Sunday, July 31, 2011

Penrose tilings, 31/7/11: Growing a pattern.

Title: Tiling 1a
Date: 31 July 2011
Type: Tiling
Number of tiles: 240
Color breakdown: 72 yellow, 86 blue, 82 purple
Shape breakdown: 150 kites, 90 darts
Kosher Penrose tiling rules: no

Title: Tiling 1b
Date: 31 July 2011
Type: Tiling
Number of tiles: 350
Color breakdown: 110 yellow, 122 blue, 118 purple
Shape breakdown: 215 kites, 135 darts
Kosher Penrose tiling rules: no

Title: Tiling 1c
Date: 31 July 2011
Type: Tiling
Number of tiles: 462
Color breakdown: 155 yellow, 155 blue, 152 purple
Shape breakdown: 281 kites, 181 darts
Kosher Penrose tiling rules: no

Stuff I like:
Radio On by Sarah Vowell.

I like Sarah Vowell. I've read a lot of her books and she's always informative and funny, two traits I like in people. This week I read Radio On for the first time. It's her first book, published in 1997, the edited version of a daily journal about listening to the radio in 1995.

While there is plenty of news in 1995 - the first year of the Gingrich speakership, the Oklahoma City bombings, O.J. found not guilty - much of this book is about Sarah's opinions about things. She hates Rush Limbaugh for being anti-education. She has some respect for G. Gordon Liddy for being pro-education, though when he wins an award for protecting the First Amendment when he discussed the "jack-booted thugs" of the federal agencies, she edits back in his comment about "go for the head shot", the part of the sentence the people who gave him the honor decided to edit out. She dislikes NPR news programs for being smug. She deeply detests Garrison Keillor. It's not really ironic that she would make her name on NPR because she is fascinated by Ira Glass and people involved with This American Life, the show where most people will hear her name for the first time.

A lot of the book is about opinions and feelings about music. I don't agree with everything she says, most of the disagreements being a matter of degree. For example, I never much cared for the Grateful Dead while she hates them. When Jerry Garcia dies and is given the rock and roll equivalent of canonization, Sarah writes that Deadheads are like dittoheads who don't bathe.

The opinions that make the most impression on me are her love for Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I really liked Smells Like Teen Spirit, but I didn't hear a lot of other stuff that made an impression early. The mumbling reminded me of R.E.M., which isn't a bad thing, but I already listened to R.E.M., thanks very much. When it came to the Seattle bands, I bought Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, but not Nirvana.

Cobain's death didn't hit me that hard when it happened, probably because I was the wrong age. I was the right age to be shocked by the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and to a lesser extent by Jim Morrison and Brian Jones. Sarah Vowell is almost exactly fourteen years younger than I am and because I respect her, I've started listening to more Nirvana, buying several songs on iTunes.

Another thing that strikes me about the book are the parallels between 1995 and 2011, especially in politics. Sarah quotes a paragraph from Rush Limbaugh denying global warming. (He may be stupid, but at least he's consistent.) Gingrich gets control of the House in the midterm election of 1994, not unlike the situation today, and he begins his campaign of intransigence, including a brief shutdown of government services at the end of 1995. We lived through that, maybe we will live through this, though it's clear Gingrich had much more sway over the Republican freshmen back then than Boehner has over the Tea Party radicals.

If you like Vowell's other books and haven't read Radio On, I recommend the book. You can see the start of her writing style and the things that influence her. She's already very funny and very opinionated, and she is already a stickler for the facts, a trait that makes her books about history so compelling. I found this oral history of 1995, the story of one woman traveling around the country and listening to the radio, a worthy predecessor to her later works like Assassination Vacation and The Wordy Shipmates.

Note: I haven't read her latest work Unfamiliar Fishes yet. Being a cheap bastid, I'm waiting for the paperback.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Hexagons, squares and triangles. More variations on the theme.

More color experiments with the tiling pattern that uses hexagons, squares and triangles.

This is the simplest of the three variations and some may find it the most satisfying.

Another variation that uses only black hexagons, but more colors of squares and triangles.

And a third pattern where black tiles are banned, working just with the yellow, green and blue.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Michele Bachmann sez:
Hands off my hubby!

Michele Bachmann has now officially asked the lamestream media to keep their grubby hot paws off her husband Marcus! Just because he does therapy that prays the gay away is nothing to be noticed!

No story here!

Oh, it's on like Donkey Kong.

Especially if Donkey Kong abducted Mario and the Princess had to save the Plumber.

Civilization is determined by how you treat your captives.

If you are going to see an indie film in the Bay Area, dollars to doughnuts you will go to a Landmark Theatres movie house like the Piedmont in Oakland. I saw Midnight In Paris there last week.

Good film, but I would like to know why not one single observant character from the 1920s, all visual artists or authors, didn't say to Owen Wilson "Dear God, man, what are you wearing? And why does it always look like you haven't shaved for precisely three days?"

I liked the film, but sadly Landmark has succumbed to the awful practice of unending commercials for anything and everything before the movie trailers. Yes, I know movie trailers are in fact commercials themselves, but those make sense to me. You are a movie goer who still shows up at theaters. Here are some movies playing theaters in the near future. I will also admit that I've seen trailers ever since forever, so I'm used to the custom.

So I also rented a movie on Warner Brothers video, Sucker Punch. It was better than I expected, but it was also slashed to pieces since its first release. I only know because there was some reference in a review I read to a scene not in the video version.

That is not the main point of this post. This movie was rented from Netflix and Warner Brothers video had a disclaimer that this was only for rental. So far, not a problem.

