brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell


Texas Hold’em Trivia…

While watching the World Poker Tour today, I saw Mike Madusow survive going all in against a pair of aces, and surviving by hitting three kings on the river. During the break, they had this question as a quiz:

Which hand has the best odds going up against A♦ A♣ in the hole?

  • K♦ K♠
  • 10♦ 9♦
  • Q♣ J♦

It seems obvious that the third is right out, but what might be a teensy bit surprising is that you have a better shot with 10 ♦ 9♦ against a pair of aces than you do with the pair of kings. Apparently the additional chances to hit straights and flushes outweigh the additional rank which is mostly useless against the aces. You can use the GNU poker eval program to verify this:

[fishtank] % ./hcmp2 AD AC KH KS
1712304 boards
  cards      win  %win       loss  %lose       tie  %tie      EV
  Ac Ad  1388072  81.06    317694  18.55      6538   0.38     0.813
  Ks Kh   317694  18.55   1388072  81.06      6538   0.38     0.187
[fishtank] % ./hcmp2 AD AC TD 9D
1712304 boards
  cards      win  %win       loss  %lose       tie  %tie      EV
  Ac Ad  1338249  78.15    367143  21.44      6912   0.40     0.784
  Td 9d   367143  21.44   1338249  78.15      6912   0.40     0.216
[fishtank] % ./hcmp2 AD AC QC JH
1712304 boards
  cards      win  %win       loss  %lose       tie  %tie      EV
  Ac Ad  1450987  84.74    254763  14.88      6554   0.38     0.849
  Qc Jh   254763  14.88   1450987  84.74      6554   0.38     0.151

I thought it was cool.


A rose by any other name…

In the prehistory of Pixar, before Toy Story, we did lots of things to make ends meet. One of the things I worked on (indeed, I think the very first thing that earned me a credit in a movie) was work on the Imax film Cosmic Voyage. This was a remake of the "Powers of 10" idea for the big screen, and Loren Carpenter, Don Schreiter and I worked to provide some short effects (maybe two minutes?) for the 34 minute film.

I wish I could say that I played a key role in the development, but that would be overstating it. Loren Carpenter really did the most innovative work, writing a special renderer that could produce pictures of these huge datasets of colliding galaxies. My recollections were that they involved around a million individual stars, and that rendering them with the ordinary technology of the day took something like eight hours per frame on the fairly wimpy (by today's standards) SGI machines we had. Loren wrote a very nice renderer that produced antialiased and motion blurred images of stars over a large range of brightness values and rendered them in something close to eight minutes. Loren continues to be pretty darned good at making cool things run fast.

Cosmic VoyageDon Schreiter was the guy you want to be part of any production: the guy who cuts through all the B.S. and just gets the job done. I had the pleasure of working closely with Don again during The Incredibles, and that hasn't changed one bit.

The production wasn't without it's perks: we got to fly out to Washington D.C. and tour the Air and Space museum, and met many different scientists on our advisory boards, all luminaries in cosmology. Frankly, a lot of it was over my head. I recall we also got to eat at a very expensive restaurant ($1400 for four of us, and we didn't even drink...) on Motorola's tab.

Strangely enough, I never got a chance to view the final product in an Imax theater, although it is currently playing at the Chabot Science Center where I help teach telescope making most every Friday. But a couple of years ago, I managed to get a copy of the DVD. I watched it and thought, very cool, very cool, and waited for the end credits.


They misspelled my name.

Now, I'm very careful to check to make sure they get it right. I was nearly lulled into a false sense of security by them getting it right several times in a row. I caught the misspelling they had entered on Incredibles just a day before it was immutably cast into stone. That will teach me to take things for granted.

Filed under: General 1 Comment

Where has my country gone?

Witness this article from the Washinton Post:

And the Verdict on Justice Kennedy Is: Guilty (

Conservative leaders meeting in Washington yesterday for a discussion of "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny" decided that Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee, should be impeached, or worse.


Not to be outdone, lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."

Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.

The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."...

Call me silly, but isn't threatening violence against judges illegal?

Want to get scared? Try googling for "judicial tyranny", and see what people are saying.

Doesn't anyone read Jefferson?

The Constitution of the United States having divided the powers of government into three branches, legislative, executive, and judiciary, and deposited each with a separate body of magistracy, forbidding either to interfere in the department of the other, the executive are not at liberty to intermeddle in [a] question [that] must be ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.

or Madison?

As the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial departments of the United States are co-ordinate, and each equally bound to support the Constitution, it follows that each must, in the exercise of its functions, be guided by the text of the Constitution according to its own interpretation of it; and, consequently, that in the event of irreconciliable interpretations, the prevalence of the one or the other department must depend upon the nature of the case, as receiving its final decision from the one or the other, and passing from that decision into effect, without involving the functions of any other.


... independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves in a peculiar manner the guardians of those rights; they will be an inpenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive [branches].

It's... just...

I'm left speechless.

Filed under: Politics Comments Off

Gutenberg Gem: Rough Stone Monuments and Their Builders

StonehengeToday's Gutenberg Gem is just something that interested me vaguely: Rough Stone Monuments and Their Builders. To be honest, I haven't spent much time reading it, after all, you'd expect that we would know significantly more about this than those people publishing in 1912, but it does have some nice pictures and diagrams of rock burial mounds from the world over, including, of course Stonehenge.


New Release of Ubuntu Linux

The 5.04 version of Ubuntu Linux is freshly released, and is now running on my test machine. I must admit, I am really, really impressed by how quickly Ubuntu has become a mature and useful operating system. Things that are most impressive to me:

  • It only takes up one ordinary CD blank. Yes, one. Yes, it doesn't include everything in the universe, but it does include a very nice Gnome based desktop, and all the applications that get installed by default look like they are part of one seamless distribution.
  • The Synaptic/apt package manager stuff works simply. Almost childishly so. It would be very easy for almost anyone to keep an Ubuntu system up to date.
  • Ubuntu is committed to be free. Not just open, but actually free.
  • Ubuntu is dedicated to providing high quality multi-lingual support. As an American, I know it's unfashionable for me to say so, but that's pretty cool.

There are a couple of small caveats: my system has a Savage chipset videocard (actually, built onto the motherboard) and the DRI stuff that makes playback of dvds and the like fast is not yet ported into this release, so it doesn't as yet make the best DVD player. But I'm really happy with it. If you are bored with your older, staler distributions, think about giving Ubuntu a try.

Addendum: There is a review of the new Ubuntu release on

Addendum^2: Don't like Gnome? Prefer KDE? Then what you are looking for is Kubuntu.