Monday, November 26, 2012

Solution to the Superlong Necklace Problem

Okay, lets reiterate what we know (we'll condense it somewhat).

Broken Necklace:

a) 1/3 of beads at lady's feet
b) 1/6 on bed.
c) 1/2 of what remained (and 1/2 of what remained thereafter then 1/2 again) six times in all, fell everywhere else.
d) 1,161 pearls still strung.

Let X be the total of all the pearls originally.

A third plus a sixth makes a half of X.  So, the following equation is generated:

1/2(1/2^6) X = 1161.  The amount in the parentheses is that mysterious amount from part 'c'.  The ^ is for exponents.

Simplifying we get:

(1/128)X = 1161

X = 148,608

Friday, November 23, 2012

Literary Conferences: Writing and Reader.

Dear Reader,

I just spent the better part of a year attending a plethera of conferences.  Some were writers conferences: Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Crested Butte Writers Conference.  Some were reader and genre conferences: Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic, Men of Mystery.  One was an amalgam, a mixture if you will, of the two: Killer Nashville.

Before I go into the pros and cons and my evaluation of these literary get-togethers, let's define our terms.

Writers Conferences - This is an event structured to enhance the writer's career.  They feature classes in all aspects of the writing life.  For the beginning and intermediate writer there are classes in the craft (plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, etc), genre classes taught by experts in that genre (Romance, Young Adult, Western, Action, Sci-Fi, Horror, Mystery/Suspense, and so on), classes on aspects of writing (humor, critique groups,self-publishing technology as it touches the writing life, etc). For the more advanced writer there may be classes in promotion, marketing, networking, and other areas to help make a published and close-to-published author more successful.  Another aspect of these types of conferences are the presence of literary agents and publishers.  The conference provides a platform whereby the authors and agent/publishers can meet and talk business.  After all, the aim of most writers is to see their work in print (be it electronic or otherwise).  Big name authors are invited and these provide motivational and humorous talks on what they've experienced in their writing journey.

Genre Conferences - These are primarily conference designed to cater to readers of various genres.  There are YA conferences, Western conferences, Romance conferences, and my own particular interest, Mystery/Suspense conferences.  Avid readers come to these conferences to meet their favorite authors, learn what is new in some sub-genre they are enamored with (say Historical Mysteries or Paranormal Romance).  For the most part these conferences are the home of THE PANEL. Panels are a gathering of pundits who answer questions in the their areas of expertise.  A panel might consist of 4 to 6 authors, all of whom write Mysteries set in the old west or Science Fiction set in a dystopian future.  These authors answer questions designed to interest readers who are consumers of such works or are fans of the authors themselves.  A weekend conference of this sort might feature a hundred such panels and readers are invited to sample as many different sub-genres as they can fit into their schedule. Usually, following panels of these sort readers are invited to join the authors for a signing of their works and perhaps a more intimate Q & A session with the author.

This is the portion of this post where I give my opinion of the relative merits of the conferences I have attended.  Be aware that I am speaking from my perspective as an author of mysteries, not as a reader of genre fiction.  As such I am biased and proudly so.

Let me begin with writing conferences, Of which I attended two, three if you count the hybrid Killer Nashville. Here comes my personal bias.  Pikes Peak Writing Conference is so diverse that it caters to every aspect of what a writer might need to further his or her career.  Plus there are a boatload of the publisher/literary agent types.  I have but suggestion for this wonderful conference.  At PPWC there is a grueling day of agent/publisher pitch sessions--ten minute sessions where an author presents what they are working on to an agent or publisher they have signed up to meet.  On a typical day, these literary professionals listen to fifty-plus avid writers hoping to break into print.  For the most part nothing comes of these interviews.  At Crested Butte Writers Conference they take a slightly different approach.  A writer sends the first ten pages of their work ( up to 2 manuscripts) and the conference distributes the work to all the agents and publishers who are attending the conference.  From this initial introduction, the agents and or publishers select those that interest them. A writer might have many professionals who request a further interview.  Of course, the other possibility is that no one will select their work.

Killer Nashville has classes for all levels of writers.  From marketing/promotion classes to craft classes.  They take the TRACK approach.  If you are a published writer, you take the tracked classes that help you in that phase of your career.  If you are a beginning writer there is a track for that.  However, if you are genre reader of fiction, there are several tracks that cater to you.  And here's where we meet the PANEL.

Malice Domestic (a conference promoting the cozy mystery), Left Coast Crime (a conference designed to entertain suspense/thriller/and mystery readers) and Killer Nashville all have a large number of fan readers who attend, which is definitely a kick in the butt if you are writer in these genres.  All of these conferences are designed to connect the reader to their favorite writers and to help them find new favorites.  Let me just say right here that mystery readers are the best fans in the world.

And now my only complaint.  In all three conferences, LCC, MD, and KN authors are put on panels with similar authors, say five who write academic mysteries, or historical mysteries.  An hour of Q&A is followed by an invitation to join the authors for a book signing.  And here's where things could use a good hard look.  Audience members follow authors to signing tables where their books are displayed, but less than ten minutes later the next panel starts and the signing arena is a ghost town.  Authors, unless they have a rabid following are left sitting staring at one another.

And now the Fifty Men of Mystery Conference.  It is only a one day affair where 50 male mystery/thriller/suspense writers are invited to meet 400 readers.  There are fans and newbees, established authors and first-timers.  Early on in the day, a gathering ensues where the authors introduce themselves and their work.  Big names are not invited to do this since they are already well known.  Immediately after this fun session of blatant and humorous self-promotion everyone, both fans and writers, are taken to a great room adjoining the conference bookstore where a significant amount of time is set aside to cater to book signing and meet and greet between reader and writer.  Readers can ask the authors questions, talk about their own preferences, and generally spend a relaxed time in the company of writers.  I had a blast.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Other conferences have similar times set aside for meet and greet.  Pikes Peak Writers last year had a very similar situation and again it was a kick in the butt.  Malice Domestic has a session where authors circulated from table to table (10 readers per table) and talk about their work and themselves.  This was a hoot!

Let me finish by saying that I found something to like about all these gatherings.  My only regret for this year is that I didn't attend the mother of all mystery conferences, Bouchercon.

Oh well, maybe next year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Full Solution to the Three -Question Quiz Problem

First a re-statement of the brainstretcher:

Thirty students took a three-question quiz with the following results:

20 got the first question correct
16 the second question
10 the third question
11 got the first and second correct
7 the first and third
5 the second and third
4 got all three correct

How many missed all three?

For this we will eschew set theory and tempting as it is a Venn diagram (plus I don't know how to draw a Venn diagram in my blog).  We will just be very good little accountants.

Start with the original 30 students and subtract out those that got each of the problems correct.

30 - (20 + 16 + 10), of course this is negative but hold your horses.

Now add back in the ones who solved two problems because they were counted twice in the first number that was subtracted.

30 - (20 + 16 + 10) + (11 + 7 + 5)

But wait, you say!!!!  What about the ones who got all three questions correct?

AHA!!! this number was accounted for all over the place in our last expression: three times in the first parenthesis (subtracted), and three times in the second parenthesis (added).  They cancel each other out.  So we only have to subtract out the last 4 to make our expression complete.

30 - (20 + 16 + 10) + (11 + 7 + 5) - 4 = 3

Therefore only 3 students failed to solve any of the problems

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wine, Wine and More Wine solution.

Okay Puzzlers,

It seems my little experiment where I scheduled a post from my blog to Facebook last Friday worked.  So here is the solution to the wine container problem.

First a re-statement of the problem: 

3 wine containers:   Container C - 7 quarts, full
                             Container B - 13 quarts, full
                             Container A - 19 quarts, empty

I want to eventually have 10 quarts in one of the containers.


As I said before, the best I could do was 15 pourings:  I will show the pourings and what is in each of the 3 containers (A, B, C)

1.  Pour contents of 7 quart can into 19 quart can  (7, 13, 0)
2.  From the 13 quart can fill up the 19 quart can (19, 1, 0)
3.  From the 19 quart can fill the 7 quart (12, 1, 7)
4.  7-quart into 13-quart (12, 8, 0)
5.  From 19 quart fill 7 quart (5, 8, 7)
6.  From 7 quart fill 13 quart (5, 13, 2)
7.  Pour contents of 13 quart into 19 quart (18, 0, 2)
8.  Pour contents of 7 quart into 13 quart (18, 2, 0)
9.  From 19 quart fill 7 quart (11, 2, 7)
10. Pour contents of 7 quart into 13 quart (11, 9, 0)
11. Fill 7 quart from 19 quart (4, 9, 7)
12. Fill 13 quart from contents of 7 quart (4, 13, 3)
13. Pour content of 13 quart into 19 quart (17, 0, 3)
14.  Pour content of 7 quart into 13 quart (17, 3, 0)
15.  Finally from 19 quart pour into 7 quart (10, 3, 7)

You now have the 19 quart container holding 10 quarts!!!!!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Puzzler Problem for Friday, October 12, 2012

Okay Puzzlers,

I am trying something different this week in that I am away from computer (and like it that way) but want to post my brainteaser anyway.  I have scheduled this one and we'll see if it shows up on time.

