Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Border Blues

It turns out I'm not the only member of my family that is having problems at the border.

My father travels for work (and pleasure) quite frequently. He and my Mom are planning a trip to Russia in a couple of months and as such they have had to turn in their passports to the Russian Consulate so they can get visas to enter.

Unfortunately, my dad had to travel to Denver this week - and with the passport requirements now he has had to resort to using his British passport (we're dual Canadian/British citizens) both to enter the States for work and return to Canada.... it should be interesting.

I suggested that he should have given his British passport to the Russians and travel there using it, so he can still travel back and forth to the States with his Canadian passport. He thought about it for a second and agreed that would have been the better way to go...but it's too late now.

And the blogpoints go to...

... PeterJ, Kimota94, and Vishrut all of whom got the correct answer to the simple quiz posted the other day.

And for a twist, the new question is English based instead of mathematical.

For each of the following two letter pairs, the person that finds the longest English word that both starts and ends with the letters gets a blogpoint. Example: "ER" -> "Eraser" would qualify (but it probably isn't the longest valid word.

1) "AL"
2) "DE"
3) "RE"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I learned something new today

Apparently, Danica McKellar - famous for playing Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years (and some other stuff including a recurring character on The West Wing) is some sort of mathematical genius.

She was recruited to UCLA by a mathematics professor who had her working on proving a theorem during her undergrad studies. The theorem is now known as the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem and is explained in her article: Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin–Teller models on Z2

I'm not sure what that means from the title...but I'm determined to find out.

Slightly less intimidating - Danica answers fan math questions on her website.

Quick brain teaser

Jane has twice as many brothers as she has sisters. Her brother, Jim, has one more sister than brothers. How many boys and girls are in the family?

1 blog point to all correct answers within the next couple of days.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I'm going slightly mad

That's right...I'm going slightly mad for the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship - AKA March Madness. For the first time since the "Fab Five" freshmen started for the Michigan Wolverines I give a crap about American College Basketball. I decided to enter an 'office pool' basing my picks exclusively off a sports columnist I enjoy reading. I started well going 13-3 on day 1 including picking VCU over Duke. But things have fallen apart for my bracket since then.

However, I have to admit, I've been intrigued by a number of the matchups and actually enjoyed watching some of the games. Maybe I'll try again next year making my own picks instead of copying somebody who 'knows something'.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Happy Pi Day!

Today is March 14th - 3/14 - pi day!! I'll be celebrating at 1:59 this afternoon by thinking about circles and trigonometry.

A blog point to the person who posts the longest accurate decimal representation of pi before the end of the day.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Momentary Lapse of Reason

This is a guest blog entry for Ramblings of a Geek. While clearly a different sort of geek than the owner of this blog - I'm comics, he's computers - I'm confident that I can ramble with the best of them! As I say at my own blog, "I'm Kimota94, and you're not (unless somehow... you are)." That's, of course, a riff on Chevy Chase's old Saturday Night Live line, revealing not only the way my humour tends to run, but also my advanced age!
Speaking of being old: while everyone knows I'm really only a day older today than I was yesterday, in a demographic - or actuarial - sense I somehow find myself an entire year closer to my life expectancy figure on this particular day. That's gobbley gook for "it's my birthday." I tip the scales at 44 years of age today, a full 33% further along than the usual writer here.
As it happens, I've known "the Human Calculator" for more than a fifth of those years that are piling up under my belt. James showed up at my previous job at the bank as a fresh faced new hire during a period of growth we were experiencing at that time. Considering when that was - 1998 - we were probably bulking up with Y2K coders back then, not so much to provide their software expertise to the problem which was pretty much solved already anyway, but rather to give us more bodies to throw in front of the crazed hordes that were expected to show up in the wee hours of New Year's Day 2000, recreating, as it were, the run on the bank that was immortalized in the film It's A Wonderful Life.
Fortunately, it never came to that. As we all know, Al Gore built a time machine in early 2000, amidst the smoking ruins of civilization that sprawled around him, and travelled back to the mid-1980s and worked tirelessly to get companies working on the Y2K problem in time to avoid that catastrophe. How he has the energy to do the same thing, again, regarding Global Warming, is beyond me, but of course that's only part of the equation as to why he'll eventually be remembered as one of the greatest world leaders of all time.
At any rate, eventually "Jimmy Hinckley", as I like to call him, left the bank to follow new paths of glory, and half a year or so later I followed him. One of the easiest questions I've been asked in recent years has been, "Do you ever regret leaving that job?" Whatever the ups and downs we may experience at our current company, I've never looked back, and I suspect James hasn't, either. We've both done well in our careers since jumping ship, and I can't help but feel that our employer's done well by us. And everything we left behind, from what I hear, is still there, bedeviling the folks who couldn't bring themselves to do anything about it. At last count, James and I have something like 8 other former bank employees among our numbers at the new workplace, and that's kind of cool.
I could write more on these topics and others, but I'd best save something for the day when I reach 40 Blog Points hereabouts. And if Hinckley keeps putting up those math problems, that shouldn't be too long at all....

Friday, March 9, 2007

I Changed My Handle

On Kimota94's suggestion I changed my handle on Chessworld. I am now known as "Kimota94 Fan".

