minutia press.
KoKo the premed

We went to the Jean Strickland Dog Training Club yesterday for our first experience at puppy training class. There were about 10 dogs there with a variety of people. Our whole family went so we had more humans per canine than most.

The teacher never introduced herself but talked at great length about her dogs and their names. She kept refering to the humans as "mom and dad" with respect to the puppies. As far as I can tell, that label just isn't appropriate.

At any rate, she picked our dog KoKo to demonstrate how to do the first three positionings with the dog. She briefed us on how to correct them when they struggle or refuse to submit to the positionings. These positionings are to facilitate grooming, medical care, but also to set the stage for further training.

KoKo did all the positioning without complaint, and the teacher was surprised but a little disappointed that she didn't get to show us how to correct the bad behavior.


Thanksgiving meditation

Surrounded by the love of our friends and family, beckoned by food raised from our good Earth and prepared with care for this table, dwelling in a country that places no limit on soul or spirit, we are aware especially now of where our thanks is due. May this Thanksgiving press us into action, so that none shall be lonely, or hungry, or oppressed. May we never lose our pilgrim spirit as we cross the frontier to share with others, to provide for those in need, and to help those who seek freedom. And as we look from this Thanksgiving to the next, may we all enjoy good health, prosperity, and enlightenment. Amen


Cat in the Hat is not All That

I have posted before about writers who continue to publish after they have died. I admire such people for their fortitude.

Ted Geisel (a/k/a Dr. Seuss) is one such author, having published Daisy Head Maizy posthumorously [sic].

Yesterday the entire fam' went to see the movie "Cat in the Hat". I went expecting the subtle, lyrical Seuss poetry and an over-the-top Cat played by Mike Myers.

As I understand it, Ted Geisel while alive refused to commercialize the Cat. He had many offers for the Cat to sell life insurance, cars, trips to DisneyWorld, but he staunchly refused to sell out the Cat. His wife Audrey wanted him to commercialize his characters, but he kept the Cat above all that. There was one short cartoon made about the Cat that was written by Dr. Seuss. It's very good, and features the voice of Allan Sherman as the Cat.

Since Ted's death, we have seen works published that probably never should have seen the light of day, and now we have the Cat movie that frankly is an insult to the memory and works of Ted Geisel.

My kids liked the movie for its antics and effects, and offered no commentary on Dr. Seuss at all. Myers comes off sounding more like the cowardly lion from "Wizard of Oz" than a Seuss Cat. The kids are nothing like what they are the book, neither in character nor in appearance. They find by the end of the movie that they love each other, a typical Disney touch, and a theme totally absent and unnecessary in the book.

There were some gratuitous songs, but the lyrics lacked that Seuss touch. By far, the best characters were Thing 1 and Thing 2.

Don't go see this movie. Don't put more money into Audrey Geisel's purse to encourage more of this kind of thing. Instead, go buy the book, stand in front of the theater, and offer the book to anyone who would otherwise buy a ticket and see this movie.


Walker Bros Apple Pancake

When we've visited our friends in Buffalo Grove, IL, we've gone to Walker Bros. Pancake House for breakfast. They feature this amazing apple pancake. It's large; it has apples; it's delicious. Following is a recipe that approximates that pancake's greatness.

I usually double the recipe below to make 2 pancakes; the recipe below should make one. I don't have a skillet that can go in the oven, and I'm pretty sure that's what the Walkers do. Instead I use a skillet to saute the apples and then bake the thing in a pyrex 9" pie dish.

Take 2 large apples -- I use Fuji or Granny Smith but any would probably work -- and peel them, core them, and cut them into chunks. Melt some butter (maybe 2 Tbls) in a pan and saute the apples until they are soft but not totally mush. Turn off the heat, and then take some brown sugar (1/8 to 1/4 cup) and stir it in with the apples until the sugar melts and coats everything.

In a bowl, whisk togethe 3 eggs, 1 tsp sugar (I use brown sugar because it's already out), a pinch of salt (I use sea salt because I'm a salt snob), and 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk. If you use buttermilk, it will be a thicker batter so you may need to thin it with some regular milk and sweeten it some with some more sugar.

Then take 1/2 cup flour and while whisking the stuff in the bowl, slowly incorporate the flour. The result should be fairly lumpless and smooth.

Either pour that batter into your skillet for the oven, or, grease with butter a pie pan (9 inches), put the apples in there with all the sugar goo from the skillet, and then pour the batter over that.

In either case, put the "thing" into an oven at 400 (convection) or 450 (non convection) and bake for 10 minutes. At that point it should be set but not brown. Take it out, and sprinkle 2 Tblsp brown sugar all over the top. You can sprinkle some cinnamon on top too. I like the cinnamon but my kids don't.

Put it back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until the thing is puffed up, brown, and the new brown sugar is mostly melted on the top.

