Thursday, October 6, 2011

Self-defeating fortune

Just over a year ago, we went out to dinner. As usual, I played with my food.

Departing from custom, I actually kept the fortune from the fortune cookie. And carried it around in my wallet for over a year.

Just tried photographing it.

I really need a better camera.*

It reads, "You will inherit an unexpected sum of money within the year."

And, I added in pen the date of our outing, "9/26/10".

Once the fortune alerted me to the "sum of money" it was no longer "unexpected" (and was, in fact, actually hoped for) and therefore the inheritance could not occur without contradicting the terms of the fortune.

P.S. Until this post scriptum was added, it went without saying that the expected "unexpected sum of money" was not inherited "within the year."

* [added Oct. 26, 2011] Here is a scanned image:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Lost left socks

It's kind of a strange thing how socks get lost*. Where do they go?

And, it's kind of funny to claim that it is the left socks which get lost, because socks are symmetrical, right? So, you really can't tell which are left and which are right until you choose which foot to put them on.

However, a few months ago, I bought 18 pairs of socks which are not symmetrical. They are polo socks** and the left and right socks are distinguishable. Here is a picture of my right ankle wearing a right polo sock.

The little embroidered picture of a mounted polo player is circled in red.

After several months of wearing, laundering, sorting, wearing, etc. it turns out that three of the socks are indeed missing. And, they are all left socks.

Only one data point, and hardly a scientific experiment, but there you have it. Left socks get lost.

[Added 2019/02/13: *the link for "socks get lost" is now a dead link, but I found the page on (missing its embedded images, but still) and you can visit is here. And **the link for "polo socks" is also a dead link, but you can visit the archived page here.]

Friday, August 26, 2011

Keep on trucking

This is a personal story about a real person, told from a personal viewpoint, and thus may not be completely factual. However, I am telling it as I remember it.

When I lived in Raymond (early to mid 1980's), we had a neighbor named Rulon Dahl. At that time he seemed old, probably about twice my age.

We were both in the same Sunday School class, the class having forty or fifty members. He was influential to me, as he seemed to have a great deal of leadership experience, although he wasn't a leader (that I knew of) at that time. I believe that he is the man on the left in the image on this page. The picture is from 1951, and so was taken more than thirty years before this story took place.

It seemed that nearly every Sunday, Rulon would use the phrase, "keep on trucking" for one reason or another.

One Sunday, with nothing in particular to distinguish itself, the instructor asked him if he could prepare a small presentation for the next week's class. Then added a secondary question, "will you be here next week?" Surprisingly, rather than just agreeing as I would have expected, he said, "God willing and the creek don't rise."

During the week he and his wife were driving to Cardston through a bad snow storm. He pulled over and got out to clean the windshield, and was killed by a passing truck which also sheered off the car door.

It left quite a void when the next Sunday School class came along without Rulon.

Done in by a truck of all things, while clearing off snow that, come spring, would contribute to the creek's rise.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Atop the viaduct

Today Salt Lake City's mayor opened the North Temple viaduct to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The TRAX line which also will cross the railway lines there is still under construction.

At ten a.m. I joined the crowd. In this picture you'll see the face of one of the men who built it. The mayor is also facing the camera in the background. At the right edge you can make out the tuba of the brass band that was playing.

Shortly after 10:15 we walked up to the top of the viaduct. I didn't wait around for the speech, etc. Took this snap looking back on the way back to work.

After crossing the street, I turned back for this view of the viaduct. Nice to have it, as it should cut my daily commute time in half. More when there are trains to wait for.

It was a very hot morning, and it felt good to get my sweaty self out of the sun and back into the air-conditioned office building.

See also posts from last year Bridge out and More on the bridge: less bridge.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I was not on the planet in the 1920's. Just for the record.

My nephew, Patrick, is looking for a 1920's outfit.

This is a suit coat that I couldn't resist purchasing. Unfortunately it doesn't fit me, but I think it might fit him.

It is tailor made in France and looks a lot better on a person than it does on a hanger. I think it will look great on Patrick.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hey buddy, can you spare a dime?

No this is not about the many panhandlers around the Gateway, where I work in Salt Lake City.

It is about an interesting way in which someone got a dime from me.

