Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

The Monty Hall Problem Revisited

Got an email yesterday from someone doing research about the famous "Monty Hall problem." I'd forgotten all about it. Takes you back to the first Bush administration. The reader pointed to an amazingly comprehensive analysis on Wikipedia. We're talking Venn diagrams, decision trees, Bayes' theorem, Bertrand's Box Paradox, and on and on.

The Wiki summary:

"Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?"

I'll pause for a commercial break while you think this through.

[Ad: New detergent removes toughest stains.]

We're back. Like any normal person who has not already been down this thorny path, you probably assume that it doesn't matter whether you stick to your original choice or switch to the other door, because each door has a 50 percent chance of hiding a new car.

But that's not correct. The counterintuitive solution -- you should switch -- is what has made the Monty Hall problem so notorious since Marilyn vos Savant first wrote about it. (Cecil Adams also grappled with it several times.) Wiki says some 40 academic papers have now been written about it.

Here's Wiki's explanation:

"Many people incorrectly assume since there are only two doors left after the host opens one, that the remaining doors must have equal probability. However, assuming the host knows what is behind each door, always opens a door revealing a goat, and always makes the offer to switch, the host's actions do not affect the probability of the player initially choosing the car (1/3). This means the answer is yes -- switching results in the chances of winning the car improving from 1/3 to 2/3."

The key passage in this is "assuming the host knows what is behind each door, always opens a door revealing a goat, and always makes the offer to switch." You have to assume that Monty is rigidly following a formula. The Wiki entry faults vos Savant for not explicitly stating these constraints on the host's behavior. But those constraints were part of the formula of "Let's Make a Deal."

Here's an excerpt of what I wrote in Why Things Are on Nov. 23, 1990:

"When you initially select a curtain, you have a 33 percent chance of being right. There's a 67 percent chance the car is behind one of the other curtains. Just because Monty raises one of those curtains doesn't change the initial odds: you still have only a 33 percent chance of being right. But now, there's a 67 percent chance the car is behind the one Monty didn't show you....

"The solution -- and confusion -- centers around the formulaic nature of a game show.

"Monty, imprisoned by formula, wants to heighten drama. This means he cannot show you what's behind your curtain without first showing you what's behind one of the other curtains. Thus, 67 percent of the time, Monty will be in a bit of a pickle, because the car will be behind one of the two curtains you didn't pick, and the formula forces him to show you which one the car isn't behind. He has to tip his hand.

"Since two curtains hide goats, Monty Hall will always, always show you a goat behind one of the other curtains no matter which one you select initially. You should ask yourself: Why should your odds suddenly improve from 33 percent to 50 percent just because Monty shows you goats? And surely you can't expect your initial random choice among three curtains to have a 50 percent chance of being right. If only gambling were so easy!"

I got a ton of angry letters, including many from math teachers. The "solution" drove them absolutely batty. They said the correct answer was that it didn't matter. They included various equations and illustrations and flow charts and graphs and Power Point presentations and -- well, maybe Power Point wasn't invented yet, but still, they had PROOF that they were right. But check out Wikipedia. There is no more debate. You should switch.

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 20, 2006; 2:33 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Linking is Easier than Writing
Next: Science Thursday


I pick Door Number 3. What's wrong with goats?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I choose Carol Merrill.

No problem.


Posted by: bc | September 20, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse

My brain hurts. Can I play Match Game instead?

Posted by: KW | September 20, 2006 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Did they name that con game "3-card monty" after Mr. Hall?

...And isn't he Canadian?

Posted by: kbertocci | September 20, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

I have a rubber band, a paper clip, and a piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum.

Posted by: LostInThought | September 20, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Probabilities, shmabamilities.

What I remember most about "Let's Make a Deal" were the untold silly get-ups. The outrageous costumes that people would don in hopes of being picked by Monty Hall so that they could pick what was behind the door or the silly curtain that Carol Merrill (IIRC) was standing in front of. Halloween on steroids with adult faces. Reminds me of the recent tinfoil hat-and-glasses BPH.

IIRC, my cousin Bill, the LAPD detective, was on the show with his pretty wife Peggy and won a washer and dryer. No goats.

What is it about being on-camera that makes people loco in la cabeza? You see it every morning on the network morning shows, when the camera pans the groupies behind the weatherman or woman. About a week ago I saw local New Braunfels folk in their Bavarian get-ups, dirndls and lederhosen, behind Al Roker with a large banner advertising our November Wurstfest.

Such a difference in wanting to be on camera and not wanting to be on camera. I went to vote about two years ago here at our local polling place. I'm the one who noticed we were voting with the wrong ballots, since the one person I most wanted to vote for was not listed. Instead of ballots for Precinct 499, we had ballots for Precinct 466. We stayed inside the recreation hall of a pool complex in the next neighborhood over from us for 45 minutes before the ballots snafu was straightened out. When I came out, I was the one the local television camera rushed. At least I had the opportunity to explain how poorly our local elections were managed at the time.

Posted by: Loomis | September 20, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I used to love Let's Make a Deal. And I always think about Monty when I am stopped by security when I'm leaving work and they want to see what's in my bag. (They don't do profiling: on bag-inspection days everybody gets searched.) I always have Let's-Make-a-Deal-worthy stuff in my bag--a curling iron, a Spanish-English dictionary, a grapefruit, a box-cutter. Random stuff, different every day.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 20, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Reposting (courtesy of Joel) from previous kit:

Uh, is anybody else uncomfortable with this WaPo headline caption: "First Lady Playing a Major Role on World Stage"?? I mean, all she's doing is hosting some sort of seminar. Is that "playing a major role"??? She replacing John Bolton or something?? Making policy decisions? Invading Paraguay?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Of course the modern example of the Monty Hall problem is the Deal or No Deal problem. Just 25 doors instead of 3. Some people have said that this show is completely mind numbing, which ironically just reflects the limits of their own imagination. Deal or No Deal for me isn't an hour of watching some ungrateful, greedy lug and his family pick briefcases at random--it's an hour of statistical thought experiments.

For instance, at what point is it best to stop picking cases and take the deal? On the show, the deal amounts go up as the number of large payouts remain. However, there's a certain point in each game when the equilibrium shifts, either for or against the player. Say that there are 10 briefcases left (including the player's), and 7 of those contain amounts of at least $50,000, and the other 3 contain junk amounts (I think that's a best case example given the amounts on the show). The offer he gets is going to be pretty good, likely at least $100,000. If the player is greedy, and decides not to take the deal, he has to pick another case (or cases) to open. Here's the thing, he's continuing on with the goal of winning more money, but with each case he opens, it is statistically much more likely that he will eliminate a large amount rather than a small amount, which would tend to lower the offer of the deal, because there's less money in play. But at the same time he is lowering the sample pool, and there for increasing the odds that his case holds the $1,000,000. So, when does one take the deal? When does one not? Are there times when it's statistically more logical to continue on, and times when it's not? I imagine that the formula to determine this could get pretty complicated, assuming that the banker is using a similar mathmatical formula to calculate his offers

A second thing I've thought about is how the banker comes up with his offer. I'm betting that they are calculated based on a combination of statistical and psycological analysis. Statistically, there are times when it's probably in the banker's interest to keep the player in the game, and times when it's better to get them out, and that all figures into how much the banker offers the player.

Posted by: jw | September 20, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Obviously "Let's Make A Deal" was too mentally challenging, which is why we now have "Deal or No Deal". I'd like to see an statistical analysis of at what percentage of the top prize should you take the cash. Stoned math majors are right now drafting their thesis abstract.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 20, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

What jw said.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 20, 2006 3:55 PM | Report abuse

jw, the "Deal or No Deal" problem is also discussed on the Wiki page on the Monty Hall Problem (I'm so much of a geek, I read the page all the way to the end). According to Wiki (the logic seems correct to me), the best option, given the games rules assumptions described for the problem, is to stay with your original pick until you're down to only two left, then switch.

Posted by: Dooley | September 20, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

thanks for the tips wilbrod, and like i said, 250 lbs seemed like an awful lot of dog to me, too. just checked the all-knowing wikipedia, and the average weight ranges of even st. bernards and mastiffs top out at 200 pounds.

And it did take a minute to wrap my brain around this problem, but i got it now. guess i better find out more about deal or no deal and get to work on that.

Posted by: sparks | September 20, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Loomis writes: "What is it about being on-camera that makes people loco in la cabeza?"

C'mon, everybody wants their 15 minutes.


Posted by: bc | September 20, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Mudge..typically, this stuff is veep duties. But if the options are send Cheney or send Laura, and you're hoping for a positive response, wouldn't you send her too?

Posted by: LostInThought | September 20, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of the old bait-and-switch . . . I thought this kit was billed in advance as being about an Arianna Huffington book party? :-)

I was in Los Angeles on business a few years ago and, through a series of events each *one* of which was laughable in its implausibility, ended up "chez Arianna." It was also a book party. For Gore Vidal, but I went anyway. I was excited to be included, as you might imagine, and did what any polite small-town Southern woman would do: brought a bottle of wine for the hostess. What a dolt. I just had no idea what I was doing. It was like taking a casserole in a covered dish to the Playboy Mansion. Live and learn. Definitely one of the most surreal experiences in a lifetime that has seen its share.

Anyway, I loved "Let's Make a Deal." But to me, the most interesting part was always when Monty decided to mix it up even more, and give people (once they had seen one goat and made up their mind whether to switch doors), the *additional* option of just forgetting the whole thing and taking the $50 from Monty's pocket. (I guess it would be around $500 or so in today's dollars.)

That never made sense to me, even as a little kid. My thinking was: "Hey, they're grown-ups. They can always go out and make $50 some other way, but only on Let's Make a Deal do they stand *any* chance of an all-expenses trip to Panama."

My first exposure to one of the truths of the human condition: Some people play it safe, some are risk-takers, some don't recognize when there's no real downside, and some have an unnatural aversion to goats.

Posted by: annie | September 20, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Also from the Wiki page:

"Despite similarity in their names, the game used in the Monty Hall problem is not related to three-card Monte."

Posted by: Dooley | September 20, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

He is Canadian.

The answer comes down to point of view. What if you wanted goats? What happens then to your chances? Obviously they get better. Then what does Monty do?

Posted by: dr | September 20, 2006 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, wouldn't it be interesting if Lady MacBush were *really* the brains behind it all?

Not Cheney, not Rove, not the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (ha!).

"Out, damned spot! Out, I say!"

Hmph. That scenario does not end well.


Posted by: bc | September 20, 2006 4:04 PM | Report abuse

One advantage to not being mathematically minded is that I can read Joel's explanation, say "Hey, that makes sense", and be perfectly happy. No preconcieved notions to overturn, and yes, I did take statistics in college, most unwillingly. I always found the Monty Hall show faintly ridiculous, as I couldn't understand why those grownups were acting with so little self-respect or common sense; but then I'm not a risk-taker and thus didn't grasp the thrill of the whole thing.

Apparently I've decided to ration periods as well.

I haven't seen Deal or No Deal (or American Idol, or Survivor, or 24, or West Wing, or basically anything but cartoons and The Simpsons so don't talk to me about popular culture), probably because I just don't find any aspect of gambling interesting. I do like to look at the horses in horse racing. I just don't care about the race.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 20, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Gimme Gene Rayburn any day.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 20, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Sparks, just remember:

Deal: The dog comes to you, he gets rewarded.
No Deal: the dog goofs around.

That Wiki analysis is a good analysis, and it is correct with the parameters AS GIVEN. Not a sure bet, no.

Of course if you really want a goat more than a car, pick door 3 ;).

If you don't want any goats, don't pick the door that is thudding against its lock or has faint baaaah sounds behind it.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 20, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

thanks for the tips wilbrod, and like i said, 250 lbs seemed like an awful lot of dog to me, too. just checked the all-knowing wikipedia, and the average weight ranges of even st. bernards and mastiffs top out at 200 pounds. (also, when do most dogs stop growing? lucky has been 65 pounds for about 2.5 months now)

And it did take a minute to wrap my brain around this problem, but i got it now. guess i better find out more about deal or no deal and get to work on that.

Ok, movable type tried to eat my post, but the back button saved it. in the mean time, i did some reading on wikipedia, and apparently no strategy whatsoever can help you in deal or no deal:

Posted by: sparks | September 20, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Annie, I'm going to do a column on the Arianna book and the book party. Sorry about the bait and switch.

Posted by: Achenbach | September 20, 2006 4:22 PM | Report abuse

ok, movable type TRICKED me into thinking it had eaten my post, so i reposted it, with editing, but the original post is still there, and, to top it off, someone else beat me to posting the wiki explanation to deal or no deal. BAH!

