Saturday, December 30, 2000

Inaccurate Cargo

Well, at least from here I can access

Unfortunately, when I go to, it takes me to Hmm.

I think I'll wait until the new year to see if this clears up before bugging tech support about this one.

Friday, December 29, 2000

Doctored in mathematics...

...I could have been a don.

As part of the continuing push to revamp my web pages for 2001, I have cleaned up the math pages on my site. New and of note are PDF versions of all the papers -- this format should be accessible to a greater portion of web surfers, especially those outside the mathematics community.

Thursday, December 28, 2000


I just got back from helping a friend of my parents set up his first computer. Well, attempting to, anyway. Everything seemed to be going well -- I removed all the extraneous plastic coverings, plugged everything where it needed to be plugged. I powered up the system and the monitor. As Windows ME started and I decided I would need to shut down the on-line setup so we could do it later, the monitor started flickering. I went to check that it was plugged in properly, and my assistant said, "It's stopped flickering." I looked up and said, "Yes, but there's smoke coming out of the speaker." I unplugged everything very quickly. It's back to the store, probably tonight, to exchange it for a less smoky one.

Look for the companies involved to be flogged in this spot if we don't obtain satisfaction.


I've re-vamped the D&D part of my web site, mainly by adding a new weblog for the campaign for which I'm the Dungeon Master.


Just a quick note to mention that I've moved hosting of my web site over to RNI. The exciting part of this for me is that starting later this week, my web site will be available permanently at, no matter which provider I'm using.

I'm planning to take advantage of the switch to improve a few things. If you find any broken links, please e-mail me.

Today, I've restored a lot of old links to the archive, so you can see what was on my mind early in the year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2000


I associate certain restaurants with particular places fairly strongly, so much so that going to eat somewhere becomes a major goal of a trip. When I got to Cincinnati, I want to eat at Skyline; when I'm in Athens (GA), The Grill or Taco Stand is an important stop; and Ann Arbor draws me toward Cottage Inn, Zingerman's or Blimpieburger. During my recent trip to Berkeley, I missed my chance to visit Blondie's, a pizza place that is one of my few positive memories of my year there.

Yesterday afternoon, we were given the afternoon off the conference to explore San Diego. I decided to skip the sights and TCOB. Steve, another guy from Back East, had business at the same location, so I gave him a ride.

We needed to find a place to grab a quick lunch. Searching my memories of my summer in San Diego, the UTC food court was a close, convenient place to get a bite. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to us that holiday shopping season would be in full swing, and the quest for a parking space would throw "quick" out the window. Eventually, however, my karma prevailed and we found a place.

Steve lost any concern with his delay when he discovered that the food court contained a Rubio's franchise. Rubio's is, he explained, San Diego's foremost purveyor of fish tacos. Fish tacos, I knew, were the characteristic food of San Diego. I remember being jarred by the sight of a "Fish Tacos" sign at a concession stand at a Padres game.

I admit I didn't find Rubio's fish tacos particularly exquisite compared to others I had tasted before. But I was glad to get a chance to go there, even if I never made it to Blondie's.

Sunday, December 17, 2000

San Diego

When I got off the plane it was 81o. Wow. I briefly regretted my decision to pack long-sleeved shirts. (The weather has since cooled off slightly.) I retrieved my luggage, which was at the most crowded baggage carousel I've seen. People were tripping over each other trying to get their suitcases out of there. I picked up my rental car in a remarkably hassle-free experience and hit the freeways of San Diego.

I hadn't been back since I lived here in the summer of '93. Blue skies, warm weather, ocean views...why did I leave? Ah, well. I'm happy in Maryland, but this wouldn't be too bad either. I found my way to my hotel, which turned out to be in Old Town San Diego. It's fairly touristy, but as a traveler, having restaurants and shops nearby is pretty cool.

I could hardly wait to head for one of the many nearby Mexican restaurants. Sigh. But I had the opening conference banquet in a few hours. I wandered down the street, browsed through a gallery containing a number of Chuck Jones prints and contented myself with a couple of margaritas and some chips and salsa.

After a quick nap, I headed for the banquet. When I arrived, I realized that the conference featured many nodding acquaintances, but nobody I knew really well -- none of my old Georgia buddies. I picked out a table, nodded at a few people and sand down. One, an elderly mathematician, seemed to recognize me more than I expected, given that I had not seen him since '93. I chatted with a Canuck about the different voting systems in use in the US & Canada and tried to enjoy my non-Mexican meal. Then, at one point, the aforementioned elderly gentleman referred to me as "Jeff" and asked me a question about another mathematician. I realized that he had mistaken me for someone else, perhaps 20 years my senior. I felt really awkward -- how do you point out to someone that they not only don't remember you, but they've just mistaken you for someone who comes closer to doubling your age than equaling it? I ducked and said I didn't know anything about the guy he had asked me about, which puzzled the man I was talking to, since he thought we worked together.

