Post number 200: significant?

My 200th post since going live on 6 July, 2004, which is only significant as we work in base 10. Roll-on my 32nd birthday 🙂

Robbo’s in top form again with his analysis of Peter Ebdon’s stall tactics against Ronnie O’Sullivan earlier in the week, along with some amusing football chit-chat.

To the extent that I can be, I’ve been enjoying following the progress of this year’s world snooker championships, and today I discovered that the high quality of the BBC’s broadband streaming makes it worthy of watching online, albeit through a VPN until Uncle Rob sorts out the long-awaited UK-based strategic solution.

Meanwhile, Pete Clifton reminded me in his weekly post of the pride I felt earlier in the week for being British (and European) at the successful test flight of the Airbus A380. The video footage was quite impressive.

Bush’s primetime address

Tonight, George W. held his fourth primetime address of the nation since coming to power. His address reinforced some of the major problems faced by this country. The main purpose of the address was twofold:

– To reassure the American people that he would deal with the astronomically high gas prices
– To present a high-level plan for addressing the future deficit that social security would face.

The former of these frustrates the hell out of me. Petrol (gas) hit a record price of $2.06 in the US last May. At today’s exchange rate, that equates to £1.08 per gallon, or £0.28 per litre. The current price in the UK is £0.84 per litre, 200% greater. So US fuel is in a crisis despite costing a third the price of that in the UK.

While Bush talked about renewable energy sources, by far his main focus was on working with the oil-controlling countries to increase supply to address the price crisis. Very few of the 45 minutes’ questioning focused on the matters raised in the prior 10 minute address. Instead, they focused more on Iraq, North Korea, Bush’s troubles among colleagues in the Washington D.C. area and the like.

On foreign policy, he never fails to disappoint me with his insular approach. He always mentions the need to address terror on foreign shores before it affects his home nation. Although Blair has his faults, I can’t imagine him contemplating such a line. Meanwhile, Bush’s lack of an exit strategy from Iraq was justified by proposing that having one would give the enemy an edge. This simply isn’t worthy of a comment.

Finally, having talked about the need to continue to deliver against the No Child Left Behind policy, he still seems unable to pronounce nuclear.

American Idol

I didn’t watch last night’s singing bit of American Idol, but just watched tonight’s voting section, which featured a little bit of singing. In the main, it was dreadful.

There are now five potential idols left, following tonight’s departure of New York’s Constantine Maroulis. Good riddance. A B-rate soft-rock singer you might find performing on a cruise. So, who’s left?

Anthony Fedorov: the Aled Jones of the competition. He’d be a rubbish winner – weak!
Bo Bice: real name? Can’t be. The only remaining rocker following Constantine’s somewhat overdue departure. Meatloaf wannabe who shouldn’t be winning American Idol
Carrie Underwood: she gets my vote. Great voice and a worthy winner; kinda sexy too, which is a bonus
Scott Savol: absolutely dreadful. And I mean dreadful. He’s now turned to wearing a baseball cap high on the head and baggy pants (American version) to appeal to the youth market, but it’s just cringe-worthy from this 28-year-old. The worrying thing is that this week, he was in the top three!
Vonzell Solomon: not bad, but not quite there – second of the bunch.

Now I know this assessment sounds sexist, but for whatever reason, the guys are just appalling. It’s either Aled Jones, Meatloaf or a podgy, geeky Brian Harvey. So hopefully Carrie will pull through

Impressive arithmetic

Below is an extract from an article in The Telegraph sent by my Mum. Quite impressive, although his last quote is phenomenally pretentious.

"A French computer science student has stunned the world of mathematics by working out the 13th root of a 200-digit number in his head in under nine minutes. By arriving at the 16-digit answer from 390 trillion possibilities, Alexis Lemaire, 24, pulled off the most difficult feat of mental arithmetic ever attempted. Mr Lemaire was presented with a random 200-digit sprawl on a computer and asked to work out its 13th root. The answer, multiplied by itself 13 times, would match the figure on the screen.

"Thirteenth roots are a yardstick in mental arithmetic, because 13 is a prime number whose roots cannot be obtained by combining those of other numbers. Yet Mr Lemaire appeared only mildly satisfied by his feat. At his next record attempt, he said, his brain would work even faster. ‘As this was my first attempt, I was cautious.’ On June 3, he will try to find the right answer in less than three minutes. In a few months, he believes that he will break the one-minute barrier. ‘If I do that, without being pretentious, it will probably be the best piece of mental calculation ever,’ he said."

Brothers gonna work it out

Below is a great picture, courtesy of Andy, of Ben and I at the Mets game ten days ago. I like it – a lot.