Then they bring on Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood in a PSA for film restoration. I like Marty and Clint. I'm happy to listen to them.

Then it's an ad for Blu-Ray on my obviously NOT Blu-Ray disc. I try to fast forward. I get the circle slash.

Then a preview. I try to fast forward. Again the circle slash.

I can't stop watching the goddamn previews.

Again and again and again and again.

There are at least four previews of movies and two ads for the Blu-Ray experience. Easily fifteen to twenty minutes of crap I can't stop.


As Stan Lee might have written.

But let me end on a positive note. I also recently saw the last installment of the Harry Potter films. A very satisfying experience, the best end of a long series of movies in at least thirty years.

I may not be the perfect critic. I only read through the first four books.

Neville Longbottom! Who knew? (Well, people who read all seven books knew. It was a rhetorical question anyway.)

In any case, what I really wanted to say here in a completely positive end to an otherwise grumpy post, I still love the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland as much as I did when I went there to see Jason and the Argonauts lo those many moons ago.

And not just because Honor Blackman filling out that fabulous toga was the only giant woman I ever saw on the big screen when I was just a sprout.

Hmmmmmmm, giant Honor Blackman... hmmmmm, fabulous toga...

Sorry, lost my train of thought there for a second.

Before the trailers? The Grand Lake plays classical symphonic music at a volume that allows normal conversation.

It's like an oasis in a very nasty desert. Props to the management and keep up the good work.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Yellow squares, black triangles and hexagons.

Here is yet another tiling pattern that I think should be better known than it is, the triangle, square and hexagon pattern, this time done in just two colors. The buffer zone around each hexagon, created by the squares and triangles, forms a regular dodecagon, a twelve sided polygon where every corner angle measures 150°.

Isn't it pretty?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Undefeated gets beaten badly in its second week.

Let's be clear. Sarah Palin did not make the film The Undefeated. Stephen K. Bannon, a guy who has been making right wing documentaries for less than a decade with no noticeable success, wrote and directed this thing. Last week, when all the news about movies was spelled HARRY POTTER, Bannon's movie opened in ten theaters, made a respectable $65,000 and had per theater averages about the same as some other small openers, including Tabloid, a documentary by Errol Morris, who has a very good track record both commercially and critically as a documentarian (The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time) and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, a film from a popular novel directed by Wayne Wang.

Then came the second week.

Tabloid had good reviews, got into more than twice as many theaters as its first week and now stands at $283,000 in ticket sales.

Snow Flower got pounded by the critics, but it still more than doubled the number of theaters where it is being shown and has over $400,000 in ticket sales. Putting it on the list with the other two is a little bit of apples and oranges, since it was a much more expensive film to make and will be hard pressed to make back the $6 million production costs.

The Undefeated started last week in 10 theaters and jumped... to 14. The bad reviews, non-existent advertising campaign and pathetic distribution channels have had the expected effect, and after making about $65,000 in the first weekend, after ten days of ticket sales that number has climbed to a paltry $101,000. I thought it might make a million because of her name, but now it will have to pull a miracle to make $200,000.

Is the bloom finally off Sarah Palin's rose? I pray to Odin, Vishnu and the little baby Jebus it is so. We only have to convince the press that it is, because they are her last constituency. Almost everybody else has figured out she's just in it for the money and the money is drying up.

Penrose patterns #6a and #6b, 24/7/11:
Phospor fields

Title: Phospor Field #1
Date: 24 July 2011
Type: Pattern
Number of tiles: 405
Color breakdown: 145 yellow, 145 blue, 115 purple
Shape breakdown: 270 kites, 135 darts
Kosher Penrose tiling rules: no

Title: Phospor Field #2
Date: 24 July 2011
Type: Pattern
Number of tiles: 495
Color breakdown: 145 yellow, 175 blue, 175 purple
Shape breakdown: 330 kites, 165 darts
Kosher Penrose tiling rules: no

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An important distinction.

White people who set off bombs and shoot dozens of people for political reasons are madmen.

Non-white people who do the same have been made turned into monsters by their bad and false religion.

Weird Christianity is never to blame for white people's murderous hate, no matter how many times they say it. It's probably World of Warcraft that makes a white person snap.

Just trying to help my readers sort through the news coverage today. You're welcome.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Apple may be just as evil as the next mega corporation...

but they do know their target audience.

(Actually, this is the work of some clever Photoshopper. The new OS is actually called Lion.)

Live blogging Paraguay-Venezuela in penalty kicks

Recent history: The Copa America 2011 is being played in Argentina. Everybody thought Argentina and Brazil were the best teams. Both have already lost. Uruguay won their semi final and are in the final. Paraguay and Venezuela are playing in the other semi-final.

Ancient history: Venezuela sucks eggs. The South American championship has been played since 1916. This is their first time in the semis EVER. They have looked better but massively unlucky. Now it's penalty kicks, the ultimate in luck.

Paraguay first. Ortigoza shoots. Goalie guess wrong .1-0
Maldonado. Goalie guess wrong hits post and goes in. 1-1
Lucas puts it in. 2-1
Rey makes it. 2-2
Damn Univision breaks up.
Sombrano makes, some Venezuelan misses. 3-2 Paraguay.
Still breaking up. Both Paraguay and Venezuela make 4th shots 4-3
Paraguay for the clinching goal. Paraguay wins, 5-3.

Uruguay-Paraguay in the final.

Venezuela continues their proud tradition of sucking eggs.

What little I know about the supermarket rags.

