Pseudorandom Bits

A backwater in the vast ocean of thought

  • Pseudorandom?

    The Web is made of bits. Here are some of my bits, added to those other bits. Bits of information, bits of my thoughts, bits of others' thoughts. Maybe they seem a bit random, but, who knows?

    "There must be some bits here somewhere."

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    Scruff on Multiplication with lines
    Mike on Closer to the record
    jeff on Closer to the record
    Mike on Multiplication with lines
    acook on Multiplication with lines
  • About blogging

    "If you have a computer and can fog a mirror, you can post anything on the Internet." - Lars Mahinske
  • "You can see by my outfit that I am a blogger. If you buy an outfit, you can be a blogger, too!" (With not many apologies to "The Cowboy's Lament" and The Smothers Brothers.)
  • "We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true." - Robert Silensky
  • Link-by date

    Links to sites were good at the time they were posted, but they may have gone stale. If a link is broken, you might try searching the appropriate web site or using a web search engine.
  • Viewer caution

    Since some links are to news, commentary, or other sites, some content may not be appropriate for younger audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.
  • You should know

    Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6 (NASB)
  • But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NASB)
  • "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Mark 8:36
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Peru! Lost Civilizations! God’s Creation!

Posted by Mike on March 19, 2008

Have you been to Peru? Me neither.

However, my daughter recently returned from a children’s ministry trip to Peru. The team that she was on went to Lima and Cusco. You may also visit her site for pictures from the trip as she posts in the upcoming days. Don’t miss the ones of Machu Pichu! Even though Wikipedia isn’t the last word on everything, the site has a picture very similar to one of Amy’s. What a wonderful example of God’s Creation and man’s use of it.

As a boy, I liked to read about mysterious things. One book in particular stood out in its presentation of Lost Cities and Vanished Civilizations. It was written by Robert Silverberg, who was also a science fiction writer. His writing in this book was captivating. I became more interested in the Incas than the Mayans or Aztecs because of this book. Machu Pichu sounded like a terrific place to see. I haven’t, but at least one of my children has.

What became of the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs? Did they mysteriously disappear, as some believe? What happened to the Mayans after the collapse of their civilization? I think, along with a lot of other folks, that they were assimilated into surrounding peoples or relocated. They didn’t disappear; they just moved and resettled.

The scenery in part of Peru is stunning. And Amy was able to share the gospel of Christ with many young people there.


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Multiplication with lines

Posted by Mike on March 19, 2008

Another topic my wife showed me. Multiplication by drawing lines. As she pointed out, this would get cumbersome (or worse) with numbers of several digits, but it’s interesting anyway.

Here’s a video.

Here’s a written example.

Why does this work? Nobody knows! OK, somebody does. This site also suggests how to do this multiplication when some of the digits are zero. How do you draw a “missing” line? Dots easy!

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Arthur C. Clarke

Posted by Mike on March 19, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke has died at the age of 90. Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein were much of my non-fiction reading list in my youth. His science writing was exciting to read, too. Lots of ideas presented to a youngster. These three writers have influenced 2 or 3 generations of scientists, writers, and others. Many reminiscences can be found on the Internet, among them is this one. Although I haven’t read much science fiction in the last 15 years or so, I can still remember many of the stories. I also remember watching 2001: A Space Odyssey in Cinerama. End of an era.

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Scientific Test: Dog is man’s best friend

Posted by Mike on March 19, 2008

You’ve heard those warnings after watching something potentially dangerous on TV: “blah blah blah done by professionals. Don’t try this at home”.

Well, here’s something you can try at home.

Hypothesis: A dog is truly man’s best friend.

Experiment: Perform the following steps:

  1. Put your dog and your wife in the trunk of the car for an hour.
  2. When you open the trunk, which one is really happy to see you?

(Modified from an email from my wife via a friend via who-knows.)

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Earliest (almost) Easter

Posted by Mike on March 18, 2008

The following came from my wife via a friend via who-knows. I’ve added some material and changed an incorrect date.

Easter this year is on Sunday March 23, 2008.

