I finally finished reading Prime Obession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics by John Derbyshire. What an excellent book!
The Riemann Hypothesis began as a side observation made by Riemann in a paper he wrote in 1859 discussing the pattern of prime numbers (numbers divisible only by themselves and the number 1). It has since proven to be a tough nut to crack. Although significant progress has been made, and all the evidence indicates that Riemann's intuition was correct, no one has succeeded in finding a formal proof.
John Derbyshire does an excellent job of gently explaining the math and the significance of the RH. He alternates chapters between math and history. In the math chapters, he slowly builds the foundation for understanding, or at least appreciating, the mystery and beauty of the study of prime numbers. The history chapters give you a chance to come up for air and are filled with interesting anecdotes about Riemann, his predecessors, and those who have continued the quest. I'm in awe of how much progress people made so many years ago, often amidst great personal hardship, and certainly with relatively primitive instruments.
One of my biggest regrets in life is the way I studiously avoided math courses in college. It wasn't until late in the process of getting my BA that I discovered that I could survive a math class and actually enjoy it too! Having recently embarked on the journey to an MS in software engineering, I hope to do some catching up!
I'm sure I'll sound like an idiot saying this, but if you want to explore magic and mystery on a cosmic scale, math is the ticket!
Christian Values on the March
Ever wonder what Roy Moore, that brave, "Christian," chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, does when he's not defending his right to put religious statuary anywhere he damn well pleases?
He's working hard to protect the language in his state's constitution that mandates separate schools for "white and colored children".
Here's the story.
Somebody send that man a What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) bracelet. (Do they still make them?)
Madeleine (6) labeled all the drawers of her toy organizer. Here's one:
An alternate spelling would be Polly Pockets
Support Our Troops
Frank Schaeffer writes in a Washington Post op-ed (free, but registration required) about the pittance that's given to the family of a military member killed in action, $12,000, compared to the average $3.1 million to $4.2 million given to families of victims of 9/11. (Families of police and fire fighters received the higher amount.)
Baby, we were born to run!
Scientists writing in the journal Nature have confirmed what Bruce Springsteen has already said:
Humans were born to run and evolved from ape-like creatures into the way they look today probably because of the need to cover long distances and compete for food, scientists said on Wednesday.
From tendons and ligaments in the legs and feet that act like springs and skull features that help prevent overheating, to well-defined buttocks that stabilize the body, the human anatomy is shaped for running.
"We do it because we are good at it. We enjoy it and we have all kinds of specializations that permit us to run well," said Daniel Lieberman, a professor of anthropology at Harvard University in Massachusetts.
Read the whole article here.
Jen has posted a very beautiful entry on what heaven may or may not be like. She's a really great writer, and it's moments like this when I wonder how I ever got her to marry me. I have pretty much one thought on heaven: Will there be beer?
Don't ask me how it happened. I finished the Richmond Marathon -- my first marathon, mind you -- just under four hours, with a time of 3:57!
I had some great support! Pache surprised me with shirts for all the kids that said "Dave Lemen Rocks, The Fan Club", and Kris and Derek came out to meet me at the important points, the 18 mile mark and the 25 mile mark. Jen was over-the-top supportive, and the kids were excited about the race too. And I have to give a special thanks to Rachel and Jesse, who couldn't be at the race but sent pre and post-race cards AND post-race alcohol! And then, of course, there were all the good people of Richmond, who lined up along the course in some chilly weather to cheer us on with unbounded enthusiasm.
I ran with my heartrate monitor, and my intention was to keep the number somewhere between 165 and 170. Well, as soon as I started, my competitive instincts (or demons) took charge, and I found myself running between 175 and 180. I knew I was in trouble around mile seven, when I started asking my fellow runners if they were shooting for a specific time, and the answers I got fell between 3:30 and 3:45. I knew I needed to back off just a hair. There were some bitterly cold and windy stretches, but in general, the weather was great for a run.
The only down side was that the music sucked! With the exception of one band at around mile 21 that was playing some awesome music that was fast and loud, the others were playing slow ballads, blues, folk music, and classic rock that made you want to start walking!
My legs are super-sore and stiff, but I had an awesome time, and even now, I'm sure I'll want to do it again!
Off to the Races
Tomorrow's the day of the Richmond Marathon! You can watch my progress here, by searching on my name (try "dave", not "david").
The weather today has been rainy and miserable. It's supposed to clear up some tomorrow, and it might even be a little warmer than previously expected.
This is my first marathon. The furthest I've ever run is 21 miles -- a marathon is 26.2 -- so I really don't know what to expect.
Odd Election Coincidence
I know it's purely coincidental, but check out these two maps:
(from Speak Up)
The Big Race is this Saturday, and I'm starting to feel the butterflies already.
Last night, I had a dream that I was 30 minutes late to the race, because I had to help someone find a store or something. I was frantically trying to change into my running clothes inside something that was a cross between a phone booth and a port-a-john.
I'll be cutting down on my caffeine intake.