I've been writing The Other Blog for a year and a half now. My idea was that everybody goes to the supermarket, men and women, young and old, rich, poor and in between, and we all see these things, even if we don't buy them. Like the air we breathe, we barely give it a second thought. I decided to publish all the tabloid headlines dealing with celebrities on a blog, which means I could use labels to keep track of information. Here are some things I've learned that hadn't occurred to me before I started this silly experiment.

1. I am not the target market. I kinda knew this already, since I haven't bought one of these things in a very long time. But after eighty weeks of data, I know now I'm not the target market because I am not a woman.

Even though the reality of supermarkets is that everybody uses them to some extent, the business model of the ten magazines at the checkout stands is that women are the people they want to attract. It's old fashioned, but so is their message. Most of the stories are about female celebrities, well over 60%. They may be rich and lovely and (for the most part) young, but do they have real success? In nearly all the magazines, real success is defined as a loving husband and adorable babies.

2. Celebrities screwing up big time are not the main focus. In the past eighteen months, the biggest hot messes in show business have been Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. Charlie has about twenty weeks when he was on the covers in that time, and Lindsay has about the same. The really popular celebrities, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Aniston, BrAngelina (which is really Angelina Jolie first and Brad Pitt second) and Kim Kardashian, average at least one cover story a week. Their stories are about love, marriage and babies, or in most cases, the lack of same.

Angelina Jolie is really the most popular celebrity when you count her solo stories and her stories as part of the World's Most Famous Couple. Most of the stories paint her as the villainess, though not all, and it galls the tabloid press that she has more of the ingredients of a happy life than do the "good girls" Bullock and Aniston, who have both had bad luck with men.

3. Not all supermarket rags are created equal. There is a big split in The Only Ten Magazines That Matter, as I like to call them. Five are owned by American Media Inc (AMI), and in general, these five are more mean spirited than the others. The most vicious, the ones I call the Three Wicked Step Sisters, are printed in tabloid form on newsprint, the National Enquirer, the Globe and the low rent National Examiner. I introduced them in order of importance. Stories first broken in one might be followed up weeks later in another. If there is going to be a prediction of a celebrity death, these three do way more than 90% of those predictions. (They also suck at those predictions, though sometimes they get lucky, as they did with Michael Jackson a few years ago, Gary Coleman last year and Peter Falk this year. Falk was on the cover in a "Brave Last Days" last month for the first time and died the next week.)

AMI also publishes the Sun, a goofy rag that can't stop predicting the end of the world, no matter how many times they get it wrong. The Sun is two silly mags in one, including the Weekly World News, the great old black and white tabloid that gave us the Bat Boy who was found in a cave back in the 1980s.

The fifth magazine in their kennel is the Star, which is not quite as mean as the others, but does go in for exposes of celebrities more than the other five mags on the stand, People, OK!, Us Weekly, Weekly Life & Style and In Touch.

4. If you can't beat up celebrities, who can you beat up? Most of the five magazines not in the AMI kennel try to get access to celebrities, exclusive interviews and the like, so they don't always hit that hard with stories about movie stars and singers. Even the jackals of AMI are a little wary, especially now that Katie Holmes got a front page apology and some undisclosed bundle of cash from Star who had a headline saying she was a drug addict.

Instead, the gods of 21st Century Celebrity created reality television. The makers of these shows want the publicity, so they are more than happy to see the nobodies they plucked off the street ripped to shreds in the supermarket checkout rags week after week. The favorite shows are the permutations of Kardashians on E!, followed by former Hugh Hefner paramour Kendra Wilkinson on the same channel, then MTV's Teen Mom, Bravo's Real Housewives franchise and ABC's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. (Dancing With The Stars is also a big favorite, but the people on that show are actually famous for something else usually, and the dancers have a marketable talent even if the show goes away, so I'm not counting them as useless.)

There are about a jillion reality TV shows. These are the tabloid favorites because they are about the pillars of female happiness: love, marriage and babies, hopefully in that order chronologically.

5. You want sports? Tune into ESPN. There have been a lot of sports scandals in the past two years, but only one has been a big story in the supermarket rags: Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren. It is interesting to them because of love, marriage and babies, and it also helps that as a golfer, Tiger is not a regional star but a national star. No matter how much of a mess Ben Roethlisberger makes of his life, to take just one example, it might sell magazines in Pittsburgh but probably not in Seattle or Mobile.

6. The Brits will not save the business. The British public eat up tabloid stories, both in dailies like the late unlamented News of the World and in weeklies like OK! and Hello. Circulations of five million copies can be sold in a country with only sixty million people. The American tabloids would kill to have that kind of success.

The thing is, American tabloids used to get much better numbers than they do now, but in the 1980s, the public lost the taste for these things in a serious way and the trend has been slowly downhill ever since. The turning point was the lawsuit brought against the Enquirer by Carol Burnett. They printed that she was drunk in public and she sued the socks off of them. Soon after, the Enquirer was no longer the ruler of the roost and the more positive People magazine, which is published by Time-Life and has a higher standard of journalistic integrity, became the number one seller, a position it holds to this day. Several publications have tried bringing in British editors, hoping they will be able to work the same kind of magic on this side of the Atlantic, but so far there have been no miracle cures.

I plan to keep doing the Other Blog for as long as it is fun and as long as people are reading it. About a half million hits were logged from January 2010 through June 2011, and it's possible there could be another half million in the next twelve months. I've been surprised at what I've learned reading the tabloid headlines over the past eighteen months, and who knows that I won't learn more in the months and years ahead.

As my father is fond of saying, you learn something new every day if you are not careful.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Breaking Bad review:
Season four, episode one.
written in haiku.

In three seasons past,

no one would want to be Walt White.

Now, it's much worse.

