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May 31, 2006


The story behind the game Freecell that comes with Windows is interesting. The help file includes the following mysterious line: "It is believed (although not proven) that every game is winnable." The game lets you choose the number of the game you would like to play, from 1 to 32,000. So it wasn't long before an early internet project started where people divided up all of the games into 320 batches of 100 games and tried to solve them all. And not long after that they came up with only one game that couldn't be won, game number 11,982. I've always suspected that the programmer did that on purpose and 11-9-82 was an important date for him (probably not his birthday since it was written in 1995). I found this out a few years ago.

What I didn't realize was that when Microsoft introduced Windows XP, they increased the number of games you can play up to 1 million, good news for the people who had played all 32,000. At this point the game was popular enough that people had written computer programs that would try to solve different games, so rather than doing parallel human processing, computers chewed through the games and found 8 more that are unsolvable.

Wikipedia's Freecell article

May 30, 2006

Watering Restrictions

My yard was looking seriously parched this weekend. I don't usually water the yard, but it was needing it. I wasn't sure what the rules were on watering so I checked Dekalb County's website. I had thought the rule was if you had an odd-numbered address you could water on odd-numbered days. However, the current rule is that odd-numbered addresses can only water on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Even-numbered addresses can water on Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday. There is no watering on Friday.

I told this to Susan and said how ridiculous it was that they took something so easy to remember and made it much harder to remember. Having vented about that I gave it no further thought. However Susan wrote to me today after thinking about it during her drive to work. She calculated that a year has 7 more odd-numbered days than even-numbered ones and that 3 of those are from May to August. Under the old system an odd-numbered house could water on May 31 and again the next day, June 1 while the yards of even-numbered houses would wither and become dust bowls. She blames a misplaced sense of fairness for the more complicated rules, probably by someone with an even-numbered address. But, like I told her, if people don't want to abide by rules against even-numbered addresses, then they need to buy a house on the other side of the street.

May 26, 2006


Every morning I check on my Amazon account to see what I sold the day before and what shipped. May started very strong but then sales really dropped off. The reason? Amazon ran out of the most popular battery pack. Rather than just say they were out of stock, they let a number of third-party sellers offer theirs, at much higher prices. The $25 pack went up to $35 and as high as $49. And for me, sales for that model went to zero for two weeks. I felt bad for visitors and found out that Best Buy had them for $20, so I put in a link to their product page and could tell from Site Meter's out links that a few people a day were following the link.

Last night Amazon must have re-stocked that product because the price was down to $20 (a new low for them, perhaps to match Best Buy), so I took away the Best Buy link. Already people are following the link again, and I will find out soon if people are buying again.

What amazes me about this is the inefficiencies of capitalism. Theoretically the internet should bring prices in line at a similar low level. While visitors to my web site knew not to buy, I am sure others must be buying from the higher priced affiliates. The Apple Store sells the same product for $50 and there are enough product reviews on that page for me to think they do a pretty brisk business.

May 25, 2006

Lost Finale

I thought Lost's finale was 2 of the best hours of television I've ever seen. Every time a commercial would come on, I would just think "Man, I love this show!" I loved that Desmond was back and that it was his flashback (with Libby giving him the boat, so she finally got some backstory too). I loved Eko telling John "But I *am* going to push the button." The moment when Michael confessed that he had murdered two lostaways was just incredibly powerful. Finding out that the plane crashed because Desmond didn't push the button and that the guy he was in the hatch with was the special forces guy that trained Sayid? Awesome. Then NotHenry gets off the Others' boat and is clearly the one in charge. Even though I saw it coming, it was chilling to see NotHenry again.

Still, I couldn't help but be disappointed that Sayid's "plan" to enter the village undetected consisted of sailing into sight of the village (they're not going to notice a 50-foot high sail?), walking in, and kicking in doors. The only reason he was undetected was nobody was there to detect him.

And I didn't like that Michael got away with the boat. When NotHenry says that they're the good guys and they've used non-lethal force against their prisoners (who just killed one them) and honor their bargain, I feel like maybe these guys really aren't so bad. Still, everything NotHenry has ever said has been a lie (he didn't push the button, he couldn't go back to the camp, his name is Henry, he came for Locke), so that certainly means they are very evil.

I don't like that everyone is split up (the name of the episode is Live Together, Die Alone). Sayid, Sun, and Jin on the boat. Locke, Eko, and Desmond possibly dead in the blown up hatch. Sawyer, Jack, and Kate as prisoners of the Others. Hurley on his own crossing the island. Michael and Walt heading out to sea. Any of them could easily be wiped out and will probably have separate storylines for a while next season. Plus now you've got these guys in the Arctic who know about the magnetic disturbance, so we'll be wondering about what they are doing even though we probably won't see them again for a while.

I hope that they will announce Season 3 as the final season of Lost and wrap everything up. But I've really enjoyed this season, so I guess if they can keep it interesting, I will keep watching.

May 24, 2006

Brush With Greatness

Yesterday afternoon while I was at work the phone rang and when I answered I got a beep. I've gotten fax calls before and if you don't do something about them, the fax will just keep calling, so I quickly transferred the call to our fax machine. A minute or two later I went to see if it worked and found a letter to the Georgia Secretary of State. The letter was from the CFO of a hair products company in Norcross, Bernard King, and had a contact number, so I called him. Mr. King wasn't in, but once I explained the situation I was told he would call me right back.

