Archive for June, 2010

The Number Is

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Kaka and Fabiano, Brazil

In my last post, I asked you to determine the next number in the following sequence:

2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 2, 2, 2, 2, 0, 0

I warned you that this is a stupid sequence, having nothing to do with actual mathematics. And I gave two hints: The numbers are related to an event that has been followed in recent weeks around the world. And, this event has unfolded over a sequence of days; associate the numbers of the sequence to the days.

I’ll now reveal the answer. If you missed the last post and want to think about the problem, read no further.

The answer is 2. In fact, here’s how the sequence continues:

2, 2, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1

It essentially stops there. Or, you can keep going, with lots of zeroes.

What’s going on? The event that is the basis for this puzzle is the 2010 World Cup, in which 32 national teams have been competing since June 11 to determine the soccer world champion.

Let me briefly review the setup. The 32 teams were divided into 8 groups of 4. For the first two weeks, each team in a group played the other three in a round robin. This resulted in a ranking of the 4 teams in a group. The top 2 continued on; the bottom 2 went home. The 16 surviving teams were put into a single elimination bracket, with the 8 top-ranked teams meeting the 8 second-ranked teams in the round of 16. This round ended just yesterday. The 8 winners will now meet in four pairings in the quarter-finals. The winners will play in two semi-final games. The two semi-final losers will play for third place; the two semi-final winners will play for the championship.

In group play, with each team playing 3 others, 6 games are required for each group (count them up and you’ll see). Since there are 8 groups, this means 48 group games were played. On day one, June 11, two group games were played. The next day three group games were played. The next day, another three. And so on for ten days, days 2 through 11. At this point, after day 11, just last Friday, a total of 32 games had been played. Within a given group, each team had played two others and still needed to play a third. For instance, in the group containing the US, the US had played England and Slovenia, but still needed to play Algeria, while England and Slovenia had played the other two but still needed to play each other.

In the 1982 World Cup, West Germany beat Austria 1-0 in the final game of group play, a game widely considered to be fixed. (Thanks, Joel, for the reference.) Algeria had already beaten Chile in its last game within the same group, assuring them a top-two finish and advancement unless West Germany beat Austria by exactly one or two goals, in which case both West Germany and Austria would advance. Had the two games been played simultaneously, West Germany and Austria could not have colluded. Starting in 1986, the final group games are indeed played in parallel. And that’s why the 3-a-day pace of games that occurred through the earlier stages of group play came to an end last Saturday, replaced by 4 games a day, with the teams in one group playing parallel games and then, later in the day, the teams in a second group playing parallel games. Here in Seattle, the first set of games started at 7:00 AM; the second at 11:30 AM.

If you’ve followed this, you’ll see that group play consisted of a day of 2 games, ten days of 3 games, and four days of 4 games:

2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4

Then came the round of 16, single-elimination games, from Saturday to Tuesday (yesterday), two a day:

2, 2, 2, 2

The eight surviving teams rested today and rest again tomorrow:

0, 0

But these are the numbers that start our sequence! The next number in the sequence must be the number of games to be played Friday. And that is:


That’s our answer. On Friday, two quarterfinal games will be played and on Saturday the other two. Then two rest days, then a semi-final game next Tuesday, the other semi-final game next Wednesday, two more rest days, the third-place game on Saturday, the championship on Sunday. Putting it all together, we get:

2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 2, 2, 2, 2, 0, 0, 2, 2, 0, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1

Dumb, I know. But this sequence has dominated our lives here at home lately. We always know the daily number, even if we haven’t given the sequence as a whole much attention. And today’s 0 was especially noticeable, after nineteen straight days of multiple games. What will we do when 0 becomes our daily ration?

Of course, by then we’ll have the Tour de France.

Categories: Puzzles, Sports

Guess the Number

June 30, 2010 Leave a comment

You know those math puzzles where you’re given a sequence of numbers and are asked what’s next? This is one of those. There are intelligent ones and stupid ones. Intelligent ones are those that involve actual mathematics. For example, you might be given the sequence

2, 4, 6, 8

and asked for the next number. There’s nothing mysterious going on here, but one does have to know some elementary mathematics to figure out that the next number is 10.