How to remain Undefeated.

I dislike Sarah Palin, but I don't want to make a hobby of it. I dislike her politics and I dislike her supporters coming up for excuses to explain why she isn't dim-witted when she shows herself to be dull and poorly educated with astonishing regularity.

This weekend, a documentary film about the former half-term governor of Alaska was released to very little fanfare. It's called The Undefeated, which is almost as silly a title as Sarah is silly herself. Clearly, she has been defeated. She played basketball and her team lost occasionally. She competed for Miss Alaska and lost. And of course, she was second bill on a presidential ticked that got seriously drubbed.

There are two main websites that track movies released in the United States, Box Office Mojo and The Numbers. Neither site reported how many screens The Undefeated would be shown on this weekend or how the movie did. This is odd, because they will report no only on the huge movies like Harry Potter, but also small independent releases showing on just a handful of screens nationwide. (The Undefeated opened in ten theaters across the nation.) I e-mailed Box Office Mojo (BOM) to find out why and got a nice reply from Brandon Gray, the guy who runs the site. Distributors get in touch with BOM to tell them the numbers. The company run by Stephen K. Bannon didn't do that, so Bannon doesn't have to have his movie's numbers compared to other films, even other movies showing on very few screens.

This is how you remain The Undefeated. Make sure when you play, no one keeps score.

UPDATE: The distributors HAVE released the numbers for this weekend. 10 theaters and about $65,000 in ticket sales, for about $6,500 per screen. it's not fair to compare it to movies with big openings on lots of screens, so instead let's look at other small releases this weekend. In terms of per screen, it did almost exactly the same as Errol Morris' new documentary Tabloid, it did better than Wayne Wang's new movie Snow Flower And The Secret Fan at $5,500 per screen, but it was crushed the latest Bollywood release in the U.S., Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, released on 100 screens, bringing in about a million bucks and making about $9,500 per screen. That's a pretty humiliating defeat for the Tea Party crowd.

As it opens wider, it will be interesting to see if conservative word of mouth can overcome the overwhelmingly negative reviews. Moreover, this was meant to go straight to DVD, so the producers never made a film copy, forcing the movie to be shown at theaters equipped with DVD players.

On some website, not HuffPo, possibly Talking Points Memo or Oliver Willis' blog, I predicted this would do better than Bill Cunningham New York (more's the pity, it's a great film), but would not surpass Ben Stein's pro intelligent design documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. That means I think it will make between $1 million and $7 million in the theaters. (Ticket sales aside, Stein is a dishonest scumbag and the movie is a fraud, as Scientific American so ably points out.)

So far, I think my prediction numbers are pretty safe, especially on the high side. This looks like an Atlas Shrugged size dud, though in its favor, the filmmakers didn't spend that much to make this one.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Stuff I like:
Ball Four
Part 5: The real taboo topics.

I've been reading online more stuff about Jim Bouton and his book Ball Four. There were a flurry of stories last year on the 40th anniversary, and apparently nearly all is forgiven. In a post script from 1980, Bouton said he was never invited to Old Timers games, but that has changed. Now, fans give him a rousing ovation. The main reasons for the decade or more of hard feelings stem from three things in the book, worse than the profanity or discussing sex and drugs.

1. Bouton writes about money. Back before free agency, the major leagues were willing to publicize how much they paid the superstars, so the $100,000 or more contracts given to the likes of Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams were in the newspapers. They did not advertise how much they were paying everybody else, and the answer was "peanuts". Bouton always drove a hard bargain in negotiations, and even though he was a 20+ game winner on the perennial World Series participant New York Yankees, he never made more than $30,000, and by the end of his career, his salary was closer to $20,000. This was a good middle class salary in the late 1960s, but ballplayers often had to deal with moving expenses when traded, or maintaining a home for the family in some town away from where the club played. In the space of one season, Bouton has to move from Seattle to Vancouver to Seattle to Houston, with his family making two of those moves, then his wife and kids going to Michigan to live with family while he plays ball in Houston. Bouton claims some credit for swaying opinion towards the players in this era just before free agency becomes the law of the land, and he might very well have a point.

2. Superstars displayed in a negative light. You might think the story about Ted Williams in the batting cage doesn't show Ted at his best, but while it shows Williams as being somewhat vain, he had plenty to be vain about. No, the meanest stories Bouton tells are about the lack of hustle in superstars like Roger Maris and Carl Yazstremski, or the stunts Whitey Ford resorted to when his fastball wasn't as scary as it used to be. These were the things many ballplayers and sportswriters really objected to.

3. Bouton and authority. In Seattle, Bouton doesn't show much respect to his superiors, but the real problem for him is that he isn't getting straight answers or the information he needs to help the team more. In Houston, his attitude improves markedly. While Harry "The Hat" Walker has a reputation as a tough guy and a screamer, most of the stories he has about run-ins with Walker end with "You know what? Harry was right." Bouton actually does respect being treated like an adult, but that treatment was rare in the major leagues back in the day, and I'm not sure how prevalent it is now. The other coach he writes about with reverence is his old pitching coach Johnny Sain, once a star pitcher with the Boston Braves. Nearly every quote of Sain's is treated as a pearl of wisdom, and Bouton is always glad to talk to him and get his advice on situations Bouton faces as he makes the transition from fastball pitcher to knuckleball thrower.

In conclusion, I'm glad I returned to this book some 41 years after I read it first. While I don't think the obscenities will be as shocking to readers now as they were then, it's still a very entertaining book that does a great job of trapping a time and place very different from the 21st Century in a snapshot, a testament to Bouton's honesty, humor and innate skills as a writer.