Wine, Wine, and More Wine

This puzzle is a slightly harder version of the Two Container Problem.  This time we have three containers of wine: 

7 quart - full of Merlot

13 quart - full of Merlot

19 quart - empty

Your job is to end up with one container holding exactly 10 quarts.  As with all the other multiple container problems, there are no markings on the containers, so you must achieve  the desired result by clever pouring back and forth ffrom one container to another.

Hint: The best I could come up with was 15 pourings.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Solution to a Dicey Problem

Okay, let me reiterate the problem.  Three dice (red, blue, and green) are tossed and the values noted.  Then we perform the following operations on the values.  Start with red: multiply the red value by 2 then add 5 then then multiply this result by 5.  Now add in the value of the blue and multiply by 10.  Now add in the green.

Your result is 484.

What are the original values of the dice?

Solution Red = 2, Blue = 3, Green = 4

Why that's amazing you say.  How did you ever figure that out?

Funny you should ask.  

Assign variables to the values of the dice; Red = a, Blue = b, Green = c.  Now just follow the directions.

Multiply red by 2     2a

Add 5    2a + 5

Multiply this by 5    5(2a + 5) = 10a + 25

Add in Blue     10a + 25 + b

Multiply by 10     10(10a + 25 + b) = 100a + 250 + 10b

Add in green 100a + 10b + c +250

This equals 484    100a + 10b + c + 250 = 484

Subtract 250 from both sides    100a + 10b + c = 234

But the left hand side is the natural form of a three digit number (hundred, tens, ones)

Sooooooooo a = 2, b = 3, c = 4

And we could do this for any three values on the dice.  Try it for yourself.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Teddy Roosevelt

In the past few weeks, I've been using this blog and other social networking to get out some feelings I have about my mother's heath.  She is seriously ill, but has an excellent chance of recovery - the doctor say the course of medicine she is on has a 70% recovery record.  Truth is though, my mom is 82 and the medicine is supposed to make her sick along with making her better.  She is this little southern woman who lately has seen even smaller as her health has failed.

The good news is that women in our family live to a ripe old age.  My grandmother lived almost to 100 and mom has 4 sisters all of whom are either in their eighties or close to it. With any luck and some providence, I should get to enjoy my mother's company, if not for many, at least for a few years to come.

Which strangely enough, brings up the subject of Teddy Roosevelt.

Recently I had lunch with a friend, and a fan of Bonnie Pinkwater.  We'd been corresponding and trading lunches since last March when we'd run into each other at Left Coast Crime in Sacramento.  While enjoying a meal at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post, he shared the titles of a few good books he'd enjoyed in the past year.  One of them was 'River of Doubt'by Candice Millard.  The book is non-fiction and relates the 1000 mile journey the past president took on an unexplored tributary of the Amazon.  I am currently reading - actually listening to - the book in my car.

Now, I am a student of history, minored in the subject in college.  I know the usual stuff about Teddy and maybe some not so usual stuff.

Face on Mount Rushmore

"Talk softly, but carry a big stick"  His response to the Barbary pirates who were plaguing American ships.  Think 'From the Halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli.'

Twenty-Sixth president of the United States of America.  Youngest in history.

Leader of the 'Rough Riders' in the Spanish American War.  Led the famous charge up San Juan Hill.

Came from a prominent New York family, was Chief of Police of New York City.  Was instrumental in cleaning up the corruption that had become rampant in the police ranks.

Was asthmatic and did rigorous exercise to get over his infirmities.  A practice he continued all the days of his life.

Boxed in college and had a boxing ring set up in the White House.

Came out west to clear his head when tragedy struck him or the people he loved.  We'll visit this theme again in a minute.

Was one of the premier naturalists of his time and donated to the collections of the famous museums of his day.

Tried and failed to run for a third term of presidency (losing to Woodrow Wilson) in the Progressive or "Bull Moose Party'.

Was instrumental in setting up the National Park system we enjoy to this day.

All of which is fascinating, but it isn't the reason for this post.  I began it speaking of my mother and her recent struggles with her health.  While I am confident she will beat this round of cancer, She is eighty-two and my father died at eighty-one.  Someday, I will have to live in a world where this sweet women doesn't call me weekly on the phone.

So here's the reason for this post.  In 1884 Teddy Roosevelt lost not only his wife but also his beloved mother.  And not just in the same year but in the same day.  I can only imagine the grief he felt at this monumental loss.

Here was a man who played out life on a national stage, was the hero of millions, was one of the most popular presidents ever to hold the office and he was powerless in face of these twin tragedies.

So here's the thing.  Life throws hard things at you sometimes.  Sometimes those hard things threaten to overwhelm.  Sometimes, you just feel like going off to a dark place to weep.  And I suppose that's okay.

For a while.

But in the end, Roosevelt remarried, raised four children, and got on with his life.  I don't know about you but this makes me hopeful that all of us can do the same.

Life is good.

Solution to Liar, Liar

Dear Puzzlers,

If you haven't been here before, welcome to my blog.  Please, if you are so inclined, feel free to to follow me.  I promise to entertain and hopefully edify you.

And now onto the solution.  Please remember, this particular puzzle had nothing to do with solving for a a number.  Your task was to identify the liar.  Lets' restate the problem:

Four friends make statements about a number

Andrew: It has two digits

Barbara: It goes evenly into 150

Cindy: It is not 150

Daniel: It is divisible by 25.

One more thing there is exactly one liar, no more, no less.

Our Solution:
 By cases - Andrew: Suppose Andrew is the liar and the number has either one digit or more than two.  If it has one digit, then Daniel is a liar also since it cannot be divisible by 25.  If it is three or more digits then Barbara is a liar since it can't go evenly into 150

Therefore Andrew is not a liar!!!!

Barbara: Suppose Barbara is the liar, then our number does not go evenly into 150.  Then either Andrew or Daniel is a liar.  The two digit multiples of 25 are 25, 50, and 75 all of which  go evenly into 150.  

Therefore Barbara is not a liar!!!!

Cindy:  Suppose Cindy is the liar.  Then the number is 150.  Then Andrew is a liar since the number has more than two digits.

Therefore Cindy is not a liar!!!!

Daniel:  Suppose Daniel is the liar.  Then our number is not divisible by 25, say 15.  It is easily shown that each of the other three are telling the truth.

Daniel is a lying Punkbaby!!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Four friends: Andrew, Barbara, Cindy, and Daniel were shown a number.  They then made the following startements:

Andrew:  It has two digits

Barbara:  It goes evenly into 150

Cindy:  It is not 150

Daniel:  It is divisible by 25

Exactly one of the four friends is lying.  Which one is it?  You are not responsible for figuring out the actual number, but if you want to come up with a number that works, go for it!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Airplane Ride

For those of you who read my recent post about my 82 year old mom, this is a story that connects to that.  On September 8, I boarded a plane in the Colorado Springs airport to fly to Mobile, Alabama (Laura Hayden, who herself lives in Alabama, instructed me that this is pronounced Mo - Beel, accent on the second syllable.  This came in handy giving me some street cred in the Land of Dixie).

No sooner had we boarded the plane then the pilot came on the speaker informing us that the plane had some mechanical difficulty that had to be attended to before we could take off.  Time passed and it became obvious that this was a problem that could lead to not only delays but even a cancellation.  The flight attendants were terrific handing out drinks and smiles and letting us know they and American Airlines would do everything they could to get us to where we were going.

Now what usually happens to me is that I have multiple hour layovers in Dallas before my connecting flight to Mobile.  Not so this time.  This time I had a mere one hour layover.  When half that time had elapsed, I began to be anxious that I would miss my connection in Dallas.  

Now, I'd seen tons of movies and TV shows where some jowly bully browbeats the flight attendant telling her she needs to do something.  "Dammit, I need to be in New York by ten AM or a million dollar deal is out the window.  Do you understand, girly, girl?"

I didn't want to be that guy so I casually mentioned my situation - my 82 year old mom was in the hospital with double pneumonia - to the senior attendant.  Immediately, the entire attendant crew were at my seat with commiserating smiles and telling me they would do everything in their power to make sure I made my connecting flight.

It was then that the pilot came on the horn telling us that it might turn out that we would have to deplane and that American Airlines would get us other flights to our destinations, even if those flights were with other airlines.  

I checked my watch.  Thirty-five minutes of my hour layover had evaporated.

The attendants came back to my seat and told me I was being considered first in placement to other flights.

The pilot came back on the horn telling us the plane had checked out and we were taking off momentarily.  My attendant came again and this time squeezed my hand.