* As you may know, Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox.
* (The date of the Easter full moon is determined by the motions of a mathematical “moon”; these motions approximate the movements of the real moon, but discrepancies occur for the sake of simplicity in the rules. Any such discrepancies are viewed as unimportant. For clarity, the calculated date is called the Paschal full moon.)
* This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.
* Based on the above, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) but that is pretty rare.

This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population have ever seen it this early (95 years old or above!). And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!

Here are the facts:
* The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2160 (152 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you’re 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).
* The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818.
* So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!

The odds are considerably better for witnessing a late Easter. Many people are still around from the last time Easter fell on April 25, an event which took place in 1943, and a good many people here today will likely still be around when Easter next falls on April 25, which will occur in 2038.

This ignores the Eastern Orthodox calendar, which is still based on the Julian calendar.

See also for more info.

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It was Valentine’s Day

Posted by Mike on March 18, 2008

This post is way overdue. Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but here’s my story, anyway.

After work on February 14, I was in a grocery store (not Wal-Mart!) looking for Valentine’s Day cards (not for my wife, I already had hers!) and candy (not for my wife, I already had hers!).

What fortune! Holiday cards were already discounted! What a deal! And, so was some of the candy! Double-deal!

And, what do you know? St. Patrick’s Day stuff was already on the shelves. Boy, do these folks move fast!

I’m not the only one a little disgruntled about the quick movement of holidays through our stores.

Next time you’re shopping, you can start looking for Memorial Day and July 4th stuff. I’m sure.

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Go for the record?

Posted by Mike on March 15, 2008

As of March 6, 2008, Cedar Rapids is in its third snowiest winter at 59.1″.

The  snowiest was 1959-1960 at 62.4″.

Three-quarters of an inch and we’ll be in second place.  I say, go for the gold and get it over with! Global Climate Change (ha-ha) is to blame; either that or George W. Bush!

Typically, March has some good snow falls, though the recent days indicate that Spring may still arrive.

Try remembering all this in late July and August.

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Tired of Snow?

Posted by Mike on March 15, 2008

With the recent warmer days, it can be hard to remember the very cold and snowy days just passed.

Here are two cartoons for your enjoyment.

Who’s tired of snow?

At least…

Are your memories of the winter fading fast? Time to read a story of polar explorations…

Mawson’s Will: The Greatest Survival Story Ever Written, by Lennard Bickel. I’m suspicious of titles with “greatest ever” and the like, but this one could be. If Hollywood wrote the story, it would be dismissed as hokey. Unbelievable.

The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander. They just keep going and going… They also made one of the world’s all-time most difficult boat trips.

Four against the Arctic, by David Roberts. Six years stranded on an arctic island after your ship unexpectedly disappears while you’re on a short excursion. What do you do with the few items you have in your possession? (Skip the small section where the author meets 2 drunks in Russia while doing research;  contains profanity.)

These and many other accounts of great explorations await you.  Investigate Robert Scott, Roald Amundson, the Franklin Expedition, USS Polaris (not the submarine), Richard Byrd, Captain Cook (who once held the record for the highest northerly and southerly journeys), and many more not-so-well-known explorers.

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Posted by Mike on March 15, 2008

Franchise” is a short story by Isaac Asimov. This is an appropriate short story for this year, even though it was published in 1955.

From the Wiki site: The story centers around Norman Muller, the man chosen as “Voter of the Year” in 2008. At first he is not sure he wants the responsibility of representing the entire electorate, worrying that the result will be unfavorable and he will be blamed. However, after voting he is very proud that the citizens of the United States had, through him, “exercised once again their free, untrammeled franchise” – a statement that is somewhat ironic as the citizens didn’t actually get to vote.

Since the story takes place in 2008, and computers are involved in today’s election process in many ways (polls, voting, fund raising, [dis]information dissemination, mailing lists, web sites, and so on), and that we have an important presidential election on the horizon, I thought that this would be a good story to re-read, or read for the first time if you’ve never seen it.

How would you like to be Norman Muller? How would you look at your responsibility in such a situation? Do you think we would ever move toward such a system? You might imagine Fidel Castro saying, “Story? Fiction? This is almost how we do it in my country!”

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Celebrate “Pi Day”

Posted by Mike on March 14, 2008

Should be a national holiday!

Enjoy Pi Day.

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