Penrose pattern #5, 17/7/11:
The Stars Draw Near

Title: The Stars Draw Near
Date: 17 July 2011
Type: Pattern
Number of tiles: 330
Color breakdown: 175 yellow, 165 blue
Shape breakdown: 210 kites, 120 darts
Kosher Penrose tiling rules: no

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Stuff I like:
Ball Four
Part 4: Sex, drugs and Jim Bouton.

Many people had written sports diaries before the publication of Ball Four, but Jim Bouton told a lot of truth about being on a ball club, and this pissed off sportswriters and the baseball establishment to no end. Bowie Kuhn, the commissioner of baseball when the book came out, was especially upset about sex stories that weren't really about sex and drug stories that were completely legal.

Lemme 'splain.

The Seattle Pilots, like sports organizations throughout recorded history, thought that making fun of homosexuality was the height of wit, so guys started kissing other guys when on the bus to a game or in the clubhouse. When it started, the perpetrator would put his hand over his intended's mouth and kiss the back of his own hand. Hilarity ensued. But later, guys stopped putting their hand on the other guy's face, so actual lips to face or lips to mouth action occurred, sometimes followed by fist to jaw action going in the other direction.

This deeply annoyed Bowie Kuhn.

Kuhn also was outraged by the idea that some guys came to the game still hung over and played, sometimes remarkably well.

Bouton also talks about real sex, though he doesn't name names much. He talks about the women who are available, known as Baseball Annies. He also talks about stewardesses, known as "stews". He says the stories are true. He also brings up a few fine points. Taking a Baseball Annie out for dinner and drinks is considered bad form, but it is fully expected if a ballplayer is hooking up with a stewardess. While someone had to be taking advantage of the Baseball Annies and the stews, Bouton snitches on no one.

The closest he gets to naming names is a practical joke where a paternity suit letter from a fake New York City law firm is sent to Fred Talbot, a guy Bouton kind of hates, and the guy goes into a serious funk. Bouton didn't do it, but everyone knew the letter was coming, except of course Talbot himself.

And then there's the drugs. Alcohol is completely accepted and provided after the game by the club, but the drugs whose legality are something of a gray area are amphetamines, known in the book as greenies. Some clubs provided them to the players free of charge. The clubs that didn't allegedly frowned upon them, but every club had a supplier, either a player or a guy on the coaching staff or clubhouse crew. Bouton writes that greenies are great. No one in the book is snitched as an abuser of alcohol or greenies. It's just relaxation and enhanced performance without consequence.

Forty years later, many in baseball have forgiven Bouton for his trangressions, and now that he is allowed to show up for Old Timers' games, the fans always give him a rousing ovation. But the greatest of his transgressions had nothing to do with sex or drugs, but instead the real taboo topics of sports: money, stardom and the chain of command.

More on that tomorrow in part 5.

Dodecagons, squares and triangles.

This is analogous to using octagons and square, the famous linoleum tile pattern, but dodecagons when lined up north/south/east/west leave a gap filled by triangles and squares, not just a simple square.

The same idea with the squares removed, which makes it a little hard to line the triangles up neatly. Without magnetized backs, these shapes can be very delicate to work with, and lining things up perfectly becomes more of a challenge.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two teams, only one team of destiny.

(photo from Imago/
Before the Women's World Cup began, the German team was installed as the prohibitive favorites to win. Instead, the final in Frankfurt will be the United States against Japan, a match-up that looked stunningly unlikely just two weekends ago. Both the Yanks and the Japanese lost their last matches in group play, and so had to face very tough quarterfinal opponents, U.S. vs. Brazil and Japan vs. Germany.

The U.S. beat the Brazilians and Marta on penalty kicks. This was a big win, but not technically an upset. When the Japanese beat Germany in extra time 1-0. This was a huge upset.

The U.S. women are ranked number one in the world, and this finally might be the time for Abby Wambach (white headband, far right) to be the star on a winning World Cup team. She was the Next Big Thing when the superstars of the nineties were retiring. The Americans won the Olympic medals during her tenure as the number one goal scoring threat, but not the World Cup this century.

(photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP)

It pains me to write this, but I don't think they are the best team on the field this Sunday. If size were all that mattered, the game would not be played. It's going to look like a high school team playing middle schoolers when the U.S. plays Japan, but after a few minutes it should be clear that the middle schoolers are really good. The press will focus on stars, and Homare Sawa is the big name for the Japanese, but the real story is how well they pass and maintain possession.

It's madness to compare a woman's team to FC Barcelona right now. Heck, it's probably a mistake to compare any men's national team to Barça, they are so crazy good. But expect the Japanese to put on a clinic on Sunday.

In the past two weeks, the U.S. lost to the Swedes and the Swedes were crushed by the Japanese. The U.S. has to hope for some kind of rock/paper/scissors situation or they are going to get run into the ground.

For any U.S. fans who stop by - and I am a fan myself, by the way - take heart in the fact that I suck at prediction. I thought the Dutch could keep up with Spain in the men's World Cup final last year.


If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, there will be a big screen up in the Civic Center Plaza right across from City Hall where you can watch the game with a crowd for free. It's easy to get to on BART and it can be a lot of fun. My blog buddy (and real life buddy) sfmike has reported on the World Cup games there so far here and here.

I saw the Giants win the World Series there and it was a blast. The crowd probably won't be the same size, but it's the place to be at 11:45 a.m. on Sunday.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stuff I like:
Ball Four
Part 3: A short simple vignette.
With obscenities.