Take it out. I've heard that at this point you can sprinkle the top with some lemon juice, but I tried that and didn't like it. So I just eat it at this point.

Post replies about your success or nonsuccess!


Two encounters in one week

In the past two weeks, I've managed to meet and introduce myself to two of my heroes. Revealing these two people as my heroes will tell you almost nothing new about me, and I suppose there was nothing magical about the encounters themselves, so why do I post about this? Well, it's 4:34 in the morning and our dog needed some attention. No other human is listening to me rant right now, so I'll inflict my two experiences on you.

First, I met Bob Tarjan at a meeting last week on software protection. In the group setting, he casually introduced himself as interested in algorithms and data structures. What he didn't mention is that his work is among the deepest and most inspirational contributions to computer science. In any area of endeavor, one should be sufficiently fortunate to discover achievements in that area that enoble the entire field and stand as a tribute to those who practice the field. Tarjan's work has that kind of influence on me.

I introduced myself and shook his hand. I did not mention to him what a silent mentor he had been for me, nor did I ask him to autograph his book. I had forgotten to pack the book for the trip. If I had packed that book, however, I would have exceeded the allowable density per bag, as his book is probably the densest book on my shelf. I write that as a compliment. One can spend hours on a page and still find it worth rereading.

Last night, I met Ben Steinberg, noted composer of Jewish music. Because of my involvement with music at our temple, Betsy and I were invited to dinner before services. I introduced myself to Ben Steinberg, and shook his hand. I did not mention the powerful effect his music has upon me each time I hear it. The two pieces played most often at our temple are "Shalom Rav" and "Sim Shalom", which occur in our liturgy Friday night and Saturday morning, respectively. Both pieces ask for peace to be granted to us and all of G-d's people (in our belief, that's the whole world).

Ben Steinberg's music was presented at services last night, with a professional octet of singers along with flute, oboe, clarinet, cello, and organ or piano. The music was amazing, owing to its composer and to the fine musicianship of the performers. Washington University's own Scott Levin has been serving as our cantorial soloist this year (and I hope, next year too). If you can find a way to hear him sing, at Wash U or at our temple, you will be very impressed by the richness and color of this fine baritone.

In his remarks to us prior to the pieces he conducted for the sermon, Ben Steinberg said that a composer's music is an invitation to see the world through his or her eyes. He also said that like any stranger whom you first meet, comfort, acceptance, and love are not necessarily immediate. You have to spend time getting to know a new piece of music so that it becomes familiar, and then you might become fast friends.

I salute you Bob Tarjan and Ben Steinberg. You have probably never met each other, yet you have each invited me and so many others to see the world through your eyes. My admiration has not been misplaced. Your view of the world is compelling and the way you communicate and share your view is utterly beautiful.


Talking trash

They say you can tell a lot about a society from what it discards. They don't usually say that you can tell a lot about that society's professors by what they rescue from the trash, but it's true.

Today I passed by that bench in Jolley where discarded books seem to find a home. Not only were there books there today, but also two bowling trophies. One book was some joke book about lawyers "from hell". Another book was some popular book about the solar system and stuff.

So we know what people don't treasure. But later I saw Ron Loui walking through the halls carrying the two books. I just had to ask why he didn't pick up the bowling trophies. Without missing a beat, he said he thought of doing that and removing the "bowling trophy" metallic label so he could give it to a deserving student in 313 or 513. I didn't point out that the top of the trophy featured somebody in mid-bowl position.


Stress of public speaking

Chris recently posted about a site that offers advice about speaking in public.
So I thought I would offer some commentary on the article's

Principle #3--All You Need is Two or Three Main Points

Add to that:

  • 5 clashing colors used on the same slide
  • 12 subbullets in font too small for a buzzard to see from the first row
  • 33 animations that come and go by seconds based on a geometric series
  • A laser pointer sufficiently powerful to perform radial keratotomy

Finally, one should be able to do math, because the aforementioned article doesn't have just 3 key principles, it has 10. Then there are 11 causes of hidden stress, and then a recap of the 10 key principles.

I generally follow Chris's suggestion of plying the audience with good food.



I was browsing through the magazine racks at Barnes and Noble tonight, when the magazine Bitch caught my eye. I couldn't tell its niche from the cover, so I said aloud "What is this?". In a flash, a woman working at the store strode over and explained that it was a magazine on women's issues, that it "points out the evil of men". And she gave me that kind of look that suggested that I could be painted with that brush as well as any other man.

I wonder what the corresponding men's magazine would be called? Responses welcome. Somehow "bastard" doesn't capture it.



I received an evenlope by postal mail at home the other day. It was some kind of advertisement for an Internet dating service. On the outside of the envelope, it said something like

30% of the visitors at our Internet dating service are already married

It doesn't surprise me that married people read dating ads or visit dating sites, but are they proud of this? Do they know I'm married so they're saying "hey it's OK, come and take a look"?