Posted by: sparks | September 20, 2006 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Oh I agree heartily that sending Laura is infinitely better than sending Shotgun Dick to the UN, LiT. I'm just quibbling with the WaPo headline writer who felt the need to upgrade MC-ing a seminar and doing some hand-shaking and baby-kissing into "a major foreign policy role."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 4:26 PM | Report abuse

...and this just in: fossilhunters have announced the find of "Lucy's baby," a virtually complete fossil of a 3-year-old girl who probably drowned in a flash flood. It is the oldest (3 to 3.8 million years) as well as most complete humanoid fossil ever found.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, you are my kind of a lady. I don't do popular culture either. You know what? I don't care at all, and it hasn't hurt me at all...

Posted by: Slyness | September 20, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, it drives my family nuts.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 20, 2006 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I feel compelled to add here that goats are pretty good when they're prepared properly.

Scottynuke, Gene Sideburn?

Hmm. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I 'spect you'd have some competition from Charles Nelson Reilly, though.


Posted by: bc | September 20, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Padouk, my wife is, too (always right, I mean). *sigh*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Wormhole alert! My 4:54 was posted after--and obviosuly in response to--Padouk's 4:56.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Mudge...I'm with you on the Laura thing. Maybe the headline writer's dream job is being a cog in the spin machine. But you're right..we can assume that he'd label us as gourmet chefs, based solely on the mac & cheese recipes the other day.

Posted by: LostInThought | September 20, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

My wife agrees with the Wiki solution.
My wife has a master's degree in statistics.
My wife is always right.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 20, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I had actually never heard of "Deal or No Deal" until I saw it today in the Wiki article--it took me a minute to figure out what they were talking about.

I was sitting in the waiting room at the ophthalmologist's office the other day, and they had "Price is Right" blasting away on a TV. My first thought was "Bob Barker's still around? He's older than "Mudge!" (I admit I knew who Bob Barker was, but only after they announced him on the show.)

After the nurse called me back (you could hear the show through the closed exam room door), she said "The Price is Right has been on 35 years! Isn't that amazing?" I responded that I was, in fact, completely amazed that it was still on after 35 years, but the irony was lost on her.

Posted by: Dooley | September 20, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Let's Make a Deal is the main game show I remember from when I was a kid, along with The Price Is Right. Other than the It's A New Car! the most attractive prize was in fact the goat. Furniture? Booooring.

Pop culture is my Nemesis at Trivial Pursuit as well.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 20, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I'm so proud; my humble e-mail created an Achenblog entry. I'll say again what I said to Mr. Achenbach - bring back "Why Things Are!"

Posted by: Vosh | September 20, 2006 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, my kids love me anyway. At least, that's what they tell me.

They do find me useful, however, to perform such tasks as sewing on buttons and hemming pants, which are lost skills.

Posted by: Slyness | September 20, 2006 5:05 PM | Report abuse

SoC...there's no way you're going to convince me that you do anything other than kick butt at trivial pursuit. But to increase your odds in the pop culture category...guess Jerry Springer or Amy Fisher (Mary Pickford on the genus edition).

Posted by: LostInThought | September 20, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Pshaw! Why, I remember when the prize hidden behind Door Number 2 was a tumbril.

(And we were darned glad to have one, too! No, wait, that's a different routine. Never mind.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 5:11 PM | Report abuse

In Simon Reeve's "One Day in September," I seem to recall a TBS incident, but I'm not sure of the details anymore. Does someone have a copy of the book? It had to do with a Palestinian terrorist plot to shoot down Golda Meir's plane as it headed for a landing in Italy. There was more than one missle platform. Israeli security managed to nab one guy as the plane was approaching, and they beat a confession out of him about where the other guy was. They got to this other guy just in time, and prevented the shooting down of the plane. Well, this is what I remember. Any corrections or comments? The "Transporter code XJL" answer would be to say that Meir's plane should have been diverted. But what if communications were disabled?

Oh, and how about the child abductor scenario? Some guy kidnaps a child and puts him in a locked box with no food or water. He is captured by the police. He admits to the abduction, and tells the police that the child will surely die without his help, and taunts the police by telling them that they can do nothing to him to force a confession. This is a TV drama staple. For kicks, let's say that we know that this is the guy not only because of his confession but also because he was caught with the dead body of another victim in the trunk of the car he was driving, and he has in his possession, the personal effects of the still living victim. What do you do? I'm with McCain on opposition to torture. It's too unreliable and prone to abuse. What do you do in these TBS situations?

Torture may be a slippery slope, but we deal with slippery slope situations all the time. Some argue that banning automatic rifles is the first step to banning all firearms and then the enslavement of the American people. Some might even argue that rescuing a known imperialist power like France during WWII, along with its colonies, was a slippery slope that led finally to their support of the Hutus during the Rwandan massacre; well, sometimes you really do slide down that slope. Life sucks.

Posted by: kt | September 20, 2006 5:11 PM | Report abuse

The ScienceSpouse and I argued (cheerfully) about Marilyn's solution, back when she first published it. Originally, I opposed Marilyn's reasoning, but I became persuaded. I finally persuaded the ScienceSpouse by working out every possible combination of outcomes, enumerating the cases in which the prize is good vs. silly. It was not unlike figuring out quantum mechanical probabilities..

Monty's choice is not truly stochastic, because his choice of a door to open is dependent upon your choice. Marilyn is right, much as it pained me to admit it. Of course, my wife didn't REALLY believe the answer until Joel's Why Things Are column addressed it.

Marilyn would do a great service if she published more stuff like that -- rational answers to problems that people really think about -- rather than the stupid brain-teasers that she usually entertains. She also likes to answer all those questions in which people ask her about something that requires wisdom, not problem-solving horsepower. She's smart, yes; but God does not whisper in her ear more loudly than anyone else's (that can be a metaphoric God, if you prefer). She usually bails out of it in some way.

The Monty Hall problem, in its specific form, does not come up very often for anyone. But the idea that someone will try to manipulate you into taking a bad deal -- that comes up all the time. The Monty Hall problem, as posed, is a demonstration of how to solve a recognizable human-behavior problem through rational analysis. It would be nice if Marilyn would use her pulpit to provide more of that.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 20, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

LiT, my stock answer for any pop culture question pre-1960 that I don't otherwise know is Jimmy Stewart (he's like "B" in multiple choice).

So I read JA's article again. The main problem I have with the stated theory is that "Monte will always show a goat" is incorrect. Wasn't that actually quite rare? I recall it was mostly cash offers in the alternative. If you can't incorporate that premise, and other offers aside, then the situation is more accurately a new game with 50/50 odds. For one's psychological health you should always stick with your first choice.

Deal or No Deal reminds me of work, with me as the banker, with the added complication of having to convince my client of my analysis.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 20, 2006 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Uh oh, kt, REALLY wish you hadn't referenced "imperial" France and then linked it to Rwanda massacre.

RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!! The bunker is open for business!! Bring playing cards and flashlight batteries! We've got maybe 2, 3 minutes tops!!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 5:19 PM | Report abuse

TBS? Turner Broadcasting System? The abbreviation escapes me.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 20, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim -- "TBS" = "ticking bomb scenario," a hypothetical (whose degree of farfetchedness is a subject of disagreement among the boodle) for debating whether torture is *ever* justifiable.

Posted by: annie | September 20, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Sorry. I know the sign says, "Do not tease the bears," but something cussed in me enjoys hearing them growl.

Posted by: kt | September 20, 2006 5:30 PM | Report abuse

*quietly sneaks into the bunker and keeps her mouth shut*

Posted by: mo | September 20, 2006 5:31 PM | Report abuse

ticking bomb scenario

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Stole acronym from somebody's yesterday post. TBS = Ticking Bomb Scenario.

Posted by: kt | September 20, 2006 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Wait a second, it was the Germans, and later the "rapacious Belgians" [hey, I'm just quoting Wiki] that were the colonial powers in Rwanda:

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 20, 2006 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, thanks for that link to the Lucy's Baby story. Here's a key quote from Potts at Smithsonian:

"This confirms the idea that human evolution was not some straight line going from ape to human," said Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution. "The more we discover, the more we realize that different parts evolve at different times, and some of these experiments of early evolution had a combination of human-like and ape-like features."

Posted by: Achenbach | September 20, 2006 5:35 PM | Report abuse

SciTim: Ticking bomb scenario. Check yesterday's boodle for details.

the bane of my trivial pursuit life is sports and leisure. all i know about the SL category is if it's boxing, answer max schmeling.

I was once playing trivial pursuit with a teacher at my high school whose team had beaten mine in the annual trivial pursuit tournament. I got all my wedges and got to the center, but he picked sports and leisure, and i got it wrong. when he picked up his remaining two wedges and got to the center, i picked sports and leisure, and the question was "what kind of shoe enjoyed a 10% increase in sales in every year of the 1980's?" What the hell kind of trivial pursuit question is that? it's a sports and leisure question! what are they gonna answer, penny loafers?

Posted by: sparks | September 20, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Well of course different parts evolve at different speeds. Detached earlobes didn't come about until someone thought of drop earrings (which would have looked just silly on an ape).

Posted by: LostInThought | September 20, 2006 5:42 PM | Report abuse

The MHP is important because it is related to something called Bayesian Analysis, which is a type of statistics concerned with all of the possible outcomes of a scenario. For example, let's say you had a big book of dog pictures, and you wanted to identify a stray. One way would be to flip through until you found a picture that looked pretty much like the stray, yell "That's it!" and stop. And if you did that your odds of being right might be pretty good -unless- there are lots of other dog pics that also kinda looked like the stray. In that case you could very easily be wrong. The optimal way is to look at every picture and actively exclude all the others.
Replace the dog book with mug-shots and you see why this is important.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 20, 2006 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I used to think the trickiest part of Trivial Pursuit was remembering not to phrase your answer in the form of a question.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 20, 2006 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I had a very very very busy day today. I check in to engage in some frivolous banter and I'm instead confronted with the Monty Hall problem. This makes my brain bleed. I'm leaving for the day and I'm taking my skate keys with me. So there.

Posted by: CowTown | September 20, 2006 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Right, RD. Here I was ready to escape and you tempt me to talk shop instead. "Eyewitness" identifications are disturbingly unreliable, especially when they are from a mug shot book. Subtle differences in pictures (the only one by a fence, the only one with a mustache) can catch a viewer's eye, distracting them from the real ID question. Victims are more reliable, if they have a good view during the crime, as many have more incentive to pay attention. Not always, though. I did a case where a young clean-cut black man only robbed old white ladies because, he explained, he thought they couldn't tell the difference among black men and wouldn't be able to ID him. He was mostly right, too.
The problem with the mug shot ID situation is it won't occur to the person looking at pictures to identify one then say hey, I'd better look at all the rest just to be sure. Unless, of course, they didn't pick the right person, in which case the attendant officer may suggest they keep looking just to be sure.

Okay, escaping now.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 20, 2006 5:53 PM | Report abuse

RDP, can you suggest a good technical resource to learn about Bayesian analysis? I've seen it referenced in many places, and I have developed a reasonably good idea (I think) of its analytical strategy. However, I'd like some guidance on the state of the art in actually implementing it.

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 20, 2006 5:55 PM | Report abuse

SciTim - I have some good references at work. I'll send them to you tomorrow. Of course, my primary authority for all things mathematical is my in-house statistician.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 20, 2006 6:10 PM | Report abuse

On Trivial Pursuit--we always stumped my former stepmother with science questions when she got to the center--she's pretty much science-illiterate. Then, one time, her science question was "What city is called 'The Windy City'?" Are you kidding me?

Posted by: Dooley | September 20, 2006 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't play trivial pursuit anymore because no one will play it with me. They don't like losing and I can't help myself. Number 2 son is good, but he 24, he is a little shy on historical references. He is ripening nicely though. This is probably the one crowd where I would lose TP on a regular basis, but would be honoured to do so.

I read the Lucy baby story, did anyone note the name of the scientist? A rather unfortunate name, but Gene would love it.

Posted by: dr | September 20, 2006 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Post those refs on the blog, RD. I also need to sharpen my knowledge of Bayesian analysis as well.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 20, 2006 6:36 PM | Report abuse

SCC, "but he is 24,"

And the story I refer to is the CNN version. His name is in the WaPo peice but its a little further down the page.

Posted by: dr | September 20, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse

But SofC, scroll down to the second to the last section of the wikipedia article entitled, "Charges of Revisionism." The bonus materials with the Hotel Rwanda DVD has information about French army involvement, described here:
Google searching on Rwanda and France pulls up some mainstream European media information.

Posted by: kt | September 20, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse

kt, I highly recommend that you read Romeo Dallaire's book, 'Shake Hands with the Devil'. It provides a really strong clear picture of what went wrong in Rwanda. It was not just the French, it was the entire UN, it systems, its policies and a whole lot more. It was all of us.