We took off and as far as I knew my fate was in the hands of the gods.  Not so.  Again, the attendant came to me.  She bent down and whispered in my ear.

"A man in first class, in the first seat, has agreed to move to another seat so that you can have the seat closest to the door."

As soon as it was safe - to move about the cabin - I quietly grabbed my luggage from the overhead bin and made my way to the front of the plane.

In all my years on the planet, I've never sat in first class.  It was pretty darn cool.

Before we landed, the attendant came to me and handed me a piece of paper with the gate of my flight.  Normally, these are announced anyway, but it was nice of this wonderful lady to keep me in her thoughts.

When we landed in Dallas, the rest of the folks in first class waited until I got my stuff and was in the aisle before they got out of their seats.  I can only guess that either she or the man who had given up his seat had told every one about my situation.

I was off and running.  It turned out my flight was in a different concourse than where I had landed.  I had to get on a train.

The gate where my plane waited was empty when I finally got there, but it looked like the folks were expecting me. I was ushered onto the flight.

As I sat down, I found myself smiling.  The world is full of marvelous, sympathetic, loving people.  

Even as write this, I have to say I am a big fan of my species.  Yay, for the human race!!!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Parents

For those you who are lucky enough to have one or more parents alive, this is for you.

A few years back my Dad passed away.  We didn't always get along.  In fact, we fought most of the time.  I thought he was a narrow minded old man who would get cranky at the drop of the hat.  He was opinionated, given to self pity, and didn't always treat the folks who cared for him like I thought he should.  Especially, my mom.

Of course, he had an excuse.  In 2000, he lost his sight.

He used to work on cars and was so good at it the folks in his church asked him to maintain the school buses they used to bring invalid members to church on Sundays.  I guess he did a good job of it, because when I came to Alabama for his funeral, just about everybody said that after he went blind, nobody could take his place.  But that wasn't all that they said.  They talked about how funny he was and what a good friend he could be.  Always there, even after his world went dark, with a helping hand and a joke.  Or a prayer.

You got not idea how mad this made me.  Why couldn't he show those folks he was supposed to care the most about this side of him?  And then he was gone.  He wasn't there to shout at and tell all the things I thought he should have done differently.  And after a while I didn't want to shout at him.  I just wanted him back.  With all his contrary ways, I just wanted to pack him into the passenger seat of my car and take him for a drive.  I wanted to hear him, one more time, tell me how to drive, even though he could no longer see the street lights.

And now my mom's sick.

I got a call from her sister that a few days ago, she was checked into the hospital.  And I'm mad all over again.  And scared.  My mom is 82 and even though she's one of the toughest people I've ever met (her mother lived to almost 100), she's not the mom I had growing up.  She's stooped and walks slow.  She tires easily.  She's given to tripping over things and breaking bones.  And, in her own way, she's just as contrary as my Dad was.

And it makes me crazy.

She fell a few years back over one of those stupid trapezoidal parking blocks and broke an arm.  Even though I talked to her after the fact, she never told me what had happened.  "I didn't want you to worry."  I learned the actual facts only months later.

And now she's sick.  I'll be flying back again, and I don't want to hear folks tell me what a good person she was. God Damn it.  I already know that.  She's sweet.  And generous.  And patient with a son who should call more often.  I want her to tell me how she feels.  I want to bring her home from that damn hospital.

And I want to tell her stuff.  I want to tell her that I'm glad to see her getting better.  That she looks good.  I want to sit with her, and laugh together at the things that tickle her on TV.  I want to give her a hug, and let her know that even though she drives me crazy that it's okay.

She's my mom.

Monday, September 3, 2012

This Train is Bound for Glory



LOCAL - 30 mph, 2/3 of the distance from DC to Richmond this train's speed drops to half

EXPRESS - 60mph, leaves later than Local

Express usually catches Local right at DC (total distance).  Because of difficulty, Express catches Local after 27 and 1/9 miles.

Here we go, full steam ahead:

I will used an algebraic solution, so let x be the distance Local travels from the time the problem arises to the time the Express catches up with it.  Also let the distance from DC to Richmond be one unit (this will be explained in a minute). We will now construct an equation.

Let's use our facts.  Express normally travels twice as fast as the local but after the mechanical problem it is traveling 4 times as fast.  Also since the Express normally catches the Local at the end, the Local has traveled half the distance when the Express departs.  Sooooooo, when the Local has traveled 2/3 of the distance the Express has traveled 1/3.  Thus the equation:

2/3 + x = 1/3 + 4x.


x = 1/9 of the way (remember the total distance was one unit).

Now the Local has only 1/3 of the distance still to go, therefore at the time the Express catches the Local there is 1/3 - 1/9 = 2/9.

Remember though the Express catches the Local after 27 and 1/9 miles

Dividing, we get

27 1/9 X 9/2 (invert and mutiply)

We get 122 miles from Richmond to Washington DC

Prime Numbers and The Meaning of Life

Actually, the meaning of life is 42, so now that we have that out of the way, let's solve the prime number and remainder problem.  I will offer two solutions for this tasty little puzzler.  I'll call them the Format Method and the Consecutive Integer Method.

Format Method.  First of all we need an agreement that all integers are of the following formats: 6n, 6N + 1, 6N + 2, 6N + 3, 6N + 4, 6N + 5, where N is an integer.  If we go to 6N + 6 this can be written 6(N+1) which is just another version of 6N.  I claim 6N + 1 and 6N + 5 are the only possible primes (having exactly 2 divisors, 1 and itself).  6N is obviously divisible by 6.  6N + 2 is the sum of 2 even numbers thus even and divisible by 2, as is 6N + 4.  6N + 3 is the sum of two numbers divisible by 3 thus divisible by three itself. Therefore we only need consider 6N + 1 and 6N + 5.

Now onto our problem:

Square them:

36N^2 + 12N + 1 or 36N^2 + 60N + 25

Add 17

36N^2 + 12N + 18 or 36N^2 + 60N + 42

With a minimum of algebra we get:

12(3N^2 + N + 1) + 6 or 12(3N^2 + 5N + 3) + 6

Dividing by 12 we can see that both these numbers leave a remainder of 6.

Consecutive Integer Method.  Let P be our prime number bigger than 3

Square it: P^2

Add 17: P^2 + 17

Rearranging algebraically we get: (P^2 - 1) + 18

Now factor.  (P - 1)(P + 1) + 18

Here's where consecutive integers comes in.

P - 1, P, P + 1 are consecutive integers (for example if P is 11 the we get 10, 11, 12)

Therefore either P + 1 or P - 1 is divisible by 3

And because P itself is odd (all prime numbers bigger than 3 are odd) then both P - 1 and P + 1 are even and (P - 1)(P + 1) is divisible by 4.  Thus (P - 1)(P + 1) is divisible by 12.

Sooooooo (P - 1)(P +1) + 18 when divided by 12 leaves a remainder of 6 (we need only consider what happen when we divide 18 by 12).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Killer Nashville: Death in Music City

Dear Readers, as the title of this post suggests, I intend to speak on the subject of the mystery conference Killer Nashville, which I just attended on August 23 through August 26.

Wednesday: August 22 - If It's Too Loud; You're Too Old
Because I have never been to Nashville - and have always wanted to - I arrived a day early (Aug 22) with the intention of doing the music rounds.  I immediately found out that I could see Kenny Wayne Sheppard that very night, but I chose not to.  First of all, it would have been $50, which while not outrageous, did give me pause.  However, the real reason was that I wanted to experience the music clubs that are in abundance in downtown Nashville: along Broadway, Church, Commerce, and 2nd thru 5th Avenues.  I'm not kidding.  In this compact area there has to be a hundred music venues. My plan: hit about 5 or 6 of these seriously, drink some beer, eat some food.  Not an ambitious plan, I grant you, but I girded my loins nonetheless and pointed the nose of my rental car toward downtown, otherwise known as "The District".

From my four blocks away parking space, I could feel the music, feel the energy, and as I got closer, the sound got louder.  When I hit Broadway, music was everywhere, coming out of a dozen different clubs, folks standing on street corners (or in the middle of the block for that matter). And it wasn't just Country (although there was plenty of that). Withing the span of two blocks I heard Raggae, Rock, Folk, and every type of Country music you can swing a stick at.  I picked a club where the blues was streaming out the door.  In fact, from the street, the sound was sweet.  A blond woman was singing, "Piece of my Heart' the old Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company song.  The lead guitar player was tight and knew his way up and down the neck.

I went in.

Immediately, I realized something.  In order to be heard from the street, the mix inside the club/restaurant was much too loud.  The words, and even the lead were lost in the clang of the rhythm guitar and the thump of the bass.  Gone was the anguish of a woman lamenting the faithlessness of her man.  I hung out for about two songs then made my way back onto the sidewalk.  This proved to be the case in the next two clubs I experimented with.  I passed a club called "Margarittaville" which was indeed playing Jimmy Buffet material but once again the best sound was out on the street.  By now I was getting hungry.  I passed a place called "Tequila Sunrise" where a young musician was handing out flyers.  His band "The Springs" (it felt like an omen) reputedly had opened for The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Brad Paisley, and Little Big Town.