A lot of the best stories in Ball Four are not the clever things Jim Bouton says (and he says several), but instead Bouton as reporter, re-telling the stories others tell him. Here are a few paragraphs that illustrate that point nicely.

In the bullpen tonight Jim Pagliaroni was telling us how Ted Williams, when he was still playing, would psyche himself up for a game during batting practice, usually early practice before the fans or reporters got there.

He'd go into the cage, wave his bat at the pitcher and start screaming at the top of his voice, "My name is Ted fucking Williams and I'm the greatest hitter in baseball."

He'd swing and hit a line drive.

"Jesus H. Christ himself couldn't get me out."

And he'd hit another.

Then he'd say, "Here comes Jim Bunning, Jim fucking Bunning and that little shit slider of his."


"He doesn't really think he's gonna get me out with that shit."


"I'm Ted fucking Williams!"


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Someone invited me to Google Plus.

And I accepted because, obviously, I am not wasting enough time in front of the computer currently.

I tried Twitter and Facebook, and they aren't habits with me. People keep asking me to be connected to them on LinkedIn and if I know a name I accept, but I have nothing to add.

Is there a social network for cyber hermits? Maybe that what MySpace has become.

Actually, I think writing a blog where I average about a comment a day is almost the perfect example of a cyber hermit.

Maybe I've found my true calling.

1960s Summer Dance Party 2011.

You Can't Hurry Love Diana Ross & the Supremes
Stupid Girl Garbage
Patricia Pérez Prado
This Old Heart of Mine Tammi Terrell
Just One Look Doris Troy
I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) The Four Tops
Time Is Tight Booker T. & the MGs
Picture Book Fresh Young Fellows
My Baby Just Cares For Me Nina Simone
Shop Around Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Too Experienced The Bodysnatchers
Don't Bring Me Down Electric Light Orchestra

Bonus track: 54-46 Was My Number Toots & the Maytals

This season's dance party is for really old folks. It starts with the Supremes and then the DJ tries to sneak in a song less than twenty years old. Some unhappy customer complains about the hippie disco stuff, so the DJ goes even older school with the great Pérez Prado.

The average age of these songs is collecting Social Security, but I still love them all. Maybe because I'm an old coot myself.

Give it to me... one time. (HUH!)

Give it to me... two times. (HUH!HUH!)

Give it to me... three times! (HUH!HUH!HUH!)

Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme gimme...

C'mon, put your replacement hip to good use. Get up and dance!

Dodecagons, hexagons and squares.

The big blue and green shapes have twelve sides each, so they are dodecagons. The yellow hexagons and black squares should be more familiar.

I really like tesselations, as should be obvious to any regular reader by now.

Here's a close-up where none of the wooden table is visible.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stuff I like:
Ball Four
Part 2: Jim Bouton and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

It's the rare person that would put Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross' famous book On Death and Dying together with Jim Bouton's baseball diary Ball Four. Doing searches on both Google and Bing for the two names together, the only things they have in common is their best known books were published only one year apart, 1969 and 1970 respectively, and both books made the list of Books of the Century published by the New York Public Library.

So, forty one years too late, let me be that rare person. Kubler-Ross should have read Ball Four and Bouton should certainly have read On Death and Dying, because they both could learn a thing or two.

"Did you hear who died today?" In baseball parlance, that meant somebody on a major league club got sent to the minors. Jim Bouton in spring training worries about this on a regular basis. He knows he's marginal, even on an expansion team, and every pitcher sent down to the minor league Vancouver Mounties means his head has been spared from the chopping block.

But being sent to the minors isn't really death because there are way too many resurrections. No, the beginning of the book deals with the death of Jim Bouton's fastball and Bouton going through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Early in the book, he hopes his new pitch the knuckleball will be a strong set-up for his fastball, putting hitters off guard. Every once in a while, he writes that his arm feels like it did four years earlier when he was still a guy who blew the third strike past over-matched major leaguers. He looks at other pitchers and thinks he has to be better than them, especially Steve Barber who never gets and work and is always in the training room. His anger and depression are mainly focused on his immediate superiors, pitching coach Sal Maglie and manager Joe Schultz, neither of whom has Bouton's complete confidence or respect.

Though he isn't cut in spring training, a few weeks into the season, Bouton "dies" and is sent to Vancouver. There he has success with the knuckleball, and finally he finds acceptance. His fastball is dead. He is a knuckleball pitcher, hoping to emulate the success of Phil Niekro and Hoyt Wilhelm. Someone tells him his knuckler moves faster than Wilhelm's, and he credits his old fastball technique for the difference, though he knows throwing a real fast ball hurts like hell and the knuckler takes almost nothing out of his arm.

The change in Bouton's attitude from the beginning of spring training to the time he is resurrected to the big leagues is remarkable, and the five stages of grief can be seen touching all the bases.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stuff I like:
Ball Four
Part 1: Introduction.

I've been doing a lot of review recently, watching movies and TV shows I liked when I was younger, re-reading favorite books. This week, I was able to get Ball Four by Jim Bouton out of the Oakland Public Library, opening the pages again forty one years after it was first published. It was a must-read book for any teenage boy in 1970 who liked sports even a little bit. Two friends of mine from high school, Andy and Steve, sometimes check in on the blog. They both read it back in the day. We talked about it for weeks. I would overhear conversations in the hall and on the school bus between guys I barely knew, and I'd hear them repeat stories and jokes from the book. We didn't use the phrase "water cooler material" back then, but that's what Ball Four was for adolescent males in 1970, provided your parents let you read it.

The book is the diary of Jim Bouton recounting his 1969 season playing for several teams, both in the majors and in the minors. Sports diaries had been published before, but Ball Four was significantly different in two major ways.