Or, one might be given

1, 4, 27, 256

and asked what’s next. Here, one would perhaps recognize these numbers as 1 to the first power, 2 squared, 3 cubed, and 4 to the fourth power. The next number must be 5 to the fifth power, or 3125.

Stupid number sequences are those that don’t actually involve any mathematics. Here’s an example:

3, 3, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5

What’s next?

I suppose there might be other answers, but the one I’m looking for is 5. Why? Consider this sequence of words:

one, two, three, four, five, six, seven

Count the number of letters in each word. That’s the number sequence. The next number is 5 because that’s the number of letters in ‘eight’.

Okay, so here’s another number sequence puzzle, one I thought of last night, and it comes under the category of stupid number sequence. In other words, you may be able to solve it, but not by using any serious mathematics. Rather, you’ll need to associate the numbers to some other phenomenon, and if you do, the answer will be obvious. But if you don’t, there’s no hope. Ready? Here is the sequence:

2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 2, 2, 2, 2, 0, 0

What’s next?

I’ll provide the answer in a separate post so you won’t accidentally see it below, in case you want to think a little bit about it. However, let me add a couple of hints, which you can read or ignore. They are below the fold. Read more…

Categories: Puzzles


June 23, 2010 Leave a comment

View from Alderbrook: Hood Canal, Olympic Mountains

It’s our 25th anniversary today. Hooray! We took the ferry to Bremerton late this morning, had lunch at a sandwich shop there, then drove down through Belfair to the tip of the Hood Canal and along the shore of the canal (it’s not really a canal; it’s a natural waterway that cuts into western Washington in parallel with Puget Sound) to Union, home of Alderbrook Resort & Spa, where we are now. We’re in our room, looking out across the “canal” to the opposite shore and the Olympic Mountains beyond. Below us is the outdoor lounge/bar, a raised porch-like affair along the water, and we are sharing in the bar’s live entertainment. Not that there’s a choice, but fortunately we’re enjoying it. A guy in a Hawaiian shirt is playing ukelele and singing, with karaoke-style accompaniment. A little Jimmy Buffett, Loggins and Messina, and now Peter Frampton. In an hour we’ll head down to dine at the restaurant.

We’ve never been here before. It’s beautiful, a fabulous setting. There’s something magical about our northwest waterways, the mix of water, wooded hills, and snowy mountains. I didn’t grow up here, and in many ways New York still feels more natural, but really, how can one beat this?

Anyway, this is an ideal setting to celebrate. Here’s to us, and thanks to my beautiful wife, perfect in all ways (or at least in all ways that actually matter, unlike me), for 25 super years.

Categories: Family

We Tried to Obey

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Two Mondays ago, Steve Jobs opened the annual Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco with his keynote address introducing iPhone 4. I followed it live through the efforts of live bloggers such as Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky. This was the subject of my short post Our Master Speaks, written as I followed along.

Later in the day, Apple’s website had news of the new iPhone. Pre-orders would be taken starting June 15, with delivery at home or pick-up at Apple Stores on June 24. I put it on my calendar.

Tuesday, like so many others, I went to the site to order my new phone. In fact, we were going to get new phones all around — for me, Gail, and Joel. We have the second generation iPhone and all were eligible to upgrade to the fourth generation at the base cost. (If you haven’t been under contract with AT&T long enough, you need to pay extra for the new phone.) I was thus among the hundreds of thousands (millions?) who experienced the meltdown of the AT&T servers. I tried repeatedly at first, then intermittently, then not until late that night, but could never complete an order. By the time I tried the next day, delivery wasn’t promised until mid July. Even then, after adding my phone to the cart, I met with a failed server when trying to add a second phone. I haven’t gone back to try since. Way too frustrating.

No doubt the next disaster will occur next week when the successful first-round orderers get their phones and try to get them working on the AT&T network. Maybe waiting isn’t such a bad idea.

I tried. Really.