What the hell, I gave them a try.  The beer was good and the band I'm sure would have been good with a different mix.  Maybe, I'm just getting old.

Thursday: August 23 - This ain't Chattanooga, son

Pre-registration for the conference was at 6:30, so I had an entire day to myself.  I would see the Country Music Hall of Fame, walk a few miles along the Cumberland River, drink a few more beers.

CMHF kicked butt.  There were old guitars and flowered shirts, rooms that played the kind of twangy music that used to make me cringe when I was tyke. In this place I loved it.  I learned about the Bakersfield Sound (Buck Owens and Merle Haggard), the origins of Country Swing (Bob Wills) and the Carter Family.  I saw movies of old shows at the Grand Old Opry and learned about Minnie Pearl, Junior Wells, and Hee Haw.  One whole room was filled with brass placards of where a hundred (probably more) folks were inducted into the Hall of Fame: Hank Williams, Reba, Flatt and Scruggs. Another was filled with gold records: Elvis, John Denver, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, hundreds of them.

The Cumberland River is on one side of Riverfront Stadium--where the Titans play--so as I was later walking along the river (99 degrees, 90% humidity - I think there's a saying about mad dogs and Englishmen, well now you can add me to that list), I heard all the music from the football game that would be played later that day.  I walked for about half a mile and came upon an army of roadies setting up for the annual Nashville Bar-B-Que.  It seems Grand Funk Railroad (I'm Getting Closer to My Home) and The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Tough Enough) would be playing on Saturday.  I asked one of the guys setting up how far I could walk along the river.  He said, and I quote, "This ain't Chattanooga, you know?"  With that cryptic question ringing in my ears, I walked on.  Within a another half mile I came upon a fort that was the original residence of the folks who settled Nashville.  I mean right there along that lazy old Cumberland River, they started a city.  I was impressed.

At 6:30, all showered and feeling like I now knew stuff about Music City, I made my way to the Hutton Hotel and registered for Killer Nashville.  I played Mystery Bingo (won a Hank Phillippi Ryan book), ran into old friends from other conferences, Laura Hayden for one.  Made some new ones.

Friday: August 24 - A tree fell on him.  He might be a little late.

It seems not only did a tree fall on Clay Stafford, the guy who started Killer Nashville, but on the way to the conference he was in a car accident.  But, he was expected to eventually show.  Anyway, here was the first full day of the conference and I had stuff to do.  I was on a panel (The Light Side, Humor and Cozies), and had book signing, but I had the morning to myself.

After the opening ceremonies - Clay Stafford did show - they had maybe the most famous Forensic Anthropologists who'd ever lived, Bill Bass.  This was the guy who started the famous 'Body Farm' in Tennessee.  Yeah that guy.  He showed us slides and told us of a case where an illegal fireworks factory exploded.  Out on a farm at the edge of town, a massive barn was being used.  From all evidence, one of the crew used a hand drill/stirrer to mix a batch of black powder ingredients. A spark set everything off.  Bodies and body parts flew through the roof and scattered the countryside for about a half mile radius.  Mr Bass actually had us laughing at gruesome slides.  It was fabulous.

So, it was only natural that from there I went to a class on writing humor.  This lady actually wrote comedy for sitcoms, political speeches, and even funerals of celebrities.  We learned about timing and what is off limits for comedy (according to her, nothing).

After lunch, I had my panel and waxed poetic about cozies, humor, and Bonnie Pinkwater.  I also made arrangements to interview (in this very blog, dear reader), my panel-mates.  Then came the booksigning.  And here, I think is where conferences like Left Coast Crime, Malice, and Killer Nashville could improve.  The signing itself is an hour, and all of the audience was invited. However, almost immediately, folks have to go to the next panel and the signing area is a ghost town.

Sisters in Crime, bless their hearts, hosted a party, with music and pretty darn good food.  I think these guys (mostly women actually) are fabulous.

Again, I had a evening on my own in Music City and now new friends to share it with.

Saturday: August 25 - Take Another Piece of the Heart Now Baby.

Saturday, at least mine, was set aside to sit in on things called Agent/Editor Roundtables.  Picture this: fifteen people bring the first two pages of their unpublished manuscript pass them out to fellow writers and two agents or editors.  The agents (and other authors, if there is time) then critique these works.  It was a lot like sky diving.  I did two of these and it filled my morning.

After lunch it was time to interview, two authors I admire, C J Box, and Peter Straub.  Well, Clay Stafford (yes the same guy with the mangled body. I'm thinking meds) did the interviewing; I just sat in the audience and listened.  Not bad, Clay.

Then a real treat.  A panel with CJ Box, Peter Straub, And Jeffrey Deaver, who I was told wrote a rock album (to accompany his new novel XO) with none other than  Clay Stafford.  A band, in fact the same band who played on the album, would perform that bad boy later in the evening after the banquet.  As always, Deaver was hilarious.

Then another party.  This time by Mystery Writers of America.  A lot of Hummus.

The banquet was great, made greater by the company.  A friend I had made at Malice Domestic was at my tab le and was a finalist in the Claymore Award (our host claims the award wasn't named after him; I'm not buying it).  She wrote a mystery set in 16th century England.  A lot of laughter, but in the end, my friend did not win the award (which is a sword sticking out of a stone).  Jeffrey Deaver was the toastmaster and gave a hilarious speech. At the end of the banquet, each of the guests of honor, CJ Box, Peter Straub, and a screenwriter named Heywood Gould (wrote Fort Apache, the Bronx, Cocktail, Boys from Brazil, and Rolling Thunder) was given a gift.  In true Nashville style, they were guitars.  I don't think any of them play.

Then came the dance, the band, and the songs from XO.  Music was loud.  The songs weren't bad.  I stayed for about five of them.

Sunday: August 26 - And I Shall Lay Me Down by the River

Truth is, I was exhausted and had to leave early.  I had eleven hours of flying ahead of me (for some reason to get me back to Colorado, American Airlines thought it a good idea to first fly me to Washington DC).  I had the best time, but I was ready to head back to the mountains.  And I missed my wife.  We had texted all weekend (she went camping with eight of her long time girlfriends) but I wanted to kiss her face and hold her hand.

And there she was waiting at the airport to take me home.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Assassin Solution

As the old saying goes, there is more than one way to kill an iguana.  At least I think that's that way the old saying goes.

Well never mind.  There is more than one way to solve the Assassin in the Santa Lorena Plaza Problem.  I will list a few here.

Working Backwards:

As you may or may not recall in the last gory event there were 8 folks remaining.  Since each spree resulted in the demise of one third of the folks hanging around (once again there is no explaining why they didn't just run out of the plaza).  That means two-thirds lived through the incident.  Dividing by two-thirds is the same as mutiplying by three-halfs.  8 X 3/2 = 12.  Now just iterate the process two more times.  12 X 3/2 = 18.  And again.  18 X 3/2 = 27.  Besides the assassin himself, there were 27 folks, so the answer is 27 or 28 depending on how you interpret 'originally'.

Forward Using an Equation:

Let X be the original amount of people in the plaza (not including our assassin).  After the first killing, there would be X - X/3 = 2X/3 people remaining.

 Of these (after his latte of course) the killer wiped out a third more or 2X/9.  The new amount left would be 2X/3 - 2X/9 = 4X/9.

After his round of pilates, the assassin took out one-third more or 4X/27.  Subtracting again we get
4X/9 - 4X/27 = 8X/27.

But this equals 8 people.  Thus 8X/27 = 8.  Solving for X we get X = 27

I think I'm going to quit here.  If anyone used a third method, (say a chart) please fell free to post it on my Facebook page.  You will be appropriately lauded.

I will recognize and award the un-prizes there as well.  I hope you had as much fun with this problem as I did.

Thanks for playing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Final Unicorn Solution

The task is to fill a basin with water.  We know not the volume of this basin...nor do we need to.  We shall merely consider this the job that needs doing.  In fact we shall, upon completion consider this ONE job done.  And we shall use this consideration to build our equation.

First and foremost, this is a work problem, akin to where two or more individuals are working together to perform a task, when we know how long the task will take for each of them individually.

Let's reiterate the facts, shall we?

We have a unicorn fountain statue spewing copious amounts of water from various orifices: eyes, horn, and mouth.

Mouth - takes 6 hours (ancient greek hours) to fill the basin.

Horn - 4 days or 48 hours

Right Eye - 3 days or 36 hours

Left Eye - 2 days or 24 hours

Let X be the amount of time it takes all four orifices to fill the basin.  Let's consider each orifice's contribution toward the completion of this one job.

