pick a number, any number

a secret number between 1 and 100 is drawn at random. you and another player each pick a number between 1 and 100, sequentially. the person whose choice is closest to the secret number wins. ties are decided with a fair coin toss.

this one's pretty easy --- whoever goes first should choose 50 and whoever goes second should choose either 49 or 51. but what if there are three people, each choosing sequentially?

I thought about it a bit, and my first guess turned out to be wrong. I'm interested in what people (people=you) think is the right answer.

yeah, yeah, I know that the problem can be solved with backward induction --- bill & I worked out a few small cases while we waited for our dinner at a mexican restaurant. but before mathematica spits out the answer to life, the universe and everything how about taking a guess...


player 1 chooses

player 2 chooses

player 3 chooses

here's why:

here's who:

potato palace update

there is way too much nothing going on in the last six pages of chapter 7.

hair update

it's short. very very short.

email update

my inbox has converged to a new steady state of 200 messages.


slouching towards normalcy

before we travel too far down the road back to business-as-usual please consider this email from my awesome friend mary lucking, sent 3 nov:

This is as close to a spamming as I will ever do, with the exception of another new mailing address

...so I was feeling down because of the election results, and I got to thinking that this election has been really effective at making me, and a lot of my friends, more politically active than we have been before. The whole campaign mess as gotten us think about the state of our country and our world, and what we want for it, more than we are used to.

So. George won, and I'm upset. I'm upset because I don't like George, but more importantly, I'm upset because there are a lot of specific things that I worry will happen because he has won: I worry for the environment, I worry for civil rights in the US, I worry for human rights worldwide, I worry for science and for art.

And I know that in a week or a month, things will start to get back to normal, the sky won't fall in, and that I'll get back to normal life without thinking about these things very much.

So before I forget how upset I am, I've decided to look at my list of things I'm angry about, choose the two that I care most about, and make a commitment to working to change them. I can't count on my government to save the trees, but I can do something myself.

And although this feels like one of those spams calling for action that I loathe to receive, I'm writing to a few friends because I believe that there's a lot of passion out there right now that can be harnessed if we recognize it before it dissipates.

I'm not asking you to forward this email, but if you think the concept makes sense, then I'm asking you to call the ACLU or the Sierra Club or Planned Parenthood or whoever's work you believe in, and see what you can do to help. And maybe ask a fellow upset friend to do the same.

thanks, and big, warm hugs,



here's a link mary will like and a thought mary, and everyone else, may appreciate:

As a solution to various problems you may encounter upon the way, let me suggest this:

Make Good Art.

It's very simple. But it seems to work. Life fallen apart? Make good art. True love ran off with the milkman? Make good art. Bank foreclosing? Make good art.

Keep moving, learn new skills. Enjoy yourself.

excerpted from a somewhat odd speech neil gaiman gave at the harvey awards and posted on his blog a couple days after the election:


that's my brain, trying to process my pre- and post-election experiences while simultaneously digging out from the avalanche of everyone else's post-election analysis, agony and conspiracies (arriving daily in an email account near you!).


We need time to reflect on these last days. It is easy to rush into analysis and blame and learn the wrong things. So I want to be cautious in offering thoughts prematurely on what we should do now.

We all know that the changes we need to make are deep and systemic, that no politician's victory will make them for us. Had Kerry won, I believe we would be on an easier road. Now the way ahead will be hard and stony, but it may be clearer and there may be unexpected twists and turns ahead. And it may yet turn out to be steeper but shorter than the easier path.

However, one lesson I take away from this last month is this: As progressives, as radicals, those of us who are far left of the left, anarchists even, cannot afford to ignore or disdain the electoral process, Not because we see it as fair or just or empowering, which it is not, nor even a potential arena for power, but because it is a powerful arena for mobilizing people and building the alliances we need to transform power.

and tell:

that's an excerpt from an essay by starhawk that was forwarded to me. (it doesn't seem to be posted on her website.) numerous friends have recommended starhawk's novel the fifth sacred thing. it's been sitting on my shelf unread for over a year because, in addition to suffering from a permanent glut of potential reading material, I am also allergic to several forms of new age spirituality, including pseudoshamanism, chakra envy and obsessive-compulsive aroma disorder (both the incense and essential oil variants), all of which tend to make my aura break out in purple hives. after surfing around the activism section of starhawk's website I decided it was safe to bump her book to to the top of the stack.

love, bill

you always come first ann, if you don't count me.


red hoodie

Down the hall, down the stairs, feet descending step by step. She paused before the door, pulled the hood of her red sweatshirt over her head, trapped the warmth of the house around her ears. She opened the door and stepped outside.

The latch closed behind her with a flat, echoless click. Silence. The sound of something falling into a well and never hitting the bottom. She swung around in panic, grabbing for the key she always wore around her neck, tugging frantically at her sweatshirt. She could feel the key's absence, the missing warmth of the ribbon across the back of her neck, the place it had sat on her breast.