Categories: Business, Computing

Wrongful Torture: No Problemo

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Maher Arar

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear Maher Arar’s appeal of the federal appeals court decision last November that he couldn’t sue for damages for wrongful rendition to Syria and subsequent torture. (See, for instance, the NYT article here for an account of the November 2 decision.)

Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained in September 2002 at JFK, where he was changing planes on his return to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia. He was held in New York for 13 days on the basis of having suspected ties to Al Qaeda, then sent to Syria, where he was held for a year and tortured before being released. The Canadian government investigated and cleared him of any links to terrorism, awarding him a settlement of over 10 million Canadian dollars. Yet, he is not allowed to sue the US government for his treatment. Putting aside the logic of the appeals court decision, and this week’s Supreme Court decision not to take up the case, what most startles me (or would if I weren’t used to this by now) is the Obama administration’s own decision to argue against Arar’s appeal.

Just after the Supreme Court’s decision was announced, emptywheel wrote, “we’ve officially become a country that finds protecting those who commit torture more important than justice for those who were tortured.” David Cole, one of Arar’s lawyers, wrote about the case at the New York Review’s blog:
Read more…

Categories: Law, Torture

Restaurant Roundup

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

In blogging so little of late, I have failed to comment on three local restaurants we have enjoyed eating at recently. I’ll fill that gap here. First, some background.

I have written frequently about our meals at Rover’s, the well-known restaurant in the Madison Valley neighborhood of Seattle, just blocks away from our home. In addition to nightly dinners, it serves lunch on Friday, and I have described several of these lunches. Last summer, during one of these lunches, chef-owner Thierry Rautureau explained to us his plan to take over the then-empty former shipping store on the corner and turn it into a more casual French-style restaurant, to be named Luc, after his father. As a means of raising funds, Thierry would sell founding gift certificates — invest $1000, then get three annual $435 credits to be used at Luc or Rover’s. A few months later, when the deal was formally offered, we accepted.

Luc had its formal opening on the evenings of May 3 and 4, with free food for members only. Those just happened to be our last night in DC and the night we flew home from DC. We were unable to attend.

Finally, three weeks ago, we (Gail, Joel, and I) dropped by at Luc for an early dinner before heading downtown to see Fiddler on the Roof. Not early enough. It was packed. In desperation, we crossed the street and stopped by at La Côte Creperie. Gail had eaten there before, but I hadn’t. Let’s go in and learn more.

1. La Côte Crêperie. It’s a small place, but since we were early, it was mostly empty. We got a table by the window. In addition to our menus, there was a long chalkboard with specials. One could well imagine one was in a traditional French crêperie. Indeed, the menu was very much like the one the three of us studied last October, Halloween Eve, on our last evening with Joel in Grenoble before departing early the next morning for Venice.

I rarely drink cider. In August 1999, we visited my sister and her family in La Baule, on the Brittany coast, to celebrate a major birthday for her. At the time, they went to La Baule every August, and knew the region well. One morning, we went over to the nearby walled town of Guérande — well worth a visit if you’re in the area. Within its lies what by my sister’s testimony — and I believe her — one of the great crêperies in France. It was a family favorite, and we were in for a treat. I can’t remember what I ordered, but I remember that as a matter of course, bottles of cider were put out for us all. I don’t think I did much more than taste it. I learned, though, that when in a crêperie, drink cider. And thanks to my pal Russ, I have learned to enjoy cider more. So, of course, I started the meal with a glass of cider.

For the meal, I ordered a salad to start, and then, despite the long list of enticing crepes, I went off the crepe menu to order a croque-madame. But I returned to the crepe menu for dessert, selecting the very same crepe I ordered last fall in Grenoble, the poire belle Hélène: a crepe filled with pears, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup.

Everything was delightful. I’m eager to return.

2. Lola. Two weeks ago last night, local painter (and old friend) Kate Altus had a new show open at the Lisa Harris Gallery down by Pike Place Market. We own two of her paintings and were hoping to attend, but couldn’t because of a conflict. Instead, we went down to have a look that Saturday afternoon. (The show runs through June 28. By all means have a look yourself if you’re downtown.) As we walked up the hill, we decided to have an early dinner. Tom Douglas beckoned. Which of his restaurants? We chose Lola, where we last ate two years ago for breakfast, when we stayed at the hotel that sits above it for our anniversary, having dined across the street at Douglas’s Dahlia Lounge the night before.