Mouth:  X/6 because the mouth alone would complete the task in 6 hours

Horn: X/48           Right Eye: X/36         Left Eye:  X/24

Gathered together they each perform the filling of the basin.  In other words, the equation:

X/6  +  X/24  +  X/36  +  X/48  =  1

Solve for X

Multiply by the Common Denominator 144

6X + 4X +  3X + 24X = 144

37X = 144

X = 3.891 to 3 decimal places.

Remember, these are ancient Greek hours and twice as long as present day hours.  Soooooo, in today's parlance about 7.8 Hours.  Roughly about a normal 9 to 5 workday (minus lunch).

Hopefully, you found this as much fun as I did.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why 1089: the solution to this week's puzzle

Hold onto your diapies babies.  Here we go:

Let abc be the three digit number we choose, with the stipulation that 'a' and 'c' differ by at least 2

abc is really 100a + 10b + c

reverse the number we get 100c + 10b + c

Subtract them: (assume, w/o loss of generality, that abc is the larger)

100a + 10b + c - (100c + 10b + a) = 100(a-c) + (c-a) but c-a is negative so we must do a little slight of hand to change this back to a decimal number.

= 100(a - c) + c - a = 100(a - c - 1) + 10(9) + (10 + c - a)

Check it out for yourself

Reverse these and add

100(a - c - 1) + 10(9) + (10 + c - a) + 100(10 + c - a) + 10(9) + (a - c - 1) =

100(10 - 1) + 10(18) + (10 - 1) = 1089

Now, you might ask, why was it necessary for 'a' and 'c' to differ by at least 2.

Case 1 a = c then abc = cba and abc - cba = 0 and we can't continue.

Case 2 a = c + 1 (differs by 1) then with a little arithmetic we see the difference is a two digit number and our process breaks down.

I hope that made things crystal clear.

Live long and prosper.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Music and Moose Madness

An earlier post promised that I would wax poetic about a mini-vacation my wife Barbara and I took in and around Rocky Mountain National park.  here goes.

On Friday last, July 26, 2012, my wife Barbara and I headed for Lyons, Colorado for Rockygrass.  If you've never been to this wonderful weekend of bluegrass and fun I highly recommend it.  I went to see Sam Bush, The Punch Brothers, but Trampled By Turtles, a group from Minnesota stole the show.  Think Flogging Molly blended on puree with manic fiddle playing and excellent vocals and songwriting.  These guys just blew me and the rest of the crowd away.

And the crowd at Rockygrass has the feel of family, tons of kids.  There's a river that runs through the festival grounds and everyone, especially as the heat of the day ratchets up, goes swimming.  Music playing, water cascading over mountain rocks, children laughing....and beer.  One great day.

The next day, Saturday, I had a signing at MacDonald Bookstore in Estes Park...sweet little bookstore in a wonderful town.  I admit it.  I love Estes Park.  Anyway, the signing wasn't until 2:00 so my wife and I hiked in the Rocky Mountains.  Oh my God, was it ever beautiful.  Smells, sights, sounds, the whole nine yards.  I had the best time.  At two, the sky darkened and I wondered if the signing would be a bust.  True, the streets were filled with those wonderful tourists spending their fabulous out-of-state money, but would they all go away once the rains started?

Just the opposite.

Once the sky opened up, the people poured into the bookstore, where I was ensconced in an overstuffed chair like a by-gone patriarch.  Folks seemed to need reading material and what's better than a signed book by a brilliant author, especially a Bonnie Pinkwater mystery.  Well, I might be biased.  The signing was not only a rousing success but a kick in the butt as well.

The next day we were off to one of my favorite places on the planet, Grand Lake.  Over Trail Ridge Road and the sights from twelve thousand feet down into a town surrounded by two gorgeous bodies of water: Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake.

Last year, Barbara and I found this spot where a moose and her baby were just hanging out and enjoying a perfect day.  We remembered all the warnings about how crazy moose can be especially when accompanied by their young, so we stayed on the other side of the river from the pair...when they decided to cross over.  We stood behind our car as this mother (all serious and grand) and her calf (prancing around and full of the grace that new born things possess) passed by and barely gave us a second glance.

This year our ambitions were higher.  This year we wanted to see a bull, all horns and attitude.

We got our wish in spades.  The first night we had seen nothing but a distant herd of elk and were heading out of Rocky Mountain National Park when we saw a crowd gathered by the side of the road. After we parked and approached we saw what all the fuss was about.  A family, a female moose, a baby, and giant honker bull were feeding down in a gully.  As he fed, the bull's antlers were causing the bush he was eating to shake like there was an earthquake going on.  I think I must have cracked my face smiling.  There aren't that many bulls in the park compared to females so we figured we had just got lucky and on the first at that.  Over the next two days we saw three more. One even crossed the road right in front of us.  His mate, a beautiful female, followed demurely even taking her time in the middle of the road as if to say, "That's right.  I am pretty and you're lucky to get to see me."

But the highlight of the trip happened on the last night.  Barbara and I decided to go to this spot in the park called the Beaver Ponds.  Misnamed because there were no beavers anymore.  We wanted to go there to watch the park grow dark after the sun went down.  We parked - all alone in the lot because it seems everyone knew about the lack of beavers - when first one then another elk came into the parking lot from the mountain meadow down below.  We watched with grins on our faces when one then another elk, some of them adolescents made their way into the lot.  Then we held our breath as a huge female moose entered.  At first she didn't seem to see us.  We had turned off our car not to spook the elk, so we sat there silently just holding our breath.  Then her head turned slowly in our direction.  She didn't look happy.

I remembered the warning signs and she had them all.

Hair on hump bristling - check
Ears upright - check
Walking slowly toward you with eyes glaring - big time check.

We were in a car, so we didn't think we'd get killed but she was a big one.  We also thought she would get hurt trying to stomp us into pesto.  She came within a few feet when I thought, "time to get out of Dodge boys and girls."  I turned on the car and she took a few steps backward.  I suppose I could have stayed but by now I had the feeling she had a baby hidden in the meadow down below and that made this evening belong to her.  This was her home.  We were just guests.

Drive By Shooting At My House.

First of all, let me state that I am a mystery writer, so I take a slightly different view of certain events than others, say someone taking a shot at me.

Last night, Wednesday, August 1, 2012, I had just returned from a working vacation in Estes Park/Grand Lake; this will be the subject of the next post.  Be sure to read it.  It will be cool.

Back to the shooting.  About 10:00 PM, I'm watching CSI New York when I hear what sounds either like shots or really good fireworks - four shots close together about a block away.  I'm thinking, "Those really do sound like shots."  I head out the door to see a purple sedan come slowly around the corner to pass in front of my house.  Another loud pop, definitely coming from car.  The car speeds off down my street and emits a sixth loud pop.

Keep in mind I still don't know for sure that a firearm has been discharged.  I see absolutely no evidence of it.  I do, however, walk to the end of my sidewalk to watch the car speed away.  No license, but I can see that it is a sedan and kind of purple/maroon.  The street lights on my side of the street are not on.  I go back in.

About thirty minutes later as I am checking my e-mail, my wife comes in to inform me that the police are at the door (I couldn't hear them because my fan is pretty loud).  I put some shorts over my underware to see several officers at my door.  They inform me that I have a bullet hole in the side of my car.  I follow them to the street where there are not one but three cop cars all with their lights going bananas.  Also, there is a cruiser at the far end of the street where the popping car went a half hour before. Lo and behold, the officer is correct.  There is a hole in the side of my Subaru that a bullet would fit nicely through.  Further investigation - by the cop, not by me - reveals that the bullet passed through the back door on the driver's side then grazed the back of the passenger seat to lodge in the rear door on the passenger side. The cop digs it out.

Meanwhile a second cop finds a casing in the street and marks its position with one of those little triangle dohickeys you see on CSI.  By now there are at least 5 cops all chattering excitedly to me and to each other.  They are taking pictures like nobody's business.  They bag the slug (I can talk the talk) and the casing and one of them takes the evidence - they have found a few other casings around the corner where the first shots happened.  I am told the shot came from a 9 millimeter so its possible a fingerprint could be gotten from the casings.

I give a play by play of my sighting of the car, which now seems somewhat fool-hearty (I'll explain more of this later).  Additional cop cars show up.  I get a case number for my insurance and am told that it is unlikely that a print will be attainable from the casings because of the high heat of the firearm discharge.  A very interesting fact.

Eventually, I go to bed.

Now, it needs to be said that I am a Neighborhood Watch block captain, actually I'm a co-captain with another neighbor.  I can't wait to tell her.  She comes down the street to view my bullethole.  I tell her my tale of nocturnal excitement.  It seems nobody on my block heard anything!!  We view the through and through of the bullet's path, its eventual position.  Valerie, my co-captain stands back, has me explain again, where the car was when the shot was fired.  Then, using her arms lines up the path with the shooting car's position.  Then she shows me the trajectory of the bullet's path: shooting car to car door then beyond.  Her arm is pointing straight at my front doorway, where the night before I was standing bathed in the glow of my porch light watching a suspicious car come around a corner.