1. Bouton had been a top pitcher for the Yankees, but when this book is written, he is nearly washed up and struggling to make the club on The Seattle Pilots, a first year expansion team. (The team didn't work out in Seattle and move to Milwaukee the next year, changing the name to the Brewers.) Most diaries before this were by stars or superstars on winning teams, often teams that won the pennant in the year in question.

2. Bouton told the truth. He told about all that he saw that he found interesting: the funny, the petty, the ridiculous, the crude. Like other adolescents loved Catcher in the Rye for its raw language, my friends and I loved Ball Four, not only for the jokes and new permutations of obscenities, but for the stories it told and the characters we met.

I'm only about a quarter of the way through, but it's a quick read and I should be finished soon enough, probably by the weekend. I can honestly say I am getting more out of it now with the gift of hindsight than I did when I first read it when it was fresh.

When I was a kid, I thought it was funny and I still do. This may be because my sense of humor is still at the stunted adolescent level, I can't be sure. Here's a way to test yourself. Sing the following lyric.

Summertime.... and your mother is easy.

If you laughed at that, you'll laugh at Ball Four.

But the big thing is that when I was a kid reading about the escapades Bouton the adult and his teammates, the emotional tug wasn't the same as it is now that I'm a man far past the age of thinking about breaking into the majors, reading the words of a man in the twilight of his career.

In any case, get ready for about a week of posts about Ball Four, a honest book about flawed people, including the author, disguised as a filthy, funny book about sports.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Penrose pattern #4, 10/7/11:
The Hive Mind

Title: The Hive Mind
Date: 10 July 2011
Type: Pattern
Number of tiles: 192
Color breakdown: 52 purple, 88 yellow, 52 blue
Shape breakdown: 116 kites, 76 darts
Kosher Penrose tiling rules: no

Ten on twelve for fifty two minutes.

I had the times wrong for the games on Sunday, thinking the United States and Brazil would play at noon. I was scanning to see the score for the early game and saw that Sweden had already crushed Australia 3-1 and the U.S. was ahead 1-0 against Brazil at the half. So I scooted on down to La Estrellita to watch the second half.

Walking the few blocks, I had these strange feelings. I didn't really know who I was rooting for. I wanted to see the United States get through, but I also wanted to see some flashes of brilliance from Marta, the 25 year old Brazilian superstar who is the best female player in the world right now. (The Brazilian men are in the Copa America, playing listlessly. They were behind 2-1 in the second half against the never awe inspiring Paraguayans when the Brazilian fans began the chant "We want Marta! We want Marta!", though in Portuguese of course. The Brazilian Federico Chaves Gueves took this as a personal challenge and scored the tying goal in the 89th minute.)

Well, I got both the things I wanted. The Brazilians began attacking with better passes and plays, and Marta was brought down in the box for a penalty. Both players were tugging and struggling, but the ref called it on the American Rachel Beuhler and gave her a red card.

The Brazilian coach decided Christiane should take the penalty, and that might have been a mistake. Hope Solo made a spectacular save and the Americans were still in the lead. But the ref called for do-over. The announcers didn't know why and assumed the ref had called Solo for moving off the line before the shot, but instead an American stepped into the 18 yard box a little early, which technically is infringement but in practice is rarely called.

Being a sports fan is sometimes a trip down memory lane. It felt like the famous end of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Olympic basketball game, where the last few seconds were played several times until the Russians got a chance to win, and then it was over.

On the re-shoot, it was Marta. There was no magical save. U.S. 1, Brazil 1. The Yanks would have only ten players on the field for the last twenty two minutes of the second half, and if it was still tied, they would play one down for another half hour.

The Americans hung tough, but several calls by the ref went the other way. The game did go into extra time, and I got to see a true flash of Marta brilliance. Closely marked and at a bad angle, she toe volleyed a ball out of the air, popping it up gently into the far corner of the net where it could not be reached. Earlier on the play, the woman who passed it to Marta appeared to be offside, but there was no call. It was ten on twelve, the twelfth opponent being the ref herself. Brazil 2, U.S. 1.

And so it stayed. For a man down, the U.S, was not playing a wait and see game, but instead running hard and setting up opportunities. The game was winding down and a Brazilian player fell to the ground, hoping one guesses to use up some clock. When she was finally escorted from the field, the game went into extra time. Three minutes away from elimination.

(photo by Petr David Josek/Associated Press)
And then the miracle goal. It was not a super pretty flash of brilliance like Marta might do, it was just what a better conditioned team can do against a team who is not as well prepared. Rapinoe sent a long cross into the box for Abby Wambach, much taller than her marking player. The Brazilian goalie Andreia didn't clear it and Abby put it right on her forehead into the back of the net. 2-2 and we go to penalty kicks.

You never know when it goes to PKs, but if foreshadowing means anything, you had a very strong hunch. Hope Solo looked great all game and Andreia looked shaky several times. Hope stopped an early attempt by Diaine, who in the first half scored an own goal when trying to clear a cross, so she got to be the double goat.

(Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
When it was over, the American squad was all smiles. It could be argued they will not play a team as tough as Brazil in the rest of the tournament, but this has been a very strange set of games. They play France on Wednesday and if they pull that off, they face the winner of Sweden-Japan, two good teams that are also over-achieving at the moment. The Yanks should beat the French, but in this tournament, there has been a whole lot of should that has turned into shit.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Triangles and hexagons.
Simple patterns that should be better known.

Because every angle of an equilateral triangle is 60° and every regular heaxgon has angles of 120 °, the two shapes mix and match in several ways. If I use less colors than I did here, the Star of David motif in this pattern becomes much more prominent.