Posted by: dr | September 20, 2006 6:56 PM | Report abuse

The following points to a PDF file that has a pretty good explanation of Bayesian Statistics that doen't require a math degree to follow:

I don't like the Wiki article on Bayesian, but take a quick look at the article on "Pattern Recognition" to see a lot of interesting real-world examples.

I will post a couple books on the subject tomorrow for the truly masochistic.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 20, 2006 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Padouk, isn't your 5:54 basically just "puppy profiling"? Is that PPC (puppy politically correct)? This is a bad crowd to impugn canine-loving persons.

kt, you just won't leave it alone, will ya? We can't be responsible for what happens if you keep this up! (But secretly loving it, of course).

Tim, perhaps I can help you with Bayesian analsis. First, ya got your Chesapeake and Delaware Baysies. The Chessie is long (180 miles or so), shallow, and not very wide. Yer basic Delaware Bay, on t'other hand, is shaped like a funnel with a tube tied to the end of it. Then ya got yer Massachusetts Bay, yer Bay of Fundy (which instead of going side-to-side or back-and-forth tends to go waaay up, then waaay down. Then there's yer San Francisco Bay, which is where I left my heart adjacent to, and also which I was walkin' with my baby beside, song-wise. Then ya got yer Old Bay Seasoning, not to be confused with yer bay leaves, and ya also got your Beowulf, not to be confused with yer wolfsbane, which can be an herb, a comic book, a movie, one of several novels, or a rock band.

There, I think that pretty much sums up Bayesian analysis. See, that wasn't hard, was it? (It is knowledge like this that has made me 0-for-1,926 in Trivial Pursuit.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 7:06 PM | Report abuse

There's some useful, very general information about Bayesian statistical interpretation here:

This has relevance to the current third most viewed article in PLOS Medicine entitled, "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False." This is an interesting paper most relevant for data mining sorts of studies. Ever wonder why links of various foods with health or disease are claimed one year only to be discarded later? This article helps to explain why this happens. Might make for a good topic for a kit.

The most viewed article in PLoS Medicine, "Eight Americas: Investigating Mortality Disparities across Races, Counties, and Race-Counties in the United States," would also make a good subject for a kit. Startling results. If you're white, your life expectancy is better if you're poor and poorly educated in the northern mid-west or plains states (Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska) than if you're of middle income elsewhere. If you're Asian and living in a county where fewer than 40% are Pacific Islanders, especially if you're female, you're going to outlive everyone in the world. If you live in Baltimore, you're out of luck. Turns out that Baltimore City has the 7th lowest life expectancy of any county in the US (Supporting Information
Dataset S1.). Kind of sad for the home of Johns Hopkins.

Posted by: kt | September 20, 2006 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I was lost a looooong time before this from the Wiki entry. Something I finally understood: "mathematically and semantically not compatible"

I can find a use for this statement.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - and as I am sure you know, once people have committedthemselves to a decision, they are loath to change their mind for fear of looking stupid. That's why automated biometric techniques have such promise. Analytical Algorithms seldom have ego issues.

Now, Analytical Algorithm developers, well, that's another story.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 20, 2006 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I don't like the Wiki article on Bayesian Statistics either. In fact I dislike them all so much, just by reference, that I hereby promise never to read them. I won't even open the link.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 20, 2006 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Mudge- keep it up funny boy and we'll start talking about those Rayleigh tadpoles in the sky again!

kt- those are very interesting links. Thanks!

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 20, 2006 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I like the Bullard .pdf article because it talks about frogs. I like frogs.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 20, 2006 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Which scientist's name do you mean? I see a Dr. Spoor, a Dr. Potts and Zeresenay Alemseged, which if it sounds like anything Weingartensque, I'm missing it.

He's Ethiopian. Nice to see some Africans getting the degree AND the credit for the fieldwork nowadays.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 20, 2006 7:28 PM | Report abuse

My dad is good enough at trivial pursuit that we make him take all his wedges back out again before he can go to the middle. He was on jeopardy about 2 years ago.

i think it would be cool to hold a trivial pursuit BPH.

Posted by: sparks | September 20, 2006 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Sparks, I think Trival pursuit is too structured for a porching hour.

Why don't we just bring our own cards of made-up trivia, or write 'em on the spot, that might be more fun-- (rebuses, puns, etc. allowed).

All we need is index cards and extra pens ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 20, 2006 7:44 PM | Report abuse

dr, I agree with you totally. I'm just baiting the French. It's like in the movie, "Patton," when Patton and his Russian counterpart are celebrating the fall of Berlin with their troops. Patton initially refuses to drink a toast with the Russian general SOB, but agrees readily when the Russian tactfully proposes a toast "from one SOB to another." I toast you, France, from one SOB country to another. We're like siblings, we bicker and hate each other sometimes, but deep down, we are inseparable. The connection runs deeper than friendship.

And superfrenchie, I bear you no ill will. The flak you're getting from others is just the natural defensiveness that people feel about their family or country. For example, you may call your sister ugly, but pity the fool from outside your family that says the same thing. I lived in Japan for a couple years, and I remember the complaining of the Americans that lived there. I bet that was pretty annoying for the Japanese. Back in Hawai'i, we were pretty sensitive to complaining about our beloved state by recent arrivals from the mainland US. This is just a natural reaction. Please don't be offended. I'll only take issue with one thing, please don't try to compare jibes against the French with the tremendous suffering of African Americans. It's not even of the same order of magnitude. Come on now. You're French, you're great. You can take a little abuse. The French are some of the world's most hilarious trash-talkers. Few can equal Gallic dissing power. Watching the French and Italians dis each other is better than the world cup.

mudge, thanks for the Bayesian analysis! Funniest thing I've seen all day.

Posted by: kt | September 20, 2006 7:48 PM | Report abuse

kt, from your link and some looking around I did some more reading on France and Rwanda. Here's a BBC summary of the controversy of French involvment:

The short version is that France supported the Hutus in the years leading up to the genocide.

Here's another link: the French government report on their involvement in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994 (only in French, unfortunately):

I have to say that my general impression hasn't changed that France does more in subsaharan Africa, for the most part for good, than everybody else combined.

Wilbrod, "spoor" is a track or scent. dr is probably referring to it as a term for doe urine, used by hunters to attract bucks.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 20, 2006 7:52 PM | Report abuse

kt, let's not forget, sometimes it IS the world cup. There was a pretty funny comedy goldmine on several weeks ago where they photoshopped the video clip of zidane headbutting that italian guy in the chest.

Posted by: sparks | September 20, 2006 8:00 PM | Report abuse

oh well, wilbrod. I guess it's just as well. I wouldn't want to have incited the second BPH in a week.

I would still like to play trivial pursuit with some of the people here.

Posted by: sparks | September 20, 2006 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I already explained about spooring and why Wilbrod should let me do more of it.

I fell asleep midway, but there's a confusion whether spoor or potts is a more "archaeological" name. for people who dig up bones as a job.

HEY! They do that? That's... WRONG.

We dogs of the world need more jobs with bones!

Posted by: Wilbrodog | September 20, 2006 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, Wilbrodog, not too many jobs call for hiding bones.

*ear scritch*


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 20, 2006 8:26 PM | Report abuse

When they pulled in to the Fair Grounds, they could hear music and see the Ferris wheel turning in the sky. they could smell the dust of the race track where the sprinkling cart had moistened it; and they could smell hamburgers frying and see balloons aloft. They could hear sheep blatting in their pens. An enormous voice over the loudspeaker said: "Attention, please! Will the owner of a Pontiac car, license number H-2439, plese move your car away from the fireworks shed!"
"Can I have some money?" asked Fern.
"Can I, too?" asked Avery.
"I'm going to win a doll by spinning a wheel and it will stop at the right number," said Fern.
"I'm going to steer a jet plane and make it bump into another one."
"Can I have a balloon?" asked Fern.
"Can I have a frozen custard and a cheeseburger and some raspberry soda pop?" asked Avery.
"You children be quiet till we get the pig unloaded," said Mrs. Arable.
"Let's let the children go off by themselves," suggested Mr. Arable. "The Fair only comes once a year." Mr. Arable gave Fern two quarters and two dimes. He gave Avery five dimes and four nickels. "Now run along!" he said. "And remember, the money has to last all day. Don't spend it all the first few minutes. And be back here at the truck at noontime so we can all have lunch together. And don't eat a lot off stuff that's going to make you sick to your stomachs."
"And if you go in those swings," said Mrs. Arable, "you hang on tight! You hang on very tight. Hear me?"
"And don't get lost!" said Mrs Zuckerman.
"And don't get dirty!"
"Don't get overheated!" said their mother.
"Watch out for pickpockets!" cautioned their father.
"And don't cross the race track when the horses are coming!" cried Mrs. Zuckerman.
The children grabbed each other by the hand and danced off in the direction of the merry-go-round, toward the wonderful music and the wonderful adventure and the wonderful excitement, into the wonderful midway where there would be no parents to guard them and guide them, and where they could be happy and free and do as they pleased. Mrs. Arable stood quietly and watched them go. Then she sighed. Then she blew her nose.
"Do you really think it's all right?" she asked.
"Well, they've got to grow up some time," said Mr. Arable." And a fair is a good place to start, I guess."

--E.B. White, Charlotte's Web, pp 130-132


I've been to my share of fairs, but when I looked back over my memories as ivansmom suggested, I found that my most emotionally vivid fair memory was when Fern took Wilbur, with Charlotte and Templeton stowing away in the crate.

[I never saw the animated film of Charlotte's Web, but I recently saw a movie poster for a "coming soon" live action version starring Dakota Fanning. I've been waiting for it.]

Posted by: kbertocci | September 20, 2006 8:27 PM | Report abuse

"Hotel Rwanda" with Don Cheadle is a fantastic movie. Just thought I'd through that out there.

Posted by: tangent | September 20, 2006 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Kber, my younger daughter was about 4 when I let her pop in the Charlotte's Web video and watch it. I went on about my business. When it was over, she flew out of the den and wailed, "Mama! Charlotte DIED!" I hope I was able to comfort her; all I remember is how upset she was over the story.

Posted by: Slyness | September 20, 2006 8:48 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "throw" that out there. (can you scc after 40 mintues?)

Posted by: tangent | September 20, 2006 9:07 PM | Report abuse

I'll play TP, I have plenty of Junk in my Thunk.

I think we'd lose to Mudge though, no matter what he says. He's got what, 1,100, 1,300 years to draw upon?

Re. Lucy's Baby - an individual's life is full of false starts, mistakes, forks in the road, and occasionally fruitless paths followed. Why would life on the macro scale (e.g. evolution) be much different?


Posted by: bc | September 20, 2006 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Wanna play TP for money? (he asked innocently, licking his chops)

I'm in.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 20, 2006 9:27 PM | Report abuse

I won a free ticket to the movie version of "Charlotte's Web" from a radio program. This was very exciting because Mike Lookinland (Bobby) and Christopher Knight (Peter) made a guest appearance. I thought the movie was cute, and, in retrospect, Paul Lynde was clearly born to voice Templeton the Rat, but I always liked the book better. It was one of the first "chapter books" I ever read. Yes, it was sad, but uplifting too. And, being written by EB White, the style was impeccable.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 20, 2006 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Didn't know Potts over at the Smithsonian was a comedian. (I imagine our first ancestors were more like DeVito):

The skeleton offers scientists the first opportunity to examine various parts of the body in a single specimen rather than looking at individual bones from different representatives.

"Before this you didn't know if it was like you might have the arm of a Danny Devito and the leg of a Kareem Abdul Jabar," Potts said. "To be able to look at these individual characteristics in an single individual is just tremendously invaluable."

Posted by: Loomis | September 20, 2006 9:32 PM | Report abuse

I did think that was an interesting scenario.

Chimpanzees have legs more like Devito and the arms of Kareem Abdul Jabar, lengthwise.

To have the reverse scenario outlined above woud strongly argue for extreme bipedalism or at least an ape who liked to swing and walk at the same time-- grab bananas from the tree and the ground at the same time!

Kind of a chimp-giraffee in evolution. Like with all those Dutch in Holland.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 20, 2006 9:33 PM | Report abuse

kt: //I'll only take issue with one thing, please don't try to compare jibes against the French with the tremendous suffering of African Americans.//

I don't compare jibes against the French with the tremendous suffering of African Americans. I compare jibes against the French with jibes against African Americans, which have pretty much disappeared from the public airwaves and discourse, while the former have flourished.

I am also saying that, as political correctness has taken over such public discourse, the former is being used as a substitute for the latter from frustrated racists who can no longer express their hate in the traditional way.

//You can take a little abuse.//

Is a list of "Reasons to hate the French" read on national television "a little abuse"?