Were these guys shooting at me?

Anyway, I'm okay; and too knuckleheaded to believe that anyone would want to do me harm.

Definitely thinking I'm a lucky son-of-a-gun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tuesday's Write Brain - Funnybone

This will be short and oh so sweet.  I spent last evening at a fire station doing what I like most, laughing with friends. About twenty to thirty gracious folks turned out on a rainy Tuesday to attend my Write Brain: The Musical Scale of the Funnybone.

I even had a teenager in attendance, which made me smile.  I hope the poor young man wasn't scarred for life.

We shared my views on humor from Puns to Double Entendres, from Slapstick to Reverses and even a brief foray into the world of the Triple. Jokes were told and laughter rang throughout for about two hours.  In fact, Laura Harvey, who was my moderator and task master had to reel us all in at the end of our time.

I got to see old friends and hopefully make some new ones.  We even got to help someone out of a drainage ditch - although, truth be told, my job was to mostly stand around.

So here's a tip of my hat to all you guys and ladies who shared a few hours with me and made me feel so welcome.  I think the world of you.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Few Thoughts About a Fire.

First of all, I am not really qualified to write this piece.  I didn't lose my home.  Living in the center of Colorado Springs I wasn't even evacuated.  Unlike some of my friends, I didn't take in evacuees.

But let me say this.

This morning I read that a person (not a body, this is no cozy mystery to be read then forgotten) was found dead in a fire-ravaged home in the north end of Colorado Springs.  I didn't know this person in any way, shape, or form.  He or she was just fellow Coloradoan who shared my home town and died in a horrific natural disaster.  My heart broke and I wept.

Let me say this.

Thank you to all the folks who worked tirelessly to save the homes of friends, parents, former students, and people I might never meet.  Your efforts haven't gone unnoticed. You are appreciated.  You are true heroes.

Let me say this.

To all of you who lost your homes.  I know that any words I speak here will be inadequate. I know.  I tried this morning to tell a friend my feelings about her loss.  Thoughts froze in my mind and words tumbled out of my mouth in a rush of nonsense.  All I can really say is that you are in my heart and in my prayers.

Let me say this.

To all of you who opened your homes to frightened refugees.  You are love made manifest.  I envy you your generosity and selflessness.  I envy you even more because you performed your acts of kindness without feeling a loss.  Everyone I know who took someone, or an entire family, in felt it was an honor.  It's moments like these that make me proud of my species.

Here are the facts:  A fire storm raged out of Waldo Canyon, was fed by mindless winds, spread at an insane speed across my beautiful mountains, was fought by men and women of valor, displaced over thirty thousand people, consumed (as of this time) almost sixteen thousand acres, and devoured over three hundred homes.

Again I say these are the facts.  But the story is so much more.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Crested Butte - Day Two

Hello again.  Today I drove up the mountain to the town of Mount Crested Butte (really only about two miles away but a nice drive, bicycles everywhere, all the time.  Very cool!!

Went to breakfast with six strangers who became friends.  One nice middle aged lady writes erotica; she was great.  Met two Sandy winners.  For those of you who don't know what that is, it is the writing contest for the conference.

I'm liking this conference already.

By the way this conference is so much smaller than Pikes Peaks Writers Conference, about 1/6 the size.  The line for breakfast was tiny.

Went to an agent panel and was surprised to meet some people whose pictures I'd seen on line.  Mary Kole looks so young in person.  Went to a class on agents by a fellow who writes for Writers Digest.  I thought I knew everything there was to know about agents but I learned something.  Eckart Tolle would have been proud of me.

Followed that up with a class by an editor from Tor (do's and don't about submitting and publishing), once again learned something (although I did always agree with him).

Lunch was fantastic--ate too much, but kept my sodium intake reasonable (that's another post).

The afternoon was filled with chats with authors and although I liked most of them (one of them was Hank Phillipi Ryan, who I think is so cool), I bugged out and went for a hike, with Julia Allen, past two beautiful lakes. Two hours in paradise.

Life is good.

Getting ready to go to a locaI bar to pick the brain of Mary Kole.  Won't be drinking.  I'm here with Julia and last night I had absinthe.

I don't think I'll get back on line tonight, so have a good evening.

Crested Butte Writers Conference

This is the year of conferences for me.  In late March, I went to Left Coast Crime in Sacramento - met some fantastic people.  Came back to April Conferences (that's plural) Pikes Peak Writers Conference (Great!!!)  and Malice Domestic in Bethesda, MD (so much fun).  I just arrived in Crested Butte with Julia Allen for the Writers Conference here.  This is my first, her 4th.
Here's my plan:

Over the next 4 days I will give a play by play of my experiences.  Hopefully, you, dear reader, will enjoy it.

Okay, having just arrived this 21st day of June, the Year of our Lord 2012, I am heading out to explore Crested Butte.  I'll keep you posted.

I'm back from an hour and a half walk on Elk Street, the main drag of Crested Butte, six blocks of stores (boutiques, gift shops, jewelry stores) bars, and restaurants.  Beautiful day, surrounded by mountains, had ice cream, talked to some very friendly people; like Manitou Springs a river runs through the heart of town.

Took off out of town for another bit of the walk, more friendly people, children laughing, hawks flying overhead.  Got back in time to get a call in to my wife, pick up Julia from her class, and head out to dinner.

Went to this cool place where this guy played jazz guitar (Joe Buck Johnson).  He played almost every request I could think of ( Somewhere over the Rainbow, Ain't Misbehavin', Ghost Riders in the Sky, King of the Road) plus Cole Porter, Fats Waller, Irving Berlin, you name it.  I had a fried squash blossom for an appetizer.  It was so tasty.

Went up to the oldest grave yard I've ever seen.  People died in Crested Butte in the 1820's, many of them children.  A hard life in these mountains back then.

Tomorrow (actually today now) I go to my first classes and hang with the Sandy winners.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Beavers, Sunsets, and Great Blue Herons

                                                    BEAVERS IN THE MIST

Last evening my wife and I were bored.  The type of boredom where you each stare at the other hoping he (or she) can come up with something that will be a game-changer - or at least a little bit fun.

"I got nothing." was my contribution.

My wife (who by the way may be the best woman on the planet and recognizes fun when she sees it) suggested we go look for beavers.

For those of you not from Colorado Springs and aren't acquainted with Monument Valley Park, there are two municipal parks close to downtown Colo Spgs: MVP and Memorial Park.  The later is good if you are looking for a sporting event.  We were not.  We were after the elusive beaver.

Over by the old Van Briggle Pottery Mill, not far from Uintah Avenue, is a pond.  Barbara and I had gone to this pond once (in the middle of the day) before looking for the beaver family that supposedly lived (and even had built a dam) in these wet environs.


We came to find out (from an article in the Gazette) that optimal beaver viewing time was after seven in the evening.  This same article mentioned a fellow named Gordon who'd been viewing, photographing, and generally hobnobbing with these buck-toothed mammals for the past decade.  Rumor had it that this guy knew everything there was to know about the local beaver population.

"Time?" I asked.

"Seven-Oh-Five," my wife responded.

"Conditions are favorable."


And we were off.

We arrived in the park as the sun was declining onto Pikes Peak.  Reds, and oranges and golden yellows were filling the sky.  A light breeze wafted through our hair as we emerged from our car.  The pond was a two minute walk from the lot.  We were hopeful.  As we approached the pond from the walking path that looked down on it we saw him.

"It's the Beaver Guy!" Barbara said excitedly.  And she was right.  Tall with a long white beard, the Beaver Guy from the newspaper stood at the edge of the pond, camera in hand.  Not two feet from him, a pair of beavers were splashing in the water.

"Oh my God," my wife whispered.

We didn't want to make too much noise.  For all we knew, this man had waited for hours to get these critters to come this close.  We sure didn't want to scare them off.  Breath held, with grins like loons I'm thinking, we watched until two glistening figures swim across the pond toward what looked like every beaver abode I'd ever seen.  Then Gordon the Beaver Man stepped aside.  At the very water's edge sat the fattest, furriest beaver I'd ever seen.  Gordon turned to us.  "Come on down.  He won't hurt you."

Still trying to be cool, we scurried down to the water's edge.  The beaver didn't budge.  The beautiful thing just sat there munching on cottonwood leaves (It's one of their favorite diet items, I'm told.  Who knew?)
At that moment, I decided I would stand there and watch this little snacker as long as he (I was told he was the papa) deemed it pleasant to hang with us.  While I watched the beaver, again with a stupid grin on my face, Gordon told me about the history of this little mammal family.  There were four of them: papa, mama, and two babies, who weren't all that small.  In his soft voice, Gordon also told my wife and I about other denizens of this municipal pond.