Jen's in Nashville this weekend, with our dear friend, Kimmie, who is getting ready to have their second baby. Everybody misses mom, so Madeleine (6) and Carter (3) have been snuggling on either side of me in The Big Bed. The arrangement is bad for getting any sleep, but it's good for your soul.
Mr. Measuring Spoon
Carter (3) will eat with one of our white, plastic measuring spoons, and nothing else. We have a plethora of other eating utensils, but don't even think about suggesting an alternative. If none of the measuring spoons are clean, you'd better clean one. Any attempt to convince him to use something else will result in a battle of wills that you cannot win.
Trouble Tickets in a Nutshell
I stumbled upon this excellent description of a trouble ticketing system while doing some research on the topic. It was much simpler and more helpful than the JSR I had just waded through.
If You Can't Beat Em, Join Em
According to the Retro vs. Metro site:
Metro America produces the majority of the nationís tax revenue, but some $200 billion a year of Metro taxes flow to Retro states and support the economic life of its small cities, towns, and rural areas.
("Metro" = blue states, "Retro" = red states.)
A friend of mine had a really interesting idea for those of us "liberals" in the blue states who are upset by the election outcome. He's such a good soul that he would disavow this idea if anyone gave it serious thought, but I'm just vindictive enough to share it with others.
Let's embrace the tax-cutting, libertarian, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, ideals that the red states espouse -- at least at the federal level. We could cut our taxes even further, and enjoy the same programs and services we have today. We just wouldn't be exporting them anymore.
America has spoken. And the Winner is...
We're not concerned about
It's those gay neighbors who want to get married that really creep us out.
The Geography of Christian Paranoia
This highly-unscientific data was extracted from a chain email that was forwarded to me by a friend.
The subject line of the email says: Christians Please Sign and Pass On, and the message goes on to say that the conservative political leader, Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family "pleads for our action." An unnamed group has been granted a hearing by the FCC for Petition 2493, which "would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America." I've included the full text of the message below.
This message is a long-running hoax/rumor, which has been debunked by Focus on the Family, Urban Legends, and Snopes. However, approximately 626 people fell for it and signed the petition before this particular one arrived in my inbox. 568 of them added their state of residence to the end of their signature line, so I felt compelled to crunch the numbers and post the scores.
Here's the full message:
Subject: Christians Please Sign and Pass It On
Subject: Christians Please Sign and Pass It On...It only takes a spark to
keep the Fire Going!
This is a petition you can sign electronically. You as a Christian can help.
You must click forward before you can sign it.
Please don't delete this, before you sign the petition. Just click on forward,
add your name to the bottom, and forward to everyone that you know.
Dr. Dobson is going on CNBC to urge every Christian to get involved. I hope
you will think about signing this and forwarding to all your family and friends.
Dr. James Dobson, with Focus on the Family, pleads for our action.
> > > >An organization has been granted a Federal Hearing by the Federal
> > > >Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC. Their petition,
> >Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the
gospel of our
> > > >Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America. They got 287,000
> > > >back their stand! If this attempt is successful, all Sunday worship
services being broadcast on the radio or by television will be stopped. This
group is also campaigning to remove all Christmas programs and Christmas
carols from public schools!
> > > >
> > > >You as a Christian can help! We are praying for at least 1 million
signatures. This would defeat their effort and show that there are many
Christians alive, well and concerned about our country. As Christians we must
unite on this. Please don't take this lightly. We ignored one lady
> > > >once and lost prayer in our schools and in offices across the nation.
> > > >Please stand up for your religious freedom and let your voice be heard.
> > > >Together we can make a difference in our country while creating an
> > > >opportunity for the lost to know the Lord.
> > > >
> > > >Please press "forward," CLEAN UP THE MESSAGE, and forward this to
> > > >everyone you think should read this. Now, please sign your name at the
> > > >bottom (you can only add your name after you have pressed "Forward" or
> >cut and paste the text). Don't delete any other names, just go to the next
> > > >number and type your name. Please do not sign jointly, such as
Mr.&Mrs. ..Each person should sign his/her own name. Please defeat this
organization and keep the right of our freedom of religion.
(Note: I've removed the 626 names that follow.)
I voted this morning, using a Diebold touch-screen system. You can see a demo here. There was no paper involved, and instead of dropping my written or punch-card ballot in a sturdy, metal box, I dropped a smart card in a cardboard box. There's an odd, disconnected feeling to voting this way. I suppose it doesn't require more faith than the old paper systems. Obviously, there are ways to lose, or monkey with, those voting methods too.
Here's Diebolds explanation:
Q: How do I know my cast ballot is safe and secure?
A: When a voter casts their ballot using the Diebold touch screen system, the ballot selections are immediately encrypted and stored in multiple locations within the voting station. When stored, the order of cast ballots is scrambled to further insure ballot anonymity. The image of each and every ballot cast on the voting station is captured, and can be anonymously reproduced on standard paper should a hard copy of ballots be required for recount purposes. Once voting concludes at a precinct, a printed election results report is printed as a permanent record of all activity at each voting station. This printed record is used to audit the electronic tabulation of votes conducted during the election canvas process, when final, official election results are reported.