It happened yesterday on CNN:

Re Rwanda: Operation Turquoise remains very controversial, both in France and in Rwanda. The Rwandan president refused to receive the French Foreign Minister a couple of years ago. It's very difficult to figure out if we exacerbated the killing, or not. We may very well have.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 20, 2006 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Beck- ewwwwww. Just trash TV.

Anybody who was German-American in WWI (and WWII) would not have found jibes funny, you will understand this especially if you read how Wilson mobilized the country into rampant xenophobia as an civic duty.

I can't imagine not taking any kind of diplomatic conflict or general anti-ethnic opinion seriously if I was aboard working in another country. How do you know what can be ignored and what is the rumblings of more dangerous stuff?

And the word "hate" which is so bandied in connection with the French- well that's not normally part of a joke.
"But I hate clouds." BWAHAHAHAHHAHA.
"Stop it, I can't take any more laughing."

So see SF's perspective. It may seem overreacting to you, but you're not the one dealing with it as a possible danger to yourself, no matter how dim.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 20, 2006 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon -- FYI, you were off by four hours and eighteen (or seventeen) minutes.

My respect for you is in no way diminished, however.

Posted by: annie | September 20, 2006 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Just ignore SF's gauche conduct. After all, the French invented that term for a reason ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 20, 2006 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I read Connelly's chat and figured you might be "Achenburg, Md" - ha! Loomis slipped by me, though. I've never read his books, but will have to add them to the list. If all the books on my reading list were put in one pile, they'd reach the moon.

Fairs - they were the highlight of my existence growing up in Podunk, PA. For the horses, of course - Belgians, Percherons, Clydesdales, harness races, horse shows. And when I was a teenager, for the boys. Our county fair was the week before Labor Day, before school started - last week of freedom and summer - always that cool nip in the air at night.

kb, thanks for that part of Charlotte's Web. At first I thought it was a story by CowTown! I love E.B. White.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 20, 2006 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and the quilts - love looking at the quilts, afghans, etc at fairs. My mom, who was a Home Ec teacher, and I went to many fairs together, and my sister and I did too. And still do, especially if there is harness racing. Last year we went to our hometown county fair - and it looked pretty sad and seedy, compared to my memories.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 20, 2006 10:29 PM | Report abuse

here's an article from the Seattle PI a few days ago, about the French as a "safe target":

Glad you and mo and Annie had a good time at the BPH. Ah, the power of good wine!

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 20, 2006 10:36 PM | Report abuse

mostly, I did see that article. I've been noticing that for a while.

How about in TV shows:

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 20, 2006 10:44 PM | Report abuse

I motored on the Chesapeake Bay and on the San Francisco Bay but never got any analysis; Other than the salt spray in the morning is 'chilly'.

Posted by: bh | September 20, 2006 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Very good SofC. Its so unused as to be almost archaic, but if you read really really old hunting magasines and you lived with a hunter long enough you just know stuff.

Mudge, is gonna kick our butts I just know it. Maybe TP shoudl come with a hanicap for us much younger souls.

Posted by: dr | September 20, 2006 11:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm imagine that some of you have run across the "NTN Trivia" that's played in a fair number of watering holes in the US & Canada.

(For the uninitiated, it's a multiple choice trivia game, played with small portable keyboards by answering trivia questions displayed on TV's, competing against other players within the establishment. At the end of each [approximately 1/2 hour] game, the results are then compared [via satellite/internet hook-up] with the other hundreds/thousands/tens of thousands [depends upon the time of day] of players for that game, and rankings are determined.)

Several years ago, a fairly young guy (who I'd never met before) offered a challenge to play me for money, fairly late in the evening. I was so surprised, that I didn't say anything for a moment, and then the bartender and the two other people sitting near me started laughing out loud.

He asked what was so funny, and at that point I started chuckling a bit, before pointing out that there weren't a lot of people who would want to try to earn their living beating me at trivia games, and especially not that particular trivia game (which I was playing frequently at that point).

We played for small stakes, he lost, we've become friendly acquaintances.

Posted by: Bob S. | September 20, 2006 11:48 PM | Report abuse

Serious part: When you enslave a people, treat them as less than human, segregate them into ghettos, and beat them down, once you sober up, you don't even joke about it. There's been too much pain for ribbing to be appropriate. It would be like Germans telling Jewish jokes. The French, on the other hand, well, I'll let Oliver Stone tell it from the link mostly lurking posted: "Director Oliver Stone, whose "mother was French, adds, "And it helps that they don't complain about it. The French dish it out, but they can take it too. Their arrogance does not mask insecurity. They're confident of their culture and have a long tradition of self-criticism." This is something we respect about the French.

Not serious part: If we can take the Commander Sylvester/Mr. Sylvester and George W. Bush puppet charicatures on "Guignols," which is a very popular program in France, I think that you can take some of the same from Glenn Beck. I work with someone who is French, and he thinks that Americans are a bunch of idiots, and he is not afraid to say so. I think he's great. I agree with him, but think that the French are no different, and I don't except myself from this characterization. You know very well that many of the French love to mock Americans (and North Africans, Germans, Italians, etc.) I doubt that the French are getting any worse than they've been giving. We're new to this game. The British and French have perfected the art of the cross-channel insult. Even better than Monty Python's Holy Grail thing is the episode from BBC's "Chef! season 1" when Lenny Henry's Jamaican British head chef goes to France for an international cooking competition. If you haven't seen it, it's one of the funniest TV episodes I've ever seen. Netflix has it.

Posted by: kt | September 20, 2006 11:52 PM | Report abuse

although a couple days late, i thought someone out there might appreciate this lesson in "how to speak like a pirate":

Posted by: L.A. lurker | September 21, 2006 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Mrs. D., Son of D and I did the Monty Hall experiment tonight (using playing cards). I just couldn't resist.

The results:

When switching (15 repetitions), 10 wins, 5 losses

When not switching (15 repetitions), 4 wins, 11 losses

Posted by: Dooley | September 21, 2006 12:18 AM | Report abuse

woodrow wilson was anti a lot of things, and a lot of people. probably my least favorite president. member of the klan, misogynist, all around just not a very nice guy. plus, he came up with the idea for the UN, which is reason enough to hate him.

Posted by: sparks | September 21, 2006 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Its late in the evening here, and I find myself wondering about american in siam. Smeone asked earlier, and with all the things going on, I am thinking about that person, so far away.

Check in when you can.

Dreamer are you hearing any different news that what we've been getting via bbc, cnn et al?

Posted by: dr | September 21, 2006 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Wasn't it the league of nations that Wilson actually came up with, precursor the UN, which failed at the outset of WW2. but a very interesting perspective.

dooley, you scientist, you. hehehe.

May I enquire, when doing your whale research, do you also look at what may be preserved along with the fossils. For instance, with archaic peoples, you would also look at the pollen, bugs remains, and other soil components. What about whales? What happened to the whales, beached ot other wise?

Just idle questions. Now I really need to go to bed.

Posted by: dr | September 21, 2006 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Everything I've heard about the situation in Thailand is that there hasn't been any violence - hope it stays that way. And yes, it would be good to hear from an american in siam, or any of the other Thailand-based boodlers. Dreamer, too, of course.

Posted by: mostlylurking | September 21, 2006 1:25 AM | Report abuse

dr, when excavating whales, we also look at any associated fossils (for example, sharks, rays, sea turtles, invertebrates, microfossils like diatoms). The invertebrates and microfossils in particular are important for determining environment and age. The sediment (grain size and composition, sedimentary structures) can also be indiciative of environmental conditions.

We can look at invertebrates that were growing on the bones after death (like barnacles), scavenger marks (like shark bites), healed injuries, and the degree of ossification of the bones (which is indicative of the age at time of death).

We also look at how the skeletons are preserved (the taphonomy). Different environments tend to preserve skeletons in different ways--a skeleton from a stranded whale preserves differently from one that died in deep water, for example.

Posted by: Dooley | September 21, 2006 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. I'm up so early, don't know why. Busy day yesterday, did not get a chance to check in on the new kit. Don't watch "Lets Make A Deal" or what's behind door number 1,2,or 3. I'm just getting over "Spongebob" and " The Fairly Odd Parents", "Jimmy Neutron", all that stuff that the g-girl loves and wants me to watch too. I try to watch the news, local and national, and so much of the time that in itself is trying. I like the "Discovery Channel" and I'm just crazy about "Home and Garden Channel", DIY, that kind of stuff. Sometimes watch C-SPAN late at night and PBS.

RD, your take on the fair was beautiful. I could see myself there.

Ivansmom, your description was exceptional, so many details and all that fun.

I hope american in siam and dreamer are okay.

sonofcarl, I read the samuelson op-ed piece too. He seems to put everybody in one box. All are out for their fifteen minutes of fame. I'm sure some folks are, but like everything in this life, there are exceptions to the rule. During the Imperial Disaster here in my town, the media was all over the place. I think it frightened a lot of the people, plus it got to be tiring. Everywhere one turned there was a camera with someone asking a question. These folks were at the hospital asking questions, which I can understand, that's their job to ask questions, and to do it well. It's just when people are in shock, it is kinda hard to relate to a camera, and even harder to understand the question. I am a shy person, and I headed up the group that responded to the disaster, and I just couldn't get used to the camera. Got so tied tongue, just froze up real bad. Plus there was a lot of anger about the situation because of the race issue surrounding it all. Just a real bad time for a small town, and those that lost loved one.

Pat, haven't been out yet, on my way. Have a good day folks, and know in your very being that God loves you so much more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

KB, Charlotte's Web is on cable this month. The video is so sad, and I'm not sure children will understand it too well. It seems to be fitted for adults.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 21, 2006 6:01 AM | Report abuse

kt: //I work with someone who is French, and he thinks that Americans are a bunch of idiots, and he is not afraid to say so. [...] You know very well that many of the French love to mock Americans//

Sure, you will find individuals doing this in both countries. The difference is that in the US it is done in the national media. Look all you want, but I'll challenge you to find anywhere in the French press anything remotely comparable to "Reasons to hate America". Or web sites dedicated to hating the French, advocating their death and rejoicing when it happens, such as fu** It just doesn't exist.

I would go even further: even in the American press will you never find anything comparable to it: if someone were to do a piece titled "I hate Mexicans", or even "I hate Iranians", the reaction would be swift, and he would lose his job the next minute.

There is no expression of hate on Les Guignols. Parody, yes, but no hate. Or else they would hate the French just as much, as Mr. Sylvestre is ribbed along just about every other French personality. For more on this, read here:

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 21, 2006 6:08 AM | Report abuse

Indeed, mostlylurking -- from what I can gather the coup in Thailand was actually welcome in many respects, and the situation there is peaceful. The TV news I saw when the coup first happened showed people wandering out onto the streets in their pyjamas to see what was going on -- curious, but not fearful. One man who was interviewed said he wasn't concerned about violence, as the Thais are a peaceful people. This has happened before, and although coups are not good as far as democracy, stability of government, the value of the currency, etc., are concerned, a coup in Thailand is not to be feared at the same level as coups in some other countries. Things are by no means chaotic.

So I don't think we need to worry about an american in siam -- not for that reason at least. (I think aais stopped posting regularly well before the coup, right?)

Maybe this will make y'all feel better:

Posted by: Dreamer | September 21, 2006 6:26 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra my girls have read and watch the Charlottes Web video. The video they have watched many times, it is sad but you would be surprised how well children do understand the message.

Posted by: dmd | September 21, 2006 6:59 AM | Report abuse

Just for the record, the clown who came up with the "reasons to hate the French" is Glen Beck, a rightwing ------ most of us on this boodle would inherently despise anyway. His list:

Zidane head butting Materazzi
a bérêt
a Frog
the Eiffel Tower
Hitler posing in front of the Eiffel Tower
French's Mustard
Fire from riot, burning car
Creamy French Dressing by Kraft
more paté
Roman Polanski
a mime
Gauloise cigarettes
Riot police in gear
Gérard Depardieu
Unidentified actress [apparently these were visuals]
Jerry Lewis
Gauloises again
Unidentified actor
Renault car
Another mime
a picture of Jacques Chirac.

French's mustard. That's what some people with ZERO sense of humor are getting all bent out of shape about. And mimes. Jeez.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 21, 2006 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, why am I not surprised that you had a role in the response to the Imperial fire? I had wondered if you knew anybody involved, but I'm sure you did. The criminal stupidity of that company still amazes me. How much more profitable would they have been if they treated their employees like human beings, instead of animals to be locked in?

Posted by: slyness | September 21, 2006 7:30 AM | Report abuse

SciTim (and whoever else might be interested)

The best way to learn Bayesian Statistics is to pick an area like drug testing or biometrics and dig into it. A good book of this type is "Forensic Speech Identification" by Philip Rose (2002 Taylor & Francis).