Here is a completely different pattern where a buffer of triangles surrounds each hexagon. This is my favorite of the regular mix and match patterns using triangles and hexagons, and I'm going to do more experimenting with color options with this one over the next few weeks.


To paraphrase Elvis Costello only slightly, the 2011 Women's World Cup was supposed to be "All this, but no surprises for this year's girls."

Germany was the host country. Germany had won the last two World Cups, in 2007 by not giving up a single goal. The Germans had players on their bench that would start for any other team in the world.

Japan was a challenge, but by no means an insurmountable one. It was the classic sports match-up, the big and strong German side versus the small and quick Japanese. It's always intriguing, but the smart money was all over Germany.

At the end of 90 minutes, it was still 0-0. The Germans had some bad luck when midfielder Kim Kulig fell awkwardly in the 8th minute and had to be replaced, but the big surprise was when Silvia Neid made her last substitution, it was clear that both veteran Birgit Prinz, the top goal scorer in Women's World Cup history, and Fatmire Bajramaj, the young face of German women's football, would not be used at all in this crucial game.

(Photo by Johannes Eisele, AFP)

It was still a scoreless draw after the first fifteen minutes of extra time, but in the 108th minute, the Japanese star Homare Sawa sent a perfect pass to a speeding Karina Maruyama, who put a tricky far post shot past the German goalie Angerer, who was naturally guarding the near post. This picture by Johannes Eisele captures the moment perfectly.

The emotions of the women's game are very different from the men's. There were German players weeping bitter tears and Japanese women weeping tears of joy for one the greatest successes in Japanese sports history.

The smart money said the Germans would win this thing. Pressed for a second choice, they thought the Americans had a chance, maybe the Brazilians if their suspect defense could hold together, an unlikely event given their history. As it stands now, any team that is still lacing up their boots as of today could be this year's champions, which includes the Yanks and the Samba Queens, who will meet tomorrow afternoon Pacific time.

Congratulations to the Japanese women for a well deserved and hard fought victory.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Two versions of Sierpinski's Gasket, using the new toys.

The standard version of Sierpinski's gasket is two colors. It is a simple fractal that is supposed to be created by infinite recursion, but I only have finitely many triangles, so this will have to do.

Here is a four color version of the gasket, using Pascal's triangle and mod 4 arithmetic. Four colors lets me make a bigger version, but some color will eventually be in short supply, this time it was the aquamarine.

I have an idea for how to make this using empty space as the most used shape. That should make a bigger version.

Support your local.

A logo of an oak tree has been the official mark of Oakland since 1852, but a new store called Oaklandish has redesigned the the tree to have deeper roots. The Oaklandish clothing brand has been around for about ten years, and they just opened up a new store on 1440 Broadway in Oakland, about a block away from the 12th Street BART station's exit in front of DeLauer's, my go-to place for all the supermarket rags in one convenient location, always available on Thursdays when I need them.

I went into the store last Friday and bought a few buttons, promising myself I'd buy a shirt this Thursday when I made my DeLauer's run. I am now a proud owner of an Oaklandish BART t-shirt, an very cool design that is of absolutely no use if you are trying to find your way around the bay by train.

Hey, I already know the BART map. I bought this because it looks good.

If you are an East Bay person, stop on by the store and check out the stuff. It's a good local business and it deserves your patronage.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Not according to form, more's the pity.

Through the sixteen games of the Women's World Cup being played now in Germany, predicting the winners was pretty easy work. Look at the world rankings and what ever team was ranked higher would win or at worst draw. But then came the last eight games in group play, which started yesterday and ended this afternoon, and betting on favorites based on the rankings went to hell.

The Canadians were supposed to be the sixth best team in the world and the Nigerians 27th, but after two tough losses, the gals from Canuckistan had nothing left in the tank and lost 1-0. Japan and England met in a match that would decide first and second place in their division, and England beat the higher ranked Japanese. Besides the rankings, Japan had crushed Mexico 4-0, while England had only managed a draw against las Mexicanas.

A somewhat bigger surprise, at least historically, was Australia beating the Norwegians to get into the knockout rounds. The difference in their rankings was not that big, but Norway has a much shorter trip to get to Germany and they have won a World Cup. But there was foreshadowing in the earlier games, when the Aussies fought hard against Brazil and lost only 1-0, while Norway took a 3-0 beating at the feet of the Samba Queens. The Aussies beat the Norwegian 2-1 this morning and they will be playing the Swedes this weekend in the quarterfinals.

(photo from the New York Times)

Australia is playing Sweden because the Swedes beat the heavily favored Americans. The U.S. team could have been first in their group if they had managed a draw, but they gave up two goals in the first half on a penalty and a deflected free kick and they could not manage the comeback.

This is the first time the Yanks have lost a game in group play since the Women's World Cup began 20 years ago. This picture is from the only goal they scored, when Abby Wambaugh (number 20 in white, upper left) went up for a header but the ball hit the top of her shoulder instead and went in. It's was Wambaugh's first goal of the tourney and the only bright spot in an otherwise bad day for the Americans.

So now comes Sunday, and the Americans have to face Brazil. My loyalties are completely conflicted. I love the American team, but the Brazilians are so damned pretty when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net. The Brazilian defense is definitely suspect, but after today, the same can be said of the Yanks.

Even before these last few days of chaos, this was a tough match to predict. I usually leave prediction to the people who do it for money, but I'm going out on a limb and saying Brazil 3, United States 2 in regulation and at least one goal for the amazing Marta.

I'm definitely going to be in front of a TV for this one.