They have a policy that limits the number of times and frequency you can change your handle - so I'm going to be a fan for at least 2 months.

2 blogpoints for Kimota94. I was very close to taking Peter J's suggestion of either Sigma6 or Abdab (former names of bands that eventually morphed into The Pink Floyd which became Pink Floyd) 1 point for him.

This pushes Kimota94 over the 20 point barrier and he nowhas the option of posting an entry on this very blog.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Online Pseudonyms

As loyal readers of this blog know (both of you) - I like to play chess online at I've been playing in a few tournaments and doing OK - but I've been on a losing streak in the past couple of weeks. But that's not really the point of this post...the point is that most people on that site (and most gaming sites as far as I can tell) don't use their real name, but rather some sort of pseudonym or handle. Even in the blogosphere (damn, I thought I'd never use that term), people shroud their identities with handles - see Jim Hinckley (my former alias for posting comments), Kimota94, The Man From Mars, etc.

Anyway, on Chessworld my handle is currently, the o-so original, "James Hindle" - my real 'meatspace' name. I'm playing against people like "Kingcrusher", "KillerLee", "phys-glue-stick", "MrFishy", "Metroline Busman", and so on...

I think it's time to change my handle - so I'm open for suggestions. Here are some I'm considering:

  • Jim Hinckley
  • The Artist Formerly Known as James Hindle
  • The Human Calculator
  • 4A4D48
(Oh and a blogpoint for the suggester of the chosen nickname, and 2 blogpoints for anyone who knows how I came up with 4A4D48)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Word Problem

11 scientists are working with some very expensive and rare materials. They decide that the materials should be locked in a safe and only accessible when a majority of them are there.
What are the minimum number of locks that should be placed on the safe, and how many keys must each scientist carry (assume each scientist will carry the same number of keys)?

3 blogpoints to the first correct answer. 2 blogpoints for the second, and 1 blogpoint to anyone with correct answers after that.

Goodbye Peasy

The big news from the NFL this week was that the Steelers let their pro-bowl linebacker Joey 'Peasy' Porter go. He was almost immediately picked up by the Miami Dolphins. Over the past couple of years, Joey Porter has been a defensive captain and the best linebacker in a group of great linebackers.

I'm not a big fan of Porter's off-field antics and the amount of trash he talks - but it works for him and he's been a very effective player in the past. I'm sure now that he's no longer a Steeler I'll like him a lot less...although he'll always be a part of their Superbowl XL championship team.

The Steelers will get on without Porter, just like they did when they let Kevin Green, Greg Lloyd, and Levon Kirkland go in the 90's.

In other Steeler news, they resigned my favourite defensive lineman: Aaron Smith! This makes me much more positive about their future. Smith is an amazing athlete. In the 3-4 system the Steelers play, the role of the defensive line is to occupy the offensive blockers to allow room for rushing linebackers yet Smith always seems to make a few key stops a game and is always around the ball. He can stop the run and pass rush. An all around great player.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Disney On Ice

Last Thursday (March 1st) was my daughter's fourth birthday and it just so happened that Disney On Ice came to town. So about 3 months ago we bought rink side seats for the performance. The theme of the event was 'Mickey & Minnie's Vacation' - where those two along with Donald and Daisy Duck and Goofy would come out between elaborate musical numbers from various Disney movies.

To say that Maya had an incredible time would be understating it. I think she would have sat there all day if they let her. The whole time she had a huge smile on her face and clapped enthusiastically whenever something exciting happened. We also took Elliot. he was stunned for the first half - I'm not sure he blinked at all the whole time. The second half he got a little fussy, but overall I think he handled it well.

It started with 'The Lion King'. This was my favourite part of the performance. They played three songs from the movie. The highlight was a performance with Simba (the male lion) and Nala (the lioness) doing all sorts of ice dance type moves which are really quite impressive when done a couple of feet in front of your eyes. One thing I found a little odd was when they had a huge choreographed routine with all the skaters dressed as monkeys. The skaters were wearing skin tight monkey suits (literally) which had skin coloured chests with nipples painted on them, so it caused me to take more than a few double takes.

After the Lion King, they transitioned to a 101 Dalmations routine. It was OK, but to get 101 of them each skater had either 2 or 4 'dummy' dogs attached to them via a harness. The 'fake' dogs looked a little weird when you were close up.

After the 101 Dalmations, the skaters started doing some routines to songs from the Little Mermaid. This was Maya's favourite part by far. She loves mermaids and the Little Mermaid is her favourite doll right now. She knows a lot of the words to the songs from a CD we have (and listen to far too often).

Then they had a short intermission, which was followed by routines from Peter Pan and Lilo and Stitch. I didn't see much of the second half because Elliot was overwhelmed at this point - he hadn't blinked in about an hour and was getting pretty fussy. So we went out to the lobby. We did see Captain Hook and a bunch of pirates out there - because they enter the ice from the lobby. Captain Hook was really nice and tried to make Elliot smile by playing peek-a-boo with him and tickling him with the hook. It was a nice personal touch that he definitely didn't have to do.

All in all the whole family had a wonderful time and it was money (and time) well spent.