Our only dinner at Lola was four years ago, when our friend Marion was in from Boston, staying at our house, and took us there. I can’t believe we waited so long to return, given how much we enjoyed our meals there, and how much we enjoy all things Tom Douglas. Lola is his Middle Eastern or Mediterranean place. We decided to order five small dishes to share: the hummus with smoky paprika; the salad with shaved asparagus, fennel, radish, and preserved lemon; the lamb meatballs with green garlic relish and mint; and two of the kebabs: Washington chicken with yogurt and dill and Washington king salmon with tarragon and capers.

What can I say? Everything was great. Perhaps my favorite, only because I had no great expectations and it was perfect, was the salad. I could eat that salad every night.

For dessert, Gail wanted the famous Tom Douglas doughnuts, the only problem being that they aren’t on Lola’s menu. They used to be, or at least we think so. And they’re on the Dahlia Lounge menu. Anyway, our waitress wasn’t fazed. She knew what Gail wanted and was happy to oblige, after pointing out that we might just want to try instead the doughnuts that are on the menu: loukoumathes with cinnamon and honey walnuts. Ultimately we took her advice and ordered both, so we could compare. They’re different, but equally wonderful. The loukoumathes are bigger, maybe a little heavier. The doughnuts, as always, come in a bag that one shakes to get them properly coated in sugar, with fresh jam and mascarpone as accompaniments.

I don’t think we’ll wait four years to go back.

3. Luc. We finally made it in, this past Monday night. This time we made a reservation, though we hardly needed it. We arrived at 5:00 and were met by the hostess we know well from Rover’s. She sat us in the front corner nook, just around the bend from the door — her favorite location, she said. In attendance were Gail, Joel, me. Joel had a beer and Gail a glass of wine, but I decided to go for one of the alcohol-free mixed drinks, an orange presse. It was described as having orange juice, club soda, orange soda, and basil. The basil added a delightful touch.

The menu had so many attractive options. We will need to return often. I eventually chose, as Gail did, to start with the arugula salad with caramelized shallots, fleur de sel, and olive oil. For the entree, Gail chose the boeuf bourguignon stew with mushroom, carrots, and potato, while Joel had the grilled beef onglet steak with peppercorn sauce and fries. I was tempted to get the sandwich special, which was a halibut sandwich that night, partly so I could try the accompanying fries, but Joel let me have a few of his fries and I chose instead the pasta of the day, which was noodles in a cream sauce with salmon and bacon.

Yet another perfect meal. Those fries were so good. Next time I might just go with the burger (beef burger, caramelized onions, tomato jam, arugula, Luc’s aioli, fries).

Dessert: I had the butterscotch crème brulée and Joel the chocolate & caramel cake with whipped cream. Plus, we all shared an order of 3 fruit jellies, which were apricot. More perfection.

That’s it from the restaurant front.

Categories: Restaurants

Sports Roundup

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

2010 Tour de France

I explained (here and here) yesterday why I’ve been AWOL for the better part of two weeks. In addition to the distractions described therein, there’s the further on-going distraction of keeping up with major sporting events. In my effort to clear my blog klog, I will briefly touch on these.

1. Lacrosse. I left off in my lacrosse series on Memorial Day, previewing the Duke-Notre Dame men’s college championship game just hours before it began. Their presence as finalists ensured that the first new school since 1992 would be declared champion, and the first to break the stranglehold on the title of the super seven — Syracuse, Hopkins, Princeton, Virginia, UNC, Cornell, Maryland. I won’t repeat what I wrote about at length already. I’ll just note that Duke had been knocking at the door for years. They were due after two runner-up finishes and two additional semi-final appearances in their last five years (the fifth being the year that the school suspended the season in mid-stream). Notre Dame hadn’t been far off from breaking into the elite either, entering last year’s tournament as the #2 seed before being upset in the first round. Duke was the obvious favorite between the two, having beaten favorites all tournament long, especially after its upset victory over #1 seed Virginia in the semi-finals. But ND was impressive too, thanks to its great goalie and strong defense, which had led to successive, low-scoring upsets of Princeton, Maryland, and Cornell earlier in the tournament.

