Yada yada yada books yada

I’m adding this woman’s blog to my List O’ Blogs.

When I was a kid, I used to borrow Garfield books from my friend Tricia and take them to the pool with us. After we’d scored good chairs and marked them clearly with our unicorn towels, she’d say, “Come on, let’s get in the water now,” and I’d be like, sure, yeah, definitely, just five more pages and I’ll meet you there. And then half an hour later she’d splash me to get my attention, and my first response was rage that she’d gotten her own Garfield book wet. WHAT IF IT HAD SMUDGED! This was nine-year old Sarah Brown: too busy reading about a horribly unfunny cat to join your game of Marco Polo. Sometimes I am late to work because I read my shampoo bottle in the shower. Why? Because it is there. There are words on it. The same words as yesterday morning, but that really can’t be helped. If I don’t read them, who will?

We had a bottle of green shampoo called Drama Clean in our shower for a long time last year, and it had half of a joke on it. To get the other half of the joke, you had to buy the matching conditioner. I stared at that every morning for months, reading and re-reading it.

I don’t remember what the joke was.

RocketBoyLess: Day 3

Scout and I had the evening to ourselves last night, as steakums was out wining and dining at some hoity-toity type event. While she ate catered food in an all-white, high end home amongst people with expensive haircuts and expensive shoes, I had to explain to a crying 20 month old why I stopped her from wiping her pasta-sauce covered face on the couch, even if it is the same color red. Not that I’m complaining… I’m pretty sure we had a better time. How could we not? Blocks, chalk, and slides trump just about anything else.

One thing I can say is that one is so much easier than two. At least, two of different ages… Sunday, I was watching two 20 month old girls for a time, and that wasn’t too difficult either. It’s the trying to please two age sets simultaneously that gets hairy. There are a limited number of activities that overlap well, and both have to buy into those activities to work.

But one 20 month old girl? No problem.1

I talked to RocketBoy during the day yesterday, and word is that he was going to accompany my mother to present a $10,000 check to the local library2. steakums requested a photo of RocketBoy presenting the oversized check. Hopefully, mom came through.

T minus 4 days to vacation.


1 Knock wood.
2 Not from my mother herself, just from the organization she’s a part of… “Friends of the Library” or something like that.

Book Log – Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals: Adventures in Love and Danger

Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals: Adventures in Love and Danger by Wendy Dale

I really liked this book.

One of the folks I was requesting a book from on PaperBackSwap.com had this on their posted books list, and as the title was funny, I added it to the request on a whim. It’s a first book, so my expectations weren’t very high. I was pleasantly surprised.

Ms. Dale has had an interesting third decade of life, a large swath of which involves prisons in Costa Rica. Having been the responsible eldest daughter of her eccentric family growing up, taking care of the house and putting herself through college, she reaches 25 and makes a conscious grab for some irresponsibility of youth. As it happens, she ends up taking on way more responsibility than most 25 year olds, or 45 year olds for that matter.

Her story is interesting and her writing is very witty with none of that first-time-writer unevenness (perhaps because her career has been writing jobs of various sorts). One of the author quotes on the book reads “Mix David Sedaris, Lucille Ball, and a fifth of tequila in a blender… you get Wendy Dale.” That’s roughly accurate. A better description for Atlanta locals would be “Put Hollis Gillespie in Costa Rica with somewhat less cursing… you get Wendy Dale.”

Book Log – The Stupidest Angel

The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore

Moore manages to pull characters from his other books Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Practical Demonkeeping, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, and Island of the Sequined Love Nun in this silly book about a really dumb angel sent to Earth to do the annual Christmas Miracle.

All of Moore’s books fall under my category of Brain Candy. This is no exception.

It is also short. And has Zombies.

Which reminds me that I bought World War Z when I was in Omaha, NE, but I haven’t seen it since… Hmmmm…

Book Log – What Are The Odds? Chance in Everyday Life

What Are The Odds? Chance in Everyday Life by Mike Orkin

My friend J_ from high school recommended this book, and then gave me a copy when he was in town last. He had brought it up when we were discussing coincidence versus omens on our high school drama alumni message board a while back.

It’s a slim book with not much math to it. It covers some basic probability, some long odds stuff like lotteries, and then delves into 4 chapters on gambling (where I learned the rules of craps). The last three chapters are on game theory, such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and then attempts to apply game theory to the conflict between NATO and Yugoslavia.

Aside from the rules of craps, I didn’t pick up much new from this book, though I appreciate going over covered grounds in a fresh way. The language is very accessible even to the non mathematically minded.

I come away from the book wondering if the point of the book was to discuss probability theory, or to pull people in with probability theory and then explain what NATO did wrong in Yugoslavia. The last chapter of the book has language that deviates from the more specifically analytical tone of the earlier parts, and basically boils down to “NATO didn’t consider the long term consequences”, which is associated with the game theory strategies, sure, but without a more extensive overall analysis of the choices it just feels like preaching.