"There's a snapping turtle that been eating the newborn ducklings." He gave a blow-by-blow of how the turtle would swim up under a duckling grab a foot and drag the hapless baby down into the depths where it would drown and the reptile would eat it.  "There used to be five.  Now there's only two."

As he spoke of a great blue heron that occasionally visited the pond, the bird himself (or herself, I couldn't tell) swooped over us and landed in the pond.  In typical heron style it stood on one leg like that was the most natural pose in the world.

Gordon also spoke of a giant frog that lived in this city pool of water.  He made his hands into a shape as big as a dinner plate.  I would have loved to have seen this bad boy - I am a great lover of amphibians.  Alas, this particular frog failed to show.

All the while Gordon is regaling us with these tales, the beavers are swimming back and forth from their home to the water's edge.  At one time, one of the babies even proceeded to crawl out of the water.  He only crawled a few steps onto dry land before he changed his mind but it was very cool.

Somewhere in the course of our visit, Gordon found out that I was a writer.  It seems he would like to write a book himself, a children's book.  It would be about the critters in the pond and narrated by the frog, who must keep a wary eye out for the heron and the turtle.  I think I would buy this book.

Well, the sun dipped below the peak and eventually it was time to go.  We said goodbye to Gordon, the Beaver Guy.  Shadows turned into collected darkness as we walked to our respective cars.  I took my wife's hand, and she was still grinning as I opened the door for her.

"Let's come back tomorrow night."

That sounded like a great idea.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hint for Liars and Truth-tellers Logic Problem.

Consider what the first native's answer had to be to the ambassador's question.  In fact, consider what any native would have to answer to that question.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sonya Kovalevsky: Too Passionate to Live, Too Young to Die

I don't know about you, but several images pop into my mind when I think about Russia.  First there are those guys in Fiddler on the Roof who dance with a bottle on their heads.  Gorbachev wearing that cranberry map of  New Jersey on his forehead.  How about Khruschev banging his shoe on the table at the UN?  Doctor Zhivago.  Red Square.  Vodka.  Anastasia.

Furry Hats.


Who doesn't always come to mind is Sonya Kovalevsky, perhaps the smartest person to have ever graced the planet.  I know, I know, hyperbole again, but let me paint you a picture and you can decide for yourself.

Sonya Corvin-Krukovsky Kovalevsky is one of the mathematicians (in fact the main mathematician) featured in the third Bonnie Pinkwater mystery, Irrational Numbers. Born in Czarist Russia in 1850, her father, while a war hero, was a bit of a skinflint.  He wallpapered her bedroom with the mathematical papers of a then-famous Russian mathematician and teacher who in turn had directly summarized the works of Leibnitz and Newton. In other words, little Sonya had her nursery wallpapered with Calculus texts. At fifteen, when she took her first class in Differential Calculus, she and her teachers were amazed at the quickness with which she grasped the concepts, "as if I'd known them before."

Universities in Russia were closed to females, especially those wanting to study mathematics.  A possibility existed that Sonya could continue her education outside of Russia, but in order to do this she was forced into a platonic marriage with friend who most probably was a homosexual.  As would be the model for the rest of her passionate life, Sonya did what was necessary in order to pursue her dreams. Still in her teens, and with a new husband in tow, she headed off to Berlin, Germany, to study with one of the most celebrated mathematical minds of the age, Karl Weierstrass--only to run into obstacles.

At the University of Berlin they did not accept female students.  To test her intelligence (and perhaps to get rid of an insistent female) Weierstrass gave her a set of problems from the cutting edge of Analysis (advanced Calculus).  She not only solved them all, but came up with original solutions.  Unfortunately, even Weierstrass was unable get the university to accept her.  For the next four years she would pick up the great man's lectures second hand: borrowed lecture notes, private conversations, sitting in the hall outside the classroom.  Even though she could not formally study math, during this time, Sonya published several papers in such diverse areas as Physics (the study of Saturn's rings), Systems of Equations, Partial Differential Equations, Abelian Integrals, and Laplace Transforms.

She also began a career in literature.  Her struggles made her an advocate of Women's Rights, and she would  pen a best seller on the subject.

Although she and her husband did have a child, he was not equipped to meet all her demands, sexual and emotional.  He took to drinking and gambling.  She in turn, found solace outside their marriage (it was rumored that Sonya might have used her feminine charms to convince Weierstrass to mentor her).  To her eventual shame, her weak-willed husband committed suicide.

After his death, Sonya threw herself into her work.  She took her child, Foufie, across Europe with her as she tried again and again, to attain employment.  It didn't hurt that she could speak every major language in Europe.  Eventually, with Weierstrass's help, she was able to find work as a teacher at a small school in Stockholm.  Here she wrote papers on Mathematics (she won the famous Prix Bourdin Prize from the Academy of Science in Paris, which she won by concealing her gender until after the prize was awarded), and poetry and literature on Women's Rights (The Rayevsky Sisters was another bestseller).

And then she fell in love.  History does not reveal the true identity of this lover, only the one word name of Maxim.  By all accounts, he loved Sonya and her child deeply.  And for a time he was even able to accommodate the extremes that had become Sonya Kovalevsky.  Always passionate in her beliefs, Sonya had grown rigid and dark.  She insisted he support her every scientific and sometimes not so scientific endeavors.  As her brilliance grew, so did her eccentricities.  She came to believe she was a seer and could interpret dreams; she was given to dark moods where she claimed the entire world was populated with fools who did not understand her genius. In the end, Maxim was driven away by her demands.

In 1891, a dispirited Sonya left behind Foufie with some friends in Moscow and took a train back to Stockholm. She was forced to sit at a remote station in the bitter cold.  At 41 years of age she took to her sick bed and would eventually die.  Although at the time doctors said this brilliant women died of influenza, her close friends knew better.  Sonya Corvin-Krukovsky Kovelevsky never got over losing Maxim.

Perhaps the most brilliant person to have walked the Earth died of a broken heart.    


Friday, May 25, 2012

Sex, Voltaire, and Mathematics: Emilie de Breteuil

All of my historic-mathematician posts up to this time have been females.  That was by design.  Future posts will be male but for now the historic females hold the spotlight.  Each of the mathematicians I've presented and  intend to present had a rough go of it.  Universally, they were brilliant, and universally they were messed with by the male establishment.  These remarkable women were forced to outshine (in some cases completely eclipse) their male contemporaries just to get to do mathematics in the first place.

Charles Dodsgon, otherwise known as Lewis Carroll, of Alice in Wonderland fame said it best or at least his character the Red King did. Please forgive me as I paraphrase just a tad.

Historic Female mathematicians had to run as fast as they could just to stay in one place.  If they wanted to actually get somewhere they had to run twice as fast as that.

This post however features a woman who, although born into a climate (Post Renaissance France) that is indicative of the conditions mentioned above, seemed to not only have less problems, but to have an enviable amount of fun at the same time. 

In Irrational Numbers, the third Bonnie Pinkwater mystery - as I mentioned in a previous post - Bonnie, my teacher/sleuth gives a class of energetic and gifted girl students an assignment to investigate a select group of female mathematicians, six in all. We have already discussed - actually I discussed, you, dear reader, perused - three of them.  For each mathematician Bonnie provided a teaser, a bit of info to entice the girls' interest.

For Emilie de Breteuil, Marquis du Chatelet I will provide the essence of the teaser.  She was the mistress of Voltaire.  At this point in my narrative let's just say that I've always admired Voltaire. This last bit of data makes me admire him even more. From all reports, Voltaire was a homely toad of a man, while Emilie was one of the great beauties of her day.

And smart, Oh my God!

Emilie de Bretuil was born in 1706 during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King.  At an early age, she married the thirty-four year old Marquis du Chatelet, who seemed at first enchanted by her passionate nature and exquisite beauty, but quickly became used to the fact that Emilie needed more than one lover. Never discreet, Emilie became a law unto herself.  She weathered scandal after scandal yet was never exiled from court.  Truth was the queen favored her company so much that Emilie was allowed to sit in her company.

While exercising her sexual proclivities, Emilie never failed to exercise her mind.  She mastered every major language of her day.  She added Latin, so she could form her own translation of Vigil's Aenid.  But her true love was for mathematics.

These two aspects of her personality would define her all the days of her life. And all her days she attacked life like an healthy child.  One biographer said of her, "Not one of the frivolous joys of life was too frivolous for her.  The activity of her mind and the natural simplicity of her character occasioned a bizarre struggle between work and play."

It was this perfect blend of the mind and the physical which completely won the heart of Voltaire.  Such was her charm that her husband gave his blessing to Emilie moving in with Voltaire at his castle in Cirey.  From 1733 to 1749 Voltaire's intellectual lair became the focal point of the Enlightenment.  The lovers entertained such luminaries and mathematicians as the Bernoullies, Leibnitz and Isaac Newton(the co-inventors of The Calculus).