The game was another defensive gem, as the two teams traded goals to repeatedly tie the game at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, and 5-5, forcing the inevitable sudden-death overtime. And then it was over in a snap. Duke’s Costabile took the overtime’s opening faceoff at midfield, ran straight down the middle toward the ND goal, squeezing between Duke defenders, took a shot, and beat ND goalie Scott Rodgers for the victory with only five seconds gone. Game over. Duke had won. A stunner.

2. Tennis. I can’t say I watched much of the French Open. I followed it on-line, but didn’t see much live action. I awakened two Saturdays ago too late to catch the women’s final, which after all didn’t last long. The next morning, as described elsewhere, I was absorbed in learning OmniFocus. When I remembered, I ran to the TV and turned it on, only to see Nadal celebrating his just-completed win over Soderling. Oh well.

3. Basketball. Speaking of not watching much, I have been allergic to watching basketball for years now. Not that I’m uninterested. I keep up with who’s who and what’s what. But I spent enough years devoted to the NBA. I have nothing left to give.

Championship seventh games aren’t that common. I figured I had to watch last night. But I didn’t turn it on until the start of the fourth quarter, and even then, it just didn’t interest me enough to stay with it. I came back with 3 minutes to go. The Celtics were once my life. No more. Still, I was rooting for them, to the extent that I cared. Disappointing result. Joel pointed out that I should be pleased that the Laker victory hinged on the performance of my namesake (Ron Artest). There’s that. I wondered how much satisfaction I should take in Reagan’s presidency.

4. Hockey. I noted in my preview post on the Stanley Cup finals that I would be rooting for the Blackhawks over the Flyers. I watched more of this series than the basketball championship series — a period here, a period there. Last week, the three of us gathered in front of the TV with takeout teriyaki dinner to watch the overtime period of the 6th game. Patrick Kane’s goal 4:10 into overtime ended the game and the series. Very satisfying. I kept watching for the usual festivities — each player skating around with the cup, the group photo. Excellent.

5. Soccer. It all started a week ago this morning. The World Cup, that is. Just two hours ago, we watched the end of the US-Slovenia tie. We still don’t understand why the referee disallowed the US winning goal. Even Joel is waking up daily for the 7:00 AM broadcast. Typically we miss the 4:30 AM game, but watch the 7:00 AM game and perhaps part of the 11:30 AM game. Yesterday, not by design, I was up for the 4:30 game. I don’t always watch with full attention, or continuously, but the morning routine of turning on the game first thing has been one of the reasons I’m not blogging much lately.

I have no special insights, as Joel has consistently pointed out. I will say no more.

6. Golf. The US Open started yesterday. We watched just a few minutes of coverage. That will change tomorrow. Sunday I will cash in my Father’s Day rights by watching it all day. Oh, maybe I need to watch soccer too. Sunday’s 11:30 AM game is Brazil versus Ivory Coast. That’s a must see, and the Open leaders may not have teed off yet. Could do both.

7. Coming up. July is always the peak sporting month of the year for me. There’s the weekend when Wimbledon ends and the Tour de France starts. Two weeks later comes the biggest sporting weekend of the year, as the British Open golf championships run in parallel with the second week of the Tour. Enough! But this year, thanks to the World Cup, with semi-finals and finals running during the first week of the Tour, [It’s two weeks later and I see that through an editing error, this sentence didn’t get completed. I hesitate to fill in the blank retroactively. Perhaps the intended point was clear enough.]

Though this post might give the impression that I follow sports full time, I will have other obligations those weeks. Indeed, I just realized that I managed to schedule a lecture and a doctor’s appointment on the Wednesday of the second World Cup semi-final. What was I thinking?

Perhaps I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks, if I have any time.