A few minutes later, I got a call from the guy. He already knew what was going on basically and was very appreciative that I had called him back to let him know the fax hadn't gotten where it needed to go. I said it was no problem and I was glad to help out. A minute later the phone rang again and Mr. King said he thought he had forgotten to thank me for all the trouble I had saved him. I said I thought he did thank me and again it was no problem. He said that's what he loved about being in Atlanta, nobody in New York would have ever followed up on a lost fax. Then he said goodbye again.

A minute later he called again (!). He said again that he appreciated my help and he wanted to send me an autographed basketball card. Kind of perplexed, I said "Okay . . ." not even sure what he was talking about. I thought he was either going to give me a basketball or send a basketball-related greeting card. He said You know I played in the NBA. I said I didn't know that. He said he was in the NBA for 12 years (or something) and played for the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, and Washington Bullets. He said he was an all-star three years and that he scored more points than Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and all of those guys. I said, wow, that's great! He said he was very proud of that and I said, well, you should be. I could tell he had given his career summary a lot of times before. He said he would mail me his card and I could give it to anyone I wanted (I guess since I had never heard of him, he didn't think I would have any use for his basketball card).

I looked him up on the internet immediately of course and everything he said was true. He led the league in scoring in the 84-85 season. That was Michael Jordan's rookie season, but Jordan would go on to be the leading scorer in 10 of the next 13 seasons.

You should always be nice to strangers because you never know when the stranger might be Jesus. But sometimes the stranger will be a former NBA All Star.

I'll post a picture of the card when I get it.

May 21, 2006

Grant's Mix

Today I went up to Athens with Mom to see Nicole and the soon-to-be Park Avenue Cashins, see the new house, eat hamburgers, and drink beer. Before I went I made a CD for Grant of some 21st century music and other stuff that I like. I hope he likes it. I didn't have much time to figure out the best song order or even necessarily pick the best songs, but it should still be good to listen to. Franz Ferdinand's "Michael" is probably the weakest track, but since the last CD I made for Grant and Jami had "One-Eyed Fiona" on it, I didn't feel like I had a choice. Now that I listen to it again I realize I should have included a more representative selection from M. Ward than the classical piece by Bach that I used. He's kind of like Tom Waits with a guitar. Anyway, if any of that sounds good to Grant, I can make another CD with more from that artist.

  1. The Killers - Mr. Brightside (2005)
  2. Spoon - The Beast and Dragon, Adored (2005)
  3. The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army (2003)
  4. Franz Ferdinand - Michael (2004)
  5. Modest Mouse - Float On (2004)
  6. The Killers - Change Your Mind (2005)
  7. Ben Folds Five - Lullabye (1999)
  8. Spoon - The Way We Get By (2002)
  9. Fat Boy Slim - Praise You (2000)
  10. The Strokes - Is This It (2001)
  11. Iggy Pop - The Passenger (1977)
  12. Franz Ferdinand - Jacqueline (2004)
  13. Liz Phair - Polyester Bride (1998)
  14. Rusted Root - Heaven (1996)
  15. The Strokes - Someday (2001)
  16. M. Ward - Well-Tempered Clavier (2005)

May 1, 2006

A Quiet Riot

Last Friday at work, all kinds of memos went out about the upcoming May 1 Immigration Rally to be held at the state capitol. Organizers said there could be up to 100,000 people attending, whereas previously the biggest demonstration ever held at the Capitol was only 10,000. The usual steps were taken when there is a big event downtown: the state patrol was called in, helicopters would be on hand, barricades were placed along some streets, and other streets would be closed. We had a special staff meeting Friday afternoon to let us know what was going on and that we would be open for business (and that anyone who decided not to come in on Monday would have to sign leave). I made a mental note to bring something for lunch so I wouldn't have to go out in the throngs. Some people decided not to come in rather possibly get stuck downtown in the masses. One of my bosses said it would be like the Olympics again where the streets were turned into rivers flowing with people. I was looking forward to seeing it.

The rally this morning was supposed to start at noon, so it wasn't that surprising that MARTA wasn't any more crowded than usual this morning. By the time I got to the Georgia State station, I rememebered that I hadn't brought my lunch. A public announcement said that people attending the immigration rally should exit at the Five Points Station, a particularly unhelpful message because A. Georgia State is closer to the Capitol than Five Points, and B. it was in English. At the door to the state office buildings a guard was checking ID's just like always. But on the walk over to my building, I saw two helicopters parked on the helipad and as I walked across the pedestrian bridge, a third helicopter was landing on the parking deck. Three helicopters! This was a first. They had even blocked off part of the pedestrian bridge and I had to enter work through the front door. I walked past not one, but three state patrol mobile command posts (RV's that probably haven't been used since the last Freaknik).

When I got to my desk I looked out my window towards the stadium to see if anyone was walking towards the capitol. There was a truckload of barricades ready to be deployed along with regularly spaced garbage cans that had been placed last week, but no people. It was still early yet.

But as the day wore on, the crowd never materialized. Helicopters kept circling overhead, but I never saw anyone on the ground. At 11 there was still nothing. At noon we decided to just go to one of our regular places down the street for lunch. There were a couple of policemen on horses right outside our building. As we walked past the Capitol there were a couple of hundred people at the rally. The streets were closed and we had to walk through a gap in the barricade being manned by some police. About the only thing unusual was that our lunch place was closed, though the Chinese manager was sitting by herself at one of the tables. A couple of doors down, another regular lunch place was open as usual.

On the way back from lunch it looked like the rally had picked up a few more people, but there were still less than 1,000 people certainly. Oh well. Not only was it not the biggest demonstration ever, it wasn't even the biggest one I saw this year.