She tried the door handle, then banged on the door of the empty house in frustration. The first shadows of twilight crept along the street. The house loomed over her, radiating darkness and a thick, eery silence.

She ran.



you were born a caterpillar.
you are a caterpillar,
      a fuzzy little caterpillar.

one day you'll look in the mirror
and realize you've become
      a great big fuzzy caterpillar.

you'll die a caterpillar.

fsck transformation.
these fuzzy spikes are wicked cool.


sedition, redux

A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles.

It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt.

If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.

Thomas Jefferson
writing in 1798
after the passage of the Sedition Act.

This quote from Thomas Jefferson came in one of the many post-election keep-up-the-good-fight emails I've received. Of course, I didn't remember what the Sedition Act of 1798 was, so I grabbed a book off my shelf, and not just any book mind you, it wasThe American Pageant by Thomas A. Bailey, the textbook for my AP American History class in high school. (I found a nice clean copy of at a used bookstore in San Jose this summer.) Here's what I learned.

In 1798 John Adams, a Federalist, was President, while Thomas Jefferson, the runner-up in the election and Adams' chief opponent, was Vice-President. The country seemed headed for war with France, with Alexander Hamilton and other pro-British Federalists leading the charge. Anti-French sentiment rose to a fevered pitch, and war preparations were well under way. The Federalists took advantage of this political opening to pass a series of bills designed to silence their Jeffersonian opponents. The "Alien Laws" raised the residence requirement for citizenship from 5 to 14 years and significantly expanded the President's powers:

The President was empowered to deport dangerous foreigners in time of peace, and to deport or imprison them in time of hostilities.

Bailey, who is heavily prone to editorializing, continues with his opinion

Though defensible as a war measure --- and an officially declared war with France seemed imminent --- this was an arbitrary grant of power contrary to American tradition and to the spirit of the Constitution.

The Sedition Act took aim at the Federalists' political opponents, scoring a direct hit on the First Amendment.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Bill of Rights

Specifically, the Sedition Act imposed fines and imprisonment on anyone who "impeded the polices of the government or defamed its officials, including the President." One Jeffersonian editor was sentenced to 4 months in jail for ridiculing President Adams' "unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice." Not only did the Federalist-dominated supreme court tolerate this attack on fundamental civil rights, the Sedition Act also prevailed in the court of public opinion as well --- the Federalists triumphed in the 1798-1799 Congressional elections.

And then what? The Federalists themselves broke into factions and the huge debt and tax burden caused by preparations for a war that didn't happen (Adams successfully pursued a negotiated settlement) turned the popular tide against them. They didn't go down without a fight, though, in the 1800 Presidential election:

They concentrated their fire on Jefferson himself, who became the victim of one of our earliest "whispering campaigns." He was falsely accused of having robbed a widow and her children of a trust fund, and of having fathered numerous mulatto children by his own slave women. As a liberal in religion, Jefferson had earlier incurred the wrath of the orthodox clergy, largely through his successful struggle to separate church and state in Virginia. From the New England stronghold of Federalism and Congregationalism, the preachers unfairly thundered against his atheism, although he did believe in God. Old ladies of Federalist families, fearing Jefferson's election, even buried their Bibles or hung them in wells.

Jefferson won the presidency in 1800, in a real squeaker of an election that ended up being decided in the House of Representatives. the residency requirement for citizenship was returned to 5 years and the Alien and Sedition Acts were allowed to expire. The Sedition Act was declared unconstitutional in 1964. (No, that's not a typo --- 1964.) States with manhood suffrage, that is, without property requirements for voting, were critical to Jefferson's victory. While he could not directly extend suffrage he did "persuade the apathetic and overawed marginal voter to go to the polls --- the citizen who had just enough property to vote but who was loath to speak up against his 'betters.'"

Those Federalist old ladies somehow managed to hang onto to their Bibles through Jefferson's tenure as President, but Jefferson's political descendents are still planning to take them away, at least according to this year's GOP campaign literature:

GOP Mailing Warns Liberals Will Ban Bibles

Fri Sep 17, 6:24 PM ET
By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee (news - web sites) warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.

The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda."

I'm not sure if I should be relieved or appalled that we've been through all this before. History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. The parallels between the Alien Laws and the imprisonment of foreign nationals at Guantanomo Bay, between the Sedition Act and the USA PATRIOT Act are so conspicuous I feel like an incorrigible pedant even mentioning them. But in these days of political gloom, with the future clouded in a desperate, unknown haze, re-stating the obvious may help us regain our bearings and find the way forward. It's an old fight we're fighting, one where both defeat and victory have always been hard-fought and temporary.


All unattributed quotes and historical information from
The American Pageant: A History of the Republic by Thomas A. Bailey, 3rd ed., (1966) pp. 173-182.

More thoughts on the election coming soon!

click on pic to see the rivendell post election blackboard

NOTE: unless you live within about 3 blocks of my house you don't actually vote at lowell hall.

more blog-O-rama
entries from 10.04