on the first day nobody will use door E-325, because nobody will know where that goes. Somebody suggested to me that it's so they don't have to renumber the doors if they reconfigure the space the doors lead to. I don't know what sort of university prides itself on not having to renumber its doors, but maybe this one does.
  • In one of the rooms where talks were held, the talks would be interrupted periodically by the distinctive sounds of birds chirping. Loudly.