Emilie quickly became enamored with the new branch of mathematics, first translating Newton's masterwork  Principia into French then adding to it. On what seems to be a whim, Voltaire and Emilie undertook the creation of an French Encyclopedia that would encompass all the knowledge of the their day.  The completed work was the marvel of the age. In 1738, she secretly entered into a scientific contest that Voltaire himself had entered, and while neither Emilie or Voltaire won the contest both received honors. It needs to be said that the winner of the contest was none other than Euler, the most prolific mathematician of all time (and the subject of a future post).

Eventually, Emilie's passionate nature would prove too much for even the vaunted Voltaire.  She took another lover who would be her true love until her death in 1749.  She became pregnant with his child and although the birth was a success, Emilie never quite recovered her health.  She died in her sleep with her husband, Voltaire, and her new love in attendance.  It is rumored that they held hands as they wept at her deathbed.

Cross-posted at Schooled in Mystery.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Last Martyr of Alexandria: Hypatia

The title of my second Bonnie Pinkwater mystery is A Calculated Demise.  I swear it's true.  The darn thing is written right there on the cover.  What's not written on the cover is the subtitle.  To see that you must open the book and peruse the title page.  If you bravely venture to this page you will see once again, A Calculated Demise, BUT you will also see the much anticipated subtitle, The Hypatia Murders.

I chose this subtitle because included in the mystery A Calculated Demise is a bit of 4th Century AD mathematical--and dare I say it--political history.  To be certain, the political history is ancient, almost seventeen hundred years ancient but I maintain political nonetheless.  And all of it, math, politics, and even religion, is wrapped up in the personage of one of the most extraordinary women to have ever graced the planet.  Hypatia

My wife claims I'm given to superlatives.  I don't see it.

Hypatia of Alexandria was born in 370 AD, obviously in the African city of Alexandria--perhaps one of the most unique municipalities ever to be created by man.  A city totally given over to the pursuit of knowledge.  Her father was Theon (once again of Alexandria, but by now I think you get the picture), the last recorded librarian of the fabled Library of Alexandria.  He himself was a scientist, teacher, and mathematician.

At least one of Hypatia's biographers claims she may have been the result of a systematic program of Eugenics--designed to be the perfect human being. Her family for generations had been trying to manufacture this ideal human through selective breeding, and a rigorous program of mental, spiritual and physical training.  In the person of Hypatia they darn well succeeded.

Physical: Theon believed a person needed a formidable regimen of physical activities in order to produce the healthy body required to support the rigors of superior mental acumen.  Part of every day was set aside for physical activity: calisthenics, rowing, mountain climbing, running, and horseback riding. She was considered one the finest athletes of her era.

Religious: Tolerance was the main tenet of Hypatia's spiritual training.  Theon believed that all religions were equal parts valuable and erroneous.  Theon told his daughter, "Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies.  To teach superstition as truth is the most terrible thing.  The child's mind accepts and believes them and only through pain and perhaps tragedy, can she be relieved of them.  In fact men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth...often more so."

Rhetoric: Theon believed formal training as an orator was necessary for the perfect human being.  Hypatia studied the power of words, received training in all manner of formal speech, and became one of the great orators of her time.  Her words were said to produce an almost hypnotic effect.  In fact, it was this ability to sway people with her words which would lead to her eventual murder.

Intellectual:  Hypatia studied widely, and eventually eclipsed her father in the areas Mathematcis and Astonomy.  Many of her texts on these subjects would become the standards for over a thousand years.  

As fate would have it, this extraordinary human being was born at a time of turbulent political upheaval.  Pope Constantine a half century before had made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.  Where before Christians had been marginalized and persecuted, now it was pagans and Jews who were on the receiving end of persecution.  Synagogues and pagan temples in Alexandria were destroyed.

Hypatia considered herself first of all a free thinker.  Christian authorities considered her a pagan.

On her way to teach a class at the library, she was dragged from her chariot and beaten by a crowd of radical Christians.  I will not relate the full brutality of her eventual death except to say that in the end she was burned at the stake.  Legend has it that looking down from her stake she forgave her tormentors.  More than likely this legend is untrue, but I choose to believe it nonetheless, such is my outrage at this injustice.

In the end, her death was not investigated.  For the sake of civil peace, the Roman prefect of Alexandria (who had been a friend of Hypatia's) deemed it best to drop the matter.  Only further civil unrest would result from an open inquiry.

Larger than life and certainly larger than that of the petty individuals who had taken her life, Hypatia's fame only grew after her death.  In life, students from three continents came to hear her speak.  In death, they printed and re-printed her books.  In life, they spoke of her beauty.  In death, bards sang of her beautiful spirit.  To this day Hypatia of Alexandria is considered the most important female mathematician and scientist of the ancient world.

Truth is, she ranks high as one of the first people I would visit if I could travel in time.

This blog is cross posted at

Friday, May 4, 2012

Feral Child to Scholar: Mary Somerville

In my third Bonnie Pinkwater mystery, Irrational Numbers, I included an assignment for a group of gifted students.  As a long time teacher--thirty-five years teaching middle and high school--I decided this would be a class of highly motivated and enthusiastic teenage girls.  I know my teacher/sleuth Bonnie Pinkwater would appreciate that.  She could joke around with them, challenge them, and most importantly, she could count on them to react in a particular way to injustice, especially injustice perpetrated on a young woman.

One of the things I've always found refreshing about teenagers is their sense of justice.  Their world is black and white.  Something is either right or it is wrong.  And if something is wrong, it should be corrected.  If a person's behavior is unacceptable and maybe even what could be classified as 'bad' the universe should--if it is a fair and just universe--bring down retribution on that person.  Truth is, I probably am still mostly a teenager myself (actually I'm 61) because I think this is precisely how the universe should work.

 Which bring us to the life of Mary Somerville.  Mary was born in 1780 in Scotland, about the time our country was involved in a bit of unpleasantness with Great Britain.  She was the child of a naval war hero and spent her days running free in the mountains and forests of her estate.  Once upon noting her appearance, her father exclaimed, "My heavens, the child is a savage."  She was dirty, illiterate, and from all evidence a happy wild creature.

This sort of thing couldn't continue.  She was shipped off to a girl's finishing school.  Naturally, she hated it and was eventually kicked out.  Yay, Mary (there's my inner teenager expressing himself).

One thing did happen that the wild child hadn't planned on, she (it seems with little help from her teachers at Mrs. Primrose's School--I'm not kidding here; that was the name of the school) taught herself to read.  And not just English but Latin as well.  In fact Latin became the more important of the two since it allowed her to read the commentaries of Caesar and the works of Virgil. It was during this time that Mary stumbled upon a problem at the back of a magazine.  It involved X's and Y's.  When she asked what these symbols represented she was told the problem had something to do with a useless form of arithmetic called Algebra.  Mary would never be the same again.

It needs to said that the general attitude toward education for young women in 18th century Great Britain was that they should learn only enough to allow them to be good mothers.  Anything more was not only a waste of time but would actually be harmful to their health--again, I'm not kidding here; Mary's parents espoused this cockswaddle.

But Mary would not be denied.  She complimented her knowledge of Latin with an understanding of Greek so she could further study Algebra then Geometry (particularly Euclid's Elements).

Her parents were appalled.

 At first they forbid her to read these seditious texts.  When she reused to quit her studies, they took away all her candles so she could only read in the day.  Did this slow her down?  No way!! She pored through all six volumes of Euclid and went on Ferguson's Astronomy and Newton's Principia (in Latin).

 Her parents then got really serious.

They took away her clothes.  If she was going to study mathematics, by God she could darn well do it naked.  So she studied in the buff.

For a brief period they withheld food, in the hope that her hunger would make her see the light of reason.  When that didn't work they rolled up their sleeves and got creative.  They married her off to a rich neanderthal named Samuel Grieg, who promised to put an end to all of this foolishness.  Unfortunately, he was no more successful in stopping Mary's unquenchable spirit than were her parents.  In fact inadvertently he did the one thing that freed up Mary to pursue her desires.

He died.

Almost three years to the day after their wedding, Samuel Grieg shuffled off his mortal coil, leaving Mary a wealthy and independent woman.  She studied Mathematics and Astronomy in earnest, and won awards for her work in Diaphantine Equations.

She also fell in love. William Somerville was a surgeon and a scholar, who supported his brilliant wife.  To say she blossomed under this support would be an understatement.  She would later be called "one of the greatest women scientists England would ever produce."

After Mary's death in 1872, Queen Victoria installed Somerville College at Oxford University, this college exists to this day at Oxford.  And the Mary Somerville Scholarship for Mathematics is still handed out yearly at the school, one hundred forty years after her death.

In Irrational Numbers, Bonnie Pinkwater's gifted female students cheered at each of Mary Somerville's triumphs.  And truth be told, even as I write this, I'm tempted to do the same.