Hardcore Signals people swear by this new book "The Variational Bayes Method in Signal Processing" by Smidl and Quinn (Springer 2006). I tend to swear at it because it is very mathematically dense. Pages 13 to 22, though, are useful to get the flavor of the theory.

Finally, I am currently plowing through a very comprehensive treatment memorably entitled "Markov Chain Monte Carlo Stochastic Simulation for Bayesian Inference" by Dani Gamerman and Hedibert F. Lopes. (2006 Taylor and Francis) It is pretty dense, but has a lot of good problems and examples. Plus, it looks really impressive on your bookshelf.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 21, 2006 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Mudge: //French's mustard. That's what some people with ZERO sense of humor are getting all bent out of shape about. And mimes. Jeez.//

No. It's the word "Hate".

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 21, 2006 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Morning, all...

How could I have forgotten my most important fair connection??? My retired father's pastime is video production, and he just happens to spend his retirement in the small Maine town that boasts a very large fair, for which he is the semi-official videographer. I've spent a time or two manning the cameras for him.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Here's the REAL Monty Hall problem: Let's Make A Deal has been off the air for about a hundred years now, and I will never have a chance to win a car OR a goat.
On the plus side, I no longer have to carry a bizarre assortment of household items in my pockets in case I bump into him.

Posted by: byoolin | September 21, 2006 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Fairs, check out this website sponsored by the Puyallup Fair, of which I have so many strong memories. Be sure to click on the History Balloon. I think it explains a lot as to how I ended up the way I am.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 21, 2006 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Here's a nice bit from the Boston Globe, about Peter Gammons' return, that the journalists among us can appreciate:

In all, after nearly 10 hours of surgery, a month of hospitalization, and weeks of work at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Cape and Islands, it seems, says the 61-year-old Gammons, as if little had changed with him or around him.

``Hey, I'm not [Joe] DiMaggio coming back in '49 or Ted [Williams] coming back from Korea. I'm still an ink-stained wretch and proud of it," said Gammons, who began his sportswriting career as a Globe intern in the summer of 1969.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Pat, missed the sky report yesterday, babysitting (not very) sick grandchild and trying to keep both of us from dying of boredom in a house where the toys are inaccessible behind boxes of kitchen stuff and where my tiny childrens' video and DVD collection held no appeal. The sky this morning is a gorgeous allmost-autumn blue and the air is clean and clear.
No hard boiled eggs yet, but did have dinner at #2 daughter's last night. Steak tips and fresh caught sea bass on the grill, yum. Also spent quality time with the grand-dog, 150+ pounds of Great Dane. She has more personality than some people I know.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | September 21, 2006 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Couple of quick updates:

Atlantis landed safely this AM. Yay!
I'm going to post something on my blog on that this AM.

Tony Kornheiser
and Smithsonian Scientist Rick Potts (in Rob Stein's article)
take shots at Danny DeVito this AM. Coincidence?


Posted by: bc | September 21, 2006 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Pat sky is a beautiful fall blue this morning, but even better some of the leaves have just started to change. Its only a small percent and that is my favorite time, with everything so green this year the early yellows and reds stand out beautifully in against the clear blue sky and the vibrant greens, plus we haven't even come close to a frost yet so all the flowers are still blooming.

Hope everyone has a great day, glad the space shuttle landed safely.

Posted by: dmd | September 21, 2006 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Loomis pointed out that Potts shot last night, that's a bit of a BOO on me.

Dog update: my friend's dog is doing well after going back to the vet Tuesday night.
No fractures found, and the wounds are healing nicely, and she's scheduled to go back to the vet's on Saturday to have the stints removed. The larger of the attacking dogs (a Rottweilier, I'm sorry to say, mo) was caught running loose and is being held at the local animal control center. The other dog, an Akita, remains at large (or is being kept out of sight by the owners).


Posted by: bc | September 21, 2006 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Here's a potential waste of your tax dollars, a proposal to study the feasability of building a fence on the Canada/US border. While increased security may be required, even bothering to spend money on looking at what is would costs to build a fence along the border seem a pure waste of money.

Posted by: dmd | September 21, 2006 9:00 AM | Report abuse

yeah, dr, it was the league of nations that wilson came up with, but just because you call it something else the second time you try it doesn't make it not the same thing.

actually, beck kinda has a point with the mimes. i don't see why gauloises are any more detestable than any other brand of cigarettes though. in fact, i'd say they're much better than the vast majority of american brands, and i don't even smoke.

Posted by: sparks | September 21, 2006 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Since we are in buckshot mode I wanted to issue a public service announcement. French fries should be chewed. I learned that my 75 year old father, who was recently fitted with false teeth, nearly asphyxiated himself on poorly chewed French fries at the Puyallup Fair. He is fine, but clearly, French fries should be ranked up there with pretzels as a dangerous snack.

Hmm, fairs, the French, dangerous snack foods.

It's all starting to make sense now.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 21, 2006 9:04 AM | Report abuse

I think the timing is right.

Where is the outpouring of grief on the five year anniversary for those Americans who lost their lives from the nation's anthrax attacks--from Florida to Connecticut? And will we observe the five-year anniversary, when it arrives, of those people who died after agreeing to be inoculated with the smallpox vaccine? Or is Howie Kurtz's theory of "the numbers game" operative--the smaller the number, the less our caring and emotional involvement.

I have seen only one article about the anthrax or the attacks with the anthrax bacterium five years after they occurred--Eric Lipton's Sept. 18 reporting in the NYT, "Bid to Stockpile Drugs Stymied by Setbacks."

Where is the grief? Where are President and Mrs. Bush laying a wreath?

Posted by: Loomis | September 21, 2006 9:05 AM | Report abuse

The Face on Mars! Clearly carved by an advanced Martian civilization. Or by wind.

Posted by: Achenbach | September 21, 2006 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Re Gauloises: they have less than a 10% market share in France. The best-selling cigarette in France is Marlboro, an American brand. Also, Gauloises are manufactured in Spain.

For info, 12 countries in Europe smoke more than the French. The people of Tennessee and Kentucky also smoke more than the French.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 21, 2006 9:22 AM | Report abuse


What, no evidence of methane-centric terraforming on Mars?


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Clearly I lack imagination as I only saw the "face" in the first picture and only after looking for a while.

Posted by: dmd | September 21, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Clearly I have *too much* imagination, because just under the human "face" in the first picture, I see a gecko face.

Posted by: Achenfan | September 21, 2006 9:46 AM | Report abuse

[Actually, I think I meant the third picture, not the first. And the more I look, the more faces I see. I think at least one of them is an alien.]

[The human brain can construct a face out of just about anything, right?]

Posted by: Achenfan | September 21, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm several days later on the torture input:

In March 2002, U.S. operatives captured Abu Zubaydah in Faisalbad. During the assualt on the house where Zubaydah and his team were staying, one of Zubaydah's men grabbed an AK-47 and began firing, accidentally hitting Zubaydah in the leg, stomach and groin. The government arranged for the finest U.S. physicians to take flights to Pakistan and treat Zubaydeh for internal bleeding, a fracture, and organ damage in April and May. By mid-May the U.S. would begin torturing Zubaydah, who turned out to be mentally disturbed.

During the March 27 raid, U.S. agents had nabbed computers, disks, notebooks and phone books. As agents went through the material they collected, they assumed that the prize would be Zubaydah's top-secret diary, that dated back over 10 years. What the agents found as they began to sift through the data was that there was almost nothing "operational" in Zubaydah's portfolio. Zubaydah wrote about "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they page after page. Zudaydah was a logistics man, a fixer, mostly for a niggling array of personal items, like the guy you call who handles the company's health plan, or benefits,or people in human resources."

Stranger yet, Zubaydah wrote in the voice of three people who were each separated by a decade in age: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3. Each Hani had a different voice and personality.

Officials told the FBI that Zubaydah was "insane, cerifiable, split personality." The opinion was echoed at the top of the CIA snd briefed to the president and vice President. Yet, Bush was out in public claiming Zubaydah's grandiose malevolence. For months afterward, Bush, Cheny and national security advisor Rice would relentlessly oversell Zubaydah's position as the "number three" to bin Laden, knowing full well that that was a grossly overstated exaggeration.

Zubaydah wouldn't talk and his capture had already been oversold to the U.S. public. The first application of the new rules relaxing prohibitions on torture, formulated by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and issued in January 2002--that the Geneva Conventions regarding prisoners of war caught by the U.S. did not apply in the treatment of detainees caught in Pakistan--were first applied to Zubaydah.

Even though Bush and Cheny knew the intel, knew that Zubaydah had psychological problems, they considered Zubaydah expendable.

As told by Ron Suskind in his 2006 book, "The One Percent Doctrine," in Chapter Three, "Necessity's Offspring."

From the Washington Post's review of Suskind's book:

Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

Posted by: Loomis | September 21, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Bush Administration solves Global Warming via technology:

Posted by: Achenbach | September 21, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse


Martians need insurance too, you know.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

What is disturbing about the Cydonia "face" is not so much the original Viking image, which only kindasorta looks like a face, but the extreme attempts true believers have undertaken to "enhance" it. Although I desperately hoped new images that clearly reveal the plateau to be a natural feature would quell this tendency, I fear it has not. As a quick Google search will reveal, there are still people who shamelessly abuse image processing to force this feature into a human face. The lesson here is that with enough motivation you can extract a meaningful pattern from just about anything.
How I wish this tendency were limited to the interpretation of topographic features on Mars.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 21, 2006 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Come back when you find an image of the Virgin Mary on Mars.

Posted by: kt | September 21, 2006 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I think I'm going to agree with what RDP will say in a moment...


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

And don't forget the "happy face" on Mars, and the Martian "heart":

Posted by: Achenfan | September 21, 2006 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Richard Hoagland is Mr. Face on Mars. I met him when researching Captured by Aliens. From a single windblown Martian hill an imaginative person can construct the most elaborate of narratives:

Posted by: Achenbach | September 21, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Test comment... :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

SHEESH!!! First the wormhole tricks me into thinking I can anticipate RDP's comment, then it eats several follow-ups!

*pulling hair*


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Aren't we being a bit earthnocentric in assuming that face the Martians obviously carved on Mars is a human earthling face? Maybe it's a Neptunian face. Or the face of a "Gray" from Proxima Caccitore or wherever the heck it is. Or the face of either a very revered or very ugly Martian leader. Or Ann Coulter? There's no reason I can see to think it's necessarily supposed to be a human.

Or maybe they're just lousy stonecarvers.

Just sayin'.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 21, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Dmd, that is moronic. A fence on the US-Canada border? That sounds like guvmint pork, because anybody can look at the maps and see why it won't work.

Other than the sheer distance of the border, there be a lot of lakes, rivers, etc. crossing the border. I'd like to see a fence on a lake.

We might as well just fence off New York City's harbor, put it out to sea a mile or so, and only admit registered boats inside the boundaries. So the sea's a mite deep, honey, the Great Lakes ain't shallow and they are the world's largest source of fresh drinking water, I'm dodged if I'll let anybody put chainlink in it.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 10:05 AM | Report abuse


I think you need to speak to Mr. Hoagland about him paying some substantial licensing fees for his ongoing use of variations on "tangent."


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I hear you Wilbrod, I have been trying to find an estimate of how many illegal immigrants would cross the border, but cannot locate a viable source. One of the bigger issues between the two countries right now is around border issues, necessity of passports/ID cards. The economic implications to a requirement for passports/ID cards for us is very large, less so for the US although border communities/states will feel the impact.

I think your border control is doing fine, they held my husband for a half hour last week, turns out they were looking for someone with the same name.

FYI at its deepest Lake Superior is 1,332 ft, that is one long fence post!!

Posted by: dmd | September 21, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Nevertheless, wilbrod, I do think we have to take serious steps in keeping those darn Canucks out of "our" country. They are taking away hundreds of jobs from American comedians.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 21, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Canadian comedians, (Mudge if you lived here you would understand why we need to laugh), saw a review of the new Chris Guest movie with Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara, set at the Oscars. If you liked Best in Show (I did), it will be enjoyable.

Posted by: dmd | September 21, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

I take offense at the mimes crack, Sparks. I'm tired of mime-bashing myself, which has been going on much longer than french-bashing. Not all mimes work in greasepaint for one. Bill Irwin doesn't, Red Skelton didn't. Mind you, Robin Williams got his start as the most annoying mime on earth.

I just hope this is intended to be humor. With some people you don't know.

Why do I care? Hell, I don't want to be beaten up for gesturing or miming in public to get an idea through a dense person's skull.
Freedom of speech should mean freedom to gesture.

And no, the french did not invent mime. They did transform mime and dance into Ballet though. Pantomime has been around since classical times. The Greeks enjoyed mimed scenes with a chorus.