Ben and Dan at Shea Stadium to see the Mets vs. the Astros, 14 April 2005

And here’s one of Elizabeth, Penny and I on Pen’s birthday the following night:

Dan, Elizabeth & Penny at the Hotel Gansevoort, 15 April 2005

Me vs. Christopher John Francis Boone

With all of the comparisons between myself and the lead character in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I decided to re-read the book yesterday, particularly given the iffy weather that has hit us this weekend. Below are the similarities, fewer than I’d imagined given the ribbing I’ve received.

– He knows all prime numbers up to and including 7,057. My limit is 100. Well, 97 actually
– "I like prime numbers." Me too, Christopher
– "Prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them." I agree, and this is one of the properties that makes them so special
– Christopher’s dad goes up stairs two at a time. At school, I used to know how many steps their were in each set, across the entire school. I too took steps two at a time. However, when I went up a set of stairs (and sometimes, but not always, on the way down), I had to finish with my right foot. So if there were 4n steps in the flight, then I would start with a double-step with my left foot. If there were 4n-1 steps, I’d start with a single step with my left; 4n-2, I’d start with a double-step with my right foot; 4n-3, single step with my right. If I did that, then I ensured that by taking the rest of the steps two at a time, I hit the top with my right foot on a double-step. For some reason, my favourites were 4n-1 (usually 15)
– In the book, he refers to a system where he assigns each letter of the alphabet a number (A=1, B=2, … , Y=25, Z=26). He then calculates a number for people’s names by adding up the associated numbers. Jesus Christ (151), Scooby-Doo (113), Sherlock Holmes (163) and Doctor Watson (167) all result in primes. So does my full name (211)
– His love of the Monty Hall problem is shared by me
– When he gets uncomfortable, he calculates 2^n as far as he can go, in his head. His best effort was 2^45, but on this occasion he only got to 2^25 = 33,554,432. I used to do this too. My best effort in my head was 2^20 which is 1,048,576. On paper, I once went up to 2^100 and then came back down to 2. I remember hitting the number 33,554,432 as it seemed so regular
– He refers to seemingly random markings on London Underground trains, specifically the abbreviations BRV and Con. IC on the Bakerloo line. I remember these too – Con. IC appears on a stainless steel plate up by the air vents, if I remember rightly. I always wondered what they stood for.

They’re the only similarities.

The Hudson

As of Monday, I will not be responding to email or phone calls after reading this article.

Great to see that Alan was successful in the London Marathon last Sunday, both in terms of getting round the course and the amount of money raised. As Spencer rightly pointed out, I’m somewhat dismayed that there weren’t regular blog updates every mile, on the mile, given his penchant for technology. The lack of an update until late Tuesday prompted me to get the information myself.

It’s been quite a quiet week, following a week of revelry associated with Ben’s visit and Penny and Patrik coming over too.

It seems that the Queen Mary 2 is a little more reliable than the subway trains, it making its third passing (to my knowledge) yesterday evening. It sets sail from the west side at 5pm each Friday, getting down to our place around 6.30pm. Earlier in the week (Monday), the Norwegian Dawn sailed past the office (which is on the other side of the river from our apartment) at a similar time, following the freak storms that had hit her the previous Saturday.

It’s nice having a view over the river. Sail boats, canoes, rowing boats (of the Oxford vs. Cambridge genre) water taxis, ocean liners, tugs, ocean-going barges all wend their way past our window, up and down the Hudson. Meanwhile, light aircraft, helicopters and once in a while the Goodyear Blimp fly above them. It’s pleasing to see the river being used so much, and it’s soothing to watch the various craft as they ferry tourists, workers, funseekers and the like from A to B.

Free iTunes with Pepsi

Pepsi has signed up with Apple to offer a free iTune (is that the singular?) with every third bottle of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew. Simply open the bottle, and check under the cap to see if you’ve won. Or else, tilt the bottle at the correct angle before purchasing, and buy a winning bottle. I’ve won seven so far.

Pope Idol?

I was thinking the other night – instead of the cardinals all going off into the Sistine Chapel to decide which one of them should be the next pope, why not get Cowell involved?

The branding is all there – just add an E to the original Pop Idol. Maybe the cardinals could sing a little hymn before getting slated by Simon. Catholics across the world would then text in with their choice, generating money for the church and ensuring a democratic election process.

Thoughts? Am I going to be excommunicated?

High-functioning autism

Today, my wife mentioned that she was thinking about the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, about a boy with high-functioning autism. I asked her whether it was because of me (given the traits that have been commented upon all too often on this site). Her somewhat witty response was "You’re not high-functioning". I think she missed the point. Ho hum.

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