29 December 2006

You're my home

I arrived in Boston late on Boxing Day to discover that my father had somehow lost the keys to his car (parked at TF Green in Providence) at some point during the trip. We were the last people to be served by Budget Rental before they closed for the night and managed to get home without too much further delay.

Unfortunately since then my gastrointestinal tract has been giving me the business, so it hasn't exactly been a relaxing return home. I'm hoping a day's worth of bedrest will help me feel better. Plans for the New Year still haven't fully materialised, but there's definitely the possibilitas of either a sausagefest or me being the only stag at the party (grrrrrreat). I guess I'll just try to make it through the night with some Sparks Bombs.

Christmas in Vegas was interesting. I felt like the only non-Asian person in the MGM Grand, and the Western half of the country doesn't quite seem to have the same sense of Christmas, but it was fun. Got my first serious hours of playing cards in ages, and remembered that my NL play is usually horrendous after a long layoff. Good learning experience, though.

28 December 2006

Astronomy Images

Check out the Bad Astronomy Blog's top 10 astronomy images of 2006: pretty awesome!

22 December 2006

Long journey

I'm posting this from Pacific Beach, San Diego, looking out at the Pacific Ocean from my hotel here. Jetlag is setting in, but I'm hoping to at least stay up as late as my parents to try to force my body in to West Coast time.

After working flat out in preparation for a meeting in London on Wednesday I was glad to get a start on my Christmas holiday. It was nearly derailed from the start, however, due to pea-soup fog in London for the last few days. BA cancelled all of their domestic flights (over 350) today, and pretty much all flights had some delay. Thankfully mine was only delayed by an hour, which meant I still had a good chance to make my connection in LAX to San Diego.

I decided to make the 11 hour flight more bearable by spending some air miles to upgrade to Business class, and boy was it worth it! A big difference to the commuter plane I took from LAX to San Diego, which was a Saab 340. I didn't even know Saab makes planes.

Is there a Ralph's around here?

17 December 2006


I've been at the office too much lately. I just actually laughed out loud after declaring the following variable:


11 December 2006


For anybody who's wondering where I might be this holiday season:

21/12: LHR → LAX → SAN
26/12: LAS → BOS
02/01: BOS → SEA
10/01: SEA → BOS
14/01: BOS → LHR

In brief, that's San Diego and Las Vegas with the family for my Dad's birthday and Christmas; Boston for a week between Christmas and New Year's to hang out; Seattle for a week to get some work done and Boston for a few days for Mystery Hunt!

09 December 2006

only wusses keep silence

Nugget of wisdom from Cecilia, made more profound by her slight touch of ESL.

06 December 2006

Spam part deux

The Times of New York is featuring an article on the rise of new kinds of spam designed to evade standard filters. Among the biggest issues related to a recent surge in spamming is the trend to now put the spam content in an image in the email, instead of as text. So now instead of "Buy Viagra now!" you get:


But in order to complete the trick and convince the spam filter that the message is legit it needs to be more than just an image. Amusingly, the trend seems to be toward cutting random text from books (one even used Shakespeare) to fluff out the message. Those crafty spammers...

05 December 2006

TMQ sux

Gregg Easterbrook riffs in today's TMQ about coaches punting when far behind early in the 4th quarter and then subsequently going for it on fourth down with almost no hope remaining. His first point is arguably valid — coaches are too timid about going for it on fourth-and-short when far behind with, say, 10 minutes to play. His second point, about then going for it with no hope left is idiotic and beside the point:

Then, still trailing 24-10 with four minutes remaining, Redskins deep
in their territory, Washington faced fourth-and-4. At this point it
made no difference whether the Redskins punted, went for it or started
square dancing.

And then he rants on about this. It's insane! In that situation of course you go for it. It's possible (although unlikely) to score, and then get one more possession (via either a defensive stop or onside kick) to try again. It's not like no team has ever come back in that situation, so why roll over and die by punting? This is what irks me about TMQ: he always acts like he knows everything and everyone else is a moron.

03 December 2006



(image courtesy of nytimes.com)

The New York Times' website usually doesn't fall prey to the temptation typical of CNN.com to create cheesy montage art for their stories, but this one about the relative ease of buying Polonium 210 (reported only one week after Scottoway broke the news, btw) takes the cake.

Especially awesome is the blue glow coming from Marie Curie's hand.


GMail conveniently discards spam older than 30 days. This means that the number of messages in the spam folder at any given time represents an estimate of monthly spam volume. I've been watching that folder swell lately to over 5500 spam messages over the past month. It made me wonder, "How many real emails do I get in that time?"

Well it turns out that in November I received 246 real mails to my gmail address (which includes forwards from my alum.mit.edu address) and 5514 spams. That means that email going to that address is a shocking 96% spam! Nearly all of it is automatically filtered, of course; otherwise the address would be unusable.

01 December 2006

Do I look like I give a damn?

I saw Casino Royale last night and thought it was pretty awesome. Seeing this tougher, leaner Bond made me realise how much of a self-mockery Brosnan's version had become (not necessarily through his fault — the last two films he was in had outrageously unrealistic plots).

One thing that amused me was the poker scenes in the film. Evidently Hold'em is so mainstream now that lengthy exchanges make it into a Bond flick. One thing that annoyed me, however, is how mainstream media still portray poker as if every hand is won by a boat or better. Consider the following (semi-spoilerish) moments:

When we're introduced to Le Chiffre (an excellent villain) he's playing Hold'em on his superyacht. One of his opponents goes all in and turns over pocket kongs on an AKxxx board to make a set, and of course Le Chiffre coyly reveals his pocket aces for a higher set. I mean, how often do you ever see a set of aces over a set of kings? This is the kind of hand that makes mortals start screaming at their friends about how they were robbed. But this is the least ridiculous hand in the film!

A critical piece of the poker subplot involves Bond picking up a tell from Le Chiffre. Later on he is holding AK on a board of AKKJJ and detects Le Chiffre's "bluff tell" so he calls his all-in bet in a 30 million dollar pot. Le Chiffre predictably turns over JJ and rakes the pot. The plot then turns around how Bond rashly called Le Chiffre to expose a bluff and got burned. But Bond would've been insane not to call the bet! He had an outrageously strong hand and could only be beaten by AA and JJ — he wasn't calling a bluff, he should've believed he easily had the best hand.

The icing on the cake is the four-way final hand with a board of AA468 with four spades. All remaining players are all-in for a total of $150 million. The following hands are revealed in this order:

  1. Rube A: KQ spades for the AKQ-high flush.

  2. Rube B: 88 for a full house, eights full of Aces.

  3. Le Chiffre: A6 for a full house, Aces full of sixes.

  4. James Bond: 57 spades for straight flush.

Sigh. The rest of the film, however, was the balls, including the introductory "freerunning" chase through the construction site and Vesper Lynd's huge tracts of land.