Mime artists were called Phylakes and could be either male or female. Rome fell, but mimes were in courts all over Europe. By then they were called mimus or saltator (jumpers, probably incorporating acrobatics).

British style pantomime is descended from the roman fibula riciniata. Heck, the Emperor Justanian married Theodora, a former Mima. The moonwalk and other breakdancing moves were borrowed from mime.

Charlie Chaplin was a mime artist. Duh. When hollywood went to sound, a lot of deaf actors lost their jobs. There are some deaf performing as mimes.

Very few mime artists perform in whiteface anymore, and I think it is better for the art that they do not.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I had a graduate course titled "Reasoning Under Uncertainty" that included a lot of artificial intelligence stuff (computer science degree). The professor called this one the "Vanna White Paradox", demonstrating he needed to watch more game shows.

Canadian comedians? "Tai Kwan Leap" by the Frantics still gets me in tears after all these years. "Boot to the head!"

Posted by: Les | September 21, 2006 10:31 AM | Report abuse

French fries ain't nothing. (Don't the French call these "American Fries?") If you want a real choking hazard, try mochi, a sticky, chewy mass made by pounding a special type of extra-glutinous rice. Delicious stuff, but several people die every year choking on it.

Friday, Jan. 5, 2001

Rice cakes kill six elderly in Tokyo

Six elderly people died after choking on traditional "mochi" rice cakes in Tokyo between Dec. 26 and Jan 3, prompting authorities to issue a warning for older people who eat the sticky New Year's treats.

The Tokyo Fire Department said the six, aged 75 to 88, suffocated after rice cakes lodged in their throats. Several died after eating "zoni" soup, a traditional New Year's dish of rice cakes boiled with vegetables and meat. The latest victim was an 84-year-old man who ate zoni in Itabashi Ward. He was pronounced dead shortly after 8:40 a.m. Wednesday.

Six others aged 55 to 71 were in critical condition after choking on rice cakes during the New Year's holiday.

A 78-year-old man escaped death when his family slapped his back to dislodge a rice cake from his throat following emergency instructions given by the fire department via telephone.

Fire department officials said seniors should eat mochi in the presence of others after cutting it into pieces.

Mochi is a seasonal delicacy in Japan. Elderly people often choke on it as it is difficult to chew and swallow.
The Japan Times
(C) All rights reserved

Posted by: kt | September 21, 2006 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, i don't think it's someone from proxima caccitore. It is decidedly NOT a chicken.

Posted by: sparks | September 21, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Mais oui, SF.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 10:36 AM | Report abuse

kt: //(Don't the French call these "American Fries?")//

No, simply fries. They're belgian.

But feel French to call them whatever you want, it's a French country, after all.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 21, 2006 10:38 AM | Report abuse

An update on the Japanese nationalism story from today's Mainichi Daily News...

Court rules teachers in Tokyo don't have to stand up for national flag, sing anthem

Teachers are not obliged to stand up before the Hinomaru flag or sing the national anthem during entrance and graduation ceremonies, the Tokyo District Court ruled on Thursday.

About 400 teachers and workers at Tokyo metropolitan high schools had filed a lawsuit in a bid to confirm they were not obliged to sing the anthem or rise to their feet for the national flag during ceremonies.

The Tokyo District Court ruled in their favor, saying that forcing teachers and staff members of schools to do so was unconstitutional. The court ordered the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education to pay 30,000 yen in damages to each plaintiff.

In a directive distributed to the heads of metropolitan high schools in October 2003, the Tokyo board of education said teachers and school staff members had to stand up in the direction of the national flag, and sing the anthem during entrance and graduation ceremonies.

Those who don't do so could be punished, the directive said. Teachers who were punished under the directive are among the plaintiffs of the lawsuit.

"There are those who are opposed to raising the national flag and singing the national anthem (during ceremonies). Their freedom of thought should be protected under the Constitution unless they violate others' rights," the district court said. "Forcing teachers to stand up (before the flag) and sing (the anthem) violates freedom of thought."

The court also said that the directive and the Tokyo board of education's stance over the issue are tantamount to infusing one-sided views on students in violation of the Fundamental Law of Education. (Mainichi)

Posted by: kt | September 21, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

I don't see any faces. I guess I just don't have eyes for Mars. Why would Mars have a face anyway? We don't look at pictures of Earth and say, hey! there's a face! Is it because Earth is filled with human faces? Is'nt a terribly Earth-centric view, to assume that God or the aliens or whoever either created the planet with a human visage, or put one there for us to see when we developed the capacity to look at it?

Maybe it is a warning to travelers from other solar systems.

I read the Boy "Charlotte's Web" when he was little and cried at the end. I don't think I can see the new film. We saw the trailer and I teared up just thinking about it. This makes the Boy roll his eyes.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 21, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Well, the Atlantis has landed, but the dust hasn't settled yet:

Mudge asks: "Aren't we being a bit earthnocentric in assuming that face the Martians obviously carved on Mars is a human earthling face?"

Good point, Mudge. This could be the Martian equivalent of someone sitting on a copier.

There are a couple of folks I know (could be Grays, or Reds, for that matter. I don't know how to tell without taking unwarranted liberties e.g. lifting the tail), where this would be preferable to a face.


Posted by: bc | September 21, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I hear that the French tell Belgian jokes. Know any good ones?

I saw a short skit on British TV once. It was a news conference with Blair and Chirac, and they are asked what they like about the other's country. There is a long, awkward pause as they look around uncomfortably. Then Blair says, "You're not German." Chirac answers, "You're not American." And they both quickly leave their podiums.

Posted by: kt | September 21, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

That tears it! We've just GOT to remove rice cakes from our supermarket shelves IMMEDIATELY!!!! We can't have us old fogies dropping like flies from this clearly hazardous "food"!

Death to Mochi!!!!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 21, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

I have never understood the "mime-hatred" thing. I like mime.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | September 21, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

wilbrod, i was referring specifically to the archetypal where's waldo shirt, black pants, white faced, beret-wearing (bereted?) MIME. clearly this does not refer to all those who pantomime. i don't know if the french are responsible, but if they are, they should be held responsible in a big way.

While we are on the seemingly unrelated subjects of canadians and "freedom fries", i would just like to state, for the record, that poutine is about the greatest food ever invented. good job, canada.

Posted by: sparks | September 21, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, my daughter and I joke all the time when talking about movies, if they are particularly sad we will often say, its good but the story would be too much for dad.

Posted by: dmd | September 21, 2006 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Born French, as French as the wind blows
As French as the grass grows
Born French to follow your heart

Live French and beauty surrounds you
The world still astounds you
Each time you look at a star

Stay French, where no walls divide you
You're French as the roaring tide
So there's no need to hide

Born French, and life is worth living
But only worth living
'Cause you're born French

Posted by: kt | September 21, 2006 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Pat, last night a front came in about sunset. The sky was blue darkening in the east. Most of the sky had lots of long, streaky clouds. Their bottoms were silver gray and the middles were peach. Some had high enough tops to catch the white from the setting sun. I saw a flock of birds wheel and fly across them, little black silhouettes. In the west, the clouds were massed from the horizon up almost to the middle of the sky. They were all very dark, with rosy pink where the setting sun washed over a gap. They were ringed with bright white, just like a silver lining.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 21, 2006 10:49 AM | Report abuse

SCC: "This could be the Martian equivalent of someone sitting butt-nekkid on a copier."

Posted by: bc | September 21, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

kt: //I hear that the French tell Belgian jokes.//

They do. I find that disgraceful, especially that they are our (very gracious) neighbors. Feel french to bash us all you want for that.

Also for smoking. While we don't smoke gauloises, and we smoke far less than others, we still smoke far too much, and in public places.

Posted by: superfrenchie | September 21, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

bc, I recently saw a sloth in the zoo, and it took me some time to ascertain which end was its face and which was its butt. (People used to make similar comments about our old pet pug, long deceased.)

Reminds me of that Beavis-and-Butthead-esque "joke":
"Have you got a match?"
"Yeah -- your face and my butt."

Heh. Heh heh heh. Heh.

Posted by: Achenfan | September 21, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I had a friend in college who was Belgian. Everyone he met assumed he was French, referred to him as French and asked him about France. He got very upset every time. If we could, his friends would tell people in advance that he was Belgian. Of course, sometimes that distinction still had to be explained.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 21, 2006 10:59 AM | Report abuse a dish consisting of french fries topped with fresh cheese curds and covered with hot gravy (usually brown gravy) and sometimes other additional ingredients (wikipedia).

Oh my goodness! Weapons of mass destruction really are coming across the border from Canada! Makes the loco moco look like health food.

Posted by: kt | September 21, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

[Also, is it "*butt*-nekkid"? Or *buck*?]

Posted by: Achenfan | September 21, 2006 11:02 AM | Report abuse

A-fan, that B& B reference was a beauty.


Posted by: bc | September 21, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, my SIL travelling in Ireland was once asked if she was American, she replied no Canadian. The person comment that there was no difference and my SIL replied that the difference was similar to an Irish person being called English. Similar but not the same.

Posted by: dmd | September 21, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

A-fan, I typically use "buck", but in this case I chose "butt" for effect.

No matter how you look at it, I'm probably wrong.


Posted by: bc | September 21, 2006 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I think that stereotype is based on parodies or imitations of Michael Marceau by other mimes. The outfit has little to do with miming other than to create a persona.

His original "Bip", as you can see, has neither a beret or a "where's waldo" striped shirt. He has explained why he chose that style.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 11:10 AM | Report abuse

kt, several months ago we had a rather long thread about the joys (?) and HAZMAT considerations of poutine, which as I remember was pretty funny. You might be able to google it. IIRC, most of us Muricans had never heard of it, and we were very enlightened. Was it dr who was the authority? Somebody help me out.

About the same time we also covered butt-nekkid versus buck-nekkid. IIRC, buck got a narrow win.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 21, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, you may not believe this, but I, along with some members from the community near that plant, went to the city council about a month before that happened, and I told them that plant was a nightmare waiting to happen. My words to them were, they have numerous saftey issues outside the plant, can you imagine what the inside must be like. Everyone thought I was some nut case seeking attention. The first week in September, the day I registered to go back to school, the plant burn up with twenty-five people dead, and scores sick, and some that would die later. And the doors were locked. The company accused the employees of stealing chicken, thus their justification for locking the doors. The last I heard that group of folks (the owners)lived in your town or one of those little towns nearby?

Pat, you would not believe how cold it was this morning. I mean really cold. I walked brisk this morning, trying to get back in to the warmth. I did take time to look at the lake, there were ripples everywhere this morning, going to and fro, as if they didn't know where to go. And the sky looked like a paint brush had just light touched it with tints of reddish-orange and just a touch of blue and a wisp of gray. And there was a cloud trying to be a cloud, just a tiny thing, but aiming to be big and noticeable. And the sun had not shown its face yet, but one could see the rays shooting out from the trees like light from a stage.

And it's still cold. Enter, fall.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 21, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

There are so many words not spelled correctly in that 11:13 post, please forgive me.

Mudge, your 10:04 had me laughing out loud, and ivansmom, the boy rolling his eyes, you are just too, too, much. Somehow when you say the "boy", it is as if he off from you, at a distance, but it's humorous in a way. I hope you don't get offended because I say this. It makes me smile.

Posted by: Cassandra S | September 21, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

ivansmom, when Charlotte's Web comes to our local theater, I'll definitely take my husband to see it. He's a sucker for sad movies, he cries more than I do. And especially anything with kids or animals, it really gets to him. I laugh at him because he's such a big tough guy (but not ashamed to have a *sensitive* side(!)

I did not think Charlotte's Web was so sad when I was a kid. I mean, yes, it's sad, but it has a kind of a happy ending after the tragedy of Charlotte's death. Wilbur comes to terms with it pretty quickly and the ending achieves just the right tone:

"It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both."

Charlotte's Web is one of my favorite books. It's a great book to read with kids--lots of discussion-starters. I read it to my daughter when she was 5 and again when she was actually old enough to understand it.

Posted by: kbertocci | September 21, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I once saw Romeo and Juliet done in mime to music (with a minimum of signed dialogue at the start and end) by a Czech deaf troupe at gallaudet U for Deaf Way II.
The girl playing Juliet looked rather like Julia Louis-Dreyfus only with lighter hair, in a plain white dress.

It was very good and the only clownish part of it was the mothers of the two clans who also represented the conflict between the two clains. They looked kind of like drunken catwalk models having a catfight. A few guys cheered them on whenever they'd symbolize the conflict to loud angry music.

It was wonderful. They had originally intended to do it indoors, but the director decided it was a lovely day and they could do it outside and use the curved stone walls as the wings for exits, entrances, and the balcony. So it was out on the grass just before sunset, and it sure did work.