Finally, a mall worth visiting

I don't like to shop but I wll post a plug for the new St Louis Mills Mall, which has won my favor by including an ice rink. The Blues will practice there and you can watch them for free. You can see them either from the stands at the rink or from the mall, which has a glass partition between it and the rink.

The report from Cari (teammate) is that the ice at the Mills Mall is the best in town. Incredibly smooth. The Blues deserve nothing less.


Advice needed on PDA

Sorry, this post is not about push-down automata. I am in need of something electronic to manage my calendar and life a little better. I can get by with a paper calendar, but I think things would become easier if I had both home and work stuff on the same pages.

Any advice? If it uses a pen/stylus then it has to be fairly forgiving about bad handwriting. It would be nice if it boots instantaneously and uses almost no power. Bluetooth would be nifty to sync with certain computers at home, as might infrared or other wireless capabilities.

If it can manage a phone book and talk to my cell phone about people I need to call, that wouldn't be so bad either. And if it can convert into a jet pack to propel me out of bad meetings or traffic, I wouldn't complain.

Thanks for your help!


TBP initiation

Well, as of last night around 7:30 PM, I became an inducted member of Tau Beta Pi. Details of the proceedings of that induction cannot be revealed, owing to promises I made during said proceedings, but I offer two observations:

  • The chapter here at Washington University is very well organized, and the students put a lot of effort into making the ceremony both fun and meaningful.
  • With integrity as a strong component of the honorary society's mission, I was moved by what the students had to say on this topic, and I feel that the future of Engineering is well served by students who belong to TBP.
  • I am both grateful and moved by what the students did on my behalf to induct me into TBP. As I posted below, this involved some persuasive arguments concerning the role of computer science in engineering.

If you see more than two observations above, please consider that I estimated the number of bullets conservatively.


Nick of time

More than in any previous year, I seem to know many students who are applying for the NSF Graduate Fellowship award. One such aspirant is Jim , who apparently completed his application with one metric minute to spare.

This reminded me of my friend, colleague, and former programming team cohort Keith Cooper, who reads this blog on occasion (when he's not busy chairing Rice's CS department or writing an excellent compiler book). I recall Keith once telling me that one has not really put in enough worry and work into a paper unless one is forced to drive to the airport to meet the FedEx plane departure in order to get a paper in on time (this was in the old days when you had to send a physical copy of something for submission purposes).

Oh, and Keith is also the guy who, along with Kenny Zadeck, once held a loaf of my recently baked banana bread out of a window, saying

Ron, you cheerful son of a bitch, one more cheerful remark and the banana bread gets it

I've always been a morning person


Blast update

Turnout for the Blast games has been understandably thin, so I thought you sports fans out there would like an update (and I don't have much better to do at the moment, but that's sure to change).

We played two teams that started in the beginner league last year, and beat them fairly easily. In the second of those games, one of our best players (Scott L) was injured after being tripped from behind while shooting on goal. As a result, Scott crashed into the net, separating his shoulder and we got a penalty shot (which we missed, but we won the game anyway).

Last night, we played the Chiefs, who, despite not having played yet as a team, have somehow earned a reputation as a really tough team. Thumbing our noses in their general direction, we took the ice last night at the All American rink. Mayhem then ensued.

Scott L, with shoulder in sling, came to watch the game, as did his brother Jay and Jay's wife Jaci. They were watching from the balcony above the rink, but by the second period, Scott came down to the ice, and crossed it to join our bench, so that he could affect our team play more persuasively than from the balcony. His brother Jay used to play on our team, but has changed to the Hornets, whom we play at the end of our season (they're in the division above us). Blast fans will remember Jaci from the stands of our games last year, and it was great having her at the game once again.

We were severely short-benched, with about 12 people to play plus Audrey in goal. Audrey was amazing, and we played a good game IMHO considering how outnumbered we were by the Chiefs (the "too many Chiefs" problem which has been explored in detail elsewhere).

Near the end of the game, we were dealt several penalties. One player was given a substantial penalty for being pissed off and throwing his stick, loudly and with understandable disgust, in the penalty box. The other interesting penalty was dealt to Carlos "Ramming" Ramos, who decided to head-butt one of the Chiefs after some particularly rough interactions with said Chief. Word on the street is that the ref mistakenly gave him an extra game misconduct, not realizing that the first penalty he gave Carlos carried an automatic game misconduct. The result will be a two-week or four-week suspension, depending on the interpretation of the penalty.

Stats on the game and our schedule appear on the blast web site.


Not only that....

I came across this picture while browsing Sam's site.

Not only will the children be sober and unarmed, they'll also be learning something with that school lurking nearby.


Tau Beta Pi update

The national office evidently found my background sufficient to qualify me for membersion in TBP, and the Wash U chapter just voted to induct me. So this bit of good news tops off a week filled with mostly good news. I'm not sure how much of the TBP ceremony and such can be revealed, but I'll post about the process to the extent I am allowed.