Which reminds me of the time I got a dime from my Uncle Arnold. He promised he would give me "a dime for every quarter you can stand on edge." Thinking this was a pretty good deal, I ran to my room to get a quarter and made it stand on its edge. He then took the quarter and gave me a dime--true to his word, he had indeed given me a dime for the quarter. When invited to repeat the performance, I declined.

Yesterday, I went to buy lunch at the Gateway Taco Time. My turn in line arrived, I asked for "a soft taco, to go, please." The girl asked, "no cheese?" I told her that I had not said "no cheese", but realized that "go please" and "no cheese" was a reasonable misunderstanding* in the noisy food court.

Then came the matter of price. She quoted a price and I countered by asking for a Gateway discount, showing my Gateway badge. She nodded and asked for $2.42. I gave her two dollar bills, a quarter, a dime, a nickel, and two pennies. She shoved the change around in the palm of her hand for a bit and then said, "two fifty-two." So I fished another quarter out of my pocket and gave it to her. She seemed satisfied and returned the dime and the nickel.

She handed me the receipt and said, "your number is 56." I appreciate that, because it now requires glasses to read anything, but I don't normally wear them, so having the clerk read the number is helpful.

In just a few minutes the order was up and I walked back the office to eat in front of my screen.

Only then, did I casually glance at the receipt. Here is a facsimile:

I'm not exactly sure how to explain this. The correct total was $2.42, which is what I had given her in the first place. The receipt shows that I overpaid her by a dime, and that she returned it to me. Which I did. Which she did not. Odd.

When I told Sara about it, she told me that cashiers whose tills are over at the end of the day are treated with more suspicion than those whose tills are under. I hope this girl remembered to take her ill-gotten dime out of the till before the end of the day. She obviously needed it more than me, and hey, I can spare a dime. Small price for a story.

[Added 07/26/11: Went back to Taco Time for lunch today and had a great experience, being treated very well.]

[Added 08/17/11: The manager responded to this post with a coupon for a free item, and I redeemed it yesterday for another soft taco. Paid attention to the ingredients, which do include grated cheese. Hence the added footnote:

*There was no cheese on the original soft taco (the one that provoked this post), so I guess that I did not clear up the misunderstanding after all.]

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fifty years of seconds

Fifty years of seconds is around 1,577,880,000 seconds.

That many seconds ago, a series of lectures was held at M.I.T. in honor of its 100 anniversary (thus, in the spring of 1961).

The lectures were recorded, including questions from the audience, and transcribed. The book was published in 1962: "Management and the computer of the future", Greenberger (ed.).

I am reading that book now, and enjoying it greatly.

Especially enjoyable is the lecture on time-sharing, given by John McCarthy. This was the first public mention of the concept, and McCarthy is widely accepted as the "father" of time-sharing.

The question at hand, then, was whether people would want individual access to a "large" computer, and if so, how this desire could be accommodated.

Now, we know that, yes, they do, and that it will be accommodated by the provision of "small" personal computers and access to the world wide web.

How big is "large" and how small is "small"?

In the 1960's an expenditure of about six million dollars would have provided for a hundred or so terminals to be attached to a computer with about one million words of memory and perhaps as much as 50 million words of secondary (disk) storage. That was considered "large" back then.

Assuming a "word" to be 32 bits (4 bytes), this means that a computer that would satisfy the needs for personal programming for the entire M.I.T. would have 4 M bytes of memory and a 200 M byte hard drive.

Physically, it would fill a large room, and require air conditioning and a team of people to operate.


A personal computer today might easily have (as mine does) 8 G bytes of memory and 500 G bytes of hard disk. That's more than 2000 times the computing power required for all of M.I.T. a mere billion and a half seconds ago. It is also connected to the world wide web and a trillion documents.

Physically, it occupies less than a tenth of a cubic foot, and doesn't require air-conditioning.

Wow indeed.

The very last quote of the chapter is about the value of specialized hardware to make the machine more usable. McCarthy warns "...we must be very careful that the money saved in hardware is not spent in programming."

Today, a web site can be put together with no hardware purchase at all. By hosting in the cloud, it would cost pennies an hour to operate. The programming, however, will cost tens of dollars an hour. The money saved in hardware is indeed spent on programming, validating McCarthy's fear.

The world has come a long way at the usual rate of one second per second.