Of course, the free deaf way dance concerts at the Kennedy center were terrific too.
The My Dream trope from China was probably the most visually exotic group-- around 50 women of all similar height and costumed identically in extravagant costuming, yellow dresses with elaborate headdresses and long artifical nails to exaggerate the hand gestures. very precise, small steps, and long of hand motion, and creating brief, transient sculptures of dancers on stage. the troupe was well-named, it looked like nothing else I had ever quite seen, even from China or Hawaii and other places where group dancing is common.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

sparks, I'm glad you like poutine, but you should be aware of its history. It's a little known fact that poutine originated as a Canadian doomsday device, the effects of which continue to be observed by cardiologists across North America. This is the true story of Operation Trans-Border, Trans-Fat.

Early in the 20th Century, Canada, while having its own constitution since 1867, was still subject to acts proclaimed by the British Parliament, sitting as the Imperial Parliament. Following the Statute of Westminster (1931), Canada and the other Commonwealth nations were finally able to be completely in charge of their own foreign policies.

One of the first challenges Canada faced after 1931 was an ever-escalating crisis between Canada and the U.S. over prohibition. It was the worst kept secret in the Americas that many Canadians were enriching themselves by supplying alcohol from such hot spots as Moose Jaw to U.S. criminal families such as the Capones and the Kennedys.

Recriminations flew back and forth, faster than the barrels of rye whiskey, followed by counter-recriminations and eventually the dreaded counter-counter-recriminations. American humorists posted vitriolic lists about why they hated Canadians. One of the popular vaudeville acts of the era ended every performance by pointing at a picture of the Prime Minister, R.B. Bennett and stating "there's no U (you) in humor".

The crisis deepened to the point that U.S. war plans were prepared for the invasion of Canada (link at end).

Canadian scientists at the time were engaged in research on the devastating effect of trans-fats on human arteries. In a letter to the P.M., noted scientist Dr. I.B. Spoor warned of the potential of such research being developed into a once-theoretical "Cholesterol Bomb".

In secret laboratories, the race for the Cholesterol Bomb was on. In a lab just off St. Catherine St. in Montreal, it was perfected. The (inevitably) lethal combination of cheese curds with fried potatoes was created, and the Americans were warned that any cross-border shenanigans would result in the release of the Cholesterol Bomb, code-named POUTINE.

Americans, never being able to leave well enough alone, promptly provoked our P.M. with constant references to the Canadians' fondness for ice hockey and beer (and not in a nice or funny way either, but rather in a mean way). POUTINE was released, and both countries continue to pay the price today (although unfortunately for the Canadians, moreso in their home jurisdiction due to the addictive qualities of the Cholesterol Bomb.

The remainder of the story remains classified. It is known that the Americans vowed to take a terrible vengeance, but other than the code name (OP DORITO), very little is known.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 21, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I don't know about anyone else but the Mars pictures, second picture from the bottom, I'm sure I see a cat face. Therefore Martian stone carvers must be cats.

I don't know that I would call me an expert on poutine, but I have worked at MacDonald's, and I did have three teenage sons at one time (and lived to tell the tale), all of whom ate poutine, one of whom dearly loves it, so I have much experience in the stupid things teenage males put on perfectly good fries.

A lot of silly things go on fries. Chili fries. And then there was the whole vinegar on fries popular when I was much younger. Mayonnaise. Really, what is wrong with a good quality ketchup/catsup? That is what is supposed to go on fries. Or plain gravy drenched in pepper.

Thankfully all my boys have given up poutine for their figures. They are finding out that once you hit the mids twenties, the 'middle' starts flaunting itself.

Posted by: dr | September 21, 2006 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Found the original poutine thread:

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 21, 2006 11:32 AM | Report abuse

SoC very funny!!

Posted by: dmd | September 21, 2006 11:40 AM | Report abuse

dr, I can see that cat face too.
I think I also saw a pig, a red panda, and a couple of mice. And Waldo.

Posted by: Achenfan | September 21, 2006 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, that's exactly how I think of the Boy when I describe him here. He's very like me and we're together a lot, share lots of things. However,he is also off from me at a distance, observing me, and freely commenting and criticizing as necessary. I do the same for him, of course. It also makes me smile.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 21, 2006 11:54 AM | Report abuse

It is a very very good thing that my coffee cup was dry, SoC. Excellent.

It has been apparent for a number of years that Canadians are sneaky, and that we are slowly taking over the neighbourhood. I calls em as I sees em.

Posted by: dr | September 21, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

SoC, excellent treatise, but not the full story.
We all know Canada's has an evil counter-defense that may necessiate them invading the U.S. Yeah, we yanks have tried invading and failed. Canadians haven't tried it yet, meaning they probably have this doomsday plan and careful funding and research in how a country with the population of California can subjugate America with labradors, moose, wolves, and beavers. Therefore they are studying how to freeze the U.S. and spray a mass alcohol cloud over major US cities so they can roll out their invasions forces overnight.
Texan blinks and sees white stuff outside and thinks his eyes are broken. Then 3 zamboni-tanks roll past and there's an outbreak of excited yepping.

"What the holey FORD?" The Texan says, only more colorfully. A head in a gas mask pops out like a praire dog.

"You ain't in Texas any more, homme. You're in the Lizards n Dirt Territory of the new Expanded Canadian States of America."

"I'm drunk, right? How many fingers do I have?"

"You're sure drunk! Keep it up, yer dirty bush-loving yank."

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 11:57 AM | Report abuse

For those who do not like to discuss war, here's a book coming out on Mr. Rogers by a good friend of his.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I didn't have time to post this yesterday - our local newspaper's horoscope for Scorpio yesterday: "You won't be happy with anyone who tries to restrict you today. However, do not respond rashly by breaking away and rebelling if others try to assert their point of view about something. It's easy to be a curmudgeon today.!!!!!! Is that weird or what?????

Posted by: Slats | September 21, 2006 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Nothing weird about being an easy curmudgeon...

Right 'Mudge?


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 12:20 PM | Report abuse

SonofCarl and Wilbrod have explained it all to me. The Canadians are taking over the U.S., labrador by labrador, and they've started with the three that we claim to own, using the word loosely. Of course! If only I'd realized they were Canadian sooner.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 21, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Of course, the only way to accurately identify a Labrador Retriever is to show the dog a Labrador and see if it retrieves it.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Too funny, Wilbrod. Phase 1 of the plan was actually to cool the continent so that the wildlife army would be able to run over snow pack.

We think that someone must be on to us, and adopting counter-measures.

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 21, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

In Stillwater, Oklahoma, home to the OSU Cowboys, is a bar and grille that serves the best bacon cheese fries in the world. You can hear your arteries harden as you eat them. They are particularly good when dipped in ranch dressing.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 21, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

SonofCarl, I note that the author of the Post article that you linked is Peter Carlson. Coincidence? I scoff. Scoff, scoff.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | September 21, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

SoC, is the Cholesterol Bomb related to the Nude Bomb that's being perfected in the south of France?

Seriously, fries covered with cheese and gravy - what's not to like?

I like the idea of the RCMP using Armored (Armoured?) Zambonis during the invasion after they've softened us up with a sustained Cholesterol Bombing campaign. And we're not helping ourselves during Fair season with funnel cakes, fried Everything (incl. Oreos), etc. Or, rather we are, way too much.


Posted by: bc | September 21, 2006 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Yes, SoC...hence the rampant denial by the paranoid right-wingers that global warming is, in fact, taking place at all. They can't explain away why we are delibrately trying to thaw out Canada and melt the ice caps and so on and still look good.

Hence, the rabid "never say die" denials.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 12:35 PM | Report abuse

And of course, they don't want to give any ground to the counter-left-left-left wing conspiracy theorists that we delibrately make Florida etc. hurricane alley in the process. So denial all around-- good for the soul, conscience, and for fighting the new war of the 21st century... not the cold war, but the Hot/Cold War, with the race to develop the most air masses.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the Richard Hoagland link, Joel. I know his type well. Intelligent, educated, articulate, and shockingly adept at the art of self-delusion.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 21, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

At the other end of the culinary scale, Bouchon in Yountville, CA, serves Pommes Frites with their Croque Madame (which is made with mornay sauce). Pommes frites also come with the Moules aux Poireaux et Verjus Rouge. I confess I had neither, instead going with the quiche du jour and some girlie drink cocktails.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 21, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Scoff away, Storyteller Tim. Our agents are everywhere, and our insidious influence is deceptive, not unlike an inside curl thrown by an expert such as Randy Ferbey.

Example: I note that hithero loyal Americans are now spelling "bar and grill" as "bar and grille"

Posted by: SonofCarl | September 21, 2006 12:45 PM | Report abuse

And you now know why clouds are hard. It's all about the air mass race.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Clearly the solution to Global Warming must eventually be technological. The alternative is to roll back the clock to, say 1850, and I don't see that happening. However, what seems to be missing from this Strategic Plan is a hard-hitting explicit acknowledgement that it is important to aggressively slow the rate of Global Warming so that the technology has enough time to develop. We are playing a game of chicken with the planet, and we want to make sure we win.

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 21, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Extra "e"s on the ends of things are extra classy. Just check out the model homes at any Oake Pointe Greene subdivision.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 21, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

LOL, Slats and scotty. I'm the "easiest" curmudgeon I know.

I think what we *really* have to careful about is those sneaky Canucks send letters to our high officials in envelopes containing traces of poutine. This kind of biopostal (BPW) warfare could wipe out millions of arterially challenged Muricans.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | September 21, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Which is why I think eventually there will be a chapter in the history books of how Canada saved the world by beating the beejesus out of America in ecological self-defense.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I appreciate Joel posting the link to the gummint's plan to use technology on global warming (to save us from? to advance it? in aid of?). I admit, though, that I really count on Joel to write a Kit explaining the thing to me, then the Boodlers to elaborate on its virtues, flaws, deficiencies, and opportunities for humor. That's one reason I hang with you sciency types.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 21, 2006 12:57 PM | Report abuse

According to that summary, we are really going to kick our anti-climate change technology right about the 2020-2040 range. Just in time for beach season in Valdosta and Charlotte.

Posted by: yellojkt | September 21, 2006 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Upon examination of my change from lunch I noticed that I received a CANADIAN penny.
Will the infiltration have no end?

Posted by: RD Padouk | September 21, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

the only problem with that, SF, is that i have no objection to smoking, even in public places. i actually have a pretty major objection to banning smoking in restaurants and bars, as it happens. require distinct and separately ventilated sections if you choose to allow smoking? fine. banning smoking in privately owned establishments? that sounds like restriction of liberties to me. besides, the rise in obesity in america can be directly linked to the decrease in smoking. Let me see if i can find a link.

on poutine: if that was your plan, canada, it appears to have failed. the only americans i know who know about poutine are ones that have been to canada. and my friends, of course, who love it. your infiltrate and destroy plan is working much better. both my sister and her best friend from high school are marrying canadians. all i'm gonna say is there better be poutine at the wedding. speaking of invading canada, has anyone seen canadian bacon? excellent film. I especially like the part where they get pulled over driving the stolen truck with graffiti on it, and he explains that it has to be in english and french. "I do have to fine you. That will be a thousand dollars Canadian, or 10 American dollars if you prefer. "

and dr, chili is not a silly thing to put on french fries. just look at it the other way around. chili's gotta go on something. french fries, hot dogs, it's really not appropriate to eat it alone. and ketchup? on french fries? how passe. i used to use mustard. these days it's usually barbecue sauce, but nothing comes close to the mozarella curds and gravy.

Posted by: sparks | September 21, 2006 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Poutine. Putin. Coincidence? I don't think so!

Here's something very funny with references to the uniqueness of humans and to Nietzsche.

Posted by: kt | September 21, 2006 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I will definately be talking to Mr. Hoagland as per your 10:06 suggestion. Of course, I probably won't understand much of what he says, being a lowly history major, but hey, I got my rights...i is still a free country?

French fries are to be eaten with salt and, if necessary, catsup (or any spelling thereof). Mayo on fries? To me, that spells heart attack, even in French. The best fries I have ever had were on the boardwalk at Rehobeth(sp) beach, at a place called Thrashers. Vinegar was an option, although they were good enough that you really didn't need anything but salt.

Posted by: tangent | September 21, 2006 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I don't remember where the owner lived, but I do recall that he went to prison for the safety violations, but not for long enough. A life sentence wouldn't have been long enough.

Posted by: slyness | September 21, 2006 1:05 PM | Report abuse

tangent, thrashers fries are amazing, and are indeed good enough to be eaten with nothing but salt. it is worth noting, however, that they are usually loaded with enough salt to kill a buffalo. Fortunately for me, i have naturally low blood pressure, so i need all the salt i can get.

Posted by: sparks | September 21, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

bah! i forgot to add, i believe the word poutine was coined by some person of importance to whom it was served. he took one look at it and said "ca va faire un maudit poutine" (pardon my terrible french) which means "this is going to make a terrible mess."