Categories: Sports

Flight Control

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

In my last post, I explained what I’ve been doing the last twelve days with the time I might otherwise have spent writing blog posts. But what I described there hasn’t been the only distraction. There’s also Flight Control HD. I’ve never been much of a video game player. But three weeks ago I was browsing on-line at MacWorld for any articles about iPad apps when I came upon Essential iPad apps: 10 great games and decided to investigate. I’ve long been fascinated by flight controllers, so it was no surprise that the one game to catch my eye was Flight Control HD. (HD is the standard suffix to indicate that an app has been designed to take advantage of the iPad’s screen. There was a pre-existing version of Flight Control for the iPhone, though I don’t have it and didn’t know about it. Like all iPhone apps, it will work on the iPad, but only in a small space on the screen, or enlarged with poor resolution. The HD version is designed specifically for the iPad.)

In the MacWorld game round-up, James Savage explains:

Flight Control for iPhone is one of the greatest App Store success stories, and Firemint could have easily phoned in the iPad version by just giving us the same game with higher resolution graphics. Fortunately for Flight Control fans everywhere, the developer didn’t—the $5 Flight Control HD takes all the greatness from the original and adds loads more. Gameplay is still just as simple to learn and as addictive as ever—direct planes and helicopters safely to the ground by drawing their flight paths with your finger. With the extra screen real estate, this job is much easier on the eyes and ultimately a better experience. In addition to the four original iPhone airfields, you get four more with three of those in a higher-resolution format. With the bigger screen, there is now room to share control responsibilities with two-player co-op and versus modes.

That pretty well explains it all. I have nothing to add. Except that I’ve been controlling flights lately. Lots of crashes. Watch out.

Categories: Computing, Games

The Toad

June 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been pretty quiet the last two weeks. Sorry about that. It’s not for lack of topics to write about. Have I been traveling? Making progress on my backlog of novels? Proving theorems? No. Mostly, in time I might have spent writing posts, I’ve been planning my life. That’s too generous. Really, I’ve been immersed in the inane endeavor of planning how to plan my life.

You know Arnold Lobel’s wonderful children’s book characters Frog and Toad? They are good friends, and their adventures are told in four books published during the 1970’s, each comprising five short, easy-to-read stories. Frog and Toad Together, the second volume, opens with A List. Many years ago, when my old friend Dan had two young boys, he had me read it. Perhaps he arranged for me to read it to one of the boys. I didn’t realize it was a setup, with Dan knowing that I would recognize myself as the living embodiment of Toad.

If you don’t know the story, you can read part of it at Google books here. Or, with more time, you can see an animated version in two parts, starting with the embedded youtube clip at the top and continuing below. Pay special attention to the part in the second and third minutes of part 2.

[Spoiler alert: In this paragraph, I’ll give away some of the plot.] The story opens with Toad waking up and making a list of things to do for the day. He starts with “wake up,” then immediately crosses it off. The climactic moment occurs later, during Toad’s walk with Frog, when a gust of wind blows the list away and Toad is paralyzed. He has no idea what to do next, so he resigns himself to sitting where he is and doing nothing. Hours later, Frog suggests to Toad that they should go to sleep. Toad exclaims, “Go to sleep; that was the last thing on my list!” Calm is restored. He scratches the words on the ground with a stick, crosses them off, and goes to sleep.

What does this have to do with me? I could write pages on the matter, but I don’t want to get too personal. Here are some highlights of my list-making evolution: Read more…

Categories: Computing, Life, Stupidity

Our Master Speaks

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

I couldn’t make it down to San Francisco for this year’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC10). But thanks to live bloggers, I can follow Steve Jobs’ opening keynote address, which started 45 minutes ago. Right now I’m following via Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky.

What a great experience! We get to learn, virtually live, about our lord and master’s next gift to us. These days, Gail and I spend our evenings side by side, iPads in hand. (She got hers a week ago.) Soon we will be able to replace our second-generation iPhones with iPhone 4’s, which is what Steve is revealing to us now. And Topolsky’s live blog includes photos, such as the one above.

Gotta go. I’m missing the latest.

Categories: Technology