The book was published in January, 2000 (apparently now out of print). The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia had ended 6 months before. It seems like Mike Orkin got riled up by the NATO bombing and whipped out a quick book in his discipline so he could add his two cents to the debate.

So, there are probably better probability books out there.

But that didn’t stop me from being in a probability frame of mind when terracinque brought up relative genetic similarity in siblings and parent/children. With some refresher genetics research, I learned that siblings share anywhere between 0% and 100% of their genes. So, it is theoretically possible that you could have no chromosomes in common with your sibling, meaning for each chromosome pair in both parents, you inherited the opposite one than your theoretical sibling.

terracinque countered that “[t]he chance of two siblings with the same parents sharing zero genes must be so close to zero that I will state with confidence that it has never happened in the entire history of Mammalia.” With my mind fresh from probability reading, I did the math:

We can calculate the odds… according to this “tour of the basics” of genetics (http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/units/basics/tour/), each parent has 2 sets of 23 chromosomes, call them A and B, of which they received one from his/her dad, one from his/her mom.

But when they contribute one half their chromosomes to their child, they can take a little from column A, a little from column B to put together a 23 chromosome set.

So, for a 0% matching sibling set, each child must have gotten A where the other got B in each instance of 46 chromosomes. (As a by-product of this requirement, our theoretical siblings must not be of the same gender… both brothers means they share the father’s Y, both sisters means they share the father’s X)

So, with a 50/50 chance of getting the opposite chromosome on any given pair as a given sibling, I believe the odds are (0.5)^46, or 1.42e-14, or 1.42e-12%, or 1 in 70.4 trillion for humans1. If I’m remembering my probability calculations correctly. So, not likely, even with all the siblings in history.

The kangaroo (and marsupials in general), however, may be a different story. Wikipedia says 12 chromosomes (6 pairs), another source I saw said 14 (7 pairs). So, the worst case odds become (0.5)^14, or 0.006% or 1 in 16,384.

Which is why you see so much squabbling in kangaroo families.

Out of curiosity, I looked up how many humans there have been, because due to the law of very large numbers, even the highly improbable becomes probable when you have a lot of chances (otherwise, no one would ever win the lottery). According to this analysis, 106,456,367,669 humans have been born between 50,000 B.C. and 2002. If we assume that all those people had a sibling, that makes roughly 53 billion sibling pairs. So, with a 1 in 70.4 trillion chance, 53 billion tries probably isn’t enough to make the improbable probable.


1 Also roughly the odds that Marty McFly would still be the same Marty McFly after he messed up his parent’s meeting.

Monday Report: The Universe Vs. The Nose, and a Panda

Friday night, steakums was out for some theater related something or other… season opening or some such nonsense. RocketBoy and I watched James and the Giant Peach from Netflix. I had never seen it, and we both enjoyed it well enough. Plus, popcorn.

So, Saturday.

Within twenty minutes of waking up, the dog bit my nose. A near-piercing, it was, with blood and everything. One of his fangs was actually in my nostril. He lulled me into a false sense of security by licking my face affectionately first, the jerk.

All of which was foreshadowing, because I later smashed my nose into the side of the pool and ripped the skin off it. [insert obvious joke here]

So… Universe: 2, Nose: 0

Really hoping that’s the end of the game.

I missed out on the Father’s Day trip to the pool (accompanied by nikblair and her daughter, who was scared of my nose), on account of not wanting to get any sun until I healed a bit. So, instead I stayed home and cleaned, then watched an episode from Season 1 Veronica Mars1.

When they got back, both kids zonked out for a while and RocketBro and his fiance’ stopped by to drop off a birthday present: the entire Kids In the Hall collection, all five seasons. It’s massive, and awesome.

When RocketBoy woke up, he and I went to see Kung Fu Panda, which was big fun. Predictable, but entertaining action sequences.

RocketBoy has taken to doing “webcasts”, which amounts to taking the video camera and spouting nonsense into it for minutes at a time. He gets the idea from a Nickelodean teen show called iCarly, where the two female protagonists have a “famous” web show.

I’m not sure RocketBoy is clear on the concept that his show is only on some tape in the camera, and not yet on the web. i promised him I would edit and put a show up on the web tonight for the New Jersey and Kentucky contingent to watch. Because who doesn’t want to watch a 5 year old free-associate in his underwear?

1 Not yet sold on this. Uneven writing.

The Pitter Patter of ElectricRocket

I was walking by a coworker’s cube, not having said anything, when this coworker calls my name from behind her closed door.

How did she know it was me walking by her cube? She claims she can identify me by the particular rhythm of my footsteps.

There are 2 or three people whom she claims to be able to do this with.

Which means I walk weird. Apparently.