Posted by: sparks | September 21, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

A mess o' pottage
A mess o' poutine
Interesting linguistic parallel, Sparks.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 1:25 PM | Report abuse

On a sadder note-- the inventor of Blind Signs died when hit by a car.

The FCC continues to be an industry Volvo, ignoring the plain law.

Yet today the FCC released information about its decision on September 11, 2006 which allows two TV programs to continue broadcasting without providing closed captions. The programs are the "Christian Anglers Outdoors Television Show" and "In His Image". Both are faith-based programs.

The two programs are among the approximately 500 to submit requests for exemption to the FCC in the past few months. Program providers were given ten years to comply with the closed captioning rules, and the deadline for 100% captioning of non-exempt programs was January 1, 2006. The FCC has been very slow to act on requests for exemption to the captioning regulations, prompting the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network coalition and several additional national consumer organizations to send a letter to the FCC in May 2006. The organizations pointed out that programs were being allowed to continue to avoid captioning requirements until action was taken, and reminded the FCC that people who and hard of hearing are also people of faith, many of whom are already being shut out in houses of worship that do not accommodate them.

The most damaging wording in the FCC's September 11 granting of the two exemption requests is this:

"We must balance the need for closed captioned programming against the potential for hindering the production and distribution of programming."[1] For these reasons, we note that, in the future, when considering an exemption petition filed by a non-profit organization that does not receive compensation from video programming distributors from the airing of its programming, and that, in the absence of an exemption, may terminate or substantially curtail its programming, or curtail other activities important to its mission, we will be inclined favorably to grant such a petition because, as the petitions of Anglers and New Beginning demonstrate, this confluence of factors strongly suggests that mandated closed captioning would pose an undue burden on such a petitioner."

...That's ridiculous. Captioning is the least of the costs factored into getting an program aired. Commericals cost 1/2 million to shoot nowadays. The cost of captioning a half-hour program? A couple thousand. They could do it themselves while editing on a laptop-- subtitle it, whatever.§ion=7#Captioning

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Jon Stewart's addition, Wilbrod:

Mess o' potamia.

A real mess, iraqon.


Posted by: bc | September 21, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

BTW-- to clarify, the deadline for 100% closed captioning was January 1, 2006. This year, 500 programs have applied for an exemption to that ruling.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Poutine vs Putin
The Russian journalists were having a field day in Québec City a couple of years ago when the old KGB man visited the place. They ran numerous humor pieces with illustration of horrible snack shacks advertising the boss. I lost my poutinity in the mid-70's and it was the best poutine I ever had, even if it went down a little too fast. The fries were double cooked in peanut oil, first at 400ºF then at 400ºF. The guy was making his own gravy from turkey carcasses after using the meat for hot-chicken, club-sandwiches and the like. He had a line to the local cheese factory for squeaky cheese curds. Real curds come from cheddar fabication. Cheddar is made by compressing the squeaky curds in a mold, removing the extra moisture and thus making them silent. Making poutine with mozzarella is an insult to both mozzarella and poutine. I don't put cheese curds on pizza so leave my poutine alone. If you limit yourself to about one a year it's a perfectly healthy food. The same goes for Philly steak sandwiches, eat them only when you are in Philly. If you don't leave there, of course !

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | September 21, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Shrieking Denizen, ROTFL.

Posted by: kt | September 21, 2006 2:03 PM | Report abuse

sorry shrieking denizen, i for some reason believed it was made with mozarella curds, although now that i think about it, cheddar curds does sound right.

to keep from throwing mozarella out of the conversation, did you know that mozarella cheese is traditionally made from the milk of the water buffalo?

Posted by: sparks | September 21, 2006 2:04 PM | Report abuse


I covered the FCC in a previous life...

The only issue where you can notice any real speed on the agency's part is displays of human flesh or language that don't meet someone's definition of "moral fiber." They're SUPPOSED to be a technology-centric oversight board, BTW.


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Hey, are people who are allergic to cow's milk (not lactose intolerant) also allergic to water buffalo milk?

Posted by: kt | September 21, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I treasure my poutinity, almost as much as the opportunity to lose it!


Posted by: Scottynuke | September 21, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I can't get no
I can't get no
poutine action.

And I fry, and I fry, and I fry, and I fry


Posted by: StorytellerTim | September 21, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Wellll, I think it's time for poutine "recipes". dr? dmd? SonofCarl? Hmmm?

Posted by: CowTown | September 21, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

looking over the previous poutine discussion, i came across this, from SoC: "True story. The 'novelty' hole at the golf tournament I was at yesterday included teeing off with a curling broom."

i don't remember which hole it was (i think it might have been 4), but one of the really short holes at rock creek we used to play as a "throw hole". Instead of using a club for your tee shot, you would get a couple steps running start and chuck the ball as far as you could, staying, of course, inside the tee box. It was a matter of great debate as to whether the remainder of the hole was better played with clubs or with one's arm.

Posted by: sparks | September 21, 2006 2:23 PM | Report abuse

And it's just plain silly. If they have to do it 100% with volunteers, in-house, they could do OPEN CAPTIONING. Or Powerpoint backdrop. Or something.

I mean, if they're really broke for money, they can hold up flashcards a la Johnny Carson. That I'd like to see. I wish I was as broke as they were, I'd love to air MY show.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm not kidding about the open captioning.

I've seen a deaf church (Christ Church UMC in Baltimore) do open captioning with a laptop and a TV monitor visible for all the deaf-blind, hearing, or oral deaf so they can follow the services... and that's from ASL to English text. Those who need to read, sit on the left side of the church. They also have volunteer tactile interpreters for the deaf-blind. I even did some myself.

It's a very poor church with a very mixed congregation in the inner city.

They don't afford very much, trust me, but they have the kind of accessibility that most churches would claim is an impossible luxury.

Why? Because they are committed to full accessibility to their congregation. They have a wheelchair lift, they have a deaf-blind vacation bible camp. They know what to do. Their congregation are willing to help others out.

Most (protestant) churches are not even committed to being sure anybody in a wheelchair can get into the door, never mind serving the deaf, blind, or multiply handicapped once in church.

There are some wonderful exceptions of course. The McLean bible church is an amazing spectacle of modern technology with the biggest powerpoint screen I've ever seen. Total opposite end in the income spectrum and funding. Most churches fall in between.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

first I read this article in wapo style this morning:

Then I went to their homepage to watch some of their videos:

And I say WOW. Never much cared for "Take the A-Train". But their version is GOOD, and I LIKE it.

Back to doing stuff again.

Posted by: omni | September 21, 2006 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Geez, Pat, I was just lurking on the Mommy Blog. Are there really two Fo4s or is it just that they can't take a joke?

I tell ya, at our crankiest we're light-years ahead of those folks in civility, except for Pat & PLS, who do what they can to set a good example. Pats on the back (no pun intended) all around.

Maybe the pun was intended.

Posted by: Ivansmom | September 21, 2006 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Harkening back to a serious point that Loomis raised earlier today: why are there no major heart-felt remembrances of the victims of anthrax?

I don't think it's heartlessness. It's just not current in the way that 9/11 is, besides the fact that it affected a much smaller number of people.

The Iraq War is very much the current manifestation of 9/11; 9/11 is not an historical event, it's a current event that has taken 5-years-and-counting to happen. Not, I hasten to assure you, because of any notion that the iraqi government had anything to do with the 9/11 attack. But I doubt that George Bush could have obtained Congressional leave to attack Iraq without fear-mongering derived from 9/11, and without the (at that time) successful invasion of Afghanistan and the toppling of the Taliban government. Since then, of course, we have worked hard to obtain a solid defeat out of the initial victory in Afghanistan. We're not there yet, but we're working on it.

The anthrax incidents did not produce the kind of strategic consequences that followed from 9/11. It did not carry the banner of an overt attack on the nation. It was too much like previous incidents of evil -- like the poisoning of Tylenol, and so on. Individually evil, but not on the scale of aiming to terminate our existence as a nation. Still -- the perpetrator never was located. Perhaps he was an unknown victim of his own anthrax. Perhaps (probably) he's out there still. He has advertised that he has the ability to produce an anthrax weapon, but he has avoided drawing attention to himself. Is he planning to market his abilities to the highest bidder? Does he have a real agenda, or is he a sociopath? He has refrained from bragging to anyone who could/would leak the information to police. He's smart, and he has self-control (or, of course, maybe he's dead). What's he gonna do?

Posted by: ScienceTim | September 21, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

SCC if you don't leave there ? No, really. live. Sheesh.
I'm just back from the Twin cities. You know you are in Minnesota when you realize that some of the hotel cleaning staff has natural blond hair. I got back to rainbow USA in Philadelphia. Eh Mudge what happened to the Ingalls shipyard ? it's called Aker now. I suspect it's the big Norwegian offshore platform company. The place looked pretty quite, from the air anyway. The Navy yard was pretty quite too, apart from a few mothballed oldies. I had a Philly steak sandwich . It had some fried mushroom in it, I suspect that makes it an illegitimate pss.
Poutine recipes: good fries, squeaky cheese curds and good brown gravy. To be administered once a year only if you are older than 18 and have some respect for your circulatory system. Common variations include using shredded cheese, spaghetti sauce instead of gravy (that's italian poutine for you bc and RDP), chili for gravy or adding chunks of tube steak a.k.a. wieners (yikes!) or crumbled hamburger patties (re-yikes!). Insist on the original.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | September 21, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

The Washington Post did a story about how America, is nowhere as segregated as when it worships on sundays. That remains very true.

At Christ Church I saw how it could be otherwise, and I have to say, it can be very good. The demographics are the most mixed I've ever seen. I'd say it is 1/3 to 50% black, but the rest are hispanic, white-- and everybody is pretty much their own story.

Posted by: Wilbrod | September 21, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

I fear I couldn't stop myself, and I blogged again.

Please repost any salient and urgent or merely trenchant comments on the next kit.

Posted by: Achenbach | September 21, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Yes, our synagogue is very segregated. Almost entirely northern European Jews, with very few exceptions. What's up wit' dat?

Posted by: StorytellerTim | September 21, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Now, back to the original, 3-door Monty problem: Wiki and the 1990 Kit are right on. Changing doors does increase the probability of winning from 1/3 to 2/3. That's the short answer.

The analysis: 1. If the contestent has choosen a losing door, when the other losing door is revealed, the only remaining door is a winner.

2, Since the first selection has a 2/3 probability of losing, changing doors
gives a 2/3 probability of winning.

3. QED.

Posted by: LEO | September 21, 2006 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Paradoxes are slippery buggers.
Both 1/2 and 2/3 are correct, depending on your point of reference, or context.
From the perspective of choosing a strategy with which to play the game, if you decide in advance that you will switch, you get to choose between 2 doors because the host will throw one losing door out for you. Thus the host is giving you a "free" 1/3 increase in probability by always throwing one of the losing choices out for you.

However, you still must choose. After the host has done his revealing of a door, you have a brand new context, a new point in time. From this point in time, you have two choices, equally likely. So you have 1/2 chance to make the winning choice. Probability changes with changing context.

Back to the first scenario. The "strategy" or "pre-first-choice" context is somewhat dubious. One could argue that this isn't truely a choice between 3 options because one of them will always be thrown out for you. It is a slight perversion of a typical probability problem to say that this is a choice among 3 options. Initially, before a choice is made there are 3 options. But after making the first choice, there is another choice to be made, which is always setup under the same scenario: 2 choices, one of which wins a car. Simple 1/2 probability.
The tree diagram of possible outcomes on the Wiki site is illuminating. It shows exactly 1/2 of the outcomes winning the car and 1/2 of them getting the goat, regardless of which path of choices the contestant chooses (2 out of 4 in each case).

Be watchful for shifting perspectives, contexts, and points-of-references in paradoxes. Many of them hinge on this device to work.

Posted by: ZenPuddleJumper | September 21, 2006 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Zenpuddlejumper, Those of us who like muddy water, salute you. Your obscurantous effort was world class. Your words were a pleasure to read. Best wishes for a happy and clear minded future.

Posted by: LEO | September 23, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Zenpuddlejumper, Those of us who like muddy water, salute you. Your obscurantous effort was world class. Your words were a pleasure to read. Best wishes for a happy and clear minded future.

Posted by: LEO | September 23, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Comparing Deal or No Deal to the Monty Hall problem is completely wrong-headed. Deal or No Deal is effectively RANDOM, people, the contestants don't know the amounts in the cases they are choosing.

There is little or no real strategy involved in Deal or No Deal. No "optimal" time to stop playing. No interesting "statistical thought experiments." Just some fairly simple probability and risk aversion calculations.

Posted by: tb | September 27, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company