I spent most of the rest of the evening trying not to make eye contact before ducking out early due to jetlag.

Frequent Flier

I have achieved my goal -- I am now a frequent flier. The results won't be official, I suppose, until the United Airlines version of the Electoral College convenes at year's end. But with the flight to San Diego, I will have accumulated in excess of 21,000 flying miles for the year 2000. I actually have flown more than that -- the real total probably exceeds 35K. But some of those miles were on other airlines or went uncredited due to various incompetences.

After a flying lifetime of spreading my flights across many different airlines -- I currently maintain memberships in four different frequent flier programs, I decided it was time to settle down with one airline. When I found myself flying to Belgium this past May on United, I had my airline.

My original goal was to hit 25K -- the level needed for Premier status. Unfortunately, even with the return flight from San Diego, I will only find myself with 24,551 credited flight miles. Fortunately, United has had much labor strife this year. Fortunately, because the strife has caused UAL to kiss some serious passenger behind in order to keep its customers. For example, by lowering the Premier thershhold to 21K. Victory!

So to what can I look forward as a certified member of the jet set next year? I get to skip the long check-in lines and use the Premier check-in. I get to "pre-board" the aircraft and put all my stuff in the overhead compartment before the rest of you unfortunates get on. I get to sit in "Economy Plus" with its 5 extra inches of legroom. (This alone makes all my struggles worthwhile.) And I get upgrade coupons, which will work out to an upgrade to Business or First Class on roughly every fifth flight.

I can't complain too much about my penultimate flight as a non-privileged traveler. The flight was less than 2/3 full (pre-Christmas doldrums?), and I got a row of three seats to myself. (Talk about legroom.)

Still, I can't help but think it would have been just a teensy bit better as a Premier member. I'll let you know next year.

Friday, December 15, 2000

Master Maze

George bought a few sets of MasterMaze from Dwarven Forge. Since they don't deliver to a PO Box, and since we play D&D here, he had them delivered here.

I have come to one conclusion: Polaroids are terrible for taking pictures of minatures. These look really cool, and it'll be great to play D&D with a realistic looking dungeon to put the minatures in, but you wouldn't really know it from the picture.

Trust me.

Where's Jonboy?

I know a lot of people wander in and read my weblog, but this note is directed at people I actually do know. I've made a Yahoo! calendar so it's easy to figure out what I'm up to. I need to give you permission (via a Yahoo! ID) to view the calendar. (I don't want the rest of you weirdos to be able to find me.) If anyone wants to look at it, and I haven't given you permission, e-mail me. Then click here to view the calendar, once I've added your ID to the list.

It's pretty cool. It's nice for me, because I can see what's going on from home, work or while I'm traveling. And it allows me to share calendars with others who have Yahoo! calendars.

Friday, December 08, 2000

Dumb Ass, Don't Tell

"And it was only then that I worked out with Colin Powell this dumb-ass 'don't ask, don't tell' thing."

David Brooks calls this quote from Bill Clinton's recent Rolling Stone interview, "a classic act of Clintonism" showing how he adapts his tone and language to the audience. The only problem...

"Due to a transcription error, the words 'don't ask' were printed as 'dumb-ass' in our interview with President Clinton. We regret the error."

Never mind.

Friday, December 01, 2000


The other day at work my boss was preparing a talk for an important muckety-muck. He wanted to use a graph that had been prepared by somebody who has since left our organization. Unfortunately, the graph needed to be updated, so my boss was trying to do it by hand. This, as one might imagine, was causing a number of problems. I volunteered that I had the program that our now departed colleague had used to generate the graph, and I could update the program to produce a new graph.

Since no good deed goes unpunished, I was asked to make a number of other changes. "Can you make this line thicker?" Then, my boss complained that since the graph was color, it was coming out as gray on the black-and-white printer. "Fine," I said, "I'll change 'blue' and 'red' to 'black' everywhere." So I did a search-and-replace. (Fans of vi will recognize the %s/red/black/g command.)

I sent off the new version of the graph to him, and he finally seemed satisified. About an hour later, I got a call from him asking why the work "squablack" was on the graph.

Beware search-and-replace.